Sunday, June 29, 2008
Having shunned most Japanese food throughout my pregnancy due to nausea, I craved sushi so I ducked into Wasabi for my first sushi fix in nine months. From the Algerian Coffee House in Soho I bought Monsoon Malabar beans; from Lina Stores also in Soho I bought spaghetti; from Minamoto Kitchoan on Piccadilly I bought delicate Japanese sweets made from peaches and biwa; from Zavvi I bought season 2 of the Gilmore Girls on DVD and the weighty yet ethereal album Sunday At Devil Dirt by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan; from DKNY on Bond Street I bought a grey tunic dress and from Nicole Farhi next door I bought a midnight blue blouse; and finally from the John Lewis flower concession I bought a couple of potted succulents and a white orchid for our living room and kitchen.
When I returned home at 8pm, I kissed my sleeping little girl's head and caught up with M. He told me she had had another unsettled day but it sounded a bit better than Friday. He'd managed to clean the house, do laundry, do some gardening, play with Little Planet and cook a roast chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and baba ghanoush for our dinner. All in between trying to feed, change, burp, wind and settle her.
Today I am home alone with Little Planet as M has to work but it's been a much better day. I have been calmer due to yesterday's outing and she's been much more settled. The two things - my calmness and her settledness - must be related, but then again not necessarily. Babies are not predictable. I've managed to go for a walk to the park with her with little incident as well as spent an hour or so playing with her. At 3 weeks, she is spending a little more time each day awake, which makes it so fun because then we can play.
Today's better day warrants another "Typical Day" post, which I will type up in the next day or so as these Typical Day posts prove that when it comes to babies there are no "typical" days!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
- Little Planet's last feed was at 9.30pm the previous night. She awakes at 1am for a feed and then falls asleep.
- She awakes at 4am and M feeds her. She's asleep by 4.30am.
- She wakes for a feed at 7am and we play with her a little on the changing mat. She's asleep by 8am.
- She's awake by 10.30am for a feed and I play with her a little on the changing mat. She's asleep by 11.30am.
- She's awake at 1pm but cannot sleep even though she wants to and can't stop crying as she has a griping pain. In between bouts of crying, we play under the Baby Einstein activity gym and this distracts her from her discomfort for an hour.
- She starts her painful crying again. She has another feed. I take her out in the buggy. This usually calms her, but not today. She cries on and off for the 30 minute trip to and around and back from the park, and when I return home I am so stressed that I call M and ask him to look up the cost of hiring a part-time nanny. I tell him I give up, that I do not have the patience, stamina, or good heart to look after a newborn.
- Alone with a crying Little P in my arms, I cry too - not just because I cannot cope, but because I can't alleviate whatever pain or discomfort she is suffering from. Rationally, I know this will pass - that around 10-12 weeks her digestive system will mature and the crying will stop. But I think to myself, Can I cope for another few months of this?
- I email my antenatal friends - all professional women - who say they too wish they could be back at work.
- 5pm I give her a feed. She sleeps for an hour in my arms as I watch my new TV addiction the Gilmore Girls. I look down at her perfect face and body, now momentarily calm, and cry again because I love her so intensely and want only for her to be happy and comfortable.
- M returns home early and feeds her at 7pm. He tries to rock her to sleep and it takes a while but she sleeps a little as we eat dinner - he made pasta with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, feta and home-grown thyme. I glug down my wine. Every inch of my body is aching from rocking and carrying and soothing her all day.
- But by 10pm, she is still crying. M has taken over for the night so I can sleep. He is a star as his working days are always intense and he will have to work all day on Sunday. He finally gets her to sleep after midnight.
- Today is Saturday. Every inch of my body is still aching and I have a headache. M is jogging round the park and then will pick up breakfast. Little P is asleep in her rocking cradle as I type this. If all things go well - if she doesn't cry relentlessly - then the three of us will go shopping and stroll around the park. Then I will head off into town alone to catch a movie (hopefully Sex And The City) and do some shopping in Soho and generally relax as M looks after our baby for the day. I will miss her intensely but I am so looking forward to my "day off".
Friday, June 27, 2008
I have moments when I really enjoy spending time with Little Planet, and to be very honest she's been a much easier baby to look after compared to the other babies in my antenatal group, aside from some settling/digestive issues which will pass when her digestive system matures around 12 weeks. But it's difficult to get used to the tedious, relentless cycle of feeding, burping, settling, sleeping 24 hours a day. I have to train myself to get into a zen, in-the-moment state when doing these things.The magical moments make it so worthwhile, but I don't think I was quite prepared for the repetitiveness of the early newborn weeks.
Little Planet milestones:
She’s stretching her limbs more, digging her heels into whatever surface she is lying or sitting on, straining to hold her neck up, doing half turns to the side when on her back, tracking a toy from left to right and back again, grasping my hand or the bottle with a firmer grip. At her 2.5 week weigh-in she was 9 lbs 1 oz.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I know this is perfectly natural and I wouldn’t, as yet, have it any other way, but having other people around the house is distracting in these early days, and to be honest I do not want to be distracted as I need all my wits and concentration to look after a newborn. As yet, it isn’t second nature. Moreover, no matter how much people assure me they understand, I can’t help but be stressed at the nine tenths of my attention that cannot be focused on them. I feel guilty and then angry at myself for feeling guilty. And I'd rather, at the moment, do away with the constant internal battle and focus 100 percent on Little P.
My parents are with me this week, helping me by cooking my meals as well as spending quality time with their only grandchild. They are wonderful in many ways, not least because they put up – and have always put up – with my hot, stress-induced temper. I can take out a little of my stress on them and on my husband because they are not going anywhere and they love me and they truly understand. So although I would like nothing better than to be perfectly alone with Little Planet, working on our own daily routine and life together (next week, next week)... I know they don’t mind me devoting only one tenth of my thought, talk and attention on them.
This morning, I skim-read both the weekend FT and Observer newspapers from cover to cover as Little P had a long 3.5 hour stretch of sleep (she has many of these, we are actually quite lucky). That felt good... just like the old days, except with one ear and one eye on a newly born little person upstairs.
Monday, June 23, 2008
"It's 4.15pm and I am finally able to get some lunch. Little P has had such a struggle today trying to pass some poo that every time she fed, I burped her, carried her around and then put her down and she was inconsolable. I've finally got the poor little thing down. I feel very sorry for my parents as I have snapped at them thrice and my Dad now wants to go home, so I have explained how stressed I've been and it's okay now. But I am on tenterhooks to see if Little P awakes again. Your mum advised to give her some water so I did. Hopefully that will help her pass her stuff. On a positive note, she enjoyed her outing to the local shops today until the very last minute when the poo began to hurt her. Can't believe I am emailing you about poo. What has happened to me? :-)
Sunday, June 22, 2008
It was a lovely Sunday. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the robust wind was cooling on the skin. My mother-in-law was in town and we all took Little Planet out for a stroll in the park in her buggy again. She was asleep for much of the outing but when she was awake she was listening to all the sounds and looking up at the leaves and the sky with her big round eyes. My mother-in-law and I washed her hair when we returned home and then bathed her, fed her and put her to sleep. I then pottered around the kitchen, cleaning up and going online while M and his mother did some hard gardening. My sister-in-law joined us for dinner. M cooked roast lamb with mashed chickpeas and a salad of artichokes and broad beans. We chatted about my mother-in-law coming down one weekend in July to look after Little Planet exclusively so M and I can go out into town, visit some galleries and go out for a meal. But M and I may go to the Tate Modern with the baby in the next weekend or so as I really want to see the Urban History Of Photography and Cy Twombly exhibitions.
Tomorrow, M returns to work and I am unbelievably sad and nervous. We have shared these stressful and tiring but utterly magical two weeks with our new daughter together and now it will be just me and her alone. My parents are visiting for a week and that will be an enormous help I am sure, but I will really miss having M here with me sharing the precious moments. He is also such a fantastic father and so patient with Little Planet. It's been such a support and confidence booster having him co-parent with me for each and every hour of the day. I am so afraid now that I won't be able to cope on my own, that I will be too exhausted, that Little Planet will pick up on my anxiousness and tiredness and become unsettled.
Will I be able to do it on my own? I know rationally that I will, but still I am anxious and nervous and so very, very sad.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Her new reading material...
We have these black and white books and mobiles around the house now because she's fascinated by the images. As she has her nappy changed at the changing unit, for example, she will reach out with her hand towards images such as these. Sometimes the images are arresting enough to stop her from thrashing around as I try and dress her. Her captivation bears out the research that babies reflexively prefer to look at high-contrast edges and patterns - particularly white on black or black on white.
I am typing this while Little P sleeps. I've also managed to complete our Ocado order. The three of us went out to the local shops today. Little P was alert and observing what she could with the short range vision of a two week old. When she came back she was hungry and then very sleepy. M is playing Sim City on the computer upstairs. We are much more energetic today as Little P has slept well over the last day and night. More on this later.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Poor little thing. What she really wants is to be rocked to sleep in our arms and for us to never let her go - she wants to be close to us and feel our warmth and be reassured that we are always here for her. We try and do this the best we can but shoulders begin to hurt and backs begin to ache as we find ourselves rocking her or swaying with her for an hour. But as soon as we see her eyes flicker shut and we try and lay her down, she awakes and screams. Not all the time, but enough of the time for us to frantically seek some respite: we pop her into the swinging cradle or a sling, but we're not keen to keep her in these for too long as we think their usage might inhibit her night time sleeps in the moses basket. And surely the swing cradle and sling can't be good for her little body for long durations?
We are lucky in that she still has some 3 to 4 hour blocks of continuous sleep in a 24 hour cycle for us not to feel absolutely shattered, but there are moments when M and I look at each other and recognise shell-shock in each other’s eyes.
She's been out in this world for just 2 weeks tomorrow. No wonder it is all so scary and distressing for her. No wonder she wants only to be fed, and loved and kept protected.
But joy of joys, we took her out in her buggy for the first time yesterday - out and about to the shops for an hour during which she slept and M and I felt refreshed. Today we went to the park. The trick is to get her into her buggy when she's sleepy and can't fuss too much. I am so looking forward to the day when I can take her in her buggy or sling on the Tube and into town - if only for an hour or two's stroll around a gallery or the shops.
Other 2 week notes:
- Little P is fascinated by... light and dark shadows on the wall, her black and white hi-contrast pictures and Mr Whoozit toy, our faces, my hair, the hair dryer, any blank wall (what does she see there?), her rattle, the view outside through the window onto the garden.
- She seems nonplussed by music - even lullabies. But she seems to enjoy me singing nursery rhymes to her.
- I feel guilty when I realise that I hurry Little P’s feed and burping time in order to get her to sleep so I can resume my own life for a few hours.
- And we are managing “me time”: we’re watching TV and movies on DVD (albeit sometimes only half a movie at a time); we’re cooking – homemade pizzas for dinner one night, homemade chicken and mushroom pie another – and have resorted to takeaways just once since we’ve been home; we’re reading magazines other than baby magazines (well, M more than I); we're surfing online; we’re remembering to take time out just to cuddle – just the two of us.
- New mummy lessons for me to learn: be patient; stop clock watching; be fully there for her when she's awake.
Thank you all for your lovely comments. Please do not be offended if I do not reply at the moment; I still enjoy reading them so please keep them coming.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
- Her last feed was 11.30pm the previous night. Little P awakes at 3am for a drowsy feed with both her mummy and daddy (who is on paternity leave). We laugh at her funny face and smelly farts as we burp her. Too oblivious of this fact to be offended, she falls asleep again at 3.40am.
- Little P awakes at 7.30am. M feeds her while I doze and then shower, then she's asleep again at 9am. But she's unsettled by wind so I carry her around the house and she spends some quality time with my parents, who have been visiting for the weekend. She stares intently at them, exploring every feature of their faces. She stares intently at me, particularly fascinated by the contrast of my black hair against my white ti-shirt. I take loads more photos. Her eyelids flutter shut and she's asleep again by 10.30am.
- M has gone for a run in the park. I try to sterilise some bottles and make up a few feeds in advance - I'm not breastfeeding - but the steriliser has already broken. I chat with mum and dad over a late breakfast and transfer some photos of Little P onto CD for them to take home and show all their friends and colleagues.
- M returns from his run only to go back out to Mothercare to replace the steriliser. My parents and I eat the cream cakes M bought back with him from his run and wait for the taxi to arrive to take them to the station.
- My parents have left. It's been a busy week for visitors each and every day from both sides of the family. Now we are beginning week 2 and only one set of visitors are planned for the week (many more are due in week 3 when M goes back to work). We sigh in relief at having our baby truly to ourselves for the first time since she was born.
- I make up feeds with the new steriliser while M starts a load of laundry. By 12pm, Little P is awake and I feed her (with one eye on incoming email on the laptop that seems to be permanently plastered to my side), walk her around the house to burp her and chat with her before she falls asleep again at 1.15pm. I linger over the baby monitor listening to her little sighs, snuffles and meows as she settles down to sleep – truly adorable. We are beginning to distinguish between her cries: she lets out a sequence of long, forlorn mepppp's when she is truly and distressingly hungry, for example; her cries are piercing and high-pitched (enough to draw tears from me) when she’s in genuine pain (for example, when she was being inserted with needles in hospital to test for a variety of things); but when she is simply struggling to settle or she is bored her cries are drier, coarser, more abrupt.
- We eat lunch - M in the garden reading The Economist's Intelligent Life and me in the kitchen reading the parenting posts on my newest addiction Mumsnet. I think to myself, I really do have the time to read a proper novel. But my eyes stray back to baby talk. I forgive myself - after all, it is only week 1.
- M starts sorting out the garden while I am still online on Mumsnet - uh oh. M comments how paternity leave feels like a really good holiday (he's a positive thinker as I am), but we remark on how we may regret this comment if Little P's feeding and sleeping patterns change (which undoubtedly they will).
- She awakes at 4.15pm and feeds very drowsily. I discover the rattle is an effective sleep deterrent and do not hesitate using it when her eyelids flutter and her mouth stops sucking. I am her evil mother. After burping and a wander around the house and garden singing nursery rhymes and chatting to her and doing bicycling movements with her legs, she falls asleep at 5.20pm but then stirs because she is doing a poo and it is all too uncomfortable for her. We finally leave her calmer in her basket after she lets out an almighty fart. What brings me joy these days? Seeing a healthy, grainy Colman's mustard poo in her nappy. Ah, the little things in life that give pleasure... Once it was Paul Auster and Wassily Kandinsky, now it is baby poo.
- By 6pm she is still awake and fretting and as M tries to soothe her, I nip out to the shops. I am incredibly frustrated and begin to think I can't do this baby rearing lark. As I walk I get very anxious thinking about that inevitable time when I will be alone day after day looking after Little P. How on earth will I manage? I also notice how much faster I can walk now I am no longer pregnant and how much more flexible I am now the hard bump has gone. When I return, Little P is still awake and fretting. I feel like running away. As it's 7.15pm already, M feeds her again and she manages to fall asleep at 8.
- Our good friends (and parents also) D and J, come over for dinner bearing a cot and takeaway Turkish food for us. We toast the baby's wondrous new life with some very good red wine. They look at the sleep/food/awake schedule we keep for the baby in a notebook and remark on how good Little P is in sleeping for long chunks and feeding well. They assure me that it is normal for her to have her fretful moments when she cannot go to sleep or feed properly. Of course, in the rational light of day (or night) and after a belly full of Turkish food - I know this. But it is good to have it spelled out to me.
- We talk about garden sheds and combination boilers and laugh at ourselves for having become so domesticated and "middle aged" now we are home owners and parents. "We are becoming our parents!" That's no bad thing, I think. One’s life must grow and expand, even if to accommodate combi-boilers and garden sheds.
- By 11.20pm Little P is awake and feeding again but asleep by midnight.
- Beginning of week 2 mini milestones: focusing on objects in front of her, stretching out her torso and kicking out her limbs, pushing her legs and feet against a surface, turning her eyes and sometimes her head towards a noise outside her line of vision, holding up her neck for a few seconds, gripping things (fingers, the bottle neck) a little more tightly, regaining her birth weight.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
- I'm learning to do everything in snatches of time - brushing my teeth, washing up, preparing food, watching TV, writing email or a blog post, reading a few article paragraphs. But I'm also learning to spend as much time with my baby as she feeds, has a nappy change, feeds again, goes for a wander with me around the house as I burp her, lay her down to play with, chat to her in my lap. The moments with baby are never rushed, just the rest of my life.
- Just when I think she's following a routine set by M and I, she decides she wants to set her own. She is the boss of the household now.
- We have short spurts of time to do many things, from entertaining to vegging out on the sofa, but always, always with one ear and eye on the baby monitor. The baby monitor is the most important gadget in my life right now (though the wireless Samsung laptop M bought me as a giving birth gift post-birth is a very close second and the reason I can blog away still in snatches of time).
- I am trying my best to still read The Economist, the FT, Marie Claire, Red et al... but really I want only to read books and magazines on babies - baby sleeping and feeding habits, baby health, baby development milestones, baby play. My brain is full of baby and the steep learning curve is both exciting and frustrating. Neither M's nor my PhD prepared us for this.
- I am grateful my mother is a paediatrician and for the advice she has access to. We were in a panic the other night as Little P was struggling to settle from what we thought were severe digestive and hydration problems and we didn't know who exactly to call. My mum determined with a colleague that baby was simply very hungry and that she wasn't being fed enough. She told us the exact amount we should feed per kg of baby's weight - something midwives have never told us properly. So simple, so right.
- I walk around with a permanent burping cloth draped over my left shoulder. At least my baby doesn't despair of my new fashion sense, even if everyone else does.
- My husband is infinitely more patient and calmer with her than I am. I am learning lots from watching them interact.
- I never knew love could get any more intense, but it just deepens and widens every time I am with her.
- I can't believe she is just 1 week old. In my eyes she already no longer looks like a newborn.
Friday, June 13, 2008
So on the 4th, I went to the antenatal clinic at University College London Hospital. Upon examination, the doctor discovered I was already 2cm dilated, that my cervix had shortened to half a centimetre and was soft, and that the baby's head was deeply engaged. Despite being confident full-on labour would start soon, he did a membrane sweep - the anticipation of which was more uncomfortable than the actual sweep itself. He also booked me in for an induction 10 days later as a matter of routine. M and I went out for coffee and cake on Tottenham Court Road and I immediately began to feel period-like twinges and cramps and had mild bleeding. This was a relief.
On the afternoon of Friday the 6th, I began feeling my first painful contractions at home. They came sporadically in waves and by 2am on Saturday morning, I left M alone to sleep in peace and continued to labour by myself downstairs on the sofa, breathing through each intensifying contraction and trying to use such natal hypnotherapy visualisations as the cervix opening up petal by petal as a flower, my baby moving downwards, and lowering a pain dial down towards 1. The breathing worked best for me - breathing oxygen into the muscle and remembering that I only had to cycle up to the peak of pain around 40 seconds in and then feel the release of the cycle downwards towards the end of the contraction. I was scared but excited, and felt quite powerful and womanly thinking about how each contraction was bringing me closer to meeting Little P. It also helped me knowing exactly what was going on physiologically.
At 9am, we were driven to the hospital by a very patient and calm taxi driver, and discovered I was 4cm dilated. I was admitted to the birthing unit. I continued to breathe deeply and visualise my way through the increasingly gripping, cramping contractions as I alternated hanging off a high rail, pacing the floor and sitting on a gliding chair. I didn't take any pain relief because somehow I was managing.
By 3pm, however, I was only 5cm dilated and I was becoming so exhausted I wasn't managing the pain very well. I entered the birthing pool and contracted through the blissfully warm water. The feeling of relief was amazing but the water slowed my contractions down completely and I requested an epidural.
For this, I had to move from the midwife-led birthing unit to the conventional delivery suite. Though just a hallway separated the two units, the difference in atmosphere was great: the birthing unit was calm and quiet, I was aided by just a single midwife and I was fully mobile; the delivery suite was busy with noise and consultants and several midwives and I was hooked up to a variety of drips and monitors and limited to the bed from the outset.
But I have no problem with conventional medicine and practices and as my labour was not turning out to be straightforward, I felt reassured that I was in the capable hands of a bigger team. Plus, the epidural was an immense relief and the relief from pain freed me to feel more like myself again. More importantly, it allowed me to doze and recoup my energy.
When it looked like my contractions were not becoming more frequent and they could see my baby was becoming distressed at the length of labour, I was given oxytocin to see if my labour could be speeded up. It couldn't. It took me several more hours to dilate to just 6cm. M had slipped out as I had requested more magazines and a book to read so he was in Borders bookstore on Charing Cross Road.
While he was out, my baby's heartbeat gave much cause for alarm among the staff. Suddenly a flurry of midwives and consultants rushed in, my legs were in stirrups and in hasty but meticulous detail I was being told that it looked like my baby was losing oxygen and that they had to take a pin-prick of blood from her scalp to see whether this really was the case. It took several attempts because, as the fantastic consultant doing the work told me at the time, "the baby has so much hair, it's incredible!"
Poor M returned in the middle of all this drama. He saw me in stirrups and heard the consultant confirm that Little P was indeed losing oxygen and that I should have a c-section immediately. Of course, I signed the consent form and within seconds M was in scrubs and we were both in theatre. 10 minutes later a very blue Little P was thrust over my face for a fleeting glimpse and then rushed to the resuscitation bay.
She was fine. And M had the rare and wonderful opportunity of bonding with her first for an hour while I was stitched up and recovering. Little P is always so instantly calmed by her daddy. I am positive this instant bonding between them amidst so much stress will be the reason they will always have a very special bond.
Phew, finished. This post took a longer than usual time to complete because I am typing with one hand and holding a fretful and gassy Little P with the other. My life now. We are thinking about buying a cradle swing very soon!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Thank you all for the lovely comments. I am truly overwhelmed by them. So far she is sleeping 3-4 hours at a stretch, affording us time to do things like cook and watch TV, catch up on sleep, spend time with friends and family and go online. But mainly we are taking thousands of photos of her and hours of video footage. When she wakes up we will give her her first hair wash - then we will see how that lustrous hair really looks.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Please send me loads of labour vibes.