Week 38 – a cold

Yesterday, Reindeer was quite restless and clingy. Whilst clingy is not unusual at 8-months-old, he’s normally good humoured with it. Not so this time. Things which normally wouldn’t affect him, e.g., leaning too far over during play and having to push back up, made him cry. He also wasn’t keen on eating.

I’d assumed teething and hoped he’d feel better after a good sleep. Well, I’m still hoping that as he hasn’t had a good sleep yet.

Between 7pm and 1am he had about 1 hour 30 minutes of sleep in two attempts. He then spent the rest of the night in our bed, waking in tears four more times and requiring quite a bit of walking, singing and cuddling to soothe.

Judging by the quantities of green goo on his face this morning, we’re fairly certain he has a cold. Judging by the amount of sad faces and crying that have been going on, he isn’t happy about it.

At the moment he is napping, and I really hope that helps. Because feeding with a cold is quite tricky, he’s struggled with milk this morning. I’m dreading this bringing on another milk strike.

His Oma and Opa are visiting today and I’d expected that they’d get to see him in his normal, happy mood. Whilst it hasn’t exactly worked out like that so far, he did spend a happy 45 minutes with Opa joining in on the play mat, so I think they’re all happy nevertheless.

This afternoon we’ll try and go out somewhere as I think some fresh air and a change of scene will help. I’m also going to try and fit in a nap as I am totally zonked from the last 24 hours!

Week 38 – little and large with a new trick thrown in

Today we went to visit friends and meet their baby daughter.

As seems to be the case for everyone but me, the first-time-mum-of-less-than-ten-days was looking great – healthy and as though she hadn’t even had a baby. Just a touch tired. For the first month post-birth I looked abysmal so I’m trying not to be too grumpy about it.

Anyway. The new baby is lovely and so, so tiny! Reindeer was half her size again when he was born, so she appeared even more delicate to me. Our friend was trying to work out if Reindeer is a giant or her daughter is unusually small. When you consider that Reindeer is tracking the 98th percentile and the new baby the 5th percentile for growth, both descriptions are about right.

Reindeer was transfixed by the new arrival. He avidly watched her every tiny move. Since she was wearing a yellow baby grow I couldn’t tell if he was perplexed because she appeared to him to be like (1) a small doll or (2) a large and unusually mobile banana. He was startled when she cried and made a half-hearted, but thankfully soon over, attempt to join in. He was also intent upon her being bottle fed. Reindeer has never had a bottle and so I’m not sure what he made of watching her eat. Whatever it was he spent the first half of the visit engrossed.

Part way through our catch-up I was given the chance to cuddle the baby; at just over 6lb it was like carrying a feather, bearing in mind I spend my days carrying around the 23lb+ Reindeer. Unfortunately the cuddle was short-lived as Reindeer, at that point being held by his Dad, started crying and leaning towards me. Apparently he was rather unhappy that I was cuddling another baby. Possibly he was concerned he was about to lose exclusive use of the milk supply. Either way, it was a very unexpected reaction, remedied only by me handing baby back to her Mum then reclaiming Reindeer.

Towards the end of our visit Reindeer noticed that, from his position on the bed, he could reach the cot rail and pull himself up. Since all appeared safe we let him carry on as he does this all the time at home. I turned away from him to answer a question and, when I turned back, was surprised and alarmed to find he wasn’t behind me any more. Surprised because he’s only once tried cruising about three steps and that was a week ago. Alarmed because he’d traveled somewhat further than three steps, had in fact cruised two-thirds the length of the cot and was about to fall off the end of the bed.

So pleased was he with this trick that he had another go this evening in the safety of his own cot. He managed not only half the length of the cot, but also to move around the corner and start cruising the headboard too. It really is time to install those eyes in the back of my head!

Week 38 – getting sleepy

So far, Reindeer has been a pretty good sleeper. He’s not usually prone to periods of wakeyness at night, for example. That said, it is no longer as easy as it used to be to get him to sleep of an evening.

I recently purchased a blackout blind for his room, which I think has helped prevent the first-light-of-dawn waking which we had a couple of times last week, but I’m not sure it’s helping much with the evenings.

At present we follow a routine of dinner, play, story, bath, lotion and feed, at the end of which it can go one of two ways; either he will fall asleep on his feed or he will be awake at the end and require 5-25 minute session of singing and cuddling to finally drop off.

On one level I don’t mind either ending – I’m quite happy to have the extra cuddles and singing time. That said though, at 11kg, it isn’t as easy to carry him as it used to be!

During the cuddles-and-singing time I’ve noticed that Reindeer has started to do a lizard impression – sticking his tongue out and sometimes licking my arm/his hand/any other bit he can reach without effort.

All the advice for newborn parents is that hungry babies will stick out their tongues and make sucking noises, therefore you should feed them if they do this. Although Reindeer is doing this some eight months later, he isn’t really hungry. He certainly doesn’t want a feed.

This has left me slightly puzzled as to why he’s doing it and whether I should be doing something to help him. I’ve noticed that if the Cot Transfer fails, and I spot it quickly enough, I can lay my arm on the cot where he can cuddle into it. He’ll then lick it for a little while as he falls back to sleep.

Reindeer has never had a pacifier, doesn’t suck his thumb and has never really shown any interest in either, so I’ve not really considered that he might need something else. As I write this I’m thinking he needs something comforting, perhaps a soft toy? We’ve avoided putting soft toys in the cot because I’ve been (probably unnecessarily) worried about the smother risk, but maybe it is time to change that; especially as he’s now proficient at rolling and can get himself to sitting or standing position in the cot with no effort.

Despite my concerns he still seems to be sleeping just fine overall. This afternoon I went into his room as he woke from his nap. He was really happy and smiley. Since he clearly wanted a feed I sat down with him and he just began laughing at something I said – we spent the next five minutes making silly noises at each other and laughing until he decided that he really did need to have some milk after all.

I have no idea why that happened, but it was great and I loved it. There’s something very special about those times, possibly the way they occur without warning or pattern, which makes them so easy to enjoy and so important to remember.

Re-reading this before posting I realise that it is rather rambly and not necessarily logical, but I’m going to post it anyway because it is a great example of how my mind meanders around a topic before landing in a totally different destination from the one I intended. Perhaps I’m just getting sleepy too?

Week 38 – socks

Most of us have been there: you collect your laundry up and put it through the usual wash-dry routine. The time comes to put it away, but can you pair up all the socks? Can you heck.

There’s always an even number of socks in need of washing and an odd number which return from the laundry adventure. No one knows why. It is as though your washing machine contains a short cut to the Bermuda Triangle.

In our house, the mystery has just become downright odd.

One of the toys Reindeer has inherited from his eldest cousins is a washing machine which takes coins and lights up whilst making a spin cycle noise. He’d taken a pair of socks off on the play mat the other day so we put them in his toy machine for some play laundry. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that, when I collected up the socks later, there were now three of them. It was like a reverse of what happens to normal laundry. He’d definitely only had two socks down there and I have no idea where the other one came from.

Today, there were five socks near the toy washing machine. I can’t work out if last night’s lack of sleep is getting to me or whether we’ve been given the other side of the sock portal…

Week 38 – dunking

Indoor swimming pool

Today, for the first time, we managed to coincide our swimming session with the singalong. Imagine a soggy, splashy rhymetime and you’ll be pretty close.

It was actually a great session; 15 minutes of nursery rhymes with watery actions. The instructor was lovely – very experienced and clearly enjoying every minute of it. She briefly explained the actions for each song along with why they were good for water safety and water confidence. As these are two things I really want Reindeer to learn, the session turned out to be a good fit.

The two things which really stood out were:

(1) Humpty Dumpty; getting the children in from the side, then taking them back so they learn to get to the side if they end up in water accidentally

(2) Ring a ring of roses; this included a dunking to get the children used to being submerged in safety so they don’t panic

Since Reindeer has never been dunked before I decided not to attempt it for the first time in a circle full of strangers during the song, especially as I wasn’t sure I correctly understood the technique to stop him swallowing half the pool. Instead, we waited until afterwards and had a chat with the instructor. She was very helpful, explaining what to do and why it worked. Feeling a bit nervous I decided to go for it. I followed her instructions and dunked an unsuspecting Reindeer.

And it was fine.

He wasn’t exactly happy about it, grizzling at me to show that he was unimpressed with his sudden underwater adventure, but he didn’t cry and didn’t appear frightened. He was smiling again within about 15 seconds.

Since the session was so good I’m going to try and time it right next week too as I’m keen to keep this up. Reindeer will be dunked once again to help gain water confidence whilst he’s still little. Fingers crossed he responds as well next time!

Week 38 – not quite right

Reindeer hasn’t been quite his normal, chirpy self today. We’re not sure why – possibly teething?

He hasn’t much fancied eating his meals, but has had the usual amount of breastfeeds, so at least he isn’t dehydrated. He’s also been quite clingy. Still lovely, curious and cuddly, but not quite as bright, for want of a better word. We’re hoping he has a good rest tonight (he slept for 3 hours this morning) and feels back to normal tomorrow.

Despite being a little under the weather, he’s still managed to make his first tentative foray into cruising the furniture. He didn’t go far, only a couple of feet around the blanket box, but it was the first time he’s tried it and he seemed pretty pleased. He is as keen to stand up as ever – each time he learns something new that’s all he wants to do, no going back for him!

The clock is definitely ticking on the baby-proofing plans…

Random Rambling – new parents and mental health

For friends of ours, a traumatic labour thankfully resulted in the birth of a healthy child. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in a healthy mum. Within a few days of the new arrival the situation reached crisis point and they were admitted to a specialist unit. The unit staff support new mothers when birth has resulted in a negative change in their mental health.

Listening, mostly helplessly, as our friends struggled, it really brought home to me how pregnancy and childbirth is a real contradiction. Fragile yet hugely destructive; incredible pain followed by amazing highs; happy expectation quickly overset by the grim slog, induced by sleep deprivation. There can be very few experiences in life which condense so many emotions into a single, intense physical event. It is little wonder many parents take a long time to pick up again.

Reading up online, I have discovered that more than 1:10 women will suffer from postnatal depression, whilst 1:1000 women will suffer from postpartum psychosis. With almost 700,000 births in the UK last year, that translates to over 70,000 cases of postnatal depression and 700-ish cases of postpartum psychosis. Postnatal depression doesn’t just affect new mothers either. Research by the NCT shows a similar rate of postnatal depression in new fathers too, although this tends to develop slightly later post-delivery, when the baby is 3-6 months old.

And that is just those cases reported. It shouldn’t be surprising that many people don’t recognise or respond to their symptoms by seeking help; mental health has long been the poor-relation in terms of socially acceptable illnesses. Regular, high-profile campaigns have taken place over the last few years to raise public awareness and challenge what is socially acceptable in the perception and treatment of people with various mental health issues. Several celebrities have joined these campaigns and spoken publicly about their struggles to maintain ‘normal’ levels of mental health.

I don’t know how such campaigns measure their success, but one which I came across long before we considered starting a family ourselves, was awareness of postnatal depression (PND). I can see why an awareness campaign would be necessary.

As we told family, friends and colleagues the good news that we were pregnant, those with children tried to warn us how wonderful, yet physically, emotionally and mentally demanding, new parenthood would be. Despite knowing that PND existed, we had no concept of just how gruelling we would find the early days even without this complication. Amazing and delightful, but a sleep-deprived, exhaustion-numbed-mind-battle to complete even the simplest tasks. At times it was a case of knowing ourselves to be happy rather than feeling ourselves to be so.

Looking back now, I realise that I probably did suffer from a minor degree of PND. Tearful, anxious, angry with myself for (I felt) not being good enough at my new role of mother, I spent several months feeling guilty. Guilty that, after the ups and downs of pregnancy, and a failed induction followed by emergency caesarian, I had my beautiful, happy and healthy son in my arms, and yet I wasn’t always happy.

The pressure to feel only the positive is huge. For some people, the idea that there could be any negative is totally anathema. You’re reminded how lucky you are, how others would kill for the chance to have a baby of their own, how you have it all. And yet, no matter how true that may be, those words aren’t a magic spell. They cannot make you feel the way others expect you to feel.

Rather than thinking too carefully about it, and before those feelings had a chance to poison the early days, I decided to begin this blog. Mainly it is a tool to record as many as possible of the fun, charming and unexpected moments we have with Reindeer each day. But it is also an outlet, a chance to get things off my chest or to make sense of my jumbled thoughts. And it works, if not in the way I expected. You see, I write about the difficult times but, normally, I don’t end up posting them. Just the act of writing it down allows me the opportunity to take those ideas, examine them, reflect upon them and then put them away again. It takes the sting out and allows me to regain equilibrium.

This post is an example of that. I started writing because I was trying to make sense of the difficulties confronting our friends. Trying to understand, even a little bit, the incomprehensibility of going through the emotional tumult that is pregnancy and childbirth, only to have your mental health crumble around you for no apparent reason at the point when you should be able to enjoy the safe arrival of your child. I’m probably no closer to understanding their situation, but I’ve realised that they don’t need me to understand; how can I, when they don’t understand either? Rather, they need their friends to provide practical support. To assist with the mundane so that they can focus on finding their way through the chaos of expectation denied. So they can deal effectively with the reality of now and the support of their child and themselves.

For our friends, progress has been good (if frustrating for them) the last couple of days. There is every reason to be hopeful that they will soon be home and back to the normal new-baby-at-home chaos most of us experienced. But this is only possible because of the support received from the midwives and doctors and the availability of this specialist unit. Once again there is cause to be grateful for the cradle-to-grave vision of Bevan and the NHS that was born from it.