On Babies and Sleep

The four-month sleep regression.  I don’t know if it’s a “real thing” or if it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby if you think about it too much, you attract exactly what you fear will eventuate.  Whatever the theory, our little bubs went through it to some degree.  We also transitioned her to her cot from her bassinet around the four month mark AND transitioned her from her muslin swaddles to her sleeping bag (as she was rolling a heap!) at the same time, so maybe it was too many changes at once.  Childcare was looming in the not too distant future and I didn’t want her to not be able to sleep on her own.  It hurts me to think that she might have to cry herself to sleep in an unfamiliar place for her naps.  So I was determined to help her to sleep.

Sleep is one of those touchy subjects, somewhat emotionally charged (like breastfeeding I find).  I read up on ‘cry it out’ methods, controlled crying methods, responsive settling methods, no-cry sleep solutions to everything in between.  We even got a sleep consultant (who was very helpful).  In the end I found that no one solution worked for us.  It really depends on your baby’s temperament and your own temperament (what you’re comfortable with) and a lot of trial and error.  I know that the mantra is that consistency is key, but for us understanding our child in a particular moment was the key.  Some days, she would ache to be held — I could see that she was insecure and scared, we would rock her to sleep on those days.  Some days, she didn’t want to be held or rocked and just wanted to be left to ‘do her thing’ — so we let her whinge a bit and she self settled.  If there was anything I learnt, putting a baby to sleep is more of an Art than a Science (just like everything else baby-related really).

I found these lines from a blog post useful:

In my experience of parenthood, these things have been consistently true: 1) Nothing changes completely overnight. 2) Nothing stays the same for very long. 3) Everything takes more patience than you think it might but usually it’s patience you manage to find. 4) Keep chugging along for long enough and you’ll eventually get to pat yourself on the back for having a tiny human who’s taken to sleeping, or eating, or peeing in a pot.

Full blog post is from Reading my Tea Leaves here. 

PS. I’m happy to note (that for the time being), she’s sleeping a lot better now at the six months mark and would put herself to sleep for most naps!  Maybe she’s finished her leap.  Or teething doesn’t bother her as much.  Or I pulled back on the dairy.  You know what?  I don’t know why.  It’s unlikely anything I did ;)

On Brushing my Teeth

A visit to the dentist was the monumental event of last week.  It took a lot of coordinating.  Mr T and I organised back to back appointments and took turns rocking the baby in the waiting room while the other one got their teeth examined and cleaned.  All in all it was a success as far as baby juggling goes (she was pretty well behaved).

It wasn’t so much a success in terms of my teeth.  I have sucky teeth.  Have always had sucky teeth.  I swear I brush my teeth twice EVERY DAY, like you are supposed to.  And I floss.  And yet it stands that I have fifty million fillings.  Mister T on the other hand is a bit more lax.  He will beg to differ, but I suspect that some days he doesn’t brush his teeth at night at all.  If he does, he must do it in secret.  And yet he has perfect teeth.  No cavities.  Life is so unfair.

To console myself, I took to retail therapy.  Because obviously a nice electric toothbrush will totally get rid of my cavities.  For those who are interested, I got the Quip subscription.  We’ll just wait til November when the next visit is – I’m sure I’ll have perfect teeth by then.

PS we recently changed insurance funds.  The dentist that we like is their preferred provider, and for the whole visit there was no out of pocket fee!  Now might be a good time to re-examine your insurance funds.  For years, I was too lazy to compare – sometimes it pays to be aware!

bathroom

Gratus.

Last week was a big week.  There were some tears.  And feelings of being overwhelmed.  Being a parent sometimes leaves you feeling a little raw, in the best possible way.  The week came with it the realisation that something needed to be changed; I decided that I should make gratefulness a more salient part of my life.  As a step towards this, I’m sharing (explicitly stating more as a reminder for myself than anything else) five things which I am grateful for this week.

blooms

These blooms, because even though they are getting to be slightly over-bloomed they light up our living space.  We are still in the middle of unpacking from our move (unpacking with a little one is taking triple the time!) and there are boxes everywhere.  These flowers calm me and help make the space feel like home.

marsbar

These Mars Bar slices, shared over great conversations with other Mums.  I’m grateful for my mother’s group and for their friendship.  (PS I made this from the easiest recipe ever – check it out HERE.)  Not the healthiest, but little bites won’t hurt. (Much) ;)

crate

This little wooden crate for helping us keep track of little bub’s toys.  I bought it from Kmart (best store ever!); I think it was originally meant to be a garden box.

IMG_0686

This watch – representing time.  I’m thankful for hubby’s workplace.  For their understanding.  For flexible work arrangements.  It’s important to us that hubby gets to spend time with little bubs from an early age.  A parent’s presence in a child’s life is important.  It also gives me a much needed breather.

gymbaroo

This babyroo visualisation book, because seeing our little girl’s name printed in black and white makes it seem all the more real! (silly I know).  And also because after babyroo, she takes the longest naps ever :)  Teaching her the value of a good day’s work and a good day’s rest!

What are some of the things that you’re grateful for this week? x

New Series: Habit Matters

‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ says Aristotle.  Age old wisdom.  Easy to understand, but difficult to implement.

Lately, I’ve become more aware of my habits.  That anything I do from sleeping in, to not picking up after myself, to getting angry when someone cuts my lane is keenly observed by a little pair of eyes.  It scares me to the core that she may pick up on those moments that I’m not so proud of, and replicate them and/or repeat them back to me when she starts speaking!  I also know myself well; that I lack consistency and perseverance.  So I’ve decided not to take too big a leap all at once.  Instead I will adopt one new habit every 66 days.  Science (and Huffington Post) suggests that’s how long it takes to establish a new habit.

So my habit this month is to:

Drink a glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning.

Why?  It’s supposed to be good for my health.  You can check out the specifics here on the Positive Health Wellness website. 

lemon

I’ll check in at the midway mark, and also at the end of the 66 days under this new Series title: Habit Matters.  After these 66 days, I will pick up a new habit.  

You’re most welcome to join in this – comment below so we can keep track! :)

How Do You Manage to Shower with a Little One?

Having a little one is learning to live again.  You come to rethink things.  And find creative ways of achieving every day tasks.  Like Showering.

Here are some possible options:

  1. Skip the Shower.  Sport the new-mum look.  Not tenable in the long run.
  2. Wait til my hubby comes home.  Bonus is I actually get to have a relaxing shower, BUT the downside is I have to put up with greasy hair the whole day.  Yuck.
  3. Cart bubs into the bathroom with me.  I used to wheel her bassinet / bouncer into the bathroom while I shower.  Not too bad an option, but bubs gets bored quite easily so halfway through she will start screaming.  And my heartfelt rendition of the Lion King sung for the umpteenth time will no longer work its magic.
  4. Wait til bubs is napping, then take the baby monitor into the bathroom with me.  This is a high risk, high returns option.  And my preferred option at the moment.  I can usually count on a decent 1 – 2 hour nap in the morning. So I make a quick dash into the bathroom for a shower once she’s asleep.  Here’s some very scientific back of the envelope wisdom:

envelope

Yep almost without fail, if she does wake – it’s when I’ve shampooed my hair and lathered the soap and just before the rinse off.  She must have an internal compass which lets her know this is the best time to wake up, to see Mum in a funny state.

Anyone else have other more tenable suggestions?

 

When your Child Doesn’t Love the Car

car

My experiences with parenting (all two months of it! :-/) has made me more aware that a lot of life is about experimenting.  And that the more experiments I make, the better.  Before I had my daughter, it never occurred to me that my baby might not like the pram.  Or that she might not take the bottle of expressed milk.  To me they were just actions that babies did – they travelled in a pram and they often drink from bottles.  Afterall, that’s what I see the babies on TV and at shopping centres do.  (As you can tell, I had very limited contact with newborns/ babies before my own).  The only ‘research’ I did into buying baby things was whether the items looked pretty, whether I could afford it and whether they fit my aesthetics.  Naive and a bit vain I know.

Little did it occur to me that babies are people with very individual personalities.  And that they might not like a bundle of things, or that it might take them awhile to get used to it.  Lo and behold, my daughter does not like the car.  In fact, she dislikes it with a passion and makes it vehemently known.  Here are some strategies we have tried below (with a vague success rating next to it) – - in case you happen to have a spirited child who does not love the car either.  These might come in handy?

Strategies to make the Car Seat/ Car Ride More Tolerable for All Involved

  • Play sounds (Classical Music/ Nursery Rhymes/ Child’s Favourite Song/ White Noise).  Rating 3.5/5 Our little girl seems to like Mozart, the songs her giraffe toy makes, the womb sound on the white noise app we have and the Bobby McFerring Don’t Worry Be Happy song.  But there’s no sure win success and there’s only so many minutes of womb sounds I can take.
  • Hold her hands.  Rating 2.5/5  This seems to settle her a little, but needs to be combined with other strategies.
  • Put up Sunshades on the car windows.  Rating 3/5.  The sun and hot weather does seem to bother her a bit.  She’s much happier on cloudy and rainy days.
  • Talk to her / narrate a story to her.  Rating 3.5/5.  This strategy is extra successful if someone is sitting next to her.  My hubby would narrate whole narratives about her toys whilst sitting next to her and this seems to work quite well.  Only down side is that this is rather hard to do if I’m the only one in the car with her, and I have to concentrate on the driving.
  • Making sure she’s in a good mood before entering the car.  Rating 4/5.  This strategy is very successful but difficult to achieve.  Sometimes when you’ve got to get somewhere, you’ve got to get somewhere – regardless of little bub’s mood.
  • Timing car rides with nap times.  Rating -1/5 or 4/5.  This one can go either way.  She can either fall asleep in her car seat (dream!) or she can get extra, extra cranky and yell louder.
  • Take her on more car rides.  Rating 3/5.  Only time will tell.  Out of necessity, our daughter takes at least 2 car rides a day when we drive Daddy to the train station.  We’re about to take a LONG drive over Easter – - so that will be an extra exciting adventure.  Who knows what will happen!  She’ll either hate or love the car even more after that?
  • Things we are yet to try:  Putting a mirror in the back so we can see each other, sticking a photo of me right in front of her in the back seat, getting a Noggle, feeding her before the car ride.

If anyone has any other ideas for us to try, please do share!  I’m all ears and willing to give most things a go.

Have you read Chapter One?

chapterone

Every 90 seconds a mother dies in childbirth.  Globally 2.9 million babies die within their first month of life because they don’t have access to basic healthcare.

Were you aware of these staggering statistics?  I wasn’t….or perhaps, it has never struck home as much as now.  Holding my little girl in my arms, I know that every child deserves their best chance at life.  That’s why I’m supporting Thankyou by purchasing a copy of ‘Chapter One’.  Thank you is a social enterprise which gives 100% of their profits to their charitable trust, which then distributes funds to food, water and health and sanitation programs around the world.  You may have seen some of their products in supermarkets etc.  (I first became aware of them by seeing their bottles of water around.)

In short, by purchasing a copy of Chapter One (which tells the story of how Thankyou came to be, and how we as individuals have the power to change stuff) you are helping to raise funds for the launch of 1) Thankyou Baby and 2) Thankyou New Zealand.  Thankyou Baby will develop a range of nappies and baby body care products, with 100% of the profits helping to fund health programs for mums and bubs in need.  Thank you New Zealand aims to start Thankyou from the ground up in New Zealand.

There’s some concrete goals in place:  if things go “ok” thank you aims to raise over $2 million for infant and maternal health projects in the first 3 years.  And if things go awesomely, they think they’ll be able to raise over $15 million dollars for these projects in the first 3 years.

Read more about these guys here and think about supporting them through purchasing a copy of Chapter One

PS. I’m not affiliated with Thankyou and they have not sponsored this post (and in fact do not know about this post).  I just wanted to spread the word and extend the invitation for you to be part of something life-changing.

Unexpected Gem

mumLately, our little girl has been not loving the car.  Perhaps, it’s the heat, the sun glare?  Or perhaps she’s bored or lonely sitting all the way back there by herself?  We’re not really sure.  To make things even more interesting, she’s not a huge fan of the pram either.  This makes getting to places somewhat of a challenge.  I’m determined however, to get out a little each day – - our living room is great but is not the best classroom for learning.  I want her to see trees, flowers, dogs, people!

Luckily, she seems to do okay in our ring sling (we got this beautiful linen one).  After several days of scorching heat, today was overcast so I jumped at the chance to take her on a little walk around our house.  To my delight, we came across a kids friendly cafe which I didn’t know was just around the corner from us.  I sat down to grab a bite while she napped and the lovely owner gave me the latest copy of Melbourne’s child magazine.  There’s a refreshing article in there titled ‘keep it kind’; it describes self-compassion in a very practical way.  The author (Dr Kristin Neff) defines self compassion as having three main components: self kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

The biggest take-away I got from the article was that in difficult moments (ie. when I feel that I have failed or that I am inadequate as a Mum) I should treat myself as I would with a good friend.  Isn’t it funny how we often speak to ourselves in much harsher language than we would ever use to speak to a friend?

The whole article is very worthwhile reading.  If you’re not able to grab a copy, you may want to check out the author’s website at www.self-compassion.org.

I’m so grateful for today.  For the not-too-hot weather which enabled us to go out.  For the ring-sling which is turning out to be a life-saver.  For the unexpected gem of a cafe with the lovely owner.  For the free magazine, which led me to this great article.  And for my daughter who is so sweet, and who is teaching me so much about life.

Feeling Like a Mum

It’s been almost two months now since our little girl entered my world.  I am daily transfixed by her, I love her and I find her to be terribly cute.  But sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that I should be feeling more like a Mum.  As far as maternal instincts go — I wish that I was more in tune with what my baby is thinking, feeling and needing.  Sometimes her cues are not so obvious and a lot of responding to her needs is detective work.

During the first couple of weeks, I struggled with breastfeeding.  That overtook my world.  When we found out that our little girl had lost more than 10% of her birthweight, I was scared and that completely shattered my confidence.  My thinking went:  if I could not even provide for my baby’s most basic need, how am I supposed to parent her?  I obsessed over her weight, her milk intake and the number of diapers she was producing.  This turned into an unhealthy obsession with everything related to her – from her temperature, the volume of her spit-ups, to her sleeping arrangements etc. etc.  I found it difficult to sleep, difficult to relax, and difficult to enjoy being her Mum.  I look back on those earlier days and wished that I spent more time being and adoring and less time googling and obsessing!  Realisations can come at the strangest of times.

dog

Last Friday morning, I was taking my little girl for a stroll at the park next door.  She was sleeping happily and peacefully in her pram (rare occurrence), when all of a sudden an off-lead Eskie charged at the pram and started barking and jumping.  I instinctively stood between the Eskie and my little girl and did everything in my power to ward off the dog, who made an attempt at the pram several times (I blame the owner, not the dog by the way!)

In those moments of warding off the dog, something clicked.  I knew without a doubt that I would do everything in my power to protect and love this little girl.  It wasn’t even a conscious choice to be made by me, the instinct to love and protect her was already in me.  Even though we are just starting out, even though we are just slowly learning about each other, even though some days I feel clueless – we are a team.  She is my daughter and I get to be her Mum!

Birth Story.

“That’s what life is, a continual state of journey.  You are a river passing downstream.” ~Jon Foreman

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As of Friday, our little girl is 7 weeks young.  I considered writing this post many times before today; I wanted to document her birth story as soon as possible so that none of the precious details are forgotten.  But life with a newborn is hectic.  I’ve barely had time to poo, let alone blog!  So at long last — this happy day — with our little girl finally napping peacefully beside me in her bassinet (let me not jinx this!) I’m excited to share our birth story with you.  Here goes!

On the morning of 24 December (five days before my expected due date), I was making the most of my maternity leave and utilising every opportunity to sleep in.  At around 11am I mustered enough willpower to get out of bed.  As I stood up, I felt a small trickle of water run down my legs (sorry, this is the most elegant way that I could put this!).  We rung the hospital assessment hotline and was advised that I should drop by to check whether my bag of waters had broken.  Excitement much!  We grabbed the pre-prepared hospital bag and both of us were jittery with nerves.  Mister T did the driving, whilst I (elegantly) sat on a towel in the passenger seat.  On the way we dropped by our favourite local cafe hangout (the Distributor) for some almond croissants to take away.  We knew the folks there well (we’d been getting brunch there almost every Saturday throughout my pregnancy) and they threw in a couple of gingerbread man on the house as encouragement for us.  We love those guys!

Once we arrived at the hospital, I was pretty sure that my bag of waters had broken.  Things were very wet and Mister T stood behind me to hide  the wet patch on my pants (hint: wear dark pants).  Yuck.  An assessment in Emergency confirmed it:  bag of waters had broken but no active contractions yet (only very mild and spaced apart/ irregular cramps).  Once the hospital was satisfied that I didn’t have an infection, they sent me home with the advice that if I don’t go into spontaneous labour within 48 hours, I would be induced.  We returned home after the anticlimactic turn of events.

Throughout the afternoon, I tried to relax: willing my body to be open and for labour to start…. I told myself not to be resistant about the birth (even though I was anxious about the unknown and the impending pain!)  I got my wish at about 9pm that night when the contractions started.  At first, I wasn’t sure whether they were contractions; they felt like waves of uncomfortableness, with no definitive start or finish.  But once they got super painful – I was pretty sure they were contractions!  We tried to labour at home as much as possible, whilst at the same time keeping in contact with the hospital via phone.  To get me through the pain, I sat on a fit ball, bouncing rhythmically whilst holding Mister T’s hands and voicing a ‘hmmmm’ sound.  The stronger the contractions got, the higher I bounced, the tighter I squeezed Mister T’s hands and the louder the ‘hmmm’s’ got.  I tried a few other positions but they all seemed too painful – I couldn’t lie down in bed and the shower did little to ease my pain.  In between contractions, I would race to the kitchen and grab some ice from the fridge to suck on.  Several times, I vomited (a part of labour I hadn’t anticipated).  Mister T worked with me through each contraction, humming alongside me and counting down with me.  I couldn’t have made it without him.  After a few painfully long hours, my contractions were sufficiently regular and close apart for us to head to the hospital.  I remember consciously waiting for one contraction to finish before racing down our apartment stairs, only to be met by a second contraction halfway down.  Painful.  I grimaced through it and got into the car best I could.

At this point, I have to give Mister T a big kudos for driving so calmly and safely to the hospital with a labouring wife next to him screaming in pain.  Thankfully, by this time it was 2 am and there was no traffic.  About 10 minutes away from the hospital, I felt the urge to push and started squirming in my seat.  I held off telling Mister T about this as much as possible, to avoid freaking him out too much.  Once we arrived at Emergency, Mister T filled out the requisite forms and we were asked to sit in the waiting area.  This was one of the hardest bits of my labour – screaming in pain in front of complete strangers in a waiting room!  I was really uncomfortable and I no longer had my fit ball with me and had to try other strategies to help me cope with the pain.  We camped out a bit in the bathroom where the “bloody show” made an appearance.  When I was finally assessed (phew!) I was already 8 – 9 cms dilated.  I remember feeling soooo relieved that things were progressing well and that I could finally be admitted into to a labour suite and get out of that wretched waiting area – I was wheeled to the birthing suite in record time.

At the birthing suite, we were greeted by the loveliest midwife (Esther).  At this stage the pain was pretty intense and I asked whether I could use the gas.  I don’t know if the gas did much to take the edge off the pain, but it gave me something to do and was super helpful in getting me to breathe deeply.  Before giving birth, I was worried that I’d be self conscious about moaning – but you know what?  When I was in labour nothing else mattered to me except getting through the next contraction.  I moaned, grunted, cried and shouted through my contractions.  I tried to visualise my body opening up and the baby moving down.  I told myself that generations and generations of women before me had done this! (and that my own grandmother had seven children – all without medical intervention).  Mister T at this point offered to put some music on for me (we had meticulously prepared two labour playlists beforehand – a soothing one and one for pushing!), but all I wanted was complete silence to concentrate.  After pushing for awhile, Esther suggested that I try a side lying position which might help the baby come through better.  And I’m so grateful to her for that suggestion!  Two or three more pushes later (of the most excruciating burning I had felt in my life), our sweet little girl was out.  Esther caught her and put her to my chest.

I expected to cry, but I didn’t.  I was transfixed by the little person in front of me who I’d been yearning to meet for 9 months.  I finally got to meet her!  We asked for delayed cord clamping and Mister T cut the cord.  The following few hours were golden.  I felt tired, but incredibly powerful.  And womanly.  And deliriously happy.  Giving birth made me feel alive.

Note about Resources that Helped Us

I had hoped and planned for a birth without medical intervention, but was fully aware (and comfortable) with the idea that it might not be possible.  Any birth can take a range of turns and I am incredibly lucky to have access to a full range of medical professionals, drugs and procedures should we have needed it.  However, I think that the more you can plan for a birth without medical intervention (should you want one that is), the more likely it is to happen.  Below are some of the things that helped us prepare.

The birthwell birthright Lamaze childbirth education classes with the lovely Tanya.  Mister T and I went to this every Thursday night after work for three weeks and found this to be the most valuable source of support and resource!

Birth Skills Book by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch. Very practical strategies for coping with the pain.

Babes on Board Prenatal Classes with the lovely Gillian.  For keeping up my general fitness.