A bed

In the UK, or at least in my experience sharing flats in London, as a tenant you don’t usually need to have your own furniture. Many places come furnished, even with beds. I remember when I moved into Castle Aspenlea at the beginning of my crazy London years, Blacksnake mentioned he’d considered swapping the beds over between what would be my room and his because his had a dip in the middle. I got the comfy bed in that house. Similarly, the bed in the flat where Mr Chewbacca and I first lived together was part of the package.

A crappy shot of a profound exhibition in the National Museum of Australia about home and belonging. Very apt.
In Australia it’s different. You’d rarely get a furnished place. It’s great to have your own things when you first move out of home, but beds are expensive so futons are big amongst the young flatties. I had one I bought for $100 and used for years, it was great, and my mum still has it, some 15 years later. I bought it because I got my first serious boyfriend and I only had a king single at home. Funny, seems childish to think of that now!

When we moved to Sydney we ended up with a furnished place. The landlady, who lived above us in the mansion, was Chinese and apparently they are very big on hard beds. Ours was hard as a rock, and squeaky. But we liked not having to buy one and luckily we enjoy a firm sleeping surface. It was in this bed that I went into labour with my son. And that was when I started to think about the significance of a bed. We spend more time there consistently than anywhere else, a third of our lives prostrate on this surface perfected according to designs developed and redeveloped over hundreds of years. Yet we don’t think much about who’s been there before and why. Because that’s kind of gross to think about I guess!

We bought a fantastic bed when we moved from that first Sydney place, the best mattress in the world, it would seem. We loved our bed. It was an incredibly painful process to go through to sell it, realising with horror that the new owners were only willing to spend a quarter of what we’d paid, an eighth even, because it was used. By two people. For three years. Yet, inexplicably, somehow those same people would pay double that to stay one night in a hotel, sleeping in a bed they’d never seen, in which a plethora of strangers had done who knows what for years, a bed whose sheets may or may not have been cleaned to the standard required… The lack of logic is unbearable! But such is the way of things.

When we got to Canada, we bought another lovely mattress, brand new. I think we did it mainly because we thought there was a good chance we’d stay. And because we were sick of lying on some ancient, stained single mattress and there weren’t second-hand options around. We didn’t spend quite as much, about half what we’d spent on our Aussie bed, but it was still a great mattress. There’s nothing more comforting than a nice, comfy bed.

And of course, when we left Canada, yet again we had to sell our lovely bed. I couldn’t believe it when people began enquiring and were just interested in the frame, or didn’t particularly care what kind of mattress it came with. We eventually sold it to a Brazilian couple who’d just moved to Toronto for about a third of what we’d paid less than a year before. Yet again it struck me how extraordinary it is, the way we think about and treat our sleeping surface. Particularly because that point marked the beginning of a long period of sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces. Hotel beds, which are usually great, then the plane, horribly uncomfortable but temporary, the beds at my mum’s which involved a choice between an ancient, soft mattress that gave Mr Chewbacca a back ache or a fold out couch with a chunky futon whose contents constantly redistributed themselves so you could feel the wooden frame beneath. That had been my couch when I lived alone, years before. We were grateful though, to have somewhere, and to attempt to readjust to Aussie life, transitioning gently in this place that most consider paradise in Australia, the Byron Shire.

The sleeping arrangements became yet more complex when we eventually hired a campervan and embarked on our journey down the east coast of Australia from Brisbane, stopping along the way at caravan parks and with friends. We invited ourselves to sleep in the spare room at some good friends’ house on the NSW central coast and in Canberra my dad put us up in a nice serviced apartment but other than that we slept in the campervan. It was actually really comfortable sleeping up the top above the driver’s seat but it sucked getting up and down to deal with Thumper who of course never sleeps through the night. The kids shared the other double bed at the back of the camper which would also have been okay if it weren’t for the night wakings. While it was really fun driving and staying in campsites along the way, we were clearly all pretty over not having any fixed abode. We stayed with some other good friends when we got to Melbourne and were so grateful to have an ensuite room all to ourselves with little beds either side of ours for the kids.

Once we’d decided to go back to Canberra to live, we knew that beds were the beginning of piecing our lives back together. Staying with my dad was really difficult in a one bedroom place which isn’t really set up for us. The day after we arrived we had an amazing stroke of luck whereby we went to look at a place we didn’t think we would get because we had no income, yet because the landlord was desperate for tenants and the agent could see we were genuine, we found ourselves signing a lease that afternoon! So suddenly we had a house, after two months of being without. We bought some airbeds (which, incidentally, are freezing cold to sleep on if the air surrounding is in the slightest bit cold!) and once again realised just how important beds are.

Reading a bedtime story on the makeshift floor bed, towels on top in case of accidents
This time we didn’t buy new. We didn’t have the money. We cut it so fine actually, down to our last few dollars before receiving a first pay packet and suddenly everything was okay again. So we got a couple of second hand mattresses for the kids – one was free, I think, brought by an incredibly kind and generous mum of a good friend. Our mattress we bought for $30 off a lady selling her house to move in with her ageing father. She told me she paid $2,000 originally and I’d believe her, it’s super comfy. She also sold us a Dyson for cheap (although it turned out to be clogged up with urine-infested cat hair and gunk). We’ve not bought a bed frame, and frankly, that feels like an extravagance and somewhat unnecessary. We’ll see how we feel come winter.

Anyway once we had beds, then we could finally relax. A couch, tv, kitchen table, other bits and pieces, all great, but the beds, those are the fundamental building blocks of a home. Without beds, you have nowhere to rest. The bed is home.

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Nearly 7 months

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…

Three-month ups and downs

So he was three months yesterday, a big milestone!  I don’t think I had any real expectations of what he’d be like at three months, in fact I don’t have expectations at all really.  But I guess at the moment he is having a hard time of it.  Sometimes I think I just don’t have the patience and focus to give him what he really needs, like if I wasn’t so interested in my own indulgences – tv, blogs, reading, eating, showering – I’d be more in harmony with him and he’d be happier.  I have these images in my head of other mums who are so in love with their babies and want to spend every waking moment with them.  Don’t get me wrong, I love him very much and certainly miss him if he has a big sleep or if I have to leave him for a moment.  But right now he is quite unsettled and it can be trying.

Yesterday was slightly worse than today I guess, but today’s still been a bit difficult.  He is so demanding!  He wants constant stimulation, and just having toys dangling above him is not enough, he wants me, all the time!  And even then, he gets tired so quickly and then gets very cranky.  He’s started doing an angry/frustrated type of cry, like the equivalent of an adult saying, ‘gaah, for fuck’s sake, I’m pissed off now’!  It’s quite funny actually, but you have to take it seriously otherwise he just gets out of control and almost impossible to console.  I feel so horrible when he gets really upset, and it happens pretty much every day, usually when I finally realise I need to have a shower but he won’t go to sleep and won’t play by himself.  So I do what I did today, I lie him in his cot, hang some toys next to him, give him one of his ‘starfish’ Steiner-type toys to hold and prepare myself for his screams as I get into the shower, which get progressively more intense the longer I’m away from him.  It’s awful actually because when I get out and dressed and pick him up, he gives these little sobs as he calms down, and it’s obvious he’s really upset and has worked himself up so much.  I just wish there was a way to avoid that, but there isn’t because it’s so hard to get him to sleep by himself.  Even in the car he complains very loudly and works himself up into a frenzy very easily, it’s not good.  Luckily I am not easily distracted and can still drive while he screams, but it’s still not a nice experience for either of us and it’s such a relief when I can get him into the car and staying asleep, although that’s not often.  He has fallen asleep in the car before but only on the odd occasion, it doesn’t really rock him to sleep.  I guess we won’t be those parents who put their baby in the car to get him to sleep in desperation!

He is progressing in terms of his development well, I think, although I found out that a friend’s baby who was born the day before him is already pulling herself up onto her elbows during tummy time and even rolling over!  At three months!  Is this extreme?  Mind you, she’s also already getting teeth, so I think she’s an early one all round.  And girls progress faster than boys, that’s pretty much a given.  The Dude is getting great at gripping and holding things and almost always grabs and holds the little toy I give him every time I change him.  When he’s on his front and on his back he can swivel himself right round 90 degrees, and he does lift his head a fair bit quite easily.  He’s also becoming very vocal and has started making more high-pitched squeals and excited shouty type noises.  He and I have these little back and forth mimicking conversations and he loves it, just being able to communicate with me like that, to know that I can copy him and that his noise is really his own.  He’s also noticed his hands recently and I’ve caught him examining them intently.  We’ve both noticed his left hand is a bit more dominant than his right, but my mum says that’s just because we are right-handed, which makes sense.  His little outie belly button is finally becoming an innie, and his feet are catching up to his hands in size.  His thighs are so chubby I bought crawler nappies (6-11kg) for him, as the other nappies just weren’t staying on him properly because you can’t get them properly round his chunky thighs!  I have no idea what he weighs, as his last check was at 6 weeks and I think he weighed 5.5kg then, but I’m sure he’s at least 6.5 now, he is heavy.

So on the bright side, we finally put up his cot on the weekend, and it’s pretty cool, almost completely level with the bed.  There is a little gap between the bed and his cot, so I must get some masonite from Bunnings and put it between, then stuff the gap with towels or something so he doesn’t fall in it.  There’s not much chance of that happening now, as he’s not rolling over yet, but it won’t be much longer I’m sure.  It was really good to finally put him in his cot and be able to turn on my left side and have the bed back again, even if it was only for an hour or so.  It’s so much easier if he sleeps right next to me because he can pretty much latch himself on in the middle of the night when he wants a feed, and I don’t have to gingerly try to put him in his bed, we just both fall asleep as we are.  I must admit I was never a fan of the idea of co-sleeping, and the two main reasons for that were firstly I thought I’d squish him in the middle of the night or he’d suffocate, and secondly I like my space in the bed and I like my sleep and I didn’t think I’d have either with him there.  Turns out there’s no chance I’d squish him as I know he’s there, even when I’m asleep.  Plus my sleep is longer and better because he’s there; if he were in his own bed even next to ours I’d have to get up and wake up to feed him in the middle of the night.  But why wouldn’t I just train him to sleep through the night, you ask?  I think it’s really unnatural; think about it, how often do babies need to feed during the day?  Every hour, two hours, three hours?  Maybe every four hours, let’s say.  So why to they suddenly not need it during the night?  But he slept six hours during the night quite a few nights, he obviously doesn’t need it, right?  Wrong.  Just because he sometimes sleeps through for six hours doesn’t mean he doesn’t ever need feeds during the night.  I can see for myself that even slight variations to the way things unfold during the day, different levels of activity, different amounts of milk, different lengths of sleep at different times during the day, all add up to a different experience every night.  Yes, he has a routine, as much as you can impose one on a baby – why would I force something on him and make him miserable and myself stressed?  It’s much easier to be aware and notice the natural routine and support that.  I think it’s unfair of me to impose my routine on him – not that I have one I guess, but why would I try to force something when the natural way will unfold and he won’t ever have to be unhappy?  And seriously, I wouldn’t ever try control crying techniques, but even if I did I very much doubt they’d work on this kid without doing him a serious injury!  Sometimes when I’m in the shower and I can hear him crying and I just want to stay under the hot water a few moments longer, I do drag it out, I admit it, just to see if he’ll quiet himself and eventually go to sleep.  It never happens.  Yes, his cries sometimes get a bit quieter, and for a moment he stops, but within seconds he’s back on it again, crying his little heart out, and sometimes sounding like he’s being murdered, it’s awful!

I guess the one thing I could do to really help him is to go to bed early, like 9pm… but it’s really hard for me, I’m never tired that early, and I feel like I haven’t had enough wind-down time with my husband.  I’ve considered trying to put him down earlier, but it virtually never works, especially at night – he’s not a night person!  I’ve decided not to give up with getting him to sleep on his own.  I think a lot of people who end up always having to have their sleeping baby strapped onto them or sleeping next to them have just given up trying to get bubs to sleep in his own bed, so they say, oh he won’t sleep by himself, but what they mean is, he didn’t do it when he was two months old and we gave up trying.  I think babies just get to certain points and suddenly they’re cool with things.  It was that way for us, with sleeping.  I religiously sat up in bed to feed numerous times every single night until the Dude was 8 weeks old; until one morning I woke and realised he’d been asleep next to me from midnight til 6am – what?!  He got to a point and he was ready to stay lying down through the night, so he did that and now we never get up in the middle of the night (touch wood, don’t want to jinx anything!!)  I think the same thing will happen with sleeping by himself, and getting to sleep without being rocked or fed, he’ll do it when he’s ready.  I thought that time had come the other week when he fell asleep on the couch while I dangled a toy over his head, and that was a big breakthrough, even if it only lasted ten minutes and he hasn’t done it since.  This kid has a lot of energy running through his system, that’s all, and it’s hard to fall sleep when you’ve got ants in your pants.

That reminds me of the other thing I wanted to mention: I was thinking today about inherited stuff, and I really have this strong sense that one can inherit constitutional things and build ups of toxic energy from one’s ancestors.  I think it’s kind of like everyone collects stuff through their lives, and they don’t let it go during their lives, they let these toxins build up in them and pass them on at some energetic level to their children and grandchildren.  The Dude’s eczema rashy thing is a good example of that.  It’s like his body is fighting this crazy toxic heat, trying to throw it off, but being burdened by it, and it’s making him all hot and itchy inside.  I know this sounds weird and crazy, but I just get the impression this is what’s happening for him.  That’s why I am not taking him to a regular doctor as they’d just prescribe cortisone cream and tell me, oh lots of babies have eczema, same as when/if he gets asthma they’ll prescribe ventalin and tell me, oh lots of children have asthma.  Yeah, great, doesn’t mean we should just accept that it’s a part of childhood, right?  At some level I believe that these things are very constitutional and therefore I shouldn’t be interfering and should just let his body deal with it, but at another level I think they are inherited and I feel like we could do something cleansing that could release him from the burden of them.  Unlike childhood illnesses which run their course, provide immunity for future exposure and you never see them again, things like eczema and asthma are unnecessary.  So we’re off to the osteopath next week, just to see if some adjustment will help him.  The midwife still believes he went from breech to head down during labour, and if that’s the case it’s highly likely there will be something out of alignment.  I wonder if it will make a difference?  I’m determined not to tell the osteo too much and let him just do what he does and see the results.  Plus I need to convince my sceptical husband that it’s worthwhile, as he doesn’t think they do anything.  I’ll be sure to report back once we’ve been…  I’m trying to add more oil to my diet in the hope it will help his skin clear up, but if it’s still like this in a couple of weeks I’m going to take him to a homeopath or an anthroposophical doctor, if I can find a decent one.  I also rang the baby health centre people and they said the next checkup between 6 weeks and 6 months is at 4 months, so even though I’m wary I will take him down to the one at Bondi Beach and get him weighed and measured etc.  At some stage I’ve got to take him to a doctor and get the conscientious objection form signed, not looking forward to that experience!

Currently he is asleep in the ergo on my front.  Thank the good lord for baby carriers like the Ergo and Hugabub, they are amazing things and I am a better mother because of them!