Tag Archives: Newborn

The funny old thing about time

Time passes.

Everyone told me it would, but of course I didn’t believe them. How could I? The space inside a minute with a newborn seems so very long, because you’re awake nearly all the minutes there are. And there are some images from the brand-new days of my babies that I can still see with pin-sharp, painful clarity.

SAM_8250 (700x561)

SAM_9968 (700x560)

The particular softness of miniature fingers curling around one of mine. Long, spindly fingers. Papery nails. Knuckles marked precisely with tiny lines. 

The toe-curling agony of latching, the way I would hold my breath and tense every muscle and let out a noise like a cow going into labour.

The look of focussed concentration on two-day-old H’s face as he tried to make both his eyes look the same way, at me. Realising I was the voice and the food and the smell that made everything better for him, and feeling shaken and profoundly moved by it at the same time. 

T wrapped up in a bloody towel on our bedroom floor, T’s black Wolverine hair soft underneath my chin, T quietening himself down to ‘Moon River’, no matter how badly I sang it. The wide-open sense of wonder that possessed me every time I looked at him: I can love you too, you are a person as well, this is all going to be fine.

The ragged sobbing and heavy despair, about five nights in, when I realised that there was no end to this tiredness, no point at which someone would say to me ‘alright, my love, you’ve done well, now you can sleep’. Because I would be woken up every two hours, day and night, for the rest of my natural life, which would not be long. (I had this minor breakdown both times.)

SAM_0680 (700x560)

See? I can close my eyes and be back there with no space in between. The ache and the heaviness, the ravenous midnight hunger, the intense needles of brand-new painful love, like shafts of bright sunlight on my face. The fear. The bottle steriliser. The babies. I can feel them, lighter than a sack of sugar in one arm, as I sprint up the stairs. There’s a sheepskin rug under my feet as I bend over the crib to put my hand on their rising and falling chest.

And then I open my eyes again to find two bright-haired boys, big and solid in Captain America t-shirts, scrapping over toys.

‘You can’t HAVE Ferdinand, he’s MINE and belongs to ME.’

‘Tetty TURN. MUMMY. HERRY TRAIN. TURN.’

For a second I honestly can’t work out how we got from there to here.

***

I’ve been thinking about this today because we went to meet up with a lovely blogging friend and her little boy. The last time we saw them both was two years ago. I brought two-year-old H and no pushchair, and was a little ambitious in anticipating how far he’d walk and how interested he’d be.

He kicked off, obviously. He was two; I had never had a two-year-old before; I had a tendency to expect more of him than he was able to give. It was lovely to see my friend and her gorgeous boy, but it was definitely one of those parenting days you keep locked in a vault. (Then I wrote about it for What to Expect, and made it all immeasurably worse.)

SAM_3757 (800x640)

Today I brought H and T to see them, and all three of the boys are much taller. I have come through two years of toddler-plus-baby, continually multitasking between them both, battle-hardened and -softened simultaneously. I am stricter about some things now (OF COURSE YOU ALWAYS BRING A PUSHCHAIR) and laxer about others (of course you can have another sausage roll!).

H, my heart, walked by the pushchair, asked before he went off somewhere, and sat long-legged and patient on the kerb waiting for the bus.

T ran off as many times as H did at his age, but hey, two-year-olds. They’re good at lots of things, but walking in a straight line isn’t one of them. That’s why you bring a pushchair. We had a wonderful day.

I have a lot of compassion, and some impatience, for the mother I was when I started. I hope I’m compassionate in the future about this version of me, too. Expecting more of an almost-four-year-old than he’s able to give. Still bending over their beds at night to put a hand on their chests and smooth down their hair.

Time passes, and I’m sorry, and I’m grateful. I didn’t believe them when they told me it would, but oh, I do now.

Photo 18-05-2015 3 53 45 pm (820x1024)

On and off

It’s been a little quiet on the blogging front lately. My apologies. I think I’ve run out of ways to say ‘I’m tired’, and my beloved thesaurus is in tiny print, so no help there.

Some days we do well: Teddy’s night-time sleeping intervals inch towards three hours instead of two, we make outdoor plans, we carry them out, I do the cooking but probably not the washing-up, I watch a cheeky documentary on iPlayer, and everything feels normal.

Other days, Teddy fidgets half the night and we flop around the house all day, Henry gets more annoyed and more inclined to use his brother as a surfboard, and all I can think about is getting them both to sleep at the same time so I can too. I’ve decided that as long as I’m breaking roughly even with our on/off days, we’re doing pretty well.

Incidentally, I don’t have any foolproof baby sleeping strategies (Henry was a good sleeper with no input from us, and Teddy’s still so small he gets hungry a lot), but this is what I’ve decided is the truest truth. PRIORITY ONE is more sleep. PRIORITY TWO is better sleep. 

Initially I am insanely, eat-a-whole-jar-of-Nutella desperate for as much sleep as possible. Both our boys have slept for longer in our bed, so that’s how we start. But all babies are different, and we’ve had to experiment: they might sleep better in a swaddle, or after a bath, or after ten minutes with Daddy, or wearing a miniature Barbara Streisand wig, for all I know. Whatever works. Do it. DO IT.

That’s good for the first couple of weeks. But while they sleep for longer between us, I sleep lighter. I also feel a lot less like an, ahem, natural woman and more like a dairy cow when there’s a baby physically separating us at night. So now I settle Teds in the crib between as many feeds as possible. We’ve gone back to THE NEST, and elevating one end of the mattress, which I can recommend times one million (I thank Eunice the night nurse in my prayers for that little gem). And Teddy gets colic in the evenings, so he gets a dummy to help with the stomach ache. I am not sniffy about dummies. One day I’ll have one gold-plated.

It’s a little early for sleep strategies, though I’ve been trying out le pause when I remember, from Pamela Druckerman’s French Children Don’t Throw Food (more on that later, probably). There are plenty of nights where PRIORITY TWO goes down the sinkhole, so I go back to PRIORITY ONE. Two nights ago he slept for four consecutive hours, and I woke up dizzy with the joy of it. Last night he huffed and wriggled until 2am, then woke up again a couple of hours later. I got out the Nutella jar again this morning.

Here are some photos from a winning day. Bacon sandwiches, a clean house, an afternoon nap, an evening walk by the canal in a burnished sunset. Some days it does go right. No Barbara Streisand wig required.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

Photo 04-08-2013 12 26 46 AM

Happy breastfeeding! You’re never leaving.

Just wait for me to adopt a defensive foetal posture before I say this.

Ok, I’m ready.

I really dislike breastfeeding.

Bear with me a minute. I know the benefits. I believe in them. That’s why I keep plugging (nippling?) on. But I am not a glorious earth mother overflowing with milk and honey. I have little babies and what I give them doesn’t make them larger. Oh, I dream of thigh rolls, chubby hands and wrists and endless double chins. They never arrive. If you graded my milk on a McDonald’s menu scale, it’d be one crappy lettuce leaf from one of those salads that nobody gets because nobody goes to McDonald’s for salad, do they?

Me and breastfeeding, we have a history, and it’s less of a misty Mills and Boon romance and more a War of the Roses. A couple of years ago I arrived at a doctor’s office with a tiny, jaundiced seven-week-old, and sobbed all over a doctor I’d never met. She was so, so kind. She sent me off to hospital knowing that it would terrify me further – which it did – but did so as gently as possible. They were all lovely, the doctors and midwives and nurses, but they all had to tell me that the only thing wrong with him was that he was hungry. Ravenously hungry. That was why he was ill.

He’d been hungry all this time. I was horrified.

It felt like a stinging failure, then, and so did the remedy they suggested to fatten him up quickly (topping up with formula milk). But despite feeling like I’d fallen at the first fence of motherhood, I started to love the certainty of that bottleful he downed after every feed. BAM, there’s another five ounces. I could see it turning into chub before my eyes. He was full, and happy, and he slept. After a while, I started to wonder why it felt like a failure at all. Why was it a badge of honour, exclusive breastfeeding? If I wasn’t making enough – and clearly I wasn’t – and we were lucky enough to live in a situation where extra food was just hanging around on supermarket shelves, then why on earth was I being advised to sit at home week after week, trying pointlessly to make more while Henry went hungry? Why was it that I told other mothers about his formula as though I were apologising, when secretly I only rejoiced in that double chin?

Two years on, we are back in the Wars of the [boob]Roses. If you gathered together a hundred babies in order of size then Teds, bless his skinny chicken legs, would be second-smallest. I have spent these four weeks feeding him every time he squeaks, on sofas, on beds, hour after midnight hour. I am sore and exhausted and anxious for him. There is something about sitting in mess, wearing half a t-shirt and trying to fill a ravenous boy, that makes me feel like I’ll be tidying and refereeing tantrums and endlessly breastfeeding for the rest of my natural life. He’s holding onto his weight gain for now. For now. I am keeping a steely eye on him, and me.

Because, this time, I know that the reason every health visitor gives me different advice is because every baby is different. I think about that poor girl sobbing in a doctor’s office, and part of me is angry that I ever allowed it to get that far. I do not want to feel like I need to apologise, because there are no tests to pass or fences to leap, with newborns. It’s only important that your baby is fat and happy, and you are sane and happy, and there are more ways than one to make it so. This time I am more inclined to listen to my gut. My gut says, do everything you can to fill that baby up.

I will, because I think we should throw away the badges of honour. I don’t want one. I just want a double chin.

SAM_9982

Counting to ten [days]

Number of times I have said the word ‘gently’: approximately 4500.

Number of changed nappies, large and small: 88.

Number of hospital check-ups: 3.

Number of times hair has been torn out of head in frustration at hospital parking: 3.

Number of times Henry had to say ‘apples’ before I realised he meant ‘nipples’: 35.

Number of milk-reappearances: 4.

Number of times I have rechecked the caffeine guidelines for breastfeeding mothers: 102.

Number of times I drank the stupid Coke anyway: 97.

Number of cries-for-no-reason: 5.

Number of Buffy episodes watched: 23.

Number of times I’ve turned around to find Henry holding Edward in dangling Michael-Jackson-on-the-balcony fashion: 1. Thank goodness.

This is the best hard work I ever did. Though it’d be even better if Edward would stop power-feeding till 2am.

Still, this face, eh?

SAM_0082

There is a world outside, and it’s got toy cars

Photo 08-07-2013 10 16 00 PM

I would like to report something momentous: yesterday we all left the house together for an outing, all at once. We only traipsed up and down the stairs to load the car twelve more times than usual. We went to Beale Park, which turned out to be a wonderful destination for crazy-hot weather, a tank of a pushchair you’re not used to pushing yet, and a toddler with a severe case of cabin fever. There was a giant paddling pool, lots of animals, a little train ride and a whole village of toy cars and bikes. Edward preferred the inside of his eyelids, but Henry was entranced.

IMG_5177

A valuable lesson we all learned is that Henry will do an awful lot to get a ride from a goose. Despite all possible discouragement (including from the goose).

IMG_5172

This dinosaur-backpack-with-parent-strap invention? Best thing since the lightbulb. Oh, are we running full pelt towards that river, my darling? YOINK.

IMG_5185

I’d forgotten that newborns are quite content to spend all day sleeping, eating and rocking a pair of dungarees. What a glorious thing to be so happy, so uncomplicated, and so sartorially confident.

IMG_5200

He is actually using that cup to try and get the water away from him. The pool was ‘FWEEZIN’, and Mr Fearless over here was desperate to get out from the minute he got in.

IMG_5289 - Copy

Family-of-four photo. I love it: we’re so symmetrical. It’s also nice to commemorate this special stage where Henry uses Tim’s ears as handles during his shoulder rides. My pelvis still hasn’t forgiven me for that pregnancy thing, but ice cream really helps with this. And, you know what, with most things.

Good HEAVENS is this post going to win the Pulitzer Prize, or what? Two-hour sleeping stretches do wonders for my words.

PS – on that note, I have a couple more What I Wish I’d Known About Two posts scheduled for the days this week when I can only think in monosyllables. Stay tuned!

Arrivals

‘Just so you know’, I texted Timothy on Sunday afternoon, ‘I am definitely baking a cake in swimming hotpants right now. I am a vision.’

Sunday was a good day. But not an especially good day to be thirty-seven weeks pregnant. It was hot, and bright, and busy. After three hours of church and an afternoon of preparing for a workshop activity that evening, even wearing a skirt had become too much to contemplate. I switched to the swimming hotpants, did my printing and preparing and mixing of cake like a heffalump in turquoise lycra, and felt pretty good about it, since you ask.

Our activity went well, mostly because I remembered to change out of the hotpants before we left, and we arrived home late and tired and happy. We were in bed before 10.30pm, and unconscious not long after that.

Photo 30-06-2013 10 21 55 PM

‘This is my first properly empty week before D-day’, I remember thinking before I dropped off. ‘Shall I nest? Maybe I’ll make some frozen meals’.

Well, I can only conclude that nesting is so entirely out of character that the universe stepped in to avoid such silliness. At midnight I was awake again, with stomach ache. I didn’t think anything of it. We’d never settled on a proper nickname for this baby-to-be (Tim had tried TJ II, with not much success), but I didn’t call him the Bowel-Treader for nothing. I went to the loo, came back, and had almost dropped off again when the pain came back. And then back again. And then back again after that. After half an hour, I got a magazine, retired to the bathroom and started timing the spaces between them. They were fairly regular, but not clockwork, and I didn’t want to wake Timothy – who had, frankly, a rat’s behind of a week ahead of him at work – if all I had was boomerang diarrhoea.

At 2am they were still there, and I hadn’t managed to take in much about the situation in Egypt (in hindsight, I should probably have chosen a different magazine). So I went back into the bedroom and woke Tim.

‘Soooo’, I started, feeling ridiculous, ‘I think I may be having contractions’.

‘Wha?’

‘Contractions. I’m having them’.

‘Oh’.

There was a pause, while his rat’s behind of a week ran fairly obviously over his face.

‘Are you sure?’

I stopped. Suddenly I was horribly sure. ‘Yep. I’ll call the hospital’. And then I added, while the phone rang, ‘I’m frightened’.

Because I was. Your body and mind are helpfully in cahoots, after giving birth, and all I remembered from Henry were a few vivid flashes. The rest of it was coming back to me now, in pieces. In most of the pieces I was making a lot of noise.

The midwife at the other end of the phone was lovely. We were told to wait until the contractions were stronger and more regular, and in the meantime keep moving, get the bags ready, have a soothing bath. I got in the bath, as directed. We tried to have a discussion about where to send Henry, but I was finding it hard to talk. I breathed in time on my hands and knees, and made a valiant effort to be interested in the location of Henry’s vests. I didn’t really cotton on that things weren’t going to plan, however, until fifteen minutes later, when I started wanting to push.

‘PUSH?’ yelled the functioning part of my brain, as soon as I’d verbalised that bit in my head. ‘Push what? PUSH WHAT? GET OUT OF THE BATH, YOU IDIOT’.

I did. I crawled into the bedroom to the edge of the bed, got a nightdress on over my head – stupid fiddly tags – and told Tim to call the hospital again. I remember thinking how blessedly calm he sounded. I am alright, I thought. I am wearing half a nightdress and kneeling on half a towel with my head underneath a flipping baby crib, but Tim is here, and I am alright.

‘She says that if you’re feeling pressure, we need to come in now. If you want to push, I need to call 999 for an ambulance’.

My waters broke. He called 999. Somehow he remembered to take the stairgate off the top of the stairs. Neither of us remembered that I was still crammed half underneath a baby crib, over a cream carpet. And then there were voices behind me, and one of them – heaven bless that woman from eternity to eternity – was offering me gas and air.

‘Can I push?’ I sobbed, ‘I need to. Please, can I?’

‘My love’, came The Voice, ‘if you need to, push as much as you want’.

So I did. Ten minutes after the voices arrived, out he came. And he cried, and I cried, and managed to back out from the corner to sit and hold him. A cheerful bearded face came into view for the first time.

‘Hello there’, it said. ‘Well done. You know, Gareth is a wonderful name for boys, these days’.

***

At first I am too numbed to feel anything but relief: blissful and dizzying. We arrive home less than a day after it all started, and it feels like a bizarre dream, except that now there’s another baby. The early hours of the morning find me alone with this tiny person, fascinated with his face and feet and hands. He is entirely his own self. And I feel a wave of fierce, unstoppable tenderness. Oh, I know this, I know it: it is how I feel about my first, adored boy, but this time it’s for my second.

Come in, I tell it, gently. Come on in.

SAM_9973

What I Wish I’d Known About Two: How it’s done

I haven’t the words. I haven’t the words for what two babies feels like so far. I try, and my brain reaches back for more chocolate ice cream, baby smell and fumbly emotional seesawing. Thank goodness for talented people who can express it for me. 

It might be crazy hormonal milk-arrival-day talking, but this post resonated with me so much I cried. So it felt like a good place to start. Megan writes at Meg In Progress, and is one of my all-time favourite bloggers. When I read her stuff, I remember how good it is to write about things that matter.

Hope you enjoy this and the posts that are scheduled to follow this week – I definitely have. 

?????????????????????????????????????

My baby is three weeks old and I am two days past being absolutely bonkers. Some mothers are slowly driven crazy by their children. Mine make me mental from birth. It is not entirely the darling dears’ fault. My chemical make up is particularly prone to postpartum depression. Combine that tendency with sleepless nights, diaper blow outs and HOW-MUCH-WEIGHT-DO-I- STILL-NEED-TO-LOSE and you have one notsohotso mess. We are nearly a month into this two child experiment and I am finally waking up. I can smile in the mornings and haven’t fallen asleep crying on the floor for days.

Yes. This is big and beautiful news.

Sunday was one of my last actively psycho waking periods. By mid morning, I had pushed past the panic and sadness. The question sounding since Viola was born, “How are we going to do this?”, had become a bit quieter.

In celebration, I made a fancy breakfast. And by “fancy”, I mean that hash browns were involved. The table was set and in the course of breakfast making I had only broken one egg yolk. Time to eat. Of course, Viola decided she was scream-till-I-just-can’t-scream-anymore hungry at the very moment I had dressed my beloved potatoes. (Three shakes of salt, two from the pepper and a generous ketchup-ing.) By the time I was done feeding the baby, my egg had congealed and Margaret had been taking bites of my bacon. The hash browns, however, still looked just perfect.

My baby was fed, my family was enjoying a meal made by my hand. Who needs eggs? Who needs bacon sans two year old slobber? I have everything. Everything with a side of fried potato strings. Contented, I lifted a forkful of the hash browns to my mouth and they were cold. Freezing. Glacial.

It was more than only slightly sane me could handle. I got up, threw the plate in the sink and locked myself in the bathroom for an angry cry.

The tears came hot and my breaths burst out in short gasps. How are we going to do this? How are we going to do this. How am I going to do this?

Twenty minutes and one shaky make up application later, I emerged. Margaret was in her room, Viola was asleep and the kitchen had been cleaned. Riley was waiting for me in the front room. The poor man looked very confused. He sat next to me, pulled me into his arms and asked what was wrong. I started crying that horrendous ugly cry I do so well  – all splotched face and hiccups and a runny nose.

“Don’t you see?” I said, “With two kids I am really just a mom, I can’t see myself or the things I want outside of that role. Ever.” and here my breath caught as I nearly shouted out that harsh realization, “I will be eating cold potatoes for the rest of my life!” This was of course followed by more tears, hiccups and snot.

Lovely, I am sure.

The good – patient! – man laughed, pulled me in closer and said the most romantic thing this crazy girl has ever heard,

“Meggie, don’t forget. I am here.” He kissed the top of my forehead and pulled me in closer, “We will take turns eating cold potatoes.”

And there it was. My answer to that question that I had carried home from the hospital. That is how we are going to do this. We will all laugh and love. The girls, Riley and I will color the world with sidewalk chalk and read about the places we can’t reach. I will remember the man I married and follow him to the bright lights he has always seen. He will remember the girl he fell in love with and give me time to write and space to dream. We will touch and make out and ahem, you know, so that for just a little while it feels like we are the only ones in the world.

And we will take turns eating the cold potatoes.

meganandriley

In the T-Zone

I was thinking today how people have their own baby comfort zones (when’s yours?), and how mine’s definitely not with actual babies.

Oh, I loved every inch of him from the beginning, don’t get me wrong. I still squeal over his little newborn outfits and rewatch his three-month videos. But I was deeply, continually anxious at first, mostly about being in charge of a tiny, still-tiny, yes-still-really-tiny-is-he-ever-going-to-get-fatter boy who wouldn’t eat and threw everything up and seemed so breakable, all the time. The older he got, the more of his personality he inhabited, the more I thought oh yes. Oh yes. I know you after all, Henricus Rex. We can do this.

You know how people yearn for their three-day-old to come back, all downy skin and kitten yawns? I don’t think I’m one of those people.

I think I will yearn for fourteen months.

This, now: if there is a better age than this I will eat the piece of banana he stashed underneath Sir Prance-A-Lot last week and hoped it was gone forever. This throwing chubby arms around my neck. This wriggling backwards on his belly to back down the stairs, and getting the angle wrong and backing somewhere else entirely. This rummaging in the fridge for salad cream (he doesn’t even like salad cream). This hour before bed when he is sat on our laundry bin and we are finally, properly making each other laugh on purpose. This certainty that he will never run out of things in our flat on which to live dangerously.

So I will take fourteen months and I will keep it for myself, thank you very much. Fourteen months is my baby comfort zone. I am in the game. Except that I have loved every phase more than the one that came before it, so I can’t guarantee I won’t be claiming fifteen months as well.

I suppose I’m saying that I think this is all pretty great.

%d bloggers like this: