Wednesday, March 28, 2012

on compromise

i was talking to my brother the other day about parenting philosophies and the idea of committing to doing things certain ways. i said, very sagely, with the vast authority of two months of parenthood behind me, that having set ideas about parenting is never a good idea.

s and i went into this with certain ideas about how we were going to do things, but our overarching mantra was 'we'll see how it goes'. we wanted to make plans, but not cling to them too doggedly. set out purposefully, but keep an open mind if things didn't turn out as expected.
i'm really glad that we took (and continue to take!) that approach, because if we'd set our hearts on our perfect ideals we'd already be feeling like massive failures. almost nothing has turned out exactly as we'd expected. for example:

cloth nappies
before arty was born we stocked up on cloth nappies with the intention of using them exclusively. we bought one packet of disposables for emergencies, but didn't think we'd use them all. hah!
disposable nappies keep arty a lot more comfortable overnight, and when we're going to be out for a while and potentially go for longer between changes. they absorb the moisture and draw it away from the skin. we tend to only use cloth when we're at home and it's convenient to change him at least once every hour.
as he gets older and goes through fewer nappies a day we'll probably start using cloth more than we currently are, but right now we're doing what makes him most comfortable, and keeps the nappy rash at bay.

we were never going to bedshare because our bed isn't big enough for the three of us to sleep safely in it, so we decided we'd sidecar arty's cot onto our bed. we tried it for the first couple of weeks, but couldn't get him to settle in the cot while it was arranged that way. i think part of the problem was that our movements disrupted him too much.
now we have his cot about two feet from our bed, so we are very close and he knows we're always there, but he has his space and sleeps more soundly. it's working out really well.

we remain committed to keeping arty fed exclusively on breastmilk for as long as possible. i'm very proud of how hard we've worked at that, but it wasn't easy, and it didn't pan out as i'd expected (i've already written about the early stages of our breastfeeding journey here). we still have to use a nipple shield in order for arty to latch effectively, and i sometimes find that very frustrating - especially when he's hungry and i have to hunt around for one. this isn't how i'd pictured breastfeeding but the outcome is still what we wanted, so it's alright.

our backgrounds in education and psychology (and our common sense) have taught us that all children are individuals, and they bring their own set of preferences and needs to any situation. we knew we'd have to be open to arty having different ideas to us about some things. and that's ok. he's not going to get to call all the shots, but he does get to have a say. you might think he's too young to express his preferences, but he has his ways!

this doesn't mean that we're throwing all our plans out the window. it's been important to be determined about some things because they're worth fighting for, like persisting with breastfeeding, and not letting the paediatrician push us into putting arty on formula in the hospital. but clinging to idealistic plans when they're not working is a recipe for failure, frustration, and an unhappy family.

ideals are wonderful things, and they're great guides for the big picture. but when it comes to the everyday, compromise is what keeps the wheels on.

Monday, March 19, 2012

dear arthur: two months

precious arty-bear,

today you are two months old. a lot has changed in the last month. you are really beginning to wake up to the world.

you're spending less time sleeping during the day, and a lot more time looking around and engaging with your surroundings. you have started paying attention to some toys, which your mummy and i have been enjoying because it gives us another fun way to engage and connect with you. your favourite toy is croc. he hangs above your change mat on a long and bouncy spring, and when you see him you often get very excited, smile, kick, and make happy squeaking and cooing noises (proto-laughs?).

you have a general love of things that dangle above you (which makes sense since you can't sit up yet!), so i've made you some colourful felt mobiles, your oma has hung interesting objects from the ceiling in her room for when you visit, and we've bought you some other hanging toys for your pram, hammock, and car seat.

apart from croc, you have given smiles to your mummy, me, your oddmother and your oma. you generally only smile once or twice a day, so we are always very excited when we catch one, and feel very special if it's directed at us.

on the whole you come across as a very serious, thoughtful little boy. you watch the world with interest, and observe objects with a studious little frown. i love this about you, and i wonder if it's part of your nature, or just an aspect of being a newborn that you haven't outgrown yet. we'll see.

physically, you are growing well. we visited the maternal and child health nurse with you this morning, and she weighed and measured you. you're 60.5cm long, and you weigh 5.6kg.
you've pretty much outgrown your 000 sized clothes, and we're starting to put you in 00s. we're passing a lot of your stuff on to friends ho are expecting new babies, but there are a few special things that we've been unable to part with - like the tartan onesie that was your first ever outfit, and of course the beautiful hand knits you've received from friends and family.
you're strong too. you've rolled over from front to back twice already, and you're lifting our head higher, and holding it up longer with every session of 'tummy time'. you work hard at it, making high pitched squeaking noises with the effort. it's pretty adorable. we giggle quite a lot as we sprawl on the floor with you and encourage you.

you haven't had any major health problems or illnesses yet, and i'm very grateful for that! i know you'l come down with your share of colds and viruses, but i'm so glad you've managed to get through this first little bit of life without having to contend with any.
you did have a little bit of nappy rash, but we treated it by using disposable nappies, cleaning your bottom with water and cloths instead of wipes, and applying zinc oxide barrier cream. it cleared up in a few days.
as our health nurse, and one of our midwives suspected, you had a bit of a tongue tie. it was pulling your tongue into a heart shape, and preventing you from either sticking it out, or breastfeeding as effectively as you could have. we got a referral to a doctor who specialises in tongue ties, and she assessed it and advised us that it was best to have it released. this involved a tiny snip, which she did then and there. you didn't like being held still as she did it, and to our horror you bled a little from your mouth, but you were calmed by a breastfeed and it was all over and forgotten very quickly. we love seeing you poke your tongue out now, and your breastfeeding latch has become a lot better.
you had your 6 week vaccinations right on time. there was an oral one, and then two needles. i had to hold you while the nurse administered them, and it was absolutely awful. you screamed with rage and pain, and i burst into tears. i hated doing it to you, but it's so important that you're protected from all those awful diseases. but next time mummy can hold you, because i still feel queasy at the memory.

when we see friends and family, or meet people in the street, the question we are most commonly asked is how you are sleeping. we're always delighted to tell people that you're a champion sleeper. with a full tummy and a clean nappy, you are able to self-settle in your cot. you usually have a block of 3-4 hours sleep, then wake for a feed and have another 2-3 hour block. then, if we're lucky, there might be another little sleep after that too.
your naps during the day are a little less predictable. as i type this you're in the middle of a mammoth 3 hour snooze in your hammock, but yesterday and the day before you hardly napped at all. you like to sleep on us during the day, and the best way to get you to nod off is still to put you in your ergo carrier and take you for a walk. your eyes are usually closed by the time we're out the front gate.

you are a clever, strong, healthy, happy, beautiful little boy, arthur.
i love you so much, and i love being your mama.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

not just tired

parenting a newborn has really highlighted the difference between regular tiredness and cfs tiredness for me.

s and i have both been feeling like we've been travelling really well so far. arty is a really good sleeper (for a newborn), and we are in a relatively predictable routine, getting decent chunks of sleep. naturally, it's a lot less than we were getting before he was born, but it's more than a lot of new parents get, and we're really grateful for that. it's as if he knows we're new at this, and is giving us an easy run.

up until a couple of days ago, i was feeling tired, but it was a 'normal' kind of tired. then i started to have a good old fashioned cfs flare up, and i've been reminded, yet again, that i have this chronic illness.
suddenly, i'm not just sleepy, i'm tired in my bones. my arms ache when i carry him. my eyes are red and scratchy. the glands in my neck are tender. all my joints are sore.
doing stuff is hard.

but... it's ok.
s is being a superhero, and taking extra special care of all of us. i'm doing my best to take things a little easier than usual, while still being there for arty.
we are doing what we always knew we would - our best.
and it's actually pretty good.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

finding our sea legs

i found the first couple of weeks of being aparent really hard. arty was beautiful, and i was so deeply in love with him, but i felt so strange. i felt as though my inner equilibrium, my sense of self, had been fundamentally shaken. i was disoriented and confused, and this really frightened me. i would cry at the drop of a hat, and i felt so guilty that i wasn't blissfully, uncomplicatedly happy now that my deeply longed-for and beloved little son had arrived. i was feeling such intense anxiety, like a white hot ball of terror had lodged itself inside my chest, burning at me constantly. i couldn't picture how my life was going to be from now on. i was frightened that i was developing post natal depression.

it wasn't pnd. i, like most expectant mothers, had been warned about the 'baby blues', but as someone who has experienced full blown depression, i assumed they'd be nothing by comparison. i was completely unprepared for how much i'd be knocked around by those fluctuating hormones. all it took was a little time for them to settle.

at some point in the third week after his birth, something inside me shifted, and i suddenly started feeling better. i felt calmer, and much less anxious. i felt like i had a better grasp of what on earth i was meant to be doing here, and that i really could manage, even if it was only one hour at a time. i cried less, started getting out of the house for walks and short visits, and found myself enjoying my new role.

i don't know which was the cause and which was the effect, but as i became happier and calmer, we all managed to find a bit more of a rhythm with feeding and sleeping. we're not sticking to any kind of rigid schedule, but there's a sort of ramshackle pattern to our days, and we're muddling along quite happily.

the learning curve has been a steep one for all of us, but as we were out walking the other night s and i took a moment to marvel at how far we've come in six weeks. feeding is becoming easier by the day, and is no longer a cause of confusion and anxiety. we're surprising ourselves with how well we're coping on so much less sleep. we're getting better and better at understanding and anticipating arty's needs, which means were generally feeling more confident and competent as parents.

this is just the beginning of a long voyage, but we're finding our sea legs, and it feels good.