Apples and Oranges

On Monday I had my biweekly phone check in with my counsellor. I haven’t seen her in person since before P. was born, but I’m hoping to get there once E. is back in school. It’s just been too much to wrangle both kids. We talked through what was going on generally (short answer: family still in crisis on a truly unbelievable level) and how the course was going (almost done but I am marking exams at 4:30 a.m. after P. feeds because that’s the only time I have) and how I was feeling (exhausted and numb) and then she asked if I had specific anxieties about P.

And I had to admit- I have not been able to let go of the worry I feel about P.’s weight gain.

No one else thinks there is a problem. The midwives said her weight was fine. The paediatrician reported her “perfect” when I brought her in for her first round of vaccinations. P. has been consistently gaining about 0.75 oz per day, so 45 grams. The minimum is 0.5 oz, or 30 grams, so you can say “she’s only gaining a quarter of an ounce above the minimum”, which doesn’t sound all that great, or you can say “she’s gaining fifty percent more than the minimum”, which sounds like a lot. I try to make the voice in my head say the second one rather than the first.

“So you’re worrying about a problem when there is no problem,” my counsellor said.

Yes. Yes I am.

We talked about whether I was punishing myself because P. has been a somewhat easier baby than E. was (although I really would not classify her as ‘easy’), or whether I was just fixating on one thing to worry about (with E. it was sleep).

Ultimately I realized two things. The first is that part of this fretting over her weight gain is displacement anxiety. It’s the spill over from all the stress and grief and worry I have about the rest of my family. I’ve crammed it into a box and I’ve tried so hard to keep that box shut so I can keep functioning, but it’s creeping out and this is how it’s manifesting.

“What would you do if her weight gain wasn’t ok?” my counsellor asked.

“I’d work to increase my supply,” I said. “I’d probably try to pump after every feed. Maybe I’d take the herbal supplements again. And I’d cut out dairy just to see if that was causing any issues.”

“So you’d have a concrete plan for something you could do to fix the problem.”

I can’t fix the other problems in my life. I can’t heal my father’s spine or fix my stepmother’s hip or cure my stepfather’s terminal cancer or ease the burden my mother and sisters and stepsister have shouldered as they sit with my stepfather while he dies.

But I could probably fix a low weight gain if I just needed to make more breastmilk.

“Maybe you’re making this into a problem because you know it’s a problem you can control and you can’t control the other worries,” said my counsellor.

She is so right, of course.

We talked about the problems I have with projecting. My big worry with P. is that if she does the same dramatic drop down the percentiles that E. did at six months (he had been in the 75th to the 90th percentile for weight and then ultimately slid down into the 20th and stayed there), she won’t have as far to go because she hasn’t had the strong early weight gain (she is a full two pounds lighter than E. was although exactly the same length).

My counsellor asked how I still remembered all these details with E.

“I kept a really detailed journal.” (I didn’t mention the blog.)

“Maybe you should put the journal away for now. Maybe acknowledge it as a historical document and a memory of E.’s infancy, but don’t look at it to compare.”

And then it hit me.

E’s journal is my parenting manual this time around.

When E. was a baby, I read (what felt like) every single parenting book out there. Books on sleep (SO many books on sleep). Books on food. Books on child development.

I’m an academic and I was trying to approach parenting like I would any other thorny issue- read my way into the subject.

I wanted the manual.

I wanted the explanation.

I wanted the key to E.’s behaviour.

And no matter how many times Q. said to me: “Babies do crazy things!” or “E. hasn’t read the books!”, I still struggled with adapting and adjusting to E. because he didn’t do what the books said he ‘should’ be doing.

I thought I had learned better. This time around, I’ve felt so smug about how I haven’t read any parenting books at all. I gave all the ones I owned away before getting pregnant with P. and I haven’t replaced them. I haven’t taken any out from the library. I’ve been resolved to just follow my baby and roll with the punches.

I thought I was doing this.

But I’m actually parenting exactly the same way I did with E., except this time my model isn’t some generic baby in a book but one very specific baby- my son.

This means when P. does something that’s similar to what E. did (like napping only in carriers) I don’t worry about it. I thought it was because I’d accepted that babies do crazy things but I think now it’s because E. did that exact same crazy thing and then stopped doing it, so I know P. will stop doing it eventually too.

Likewise, if P. does something that’s different from E., but not in any worrying way (such as always wanting to be held looking outwards or rolling over almost a full month earlier), I’m fine (if a bit apprehensive about what this will mean for us when P. is a toddler).

But when I feel P. isn’t measuring up to E., that’s when I worry. And I’m worrying because, once again, my baby is not fitting the model I’m using.

I changed the model but not my mode of thinking.

I know it is so common for parents to compare their children and it is so hard not to do it. And this blog is full of detailed reminders of exactly what E. did when.

My daughter, however, deserves to be seen as her own person, not in terms of “her big brother did that” or “her big brother never did that”.

It’s not her fault she was born second.

So I’m going to try to put down the journal and to stay away from the archives on this blog.

I’m going to try to see her just as her own perfect self.

She deserves nothing less.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Baby Olympics, Nursing, P.- the first year

The second month

Dear P.,

You, my darling daughter, are now two months old. Luckily you are not yet old enough to notice that this letter is late. I’m sure you would feel this is because you’re the second child, but it’s the marking for my course that has kept me from finishing this on time. I have to put you down far more than I would like to try to finish one last teaching-related email, and I’m looking forward to finishing the course at the end of this month and having E. start back at school in September so that you can finally have some of my undivided attention. Your infancy will always be busier than E.’s was, but I do want to carve out some time for just the two of us.

You are already showing signs of having very firm opinions about a number of things. You want diapers changed immediately after they’re soiled. You want to be held facing outwards so you can see what is going on around you. You want to sit on someone’s lap during meals instead of in your bouncy seat so you’re at the same level as everyone else. You want to nap in carriers during the day and you want to nap as soon as you start to feel tired and not several minutes later after I’ve finished whatever I was trying to do when you first yawned. And, most of all, you do not want to be put down during the day, not even for two minutes while I wash my hands after a diaper change. You are definitely still a baby in the fourth trimester.

Although you do still spend much of the day doing your best Winston Churchill impression – you have quite the scowl and a very intense stare – you’re also very cheerful. You started smiling early, but this month the smiles have become much more frequent. One of my favourite times of day is after your first feed in the morning where you don’t immediately go back to sleep. When I’m getting you out of your sleep sack and getting you dressed for the day, you always give me these enormous gummy smiles which light up your whole face. I’ve finally managed to capture a couple of smiles by getting Daddy to get you to smile while I wield the camera- you clearly respond to faces and the camera is enough of an intrusion that I can’t get a good smile on my own. You’re also cooing now and you want so badly to be able to carry on a conversation. When we speak to you, not only do you coo back, but you open your mouth, wiggle your tongue and your eyebrows, and wave your hands. You have a very expressive face and you already have so much you want to say. You have huge brown eyes- so dark they’re almost black and the pupils all but disappear in some lights.¬† Your hair is equally dark. You have quite a bit on some parts of your head and not very much at all on others. You also have a whorl at the crown of your head in the exact same spot as your brother’s. I know from experience that this is going to make taming your hair a challenge once it gets longer.

You’re already very strong. You’ll tolerate tummy time for a couple of minutes if I prop you up on a nursing pillow and you’ll not only lift your head but you’ll work hard to try to push your chest off the ground as well. You can support your weight on your legs if you’re “standing” against my chest and you’ve started to prefer this position to just being held when we’re working out any burps after a feed. People often comment on how good your head control is. It feels like you’re in a rush to get bigger and stronger, and I suspect you’ll be crawling well before your brother did. When you’re in the K’Tan getting ready for a nap you’ll often drop your head right back to gaze up at my face and smile at me whenever I look down. I can’t resist giving you kisses when you do this, which makes you smile even more, even though I know you need some quiet time to settle and fall asleep. When you do start to get sleepy you bury your face against my chest and I can feel your hot little breath on my skin. If you get over tired you slam your head against my chest (sometimes so hard it startles you and makes you cry).

I’m so grateful for how well you’ve been sleeping at night. Your record is 10 hours straight (from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m.) but your usual big stretch is around 8.5 hours. We have yet to experience any consistent success in getting you down for the night before 9:30 or 10 p.m., but that’s a goal for next month. This month I’ve just been enjoying the sleep. The evenings are a bit of a challenge as you’re usually overtired, overstimulated, and just generally over the day. Most evenings Daddy puts you in the carrier and takes you out for a long walk while I put your brother to bed and then work on the course until you’re back and ready to start cluster feeding. I’m positive all the fussiness and cluster feeding contributes to your exceptional sleep at night; I just hope you can keep the long stretches once we establish a more reasonable bedtime. We switched this month from the swaddle to the sleep sack as it was clear that you no longer liked having your arms tucked in. It was an easy transition- we swaddled you with your arms out for a few nights and popped you in the sleep sack. You’re still sleeping in the bassinet, but you don’t have that much more room left.

I try not to worry about your weight gain. You’re growing in leaps and bounds- at your two month well baby appointment (a week before you actually were two months) you were 61 cm long and had a head circumference of 40 cm. Those measurements are identical to those of your big brother at the same age, but you were over two pounds lighter (at 10 lb, 9.5 oz to his 12 lb, 11 oz). You’re gaining more than the minimum (if only just) and you’ve been gaining at a consistent rate for weeks now, so I think I need to stop comparing. I just hope you’re not going to slide down the percentiles the same way E. did once he hit the six month mark, as you don’t have very far to go!

This month saw your first long journey by car as we made the trek to go and see all of your Canadian grandparents. The drive there was traumatic. It usually takes us a bit over six hours, but it ended up taking eight as we had to stop at every single rest stop on the highway to feed you, change your diaper, and give you a cuddle. Then we’d put you back in your car seat, we’d get a few minutes of quiet, and then you’d start crying again. The last hour and a bit we just drove without stopping while you screamed, because nothing we did was helping and we had to get there. E. spent most of the ride wearing his noise cancelling headphones and informing us that you were crying. It broke my heart to have you be so unhappy and to be so utterly powerless to make it better.

We were dreading the ride home, but then you surprised us by sleeping for almost the entire journey. It still took eight hours, but that was with two long stops instead of six, and there was probably less than twenty minutes of crying in the entire trip. The major difference between the two was the time of departure. Driving there we didn’t get away until 3 p.m. and then we were in stop-start traffic for the first hour. Driving home we left at 7:45 a.m. and had a clear run all the way through. You tend to nap better in the mornings, so we speculate that we just hit a better rhythm. Daddy also wonders if you get carsick like your father and brother; if so, the stop-start traffic at the beginning of the outward journey might have made you feel sick and then you felt sick the rest of the trip. The other option is you were in a growth spurt by the time we drove home- you fell asleep on the carpet after we took you out of the car, and then fell asleep in your travel crib while doing tummy time the following day and in your bassinet when put down for two minutes. I can’t emphasize enough how utterly unlike your usual behaviour this is, so maybe we just lucked out with the second trip by catching you at a sleepy point in your development.

That trip was bittersweet for me. I was so glad you were able to meet so many of your relatives- your aunties and uncles who live further west, your two cousins, who both absolutely adored you and who argued every morning over whose turn it was to hold you first, and your Great-Grannie. You also met both of your Grandpas. One of them you will never get to know- we drove when we did specifically to make sure that he had the chance to meet you before he died. I hope with all my heart that you will get to know and love your other Grandpa and that he will be a part of your life for many years to come, but your relationship with him will not be like the relationship he had with E. before his accident. You won’t know any different- he’ll just be your Grandpa- but it is hard for me.

The easy drive home again after our week away at least made it easier to put you in the car again right at the end of your month for your very first cottage vacation. We spent a week on a lake with two other families. I dipped your feet in the lake- the water was warm enough that you didn’t mind and I think you liked the feel of the sand between your toes. Otherwise you spent the week doing all the same things you would do at home: sleeping a lot at night; nursing a lot during the day; and napping in carriers. I liked wearing you down on the beach. There was shade there no matter what time of day, and I could watch your brother play while you slept. You also had an afternoon nap in a carrier with Daddy every day- he’d walk around until you fell asleep and then he’d sit down and read a book for an hour or two. There were two toddlers there and I found myself imagining what you will be like next year as I watched them play in the sand and wade in the lake.

I’m not surprised that you’re already two months- we’ve been so busy this summer and I know now how quickly babies grow up. You’ve settled in so well. It often seems like you’ve always been here, and your Daddy and I are so very glad you chose to join our family. We love you ever so much.

Love always,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The perfect present

A few days ago my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday. And, after some consideration, I was able to give her an idea.

But when she first asked, the immediate thought that came into my head was this:

I want an hour to myself to read a book.

It was the same thing I’d said to my counsellor on the phone during our most recent session, where I’d outlined how all four of my parents need so much right now and how my sisters and I are stretched to our breaking points trying to help. How my sisters are, again, taking turns supporting my mother as she cares for my stepfather at home, and how I am, again, incapable of doing more than offering moral support as my children require that I put them first, and you can’t bring a five year old into a house where someone is dying in the living room and wants (understandably) peace and quiet.

Reading is my self-care.

It always has been. Even when I’ve been at my busiest with teaching or the PhD I’ve been able to scrape some time here and there for a book.

Not much time, this year, but some.

P. is less than a week out from being two months old.

Since she was born, I have read exactly ONE book. I read it while nursing her during the week my mother was here at the end of June, because my mother took charge of E.

I am partway through another, which I have been reading while pumping after P.’s first feed of the day.

Fifteen minute stretches.

That’s all the time I’ve been getting.

When E. was this tiny, I read books while he napped as I paced around the living room with him strapped to my chest in a carrier. I remember vividly that George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons was released that spring, as well as the paperback version of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven.

E.’s infancy was different. I didn’t have an older child who wants and needs my attention when the baby is sleeping. I wasn’t teaching a course that demands every spare second I can muster. I can rationalize reading while pumping because I don’t have both hands free to work on the computer, so I can’t do anything with the course, and both children are sleeping.

I still miss my books.

I own every book Guy Gavriel Kay has written. He is one of my most beloved authors and I reread his books frequently (some of them every year).

His next book, River of Stars, was released in 2013, and I bought it and saved it to read when I was overseas in the UK by myself for those first two weeks. I stayed up too late one night to finish it because I knew I didn’t have a toddler who would wake me up early the next morning.

The book I’m currently reading in fifteen minutes stretches is his latest, Children of Earth and Sky.

I did not buy it, as I prefer to have his books in paperback so they take up less room on the shelf. Instead, I put it on hold at the library and waited for months for it to be my turn.

It will be due back before I can get it finished.

***

For my birthday, Q. gave me three things:

  1. The newest Harry Potter book
  2. A gift certificate to a bakery in our neighbourhood which has a few tables at which one can sit and drink tea and eat cake
  3. The promise to take P. for a morning or an afternoon every couple of weeks in the fall, when E. is in school, so that I will actually have time to go and sit in the bakery and drink tea and eat cake and read my book.

He gave me time.

Without me asking, without me saying a word, he knew exactly what I most needed.

I love him so much.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Books, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family

Unbalanced

Sunday night, I went to bed after 11 p.m., only to get up again ten minutes later when I heard the car in the driveway and knew my mother and stepsister were back from the hospital. I went downstairs to find out how my stepfather was doing and to let them decompress (things can be very hard right now).

I eventually went to bed and fell asleep around 12:45 a.m. The next morning we woke up and got on the road as early as we could (7:45 a.m., which was 45 minutes later than Q. had hoped for and 15 minutes earlier than I thought would be possible) in order to make the long drive back home in front of the worst of the holiday weekend traffic. P., mercifully, slept most of the way instead of screaming like she had on the outward trip, but it still took us 8 hours (same as the previous trip but with two stops instead of six).

Monday night I went to bed around 9:30 p.m. I woke up at 4:15 a.m. to feed P. (she is still sleeping really well at night). Then I went downstairs and pumped.

And then, starting at 5:00 a.m., I marked essays. I marked until E. woke up at 7:15.

I felt like garbage the rest of the day.

Last night I did not get up after feeding P. at 4:30 a.m. I pumped after her morning feed. I did not mark essays. I slept until E. woke me up at 7:30 and as a result I feel like I can function again.

I can’t mark during the day as I get exactly 45 minutes of time to work (after lunch when P. naps in a carrier and E. is watching videos). That is enough to check work email and moderate the discussion forum. It is enough to keep my head above water with the course which is into its concluding week (I had originally planned to actually write a concluding lecture but that is not going to happen). I am only able to type this because P. is nursing.

I don’t want to ask Q. to come home early because he lost his entire week last week coming with me to see my family (where he took over in the kitchen and kept us all fed for the entire week so my mother did not have to worry. I love that man).

I will probably get an hour tonight when Q. takes P. for an evening walk after E. is in bed.

But I think tomorrow I have to get up again after her feed. They won’t get done otherwise.

I am heartsick and grieving, for myself, my stepfather, my mother, my entire family. I had to say goodbye and leave, knowing that I will never see him again.

I was supposed to be there this week with the kids. My mother was going to look after E. while I marked when P. napped. Instead, she has brought my stepfather home from the hospital and will look after him until he dies, and I can do absolutely nothing to help.

We knew teaching the course after P. was born would be a challenge.

We are so close.

There are only a few more days to go.

But this is really hard now.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss

An ending, coming

On Monday night, I was lying in bed nursing P. with my phone in one hand, waiting for my mother to call with what I knew would be bad news. P. was thirty-seven days old. She is so new, so fresh. She is at the beginning of it all.

My stepfather is dying.

A month ago my Mum was with me, helping while Q. was overseas. My stepfather was doing so well she said she almost felt she could have left him alone. My youngest sister, who went to stay with him, said he was the best she’d seen him in years.

With hindsight, this appears to have been the final rally that some patients get before they start that last downward spiral.

He is in hospital and is being made comfortable. They are looking into the options to see if he can be brought home and receive hospice care.

We don’t know exactly how long he has, but it is not long. We were originally told days. It is probably more like weeks, but things can change very quickly as we have learned.

All five of his children (one son, one daughter, three stepdaughters) will be here as of this afternoon. We will all get our chance to say goodbye, but we will all probably have to leave again before the end and leave him and my mother, which breaks my heart.

He was well enough yesterday to come out of the hospital to meet P. (as she is too young to be vaccinated and I cannot risk bringing her in to the hospital itself). We were able to get some pictures of him with his four grandchildren. He will probably not get to meet the one currently occupying labmonkey’s uterus.

My stepsister and stepbrother lost their mother nine years ago. Now they will have lost both parents. They are 36 and (almost) 38. That is too young, My stepsister and her husband are here with their two kids (7 and 4) on a prearranged two week vacation. She wants to be with her Dad, but her kids need her too. I am hoping to hand P. off to someone this afternoon so Q. and I can go in to see him, even if just for an hour.

It’s not enough time.

There will never be enough time.

We knew the cancer was going to come back. We knew it would kill him eventually.

We never thought it would be this soon.

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Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

Random musings at five weeks

Some thoughts from life chez Turia, in bullet points again:

  • I think I got one of those mythical sleeping babies. In the last four nights P. has done stretches of 1. 7 hours; 2. 7 hours; 3. 5 hours (but she spent almost the entire day sleeping); and 4. 8 1/2 hours (!!!!!). How ridiculously amazing is that??!!
  • I am glad I bought a pump at the start of this week, as I have been pumping after her long stretch to make sure my supply does not diminish. I was hand expressing before this, but the pump is definitely faster and more effective. I am building up a little freezer stash. I guess eventually we will do something with it.
  • P. is a total nightmare in the evenings until we get her down for the night. Much much worse than E. was. But then she sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. I will take it.
  • P. mostly naps in carriers during the day. I can get her down in the bassinet after the first feed because I think she views that as still part of her night sleep (I suspect she’s on a 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. nighttime schedule). This works well as it gives me time to pump and get E. breakfast and get me breakfast and clean up the kitchen. Sometimes she only naps for 45 minutes in there. This morning it was 2.5 hours (after that huge nighttime sleep) and I got so much done. If we home, she naps in the K’Tan. If we are out, she’s in the Beco Gemini. At some point I am going to want her to nap more in the bassinet, but this works for now (I am typing this standing up at the kitchen counter with her in the K’Tan).
  • I survived my first week home solo with both kids. We have a routine going where we try to get out of the house in the morning before it gets too insanely hot, and then we stay in over lunch and the early afternoon. We sometimes go back out in the later afternoon- E. had activities at the library two days this week he wanted to check out. I feel like I pretty much rocked this week and the double parenting gig, if one leaves out the fact that I get no housework done other than cleaning up after breakfast and Q. is still cooking all dinners.
  • I alternate between feeling guilty about how much we are using the car and being so damn grateful we bought the car. It has been stupidly hot here for days and days and the car means that we get out quickly and we can drive to the parks with the best shade in the city that have sand/water tap combinations (which is all E. needs to be happy for hours). I am getting less nervous about going out with both of them and driving. It’s just not an option to stay home all day- E. would go crazy (and drive me crazy in the process).
  • But I do feel guilty, especially since E. has a reputation in the neighbourhood as The Boy Who Walks. I keep telling myself we will do more walking again, but I’m hardly going to take P. out for lengthy strolls when it’s 33 degrees, and I’m not going to drag them both on public transit (especially with an unvaccinated baby) for 45 minutes or an hour to get to a park that we can drive to in 12 minutes that will give us enough shade we can play all morning without worrying about where the sun is.
  • P’s propensity for carrier naps and fussy evenings is making getting anything done for my course a real challenge. My essays come in on Friday. I’m really not sure how I’m going to get them marked right now. Possibly by getting up at 5 a.m. when she and E. are both sleeping. I can moderate the discussion forum and write discussions questions, etc. while she’s in the carrier but 2,000 word essays require a higher level of concentration and she won’t just fall asleep adorably on my chest any more.
  • Nursing is quite different when you have two. I have nursed through more meals than I can count (almost every dinner for the last three weeks it feels like), nursed while supervising a bath, nursed while assembling a model dinosaur, nursed while playing Playmobil vet clinic, nursed while reading bedtime stories, nursed while telling E. his daily Winnie the Pooh stories (which feature far more trains than I think A.A. Milne would have envisioned), nursed while putting together afternoon snack, etc. I am also now a master at nursing at the park with a muslin blanket draped over one shoulder, sometimes while walking around the playground supervising E. with the straps of my carrier hanging around my feet. I was doing this on Monday when a mum went past and said, “I remember that stage! It’s an impossible situation!” Except it isn’t, because my older one is five, and most of the time I can just sit happily on a bench nursing P. and trust that he is a) playing nicely; b) not doing anything silly or dangerous; and c) not about to leave the playground without telling me.
  • I remember with E. my favourite time to nurse was right before bed- we’d lie down on my bed and he’d make these happy little noises and close his eyes and get so relaxed. I’m there with P. too and it is lovely. They always look so serious with their little furrowed brows when nursing awake, which I also love, but there is something so special about that sleepy feed.
  • I feel stressed much of the time about everything I have not had time to do- email photos of P. to family; Skype with family; reconcile our finances; add P. to the RESP, but I have had to just realize that the course takes every spare moment for now and all the things that I feel I need to do to be a) on top of things and b) a good member of my family have to wait until I am clear of it. Except maybe the thank you notes for P.’s presents, because even though she is a second child they are starting to pile up and I really need to get some of them sent out. I think I can write them while she naps in a carrier. We’ll see. I finally ordered some cards from a giant online retailer last week when I realized I did not have time to go get some in person, so that is a start.
  • My family continues to fall apart in an absolutely spectacular way with my stepmother’s health now not all that good (she needs a hip replacement although she is only in her mid-fifties) and my stepfather very seriously ill with kidney issues requiring a stent and a hospital stay this past week right after he got back out of the hospital for an intestinal blockage. There are also probably more tumors. My mother is so drained emotionally and physically from the wild ride they’re on. And my father is having surgery on Monday- should be a straightforward surgery but it is a big deal as if it works he will eventually be able to get off the ventilator. And here I am, barely keeping my head above water with two kids and the online course. I have absolutely nothing extra to give right now, and I cannot be there in person to help (my youngest sister is holding the fort for us at the moment). I am not supposed to be in the sandwich generation at 36.
  • I keep telling myself I am doing the best I can.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the sixth year, Family, Nursing, P.- the first year

The first month

Dear P.,

Today, you are one month old. It’s hard to believe you’ve only been here for that long, because in many ways it feels like you’ve always been here. E. asked me once, earlier in the month, how old you were. When I said you were twelve days old, he told me that he was “already quite used” to you. That about sums it up for all of us, I think. We’re all already quite used to you.

You’re thus far a rather adaptable baby. The lactation consultant who came to the house (during a what turned out to be an unfounded panic about my supply) could not get over how calm you are. I don’t think I’d describe you as calm during the hours of 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (which you seem to have scheduled for cluster feeding and fussing on a nightly basis), but generally you seem pretty happy and easy going. The obvious exception is tummy time, which clearly you regard as baby torture time. You will occasionally throw your head up (you have a very strong neck when we’re holding you) but you spend most of the time frantically pushing with your legs with your head flat on the ground, screaming in frustration. Once you managed to turn¬† yourself 90 degrees. We suspect you aren’t going to wait until you’re eight and a half months to crawl like your brother did.

Your hair is already longer than it was a month ago. Your eyes are darker- we’ve never had any doubt that they will be anything other than brown. Your skin is spottier (baby acne has started to appear in the last couple of days). Your legs are longer (especially since you’ve started stretching them out). Most of your newborn clothing no longer fits well, even when you’re not in a cloth diaper. You’re probably close to two pounds over your birth weight, so we know you’re thriving.

You are, without a doubt, the noisiest baby we’ve ever met. We actually videoed the ridiculous cacophony that you produce in the bassinet and asked our midwife to look at it because we were worried there might be something wrong. There wasn’t- you are in perfect health. You’re just very, very noisy. Sometimes you sound like a creaking door, sometimes a rooster, sometimes a pod of whales. Often you sound like what I imagine a dinosaur sounded like. The funny thing is I sleep perfectly well with you right beside me in the bassinet, and with E. (who was much quieter) I had to wear earplugs because I couldn’t sleep.

You surprised us by smiling early- you were twenty days old the first day I could say with confidence that you were producing real smiles (although I do still wonder about some of the other ones). You love to smile at me on the change table- unless I have my camera there to capture it. Then you stick to your puzzled, furrowed, Winston Churchill impression. You started cooing at around the same time and you’re becoming adept at giving a quiet coo if I’m holding you but my focus is elsewhere. You also coo at your big brother during dinner during the (increasingly rare) occasions when you’re in the bouncy seat and not in my lap nursing.

Your best party trick to date is your sleep. You’ve been sleeping a five or six hour stretch in the first part of the night since your second week. I thought I was going to have to start artificially waking you up earlier when we weren’t sure about your weight gain, but luckily that’s no longer a concern. We’ve completely ignored any semblance of bedtime to this point (you spend almost every evening cluster feeding on my lap and then passing out on the nursing pillow while I mark or moderate my discussion forum), so when we go to bed around 10 p.m. I try to make sure I wake you up so you nurse, and you’ll then sleep through until 3:00 or (if I’m really lucky) 4:00 a.m. Your second feed is almost always three hours after the first, so on the off night when you wake up at 1:00 or 2:00, I know I’ll be seeing you again before 6:00 (which is when I mentally feel the morning starts). You seem to like being tightly swaddled (arms in) and you’re happy enough in the bassinet at night and (usually) for the first nap of the morning, so it’s hard to complain when you want to spend the rest of the day snuggling. You’re still so little, and I’m inclined to soak up your infancy a bit more than I did with your brother. (Getting a decent amount of sleep every night makes everything you do so much more enjoyable.)

I’m sorry that you’re the second child. I’m sorry that you’re already learning that quiet, polite noises of displeasure don’t lead to the situation being rectified, like they almost always did for your brother, and that you’re ever more quickly advancing straight to panic stations screaming when something is not to your liking. I’m sorry you get put down so often, even though you absolutely loathe being put down. I’m sorry you’re going to spend so much more time in the car than your brother ever did, although maybe you won’t always hate it as much as you do right now. I’m sorry you will be continually dragged around according to his needs and his schedule. At some point you and I will have to sort out good sleep habits but I’ve already shelved that until he’s back at school in September.

And I’m not sorry that you’re the second child. You have a spot on your head that is almost always smeared with cherry juice, or maple syrup, or yoghurt, from your big brother’s constant requests at the table to “please be excused so I can give P. a kiss”. When he’s talking, you turn your head to find him. Most of your biggest and best smiles have been directed at him. He cuddles you, reads to you, sings to you, and provides P. reports when we’re driving somewhere and I can’t see what you’re doing. At some point he’s going to step on you or fall on you when he’s clambering around on the couches while I’m nursing, but his heart is in the right place. He adores you, and it makes my heart glow to see it.

You have a more distracted, less available Mummy, but a much more relaxed one. Just like your brother, you’re showing clear signs of only wanting to nap in carriers, preferably in motion. I agonized over this with E. for weeks. With you, I’m not bothered. We’ll sort it out eventually and in the meantime it’s a lot easier to keep up with E. if you’re happy to be tucked up on my chest.

The days pass more quickly with you, it seems. I’m sure part of it is because I’m chasing around after E. and teaching. I don’t have any spare time in which to sit and watch the hours. But part of it is because you’ve settled into our family so nicely. You have filled the gap that we thought would always be there.

We’re so glad you’re here.

love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year