But it’s one of the most significant photos of my whole life. This was taken on Mother’s Day 2011 sitting on a bench on the coastal clifftop walk in Vaucluse, just up the road from the famous Gap. I look like shit because I am just not photogenic, but also because I am in labour with my son, my first child. I was 32 and had been having six minute apart contractions since 6am that morning. This was taken, well, sometime towards dusk, which is probably about 5:30pm at that time of year in Sydney. My son was born the following evening around 8pm. My life changed forever.
Now, people always say, oh yes, children are a big commitment but also a joy, your life changes forever, bla bla bla. You can’t conceptualise it and you just nod and smile and agree and maybe roll your eyes when they’re not looking. You KNOW your life is going to change. And even after it does, you think you KNOW just what you’re in for. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t. You have no IDEA.
I’m writing this nearly three and a half years later. My second child, a girl, is ten weeks old. I have no IDEA how I got through this morning. It’s freaking hard. It just is, and I make no apologies or excuses. Older, more experienced people have told me how straightforward it was for them, how they just swaddled their perfect little baby and laid it down in its old-fashioned cot with the sides up in a bedroom containing nothing else and it went to sleep for two hours during which they did all the housework and cooked meals for the next year and had a cup of tea and planned out the week. Yeah, great, nice work, good for you. That’s not how it is for mothers today. Well that’s not how it is for me, anyway.
My grandmother on my mother’s side had ten children. Her third child, a boy, died in infancy during the war. I’m not sure why or how. But let’s examine my maternal grandmother’s situation for a moment: she was either pregnant or breastfeeding for 20 years. She was a migrant, with half her children being born in Serbia and Germany and the other five here in Australia. She was poor. She grew most of the family’s food because of this. She had her babies in hospitals but could only stay a night after a birth because her other children needed her at home. My grandfather got up for work at 4am six days a week and was home after the children were in bed. No one but my grandmother cooked and cleaned, she did it all. Her name was Elisabeth and she was a Capricorn who never wanted children and didn’t marry until she was 23, virtually an old maid in 1937.
How did she do it? I have no idea. But I will offer one theory: life was entirely different. There were no computers, they never had a tv or other technology invading their lives. They didn’t even have a washing machine or fridge in the beginning. They ate from their farm and there was a purity of existence that has to be created with much effort these days. Somehow, I don’t know how, this lifestyle made for a gentler, more harmonious life. And babies who didn’t demand feeding 24/7, who wouldn’t sleep for more than a few minutes without being held.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am very much of an attachment parenting mindset and I believe that it’s completely normal for young babies and children to resist sleeping for long periods away from their mothers or carers. It’s basic physiology, part of being human. However. I’m not completely convinced that the reason babies don’t settle, the reason they cry, is due to the lack of attachment. I think there is too much stimulation in life today. Not only does all this distraction take up the time and space a parent might otherwise have had free, it changes the way we relate to each other, and to our children.
I don’t think there’s a solution to this, I think I’ve made a conscious choice to live in this way, and knowing my lifestyle impacts my babies in this way doesn’t make me want to change. I am however willing to continue on a “natural” parenting path as although it is a lot of work, I couldn’t do it any other way. I won’t be doing any kind of sleep training or controlled crying. I won’t be arbitrarily stopping breastfeeding and introducing formula. I won’t be forcing my kids to sleep in their own rooms if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. I won’t be pureeing meals and spoon feeding at some random age determined by some doctor.
I lie here in the dark at 9:30pm trying to slip my nipple out of my baby’s mouth without waking her so I can go back downstairs and watch Breaking Bad and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s just what mothering is for me. And it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye.
This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing on our recent trip to South Africa and the UK.
When planning this trip and getting in touch with all the people we’d be staying with, the question was always, ‘oh, what about a cot for the little one?’ And the response was always, ‘oh no, don’t worry, he sleeps with us’. Most people, I think, know this is what we do. Some probably just think, okay, whatever, don’t know why you’d do that but okay. Others probably think the ‘rod for your own back’ thing. And obviously some, who do the same, realise how easy co-sleeping can make things. Not that I’m saying I’d have chosen to co-sleep before the Dude arrived. In fact, I was staunchly against it when my midwife first broached the subject. But it has given us more sleep than trying to get him to sleep on his own in a cot, that I’m absolutely certain of. I have a dream that the next one will be like I was as a baby and sleep 12 hours a night from three months. Ha!
So, on this trip, we slept in a lot of different places (including the plane, although I don’t know I’d count that as sleeping, more passing out temporarily from exhaustion, only to be woken by a kick in the face and an angry screech). First up was our good friend’s parents’ place in Krugerstorp, just outside of Johannesburg. They have a typically South African gorgeous big rambling house with heaps of room, pool, tennis court, beautiful grounds, all surrounded by tall iron gates. We spent one night there before driving out to ‘the farm’, and we stayed in a lovely big room which was sort of outside the rest of the house, or at least the entrance was, with an ensuite bathroom across the way. The bed, we were informed, was very old, apparently made by our friend’s grandfather or great-grandfather, beautifully carved wood, but sadly only a standard double size. We have a queen at home with the Dude’s cot side-carted (he has finally started rolling into it sometimes when he’s asleep, woo hoo!) so lots more room. It was very peaceful in the room. I finally succumbed to sleep when I put the Dude down about 8:30pm and he did manage to stay asleep for a couple of hours. We dragged a big old piano stool to my side of the bed and put pillows all around, just in case he decided to roll off, and that sort of worked although he did push it away when he was really restless. Of course, because of jet lag, he woke about 2:30am and started playing around. I gave him some travel flower essence and some rescue remedy for sleep that I’d bought in preparation and let him play around a bit. Mr C, who’d stayed up far too late having beers and catching up with our friend’s brothers, was in no mood to be jumped on, but he sleepily tolerated it. Amazingly enough, Dude was awake about 40 minutes, and then I switched off the light, laid him back down and he went back off to sleep! That was pretty much the extent of his jet lag, and when you consider that Sydney and Johannesburg are something like nine hours apart time-wise, I think that was pretty impressive.
The next day, we drove through to our friend’s parents’ game farm, which is about 90 minutes away. I sat in the back between our friend’s mum and the Dude. He slept part of the way and was pretty good, but towards the end he got really upset and just wanted out. Of course, I’d forgotten: TIA! This is Africa! Stuff keeping kids restrained and all that! His mum said to me she’d actually prefer me to have him on my lap and that it’s no big deal, they wouldn’t get pulled over for it. I realised she was right when I noticed all the utes with half a dozen guys just sitting in the back, cruising along the dusty, pot-holed highways at 100km/hr. So I put him on my lap, held him firmly, fed him, and he was happy. When we arrived at the farm, it dawned on us that there is no electricity. None at all. But paraffin and gas lamps, gas hot water, and even a paraffin fridge meant we had all the comforts of home, more or less. It did pose a bit of a problem arriving home after dark and having to get the Dude changed by the light of lamps, or when we were feeling too tired, our phones. On that first night at the farm, the Dude woke again around the same time, but he couldn’t get up and play because it was absolutely pitch black. Mr C found it quite unnerving, being unable to see even your hand right in front of your face, but for me it was just brilliant not to have that distraction of electricity and technology. And because it was so dark, I think the Dude must have thought he was still asleep, so he wrestled around for a few minutes, had a booby, and fell back to sleep. And that was it for jet lag, all done. I seemed to have recovered fairly well too, but Mr C struggled the whole time, waking at 2am and being unable to sleep or see anything. The cabin we stayed in was well ventilated but no fly screens were on the windows which we left open the whole time. Luckily it cooled down nicely at night. The Dude had to sleep between us which was a bit squishy, again, in a double bed, but it worked and made things so easy without having to work out the logistics of fitting in a cot and trying to get him to stay asleep in there. The interesting thing about co-sleeping is that when I’m telling others about it, I always find they have their stories about how they did it, even though it wasn’t the done thing. Our friend’s mum had stories like that, and she’d had five kids, all grown up now.
After our five night in South Africa, we headed over to the UK for the Dude to meet his grandparents in Manchester. We had explained to Mr C’s mum that Dude doesn’t sleep in a cot, but I think she had a hard time working this out in her head as her kids had all slept in cots whether they liked it or not. She had gone to the trouble of getting us a travel cot (which was never even unpacked) and even another little blow up bed which was really cute, but again, the Dude just jumped around on it for a few seconds and then was totally disinterested. Because he’s always slept with us, he doesn’t get the concept of having his own bed and I wasn’t about to try and transition him when he’s already in a strange place. So he slept between us in the spare bed, again, a double, which made it pretty squishy. I’d forgotten how much smaller everything is in the UK, space-saving.
We’d decided we’d try and take advantage of having grandparents around and head out a couple of nights. The second night we were there, we had tickets to see Ben Folds at the Manchester Apollo. I got the Dude down to sleep at 7pm and we headed out. Nanna was in charge. I’d warned her that he almost never stays asleep and that he won’t just go back to sleep after a bit of a grizzle. She’ll need to go in and pick him up and rock him back to sleep, or lie down with him and cuddle him. Even that, I was pretty sure, might pose problematic. I knew he’d scream because he’s used to me being there, or even daddy coming in sometimes to lie down with him. He barely knew this person, despite the fact she is is nanna. When we got home, shortly after 11pm, the scene was pretty dismal. Nanna was exhausted, having tried everything to get him to chill out, and Dude had eventually passed out once or twice but was lying half awake in her lap. She whispered at me in horror, ‘he’s not normal!’ as I went upstairs to get him back to sleep again. I knew this would happen. It’s nearly impossible to impart to someone with such different ideas about parenting just what we do and how we do it. And I don’t think she realised that the Dude doesn’t ever back down, he never gives up, he tells you what he wants and will keep telling you as loudly as possible until he gets it! I don’t see this as a negative thing necessarily, not for an 18-month-old, as I think he isn’t aware of himself as an individual yet and is just expressing his needs and happens to be very good at doing so. My mother-in-law is of a different school of thought. She believes babies and children should be placed in their cots when the adult determines it’s bed time and the door shut and the baby left to get to sleep any way possible, even if that means lots of screaming and crying. Personally I believe this can permanently damage a child. And aside from that, I don’t agree with ignoring cries of distress from any loved one, adult or child. If my husband was afraid and confused and needing the comfort of my arms, I’d give it to him. Why not a baby?
Anyway, the ten days or so we were in Manchester were very interesting. I know my mother-in-law doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on many aspects of parenting, and I know she mentioned it a few times to Mr C, but to her credit, she didn’t try to have a go at me about it or start a fight. She mentioned a few times politely what she thinks should happen and why, and I explained why that wouldn’t work for us and we really just left it at that. I would love the Dude to sleep in his own bed, and yes, in his own room, I’m not going to deny that, but I know that’s not what he needs and it’s not in keeping with the basic, instinctive needs of babies and children, which dominate more than our learned behaviours, particularly at this age. One day, he will transition to his own space, perhaps with some gently assistance from his parents, but never will I force him into anything. I know someone who is now desperate for love and touch and comfort because he never received enough as a baby. I don’t want the Dude to end up that way.
On our second last night in Manchester, something interesting happened. We went for dinner with friends, leaving nanna to deal with the Dude again. When we got home, he was miraculously sleeping peacefully by himself in bed. Apparently he’d woken as usual but she’d done something different this time. She got the distinct impression that he was afraid of the dark, so she turned on the light. He saw she was there and quickly fell back to sleep! Of course, I don’t know how long all this took or what else happened, but he seemed very different. My mother-in-law said she just knew he was scared to be in the dark and as soon as he could see where he was and that someone was there, he was fine. I have had that idea before, but I can’t say it’s ever helped me, although my experience of getting him to sleep is always going to differ because I’m the mummy with the boobies! So I was relieved that MIL managed to work out how to get him settled and he was happier to be around her. I was also glad because I think she had been feeling somewhat rejected and this really turned things around.
We stayed in London with friends for the last five days of our trip. They’d asked the cot question too of course and had kindly arranged a whole bunch of other stuff for us which we actually didn’t need, like a highchair and stair gates. It was interesting because they have chosen not to have kids, so while they like them, they are happy in their lovely house, just the two of them. We tried our best to make sure the Dude didn’t trash anything and that meant turning off most electrical stuff at the wall and turning the bin around so it was less accessible. The bed, thankfully, was a queen size, so we were pretty comfortable. Of course, the Dude getting sick and vomiting in the middle of a restaurant and then later in the hallway and in the bed (luckily we’d already put towels down) was a pretty hideous way to end the trip, but what can you do? He is a vomity person, it seems.
Overall, co-sleeping worked really well for us while travelling, and saved the hassle of organising cots and rearranging rooms. Small beds are hard to deal with, and I know sometimes he is disturbed by us being next to him, but other times he is woken because we’re NOT there. It’s hard when the Dude is between us and kicks off the covers as we all end up cold. So there are pros and cons. As I say, if I had a child who would fall asleep and then be put in a bed without waking, I’d be doing that. But I don’t. Next time we go, he’ll be in his own bed, I hope.
The next and final installment in my series of posts on long haul travelling with a toddler will be about coping with big cities and non-child-friendly places.
The Dude turned one last week! He is growing and changing faster than ever and seems to have come so far in just the last month alone. New skills include clapping, which he just randomly did one morning. He woke up, immediately sat up in bed and just started clapping! He seems to do it a lot in bed for some reason.
He has also began waving but like the clapping, he doesn’t do it on demand. In fact that’s a theme that has been running through everything; he never imitates. I read Dr Sears’ The Baby Book and it went on about how babies learn by copying, so you stick your tongue out and they do it back. I’ve been poking my tongue out at this baby for nine months now and never once has he done it back! Oh he’s had plenty of tongue poking practice, it’s not like he has a tongue tie or can’t do it, but it’s never on command or in response. Same goes for anything else, waving, clapping, making noises, he just looks at us like, “go for your life, man, but I’ll do that when I feel like it thanks!”
Some words are definitely coming out. He knows mama and dada, numnums (our word for food) and I’m convinced he says zeh-zeh (his version of his name, Izzy). He also says “ohhhh”, to which I always reply, “what’s occurring?” (Gavin and Stacey anyone?).
He adores music, any kind, from hiphop to classical to rock to dance to the little jingles that emanate repeatedly from various toys. He dances, it’s so cute, bounces up and down while sitting, standing and even in the ergo. I’m not that surprised, given the musical appreciation and raw talent running rampant in both my and Mr Chewbacca’s families, but I’m secretly very chuffed. I will do my best not to impose my shit on him or force him to embrace anything just so I can live vicariously, but I would love it if the Dude ended up doing something with music. I hugely regret not learning piano as a kid. So does Mr Chewbacca in fact. Anyway, his latest favourite is the classic Chili Peppers “Give it Away”. He likes it when I sing the “oh yeeeeeah” bit.
We’ve had so many changes this last month. Dude grew another centimetre so he’s now at 79, and he put on 600g so he’s now 11.5kg. That puts him in the 75th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. He’s eating more, and I’m allowing more variety, so he now has peanut butter on toast, more variety of fruit and veg and the odd tidbit from our plates. I even gave him a little of the pasta from a homemade lasagne today and he loved it. I know he’s keen to eat everything we eat but I believe it takes time to introduce such variety. So it’s just little bits at a time for now.
My dad bought the Dude a stroller for his birthday and I was thrilled to discover he actually loves it! He falls asleep in it and everything, which is a massive contrast to how he was months ago when he screamed after ten minutes. Lucky, because he’s getting too heavy to carry for any length of time. He’s been on my back now for about an hour and I can feel it.
We went out without the Dude for the very first time since he was born. It was a few days before his birthday. We got a breast pump, and I pumped a couple of bottles of milk. Urgh, hate it, so hard, don’t know how some women do it full time! I think they must have firmer, perkier, smaller boobs. Anyway, moving on… We left the Dude at home with my aunt for the evening while we went to a friend’s wedding. It was hard! I had such anxiety when I first left home without him, and I just kept checking my phone every five minutes. It was great though, to just relax with friends. We got home around 11:30 and Dude was asleep, although he woke soon after we arrived. He’d refused the bottle entirely! I think the milk wasn’t fresh enough. Anyway, it was a success and although I wouldn’t do it all the time, it’s good to know it’s possible.
We had a little party for him on Sunday. It went really well, considering neither of us has ever hosted a party for twenty odd people before. I am so disorganised. I like planning but don’t like actually scheduling the work and sticking to the schedule. So given I made all the food, I think we did okay. The cake was a serious disappointment, to me anyway. It looked alright, as I did a hundreds and thousands cover up job, but it was nothing compared to what I’d planned. I just didn’t prepare properly and guessed a lot, which is always bad.
Anyway, despite the mould-coloured slightly curdled icing hiding under those tiny coloured spheres, it tasted pretty yummy. The kids wolfed it down and went for seconds. Dude was given a piece but was more interested in the plate at first, then started mashing it into the table and floor, then finally tried to eat some.
He was really the highlight of the day for me. He fell asleep on my back for half an hour or so before people started arriving and then he just socialised! He loved having.everyone in the house, other kids to play with, so much stuff to do. There was really only one point where he seemed to get tired, probably three or four o’clock, and a good friend who was at his birth offered to carry him round in the ergo. That was great. He didn’t sleep but he chilled out, and then just kept going. Once everyone had gone about 6:30-7, he suddenly realised he was beyond tired and screamed the house down while we quickly got him ready for bed. Nothing out of the ordinary there, he does that more nights than not.
Speaking of sleep, I can’t say it’s great but it could be a lot worse. He goes down between 6 and 7, and then wakes two or three times before we go to bed at 10:30 or so. Sounds awful! But it’s not that bad. At least when we do come to bed he’ll often sleep through, or only wake once. He usually wakes around 6:30-7am, although has been known to sleep in for no particular reason. His itchy skin is what interrupts sleep. I wish I could say we’ve sorted his eczema but it’s still an issue. It’s not totally out of control but it’s not being well-managed. We can’t afford the Graham’s cream any more and I still don’t know the cause of it. I thought it might have been a zinc deficiency but I’ve been giving him a supplement for about a month now and I’m not seeing a massive difference. I thought maybe it might have been healing just the other day but I’m not sure. I’ve just upped his dosage as I realised I read the label wrong, so we’ll see, it might help.
I must finish now and turn off my phone as the light is distracting for him as I try and get him to sleep. He’s now sitting up in his cot playing very seriously with some stuffed toys and a blanket. He’s in the ‘pick it up, throw it down’ stage. Pick up the blanket, thrown it down, pick it up, put it down, all the while with great focus and effort. You’d never know he’s dead tired…
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the Dude sleeps with me and Mr Chewbacca and has done since he arrived. It’s not really an ideal situation for me at least because I can’t spread out in bed, can’t really turn over and get way too hot. But it is our only option.
People probably think I’m crazy or a tree-hugging hippy or just not a good parent when they find out we all sleep together. It’s not viewed as okay in mainstream society today. I’m not really sure why, given it’s a lot more logical than a baby sleeping alone, but I guess these days people have this idea that independence is everything. So it’s totally acceptable for a mum to spend at least 8-10 hours five days a week away from a baby over the age of a couple of months. People don’t seem bothered by babies not being with their mums. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but then again most aspects of mainstream society are questionable in my opinion. We seem to think that a baby growing fast, developing early, becoming an adult as soon as possible is this amazing achievement. I guess it stems from the general awareness that the job of parents is to get children to adulthood, so faster is better somehow.
These days, instead of people just saying, oh, right, your baby doesn’t sleep alone, that’s how things are for you, everyone’s different, they are so judgemental about it, like it’s some awful sin or big mistake. People are terrified of children becoming clingy. It’s bizarre to me because children are supposed to be clingy, it’s how it works, this parent-child bond. There’d be something seriously wrong if a child didn’t ever want his mum, yet there is apparently some invisible limit on just how much and how often he’s allowed to want mum. At sleep time, this limit becomes more rigid.
Let’s backtrack here: when I was having prenatal visits with the midwife, we talked about sleep and how and where baby would sleep. I point blank refused to entertain the idea of cosleeping. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the practicalities of it. I’ve always loved my sleep, so the idea of a baby right next to me wasn’t thrilling as I knew it would be difficult to really relax.
In addition, I had judgements about people who let their children sleep in their beds. I laugh when I think about it now. A very close friend had a baby, ten years ago now, and I distinctly remember going to her place when he was probably around the age the Dude is now. I noticed she had her son sleeping with her and her partner and I was really shocked and scathing in my comments about it, not to her face of course. I remember remarking to a very close mutual friend how weird it was that our friend let her son sleep with her and putting it down to her just being a crazy hippy. Why would you do it, I thought.
Fast forward ten years and I must be one crazy hippy! But here’s the thing: while I’m totally cool with cosleeping and mums who choose to do it until whenever the kid wants his own space, I am not doing it because I planned to, and I’m not doing it because I love it. I’ll admit, the Dude is very sweet sometimes sleeping next to me, and now he’s bigger and more huggable it’s sometimes nice to cuddle him. I’ve never been concerned about his breathing or rolling onto his front or whatever. And I very quickly learnt how to sense him waking and how to get him in positions where it’s comfy for both of us, or relatively so. But given the option, I’d put the Dude in his cot. Let’s face it though, he is 9 months, he will still wake for a feed or two. Or he would, if he were a normal baby.
But our little Dude is one crazy ass mofo, as his dad would say. He’s actually been asleep in his cot perhaps four or five times ever. And he’s not lasted more than half an hour or so every time. This is the cot that is sidecarted to our bed, so he’s literally 30cm or one roll away from me. He’s fallen asleep without boobie or being in a carrier perhaps three or four times ever, and it’s never lasted more than five or ten minutes.
I’m sure people don’t believe me when I explain just how full on he is. This is a child who screams blue murder the moment you put him down to sleep, even if he’s fallen asleep in arms or I’m staying right next to him. I read all this stuff about patting and singing babies to sleep but that’s rarely worked for him. I did manage to pat him back to sleep in the middle of the night when he was about 5 months, but it only happened a handful if times. If I try it now he just screams louder and doesn’t respond to my touch. Some babies fall asleep in their mothers’ laps with a bit of rocking or just holding. Not Dude. He occasionally falls asleep in my arms while feeding if he’s dead tired but he’ll sleep for maybe half an hour then wake crying because he’s still tired but won’t fall back to sleep. He refused dummies, just spits them out or plays with them. He’s not interested in soft toys or blankets or clothes that smell like me or breastmilk to comfort. You may as well put a block of wood next to him, that’s how much comfort he derives.
I am good at rocking babies, being as quiet and peaceful as possible, singing relaxing songs. I think my techniques would work with other babies. The Dude is the true definition of high needs. And any other person wouldn’t be able to deal with him and stay sane. There’s no way we could have done anything differently to have him sleeping in his cot. Unless I’m willing to get up every half hour, which I’m not. I know it’ll pass, but yeah, I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to cosleep any more!
Man it’s tough parenting the Dude! I find it hard to relate to my friends in the same way as I did pre baby, as my attention is so focused on him. And he is full on! I was heartened to read Rixa’s post about her youngest’s night waking antics; not that I rejoice in the suffering of others, but it’s more that I am glad to know even she, who seems so sorted out, has to deal with challenges like that. I hope I don’t have all that to look forward to in two months! At least Inga actually sleeps in her cot though, the Dude just won’t, it’s madness! I want my bed back!
He now has five teeth, the first of which arrived just over a month ago, and the last, on the side of his front top, I noticed just poked through this morning. He doesn’t seem to be suffering too much with the teething, despite the sudden onslaught, and I think the homepathic chamomilla, nux vomica, placenta remedy, emergency essence and Brauer teething relief have all really helped stave off any real pain. So far he’s been eating very heartily, and would eat lots more given the chance but I’m not very good at coordinating food for him! He’s had apples, carrots, mangos, watermelon, rockmelon, blueberries, sweet potato, potato (he grabbed it off my plate when I wasn’t watching!), bread (again, grabbed), avocado, and bananas. He loves everything. He’s eating his first teething rusk right now and totally loving it. I don’t think we’re going to have any eating issues with this one.
I just took him for his six month check up with the doctor (yeah, it’s late, I didn’t book him in until now) and he is a very healthy 9.8kg, so well in the 90th percentile. I wouldn’t say he’s a particularly chubby baby, but he is really solid, like one big muscle. He’s very wriggly and is trying to get up on his hands and knees a fair bit. Yesterday I came out of the shower to find he’s rolled onto his front in his sleep but hadn’t managed to pull his arm out from under himself so he was flat on his face! I found it pretty funny actually but my husband was a bit concerned. I just took a quick photo and then pulled his arm through and he slept peacefully on his tummy for the first time since he was a newborn.
The doctor was really not that helpful, but hey, she never usually is, and I didn’t really take him to her so she could confirm he was healthy or whatever – I knew that! She was immediately concerned about his skin, which is actually not too bad at the moment, although it is a bit flaky and cracked around his ankles, and he has a bit of redness and irritation round his neck which comes and goes. I am putting coconut oil on it which really soothes but it doesn’t make it go away. Not that I expected it to, given that his skin issue is constitutional, and therefore the skin irritation is just an external symptom of what’s going on internally, so why would an externally applied thing ‘fix’ it? The doctor was like, ‘but what you’re doing is clearly not working as he’s still got it,’ and I explained that quashing the symptoms – ie. the rash – is not my intention, and rather I’d prefer to let his body sort itself out internally in its own time. She didn’t get it and again recommended Hydrozole and Cetaphil, acknowledging that the former has cortisone in it. I actually purchased them both this time but I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll use them, must research more – stay tuned for a post on cortisone.
Despite the fact that he’s clearly thriving, the doc is still obsessed with the idea that suddenly at six months babies stop getting adequate iron via breastmilk. She was stupidly obsessed with me having enough iron in pregnancy too, despite the fact that I’ve never come close to being anaemic in my life. I asked her why and she didn’t really answer me, she just said, ‘I’m just telling you what the studies show’. She’s such a coward. How can you, as a professional, recommend products and practices without knowing all the info? I thought then that I should have become a doctor! Seriously I swear this woman is a plant by the big pharma companies, she is obsessed with all pharmaceutical products! She goes, ‘oh, get Cetaphil, it’s a really gentle moisturiser, won’t irritate the skin,’ and I was like, ‘oh, so it’s alcohol free,’ and she goes, ‘oh, I don’t know what’s in it, but yes, it’s very gentle.’ Are you for real, woman? You don’t know what’s in it but you’re recommending it for a baby? Yeesh. Anyway, she says he should be having baby rice cereal that’s fortified with iron, so I did buy him some organic stuff, and will give him a go on it, can’t hurt, but I’m not really fussed, as I think all this obsession with iron is bollocks, frankly.
Anyway, the little dude is thriving. He says, ‘de’, ‘ghe’, ‘ne’, ‘be’ and a whole bunch of other random noises that often sound like ‘mama’, ‘dada’ and other actual words. He also understands a lot of what I say. He knows what ‘boobie’ is, and he knows his full name, nickname, as well as ‘bug’ and ‘dude’ and ‘little boy’. I am pretty sure he knows what I’m on about most of the time, and his needs are so well met that he doesn’t really need to ask for anything much. The other week he asked for boobie by opening his mouth and virtually gesturing, and then grabbing my boob when I leaned down over him on his change table! He then smiled when I asked if that’s what he wanted. I reckon half the time he is frustrated because I’m not doing what he asks straight away – sometimes it’s because I’m not paying attention to his clear signals, and other times it’s because I’m busy doing something else.
Back to the sleeping thing, it’s really challenged me, just on a patience level. I now firmly believe that this baby came to me for a reason, because there’s no way anyone else would be able to retain the level of patience I have. I’m pretty over cosleeping. Not that it doesn’t work, but the bed is just too small, the Dude takes up a lot of space, as does his dad, and I am sandwiched in between. I also think it’s a two edged sword in a way. I think he wakes BECAUSE I’m next to him, and yet he’d probably wake if I WASN’T next to him. I’ve tried time and again to get him to sleep in his cot and it just doesn’t happen. He’s not one of those babies who just drops off to sleep with a bit of patting after a bath. He doesn’t fall asleep with rocking. He only sleeps when lying down in bed feeding, or when being walked round in the Ergo, that’s it. And then if I do get him to sleep in bed (usually takes at least an hour), he doesn’t stay asleep. If I try to put him down say at 7pm, I will be in and out of the room and lying next to him for at least two hours, and that’s if he actually does go to sleep. So although I’d love to get him in a routine, it just doesn’t happen and we end up keeping him up til 10:30 or so when we go to bed.
Anyway, he’s currently wriggling in my lap needing to sleep so I’m stopping here…
“Babies like routines.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one. Or even, “babies need routines”. I tend to agree, now I’ve got a baby. He has found his own sort of patterns, but the problem is, any change from the outside (ie. if I go to the shop or if something prevents him falling asleep when he’s ready or if his tummy is sore), and all is lost. People ask me, “how’s he sleeping?” and I always proudly say that he has slept through the night from eight weeks. But technically what happens is that he wakes a couple of times, has a quick bit of boobie, and goes back to sleep. This is still pretty good. And I always found myself telling people that I hadn’t had to get up in the middle of the night with the Dude since he was eight weeks old. Well that streak has now been broken.
Yesterday was an odd day, I suppose. But I’ll start with some background. Since he’s reached the three-month milestone, a few things have changed. He is suddenly much more aware, so he notices his surroundings and is distracted easily by random things happening around him, especially the tv. Prior to this, when he wanted boobie and sleep I’d just put him on as I watched tv and he’d fall asleep. I’d sometimes succeed at taking him to bed to sleep by himself at this point, or most of the time I’d let him stay asleep in my arms. Suddenly this is not doable at all. Similarly, we thought he was the most social kid ever, as we’d taken him out with friends to noisy restaurants and whatnot and he’d just fall asleep in the carrier, not bothered by what was happening. In fact he seemed happier when out and about, listening and watching calmly and then just passing out happily. But not any more. We took him to lawn bowls and then out to dinner the other night and he hardly slept at all the whole time! He even cried in front of our friends, which has never happened. He’d feed a bit, get distracted, look around, get angry because he was tired but couldn’t just go to sleep. The only time I got him to sleep was once when I took him outside away from any noise and fed him – passed out in minutes, and then finally at the end of the night he eventually passed out in the ergo, totally shattered. So in the last week I’ve been recognising when he’s really tired, then taking him straight to bed and feeding him to sleep lying down. Sometimes I’ve stayed next to him for an hour or so to get him really sound asleep (thank you trusty old iphone for keeping me amused!) and then he will stay asleep at least an hour by himself. When he stirs I go in quietly and if he is grumpy and still has his eyes shut I just feed him again and he goes back to sleep. That was great! I actually got a few things done around the house!
That brings us to yesterday. I got a text from a new friend who has a little baby as well asking if I wanted to go for a walk and a coffee, as she lives nearby, which was fine, we did that. As per his recent distracted/alert phase, the Dude stayed awake most of the way to the coffee shop and finally dropped off, only to wake again when I sat down. He then fell back to sleep on the walk home, and woke when we got inside, although he was trying to settle himself back down to sleep which was great to see – he sucked on his little hand and kept his head down. He even did this the other day and settled himself back to sleep for another hour with no input from us, it was amazing. Anyway, yesterday I think I made a bit of a mistake. I tried to feed him to sleep as usual, but I think I tried to put him to bed before he was quite tired enough because the rest of the evening was an utter disaster. I guess I had in my mind that if I could get him to sleep and stay asleep by 8pm then if we get up at 8am he’d have had a full 12 hours sleep overnight and that’ll be the beginning of our little routine. Husband got home at something like 9:30 and I’d just given up trying to feed him to sleep and begun changing him. I tried again and he wasn’t having it, obviously had his fill of milk without drifting off and just didn’t want to lie down. I tried walking him around and hung out in the lounge for half an hour or so, but no, still wasn’t having the boobie. So I relented and put him in the ergo, where he promptly fell asleep, phew! But that wasn’t the last of it. I managed to get him out of that and into bed and asleep, and I finally crawled in myself at about 11:30… only to be woken at 2am! He was trying to feed back to sleep but it was clearly too much and he was starting to cry in frustration. It was pitch black but I could tell he was awake. Not ready to be awake, but awake nonetheless. I tried so many things to get him to settle back down, and eventually he woke husband (who’d probably been awake all along anyway), and, frustrated, I decided to take him out to the lounge before he got any louder. I was tired. He was tired. I couldn’t do any ergo pacing in the middle of the night, although in hindsight this probably would have worked the best. Instead he worked himself up and cried for what seemed like forever! I wrapped him in the warm blanket I’d just finished edging, held him and looked at him and told him I could do nothing more for him. He looked back at me as he screamed and I think he knew what I meant. So I waited. And he screamed and then he began to go quiet. It must have been four or five times he went quiet and briefly fell asleep but then woke himself up with a sob and started again! It wasn’t nice to sit through and I did feel sad for him but at the time I felt there was nothing more I could do. I was despairing, thinking ‘what have I done wrong here? could this have ended up any other way? is this a sign of things to come? no more night waking, please!’ Finally he went quiet and stayed quiet, falling into a deep, exhausted sleep. I sat for a few more minutes, just to make sure he was soundly asleep before I brought him back to bed. He was pretty restless a few times through the morning too, and at one point I got rid of the blanket he’d been wrapped in and he fell back to sleep, obviously that was too hot and uncomfortable.
Anyway, so it was a freaking nightmare, and I’m scared now that it’s going to be that way every night! Thank god I’ve got him booked in at the osteo on Friday, hopefully that’ll help him settle. I realise he’s going to wake and need comforting during the night, that’s why he sleeps in bed next to me, but I don’t think I can handle him fully waking and freaking out every night. It’s so much harder now because he has this awareness and he’s so sensitive to what’s going on around him. I want him to feel secure and relaxed, that’s all. Genetically, the odds are not on his side in terms of sleeping and relaxation, that worries me too. My mum seems to think it was all very simple and normal but I didn’t feel like that about sleep. I hated night and sleep, hated the dark, hated having to quiet my brain for sleep. I remember tossing and turning night after night, turning the light back on to read, always having problems getting to sleep. I never had a problem staying asleep, but my dad is and always has been a real insomniac. Mind you, this was probably heightened by the fact his mother used to lock him in the bathroom to cry as she didn’t know what else to do! That’s one thing I’ll never do, I’ll never leave the Dude to cry himself to sleep. No matter how hard it is I will always at least be there for him when he’s upset, that’s my vow.
So he’s 12 weeks now, just coming up to three months old and thriving. He’s huge! I don’t know how fast babies are meant to grow but 1cm per week is pretty fast I think. He’s changing and reaching new milestones every day, it’s great to watch. I went walking yesterday, and when I got to the spot we reached the day before he was born, when we went walking to ramp up the contractions, I thought, wow, I can’t believe how much has happened in those 12 weeks.
Sometimes pretty amazing happened with his sleep too. He has been consistently sleeping through the night since 8 weeks, not without a couple of wrestles in the middle of the night where he just has some boobie and goes back to sleep, but I haven’t had to sit up with him. He did have a meltdown the other night for at least an hour, was pretty awful actually, and I kind of gave up and just laid him next to me and tried to wait out his crying. Husband had gone into the living room to sleep but couldn’t possibly drift off with all the crying, so he eventually came in, picked him up and had miraculously rocked him to sleep in a few minutes. I felt kind of guilty because meltdowns like that don’t need to happen any more. His patterns are more obvious, and I know he wants to be in bed pretty much as soon as it gets dark, or at least by about 8 or 9pm, as he gets grumpy in the evenings and doesn’t like waking up properly at night, wants to just feed and fall back to sleep, but because we’re up and watching tv or whatever he gets woken and then is too awake to feed back to sleep; by the time he can drift off, there’s too much milk coming out and he gets frustrated as he just wants to suck but the milk keeps coming. So yeah, my fault. But aside from that, a miracle happened two days ago. We’d gotten up as usual between 8 and 9am, I’d fed him and eaten breakfast myself, and just had him lying on the couch next to me as I watched a Love My Way repeat (remember that show? It was pretty good!) I dangled a toy above his head and he chatted to it and batted it. I watched him for a few minutes and realised he was sleepy – his little eyes would close momentarily. I thought, no way he’ll fall asleep, but I kept the toy dangling, and sort of swung it back and forth like a pendulum. He grizzled momentarily, and I thought that might be it, but suddenly his eyes closed and he dropped off to sleep! I couldn’t believe it! I very gingerly sat up and crept away, putting my phone on silent and texting his dad to announce this miraculous event. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, as he was woken by some fluid needing to be coughed up. Ah well. But I was still proud, just amazed actually that he’d do it. So I’ve made a couple of attempts since and nothing, but I’ll keep trying. I’m going to keep trying to get him to sleep alone, at least for a few hours each day and eventually at night, although he needs a cot for that to happen – still in its box from Ikea!
I can’t believe it, Dude slept at least six hours last night (could be more, I’m so tired these days my sense of time is hazy at best)! He did sleep well the night before too, Monday, exactly 8 weeks old. He did an odd thing though, on Monday night. He just cried. It was ear-piercingly loud, unrelenting and he couldn’t be consoled, even with the boobie. I tried him a couple of times on each side, no, wasn’t having it, and on Monday night I was so exhausted I started to lose it. I had brought him to bed but it was a little late, probably 11:30pm, and so when he began to scream I took him out of the room to let husband sleep (snapping at him on the way out – tiredness gives me the short fuse I’ve never had). I was so shattered, I couldn’t stand up with him any more, not that it made a lot of difference anyway, so I just held him as he screamed and sat on the couch in the lounge. It was a low moment. I let him scream and scream for a good five or ten minutes, awful as it was, as I had exhausted all possibilities and I had this sense that he just needed to cry. Sure enough, after a crying stint, I tried him on the boob and he jumped on like nothing else and was soon fast asleep. It really only took about 15 minutes to settle him, even though it seemed such a moment of despair because I couldn’t satisfy his needs instantly… He slept pretty well, waking only a couple of times during the night, and I think I sat up to feed him only once or twice, which is amazing compared to other nights where it’s been every hour, on the hour.
Similarly, last night he got very upset, seemingly about nothing. Of course it’s never ‘nothing’, but I had changed him and tried to feed him but again he rejected the breast and cried even more when I tried to put him on. So I paced around, holding him as he cried his little heart out. It was earlier, probably 11pm, by the time he began to calm and then, again, as if by magic, he jumped on the boob and settled. I think it was about 11:30pm when I finally passed out next to him, could have been midnight but no later. The next thing I knew, he was stirring, snuffling about like a little aardvark for the boobie. I latched him on and let him feed for a short while as I began to wake up a bit. I looked at the light around the blind to try to get an idea of what time it might be, and even though it felt like early morning I thought, nah, it’s probably 2am and I’ve got the whole night of wakings ahead of me. I noticed husband stirring, and he checked his phone to look at the time, put it back down, and pulled the doona back over himself. Yep, it’s early, I thought. So I checked my phone. 6:15! What the?!! I was bowled over! No wonder I felt so well-rested and awake! What a miracle! The little man sucked away happily and I just smiled and stretched as much as I could while I kept him attached. My arm was stiff, being under his little head all night, but I had just had six hours sleep! I lay happily dozing, enjoying him being next to me, sleepily re-fueling his engine. Eventually husband’s alarm went off as usual at 6:30 and I told him about the miracle. Amazing stuff!
To top it all off, not only did he fall back to sleep until 8am, he did so while lying next to me, with his head on the bed, not my arm, and he was up for an hour to feed, then fell back to sleep again about 9am. I couldn’t believe my luck when I was able to wrap him up and put him on our bed for another two hours’ sleep until 11am! Who is this baby and what has he done with my cranky little Dude? I’m not holding my breath yet, but I think this is a milestone, that turning point that everyone else had talked about and I’d considered a myth…