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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Long haul: co-sleeping on the move

This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing on our recent trip to South Africa and the UK.

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The candelabra chandelier at out cabin on the farm. We never lit it but in winter, with a fire going in the grate, this would be gorgeous. No electricity is lovely!

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?

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London, man, you can’t beat it!

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.

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The pond down the road from Mr C’s nan’s house in Carlisle. Gorgeous and icy!

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.

I’m writing a book on my phone

The subtitle of this post should be: “How parenting a high needs child is completely at odds with being a writer”. I made the excuse a while ago that I hadn’t been blogging because I was busy transcribing my granddad’s memoirs. And that was true, a while ago. I got to the end of the first 90-minute recording which equated to about 10,000 words, and discovered that the other three even longer recordings are barely intelligible. I scoped out some software to fix the sound quality (turns out we already had it on the computer). But before I could do anything, the Dude decided to mix things up a bit. No more going down for sleeps! Therefore no more uninterrupted showers and no more computer time. We soon got the stroller on his first birthday so I’m now taking him for walks every day and he usually sleeps then. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of premature transition to one sleep a day. And he’s close to walking and talking, plus his molars are due any time now. So I can forgive him for being out of sorts.

The problem is, I can’t sit at the computer to write for more than ten minutes. He hates it! And that’s fair enough, in basically ignoring him. But the fact remains that I no longer get any writing time. I’m writing this on my phone. It’s frustratingly slow as I’m a touch typist so can more or less type fast enough to keep up with my brain.

I know this may be a short period, and it’ll pass soon enough, but I’m finding it very frustrating. I must have a dozen posts half written in draft, and all these ideas punching me in the head every day but I just don’t get any opportunity to write.

How do others tackle this? I guess the majority of people have babies who actually fall asleep fairly predictably.  Babies that calm down and relax when given a bedtime routine and lots of milk. Babies that don’t smack you across the head and then laugh within two minutes of waking up.

So instead of wallowing in misery (not really, slight exaggeration there), I’m going to think positively about this. Perhaps I’ll be the first person to write a 50,000 book entirely on a hand-held mobile device!  Imagine what Dickens or Tolstoy would think about that!  They’d probably think it was nonsensical and ridiculous. Aside from being confused as to how one can write a book on something the size of your palm. Technology is pretty cool, let’s face it, and I can safely say my iphone (actually Samsung Galaxy SII now) has saved my sanity millions of times while I lie for hours trying to get the Dude to stay asleep.

But the fact remains, parenting has gotten in the way of my writing, my passion.  And it’s not just general parenting, it’s the kind of child I have, his personality, mixed with the way I’ve chosen to parent.  Oh God, should I really say it, should I really attach that term to myself? Shit, I think I already did. Yes, Attachment Parenting.  I’d never heard of it until after I had the Dude, and frankly I thought it was all a bit of a wank.  Not the principles of AP per se, those make sense, but more that people are yet again being sheep and just going with a certain theory or way of doing things.  Of course many so-called AP parents will tell you that they just do what comes naturally and have fallen into the AP category.  I’m one of those.  And I actually refute the assertion that I’m AP.  It’s a label. We know how I feel about those.

I had the Dude at home, as readers of this blog may be aware, and I had no interventions in pregnancy and birth.  Well actually that’s a lie, I had three ultrasounds (all of them completely unnecessary) but yeah, no real interventions.  I’ve still never been to hospital in my life, apart from when I was born.  I plan on keeping it that way!  I don’t vaccinate my son, never been done myself actually. He has only ever drunk breastmilk and water.  We know about nutrition and natural ways of helping the body thrive. We don’t take drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen. We like homepathics and they work for us.  Dude enjoys the ergo regularly, and previously enjoyed the Hugabub and even a ring sling for a short time. We generally like to avoid regular mainstream doctors as our experience has been that they have little idea what they’re talking about and recommend toxic chemicals that just cover up symptoms and don’t help the body heal. Oh and we co-sleep.  Now I’m sure I’ve said before, co-sleeping was not really my plan.  I was totally against it when my midwife first mentioned it, but once the Dude was here it was the only way I ever managed any sleep.  He’s a crazy dude.  His cot has been side-carted to our bed for the last nine months but he’s pretty much never slept in it.  Occasionally he’ll squirm into it half asleep and pass out there, usually with half his body still on the bed. But generally speaking, he is right next to me; taking up half the bed to himself. He’s beautiful and I love having him right there but I would LOVE to have my own bed again.  I am very touch sensitive and find it hard to be comfortable with someone right up next to me.  I even push my husband away when I’m going to sleep sometimes.  I like my space.  Which was the whole reason I had an issue with co-sleeping in the first place.

Anyway, because of this attachment style parenting we practise, and because the Dude is so full on, I don’t get a lot of time to myself. Now let’s be clear here: if I was into letting the Dude cry it out and leaving him in bassinets to go slowly insane or fobbing him off to childcare centres, I’d be in a worse situation.  Yes, okay, we might have more money because I might actually earn some, but the Dude would be miserable, we’d be sleep deprived and he’d probably be sick a lot. I’m sure about my choices. And I’m not asking for sympathy for them or for my predicament. I just think it’s ironic that I slacked off for so many years, sat around watching Seinfeld repeats and eating Sarah Lee Honeycomb and Butterscotch icecream instead of writing my heart out when I had the chance.  Things will change. This will pass. Before I know it this little crazy blonde dude currently sitting on the floor next to me destroying daddy’s uni notes will be asking for lifts to concerts and sneaking vodka from our liquor cabinet like we wouldn’t notice half a bottle of it slowly but regularly disappearing. The old ‘evaporation’ explanation never worked.

Nearly 10 months (actually nearly 11 months)

Very nearly!  He’s going to be 10 months tomorrow, holy shizzle!  Currently he is sitting in my lap watching me type, about to pounce, so this post will take a while but… yep, there he goes, he wants that mouse!

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Well, that first bit was drafted nearly a month ago – yeesh, has it been that long? So this post is the “nearly 11 months” lumped in with the previous one. He’s going to be 11 months on Monday!

So, what’s happened since 9 months? So much! He is really mobile now and very vocal. The crawling is still an odd sort of crab-like variation of the cross-crawl, so his left leg is dragged under his body a bit and his right goes out at the side to plant his foot flat.  He’s very fast though, and occasionally he’ll crawl a bit on all fours, with both feet flat, or alternatively he’ll crawl normally once or twice. I’ve been taking him to see a chiropractor to see if we can sort out his crawling, and it has helped a lot, but I very much doubt he’ll ever do a normal cross-crawl permanently before he walks.  He stands very well now, and will let go and stand unassisted for a few seconds at a time, smiling to himself in triumph.  His motor skills are good, and he can grab really tiny things between finger and thumb as well as larger things with both hands.  Recently he acquired a rugby ball and has been throwing it around and chasing after it, it’s very cute.  I remember about a month ago he discovered that his little soccer type ball makes a ‘boing’ noise when you throw it, and he was absolutely delighted!  He’s had that ball since he was about four months, but he only just discovered the noise is associated with throwing the ball.  It’s nice to see these little discoveries.  He gets into every drawer and cupboard at his level to the extent that we’ve had to finally do some baby-proofing. I think I’ve probably bought every type of baby-proofing lock/latch/device on the market and we still haven’t gotten around to installing them all.  So he opens the drawers and pulls out the wooden spoons and turkey baster and clingfilm and all sorts of random stuff.  He’s also started putting things in places, so I’ve found his rugby ball has been deposited back into his toybox and random toys or his sippy cup have ended up in the bottom drawer in the kitchen.  He unpacks the plastics cupboard on a daily basis.  It’s all about emptying things at the moment, so if there are smaller containers or lids or other items in a larger container, his mission is accomplished as soon as it has been tipped out on the floor.  I take him outside with me when I hang up washing and he sits at my feet and tips the pegs out of the plastic bucket. Endless entertainment!

I took the Dude to an anthroposophical doctor, mainly for his eczema, and we formulated a plan of attack.  I got him an anthroposophical medicine (like homepathic only more refined) which he has three times daily, plus some calcium compound morning and night, to help his teeth.  In addition, if it’s an imbalance in the gut, I’ve given him a course of probiotics daily in his porridge.  I’ve got the most amazing cream, made by Graham’s, with colloidal oatmeal as the active ingredient, as well as some other creams like goats milk and rescue remedy.  I haven’t really been eating much dairy, not drunk milk in a long time, and I think that’s helped both me and him.  So his skin has improved amazingly, it’s such a relief!  It’s still itchy unfortunately, but it’s under control now, which is great.  And of course taking to the chiropractor regularly has had an impact I’m sure.

Another big milestone was reached a few weeks ago.  He had his first fever!  It was due to teething, his eighth tooth coming through, and it only got to 38.2, but still, I was impressed.  I could see his body just going through the motions, so efficiently processing, the fever just doing its job.  For a whole day he didn’t really want to play and just fed and whinged and slept and cried and whinged and was generally annoying, but because he was so hot I could easily forgive him.  I knew it wouldn’t last long, so I just gave him homepathics and fed him when he wanted and spent a lot of time lying down with him.  At first I was resentful that Mr Chewbacca went out (it was a Saturday night, St Patrick’s Day, good friend’s birthday and other good friend doing World’s Greatest Shave), but later I was very glad as he was too drunk to be woken when Dude woke and cried three times during the night.  In fact at one point Dude was crying loudly right next to Mr Chewbacca’s face and he didn’t even stir.  It was annoying at one point when Mr Chewbacca decided to snore loudly, just as Dude was drifting back off to sleep, so I had one hand on Dude and was hitting Mr Chewbacca in the face, holding his nose and twisting his head from side to side with the other.  Now I know what you’re thinking, who co-sleeps with a drunkard, right?  Yeah, probably technically against the guidelines, but I seriously didn’t think he was affected, he seemed fine when he came home, and the Dude sleeps next to me anyway.  He has been so dead tired recently, not getting enough sleep, due partly to his own crazy body clock but also to the fact that Dude is waking up earlier. Anyway, the fever was gone less than 24 hours later and when we woke the next morning, everything seemed back to normal and the tooth had come through.

And yes, the inevitable has happened, no more sleeping in for us, Dude is getting up early like normal kids!  He is waking around 7 these days, and I’m trying to get him in bed by 7 at night as I know he’ll sleep 12 hours given the opportunity, but it’s been a real chore to get him to sleep recently.  The feeding to sleep is getting really tiresome, mainly because the majority of the time he doesn’t really want it, but it’s the only way he can go to sleep.  He squirms around, makes grunting noises and is always too full.  So then he turns over and comes off the boob, and then sits up and chats and crawls into his cot and all over me, going everywhere head first as he is so dead tired his head just wants to make him lie down.  He fights sleep til the bitter end! Some nights this week it’s taken me well over an hour to get him down.  But the good news is, once he’s down, he (touch wood!!) hasn’t been waking, or has been going a good couple of hours before waking.  And when he does wake and go in to get him back down again, he goes down again very fast, definitely ready to be asleep.  So things are shifting, vaguely closer to normal/happy.

He suddenly wants to eat a lot more, which is great. I’m doing a fair bit of spoon-feeding, mainly because the baby-led solids are so difficult to do without totally trashing the floor.  I still give him chunks of food, rice cakes, fruit and veg, other snacks and things, but I’ve been cooking up just simple pasta and two vegies and freezing it in portions.  He’s also been having some millet porridge for breakfast which he’s been eating all of for just the last week or so, since his big fever transition. I’m getting a bit more lax with what I let him eat, so he has had the teensiest taste of my yoghurt, which he loved, and I usually give him a couple of crusts of my morning toast, if he’s awake when I’m eating it, which he also loves.  I figure if there’s a trace of butter or vegemite on it, it’s not really bad, and it’s good that he gets used to more variety in taste.  I made some humous the other week and put a little too much garlic in it, but I let him try some and he really liked it, I was so surprised!  I still haven’t given him any meat or cheese or egg or other types of full on protein, mainly because I don’t think his body really needs to deal with foods that complex yet, but I would like to give him some actual protein, so I’ve bought some chick peas and lentils and will work out what to do with them at some point.

The other big thing that’s happened with the Dude recently is that the holes in his teeth (have I mentioned them before?) have gotten bigger and then just a week ago he chipped one!  The enamel/structure of those teeth is obviously compromised and I’m suspecting that’s the cause of the decay more than anything, as the chip just goes straight into the spot of decay.  The fact that the spots are slap bang in the centre of each front tooth says to me there’s something weak about their structure as well.  I wondered whether all my prenatal nutrition had done something bad to them, and I shuddered thinking all that icecream and chocolate and dodgy food I ate when pregnant might have had an effect.  Not to say I didn’t eat healthily most of the time – if anything I ate healthier when pregnant than any other time in my life, mainly because anything with acid or dairy or sugar gave me shocking reflux and I had these bizarre cravings for steamed vegies and salads, especially in the first trimester.  So yeah, it’s hard to believe something as simple as nutrition could be the only contributing factor to his teeth being compromised. When he chipped it, we realised it was time to find a dentist.  Mr Chewbacca was saying just take him the first place you can find, although preferably a children’s dentist.  I, in typical fashion, secretly sought out a holistic dentist and booked him in.  As luck would have it, they had an appointment on the Monday, which was the soonest we could get him into a regular dentist anyway.

So on Monday, despite having no money at all, I took the Dude along to this holistic dentist in Neutral Bay.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d read up online so I was hoping for the best. I knew they’d say my feeding him to sleep was a bad thing as the milk would be staying on the teeth all night and breastmilk does have lots of sugar in it.  We saw the loveliest female dentist who he took a shine to (he rarely doesn’t take a shine to people though) and she did agree with me about the feeding to sleep.  She said there’s not a lot to be done as it’s impossible to get him to keep his mouth open and keep still for enough time for her to drill away the decay and seal off what’s left of his teeth.  She gave me a referral to a paediatric dentist but warned me that although they are great, they are mainstream, and will probably recommend a general anaesthetic to do the drilling and stuff.  She said she personally wouldn’t subject her children to that at this age, and I said I doubt I would allow it either.  She said the decay is quite soft and probably going to get worse.  There were a raft of questions about other influences, vaccinations, nutrition, the pregnancy, the birth, illnesses, medications, but of course I haven’t done any bad stuff in respect to all that.  Needless to say she was impressed!  I will take him back there in about six months, as she said he should be able to sit still enough by then for her to do something, if needed.

Just as we were finishing up, another male dentist walked past and she called him in to ask his opinion.  Turns out this guy is something of an expert in holistic dentistry and been around for quite a long time.  I connected with him immediately.  He was serious but kind, and he immediately began to do some cranial stuff to Dude who is used to all that by now.  He asked me a few questions about the pregnancy, specifically how my relationship was during that time.  I said fine, if anything, better than at any other time.  So he asked me if I’d had any other stresses during early pregnancy.  And then it dawned on me. I had the most stressful job of my life in the first trimester, and experienced probably one of the most traumatic, emotional situations of my life at work.  It still upsets me now when I think about it.  He asked if I’d been treated for that, and I looked at him like he had two heads. Treated? What kind of treatment would you recommend?  Homepathics, kinesiology, he said.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered this before.  The first trimester and early second is when much of the tooth formation takes place apparently, so those stresses could have really affected things.  The good news is that his adult teeth will be great as they are being formed now, so whatever we’re doing now will be instrumental in forming his adult teeth.

Anyway, I’ve decided to seriously look into the treatment. The dentist recommended someone and as soon as we can afford it, I’ll make an appointment.  As I was waiting to pay, the male dentist made a point of coming up to me. He said out of the blue how strong Dude’s energy is, and mine too, and that I should get back into meditation as when I calm down, he will.  Wise words.  Just got to find the time!

Compulsion

So after about 90 minutes struggling with the Dude, trying to get him down for his morning sleep, he finally lay down next to me, cried with exhaustion, and passed out, feeding of course.  I’m desperately worried about his teeth, which already have holes in them, and I think it’s because he feeds to sleep.  I know we have to start brushing his teeth but it’s so hard to coordinate it, and if he keeps feeding to sleep, I fail to understand how brushing is going to make them better.  I wish I could get him to sleep without feeding but it’s just impossible.  I tried to give him water in a bottle today but he just played with it a bit, got water all over the bed and then got upset because he was so ridiculously tired.

I finally emerged from the room and went out to the kitchen to get some breakfast… at 12:20pm.  Turkish bread, fried eggs, butter, tomato sauce.  Yummy weekend breakfast.  Not the healthiest in the world but the bread is probably the worst thing. That should have been enough.  Yet as I was taking the last bites of the egg, I found myself beginning to think of what else I could eat.  Why?  Not because I’m still hungry. Perhaps because the little Dude is asleep and I don’t get a lot of time to myself to enjoy eating.  But why do I have to enjoy eating?  I wasn’t over analysing things.  I decided, initially, to sit with the idea for a few minutes, just while the food I’d just eaten made its way properly into my stomach. A few minutes was literally about 30 seconds…

Before I really knew what was happening, I jumped up and cut myself a slice of Woolies pecan danish, procured by husband yesterday.  Wolfed that down, yum.  Then I had already thought about the next thing: a bag of those yummy Red Rock Deli chips, cheese and onion flavour.  I didn’t eat the whole thing, mainly because they’re not really mine to eat.  They’re meant to be for Mr Chewbacca while he watched the ten nations or the championship dufusburgers or whatever the rugby is called at the moment.  So I ate about half of that, limiting myself only to the most crunchy, dense, curled-up chips.  I was full.  Too full.  Damn it!

Having gone to the doctor the other day for the Dude’s skin, I was thinking a bit about my eating issues and how they affect him.  I realised I feel incredibly guilty for having been unable to stop myself eating ‘bad’ food and knowing it’s going straight through to him through the breastmilk.  I confessed all this to the doctor, but it surprised me that she didn’t offer a way of stopping that.  She just said to notice what I’m doing when I do it.  So this is me noticing.

Yeah, okay this isn’t anywhere near as bad as recent binges.  I won’t even talk about those, it’s pointless.  What I really want to know is, why do I do it?  Why do I do it when I know it’s not good for me, not good for the Dude.  I’m totally overloading my liver and gallbladder, and I’m not getting adequate nutrition because I’m filling up on junk and not eating much of the basic good foods like simple fruit and vegies.  I’ve said before that I feel like the Dude has come to teach me how not to do that bingeing any more, because it’s affecting his skin and now his teeth which he’s only just got.  But as I said to the doctor, I feel like I’m failing at learning that lesson because I just can’t curtail it, I can’t stop eating shit.  Even for a baby, my baby!

But let’s get real here: I should be stopping eating shit for myself, not for anyone or anything else.  There’s a difference between motivation and misplaced focus.  I know deep down that doing it just for the Dude is silly because as soon as he stops breastfeeding I’ll just go back to where I was.  I know I need to find the root cause and tackle that.  But I have no idea how to do that.  Lord knows I’ve tried many times to find out why I eat like I do and I can’t put it down to anything in particular.  Yeah so it’s probably to do with boredom and comfort and self-loathing and pain referral.  But none of that is the root cause.  I feel like I’ve been stuck at some point in my life for years and I don’t know where or why.

The thing about co-sleeping

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!

Nearly 8 months

It’s funny. Eight months doesn’t seem like a very long time, but for the little Dude it’s a lifetime.  And because my life has changed so much since he arrived, it’s a lifetime for me too.  He is now sitting up by himself, having just randomly done it one day a few weeks ago.  We’re now in a stage I didn’t expect where we wait for him to sit himself up, then place pillows strategically around him in case he falls backwards or to one side, which he’s done many times.  Without pillows he’d just fall and hit his head on the ground, and even with the carpet under him it’s still a shock and probably hurts.  He’s tall too so he has further to fall.  I shudder to think how hard it’s going to be monitoring him when he’s learning to walk!  It’s nice now he can sit because it gives him more to do and he can play alone for longer without getting frustrated, although he still puts himself on his tummy and then starts screaming like he’s a beached whale and can’t move, it’s really weird.  That’s usually an indicator that he’s tired.

Speaking of tiredness, sleeping has been reasonably challenging recently.  He sleeps well at night, generally right the way through, but that’s only because he’s right next to me and can have boobie whenever he wants.  Some nights I’m sure he sleeps right through without even a dream feed, but other nights he gets restless at 4am and will toss and turn and feed on and off for an hour or more, which can be a bit annoying, but not the end of the world.  I’ve not had to get up with him in the night, so I think that’s quite good.  He still has a really hard time actually getting to sleep, especially for naps, of which he has two during the day.  Or at least I try to ensure he has two, and preferably for two hours each, although that rarely happens.  Not that he doesn’t need it, he so desperately needs more sleep, but he just can’t wind down and stay asleep.  Recently he’s been dozing off still attached for an hour or so, and then when I think I might be able to detach him and creep away he wakes and starts smiling and playing even though his eyelids are drooping and it’s clear he needs more sleep and will probably scream because he’s tired in about half an hour… So my life these days consists mainly of trying to get the Dude to a) sleep and b) stay asleep, which he rarely does without me for more than about 45 minutes.  There have been occasions where he’s slept alone for an hour or even two, but those are extremely rare, so rare they’re just flukes I think.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this child is freaking intense!  But I guess I shouldn’t have expected much else, given how his dad is, and the family history of insomnia on both sides… the poor little dude doesn’t stand a chance really!  Sometimes he’s thrashing about so much I wonder how it’s possible for him to ever fall asleep, but it happens, and when he finally relaxes deeply after a couple of hours he will sleep pretty soundly, or at least I think that’s the case, I don’t remember being awake to find out!

Of course he’s massive, as usual.  He’s actually off the growth chart all together in terms of his height/length, which at 7 months sat at 75cm (haven’t measured recently so not sure, he’s probably grown since).  He was just shy of 10kg at 7 months, and that’s the 97th percentile or thereabouts.  We’re predicting he’ll be at least 6’5″, as his dad is 6’3″ but I’m convinced his mum’s lack of prenatal care and his terrible infant nutrition contributed to him being slightly smaller, as his dad is 6’5″.  I also think his strange eyesight (being very short-sighted only in one eye, discovered when he was four) and his odd digestion are related to that too.  But that’s just what I think.  Anyway, the Dude is huge and thriving, of course, despite my ignoring the stupid doctor and not plying him with iron fortified rice cereal made with formula!  Speaking of the doctor, I’ve decided I’m never going back to her, as every time she just disappoints me, doesn’t help me, doesn’t listen to me, and says really annoying things.  I’m going to try a new anthroposophical doctor I’ve discovered nearby and heard good things about, so we’ll see what happens there.  I’m curious about what she’ll say about his skin.

Speaking of the Dude’s skin, it isn’t fantastic.  I know it’s definitely constitutional and something his body has to work through, but I feel that there is more I could do for him.  Sometimes it’s really quite bad and cracks a little around his right wrist and both ankles.  He seems to have more on the right side than the left, which just helps confirm its constitutional nature.  His skin on his bum is perfect, which was a real mystery for a while there, until I was bathing him and my mum was here and she suddenly suggested that having the nappy on was actually helping the skin retain its moisture, and so it’s a simple case of the skin being unable to retain moisture.  That makes so much sense, given how much worse his skin got when we were in (dry) Melbourne, as Sydney is so humid most of the time.  Husband said it makes sense to him as he actually has extra dry skin and has done for as long as he can remember and that’s why he slathers himself in cocoa butter every morning.  So now we have a bit more insight into what’s actually occurring with the skin, and when it was really bad I did relent and apply a little cortisone cream which of course cleared it up very quickly, but I’m really not keen to put it on all the time because I know all its doing is suppressing the immune response, which is just a quick temporary fix and not a long term solution, plus it’s not something I want to do.  The immune system is working, that’s good, I don’t want to block it.  So we’ll see what the anthroposophical doc says and go from there.  At some level I feel I could do more with my diet, but I just haven’t got the commitment; sad but true.  So his skin has red, dry patches around his wrists and ankles, and a few bits behind his knees, up his lower arms and under his chin, although it changes slowly.

Anyway, as far as other developments go, he’s really moving around a lot, although not technically crawling yet.  He can get up on his hands and knees briefly and rock a bit, but generally he sort of pulls himself along with his arms, and pushes off with his feet.  He’s still really shaky and it’s very scary watching him try and sit and pull himself up.  Because he’s pretty tall he can see over the coffee table, and earlier today I turned around for a minute only to turn back and find him about to pull a ceramic bowl of Christmas chocolates onto his head!  It’s pretty awful when he falls backwards or sideways and he’s already had a few bumps on the head but we just do our best to keep cushions around him or be down on the floor with him and always watching.  He’s extremely strong – I’m currently watching him pull a dining chair towards him across the floor with one hand… and yes, that’s a metal framed chair, quite heavy!

He’s recently begun saying ‘mum mum mum mum’ and ‘dthe dthe dthe’, and he also says what sounds like ‘yeah’, in addition to his ‘ngeng’ and ‘geh’.  He laughs and responds to peekaboo and tickling, makes his mini Chewbacca noise, screeches loudly for no reason in particular, and cries out of frustration ALL the time.  His eating is pretty good, I think.  We’ve been doing combination baby-led solids, so I often give him big chunks of fruit to eat straight off his tray table in the high chair, which he is very capable of doing.  Today he polished off about three quarters of a whole nectarine (his favourite).  I’m holding back on all the nightshades – tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, eggplant – as well as citrus and other allergenic fruits like strawberries.  I’m sure he’d be fine with all of that, but it’s more about getting his body used to eating before we make it work extra hard to process this kind of food.  He eats rusks which have a tiny bit of milk and wheat in them and so far is fine with it, but that’s as much as I’ve given him of those two things.  He has also eaten a few crusts as well.  Other than that, I spoon feed him a bit, usually with an organic veggie, fruit, millet mix I get from the supermarket.  I’m a bit slack with making him food, and he loves the stuff in the packet and it’s completely natural and all organic and free of additives etc so I figure it’s all good.  We’ve discovered that, like daddy, he hasn’t got a sweet tooth, so he likes his nectarines much more than something like mango, which would be my preference.  He’s amazing with the nectarine actually.  I cut him off slices like little boats, and he eats the flesh and spits out the skin.  At first I was worried and was going to peel it but there’s really no need, he’s very capable of eating just the flesh.

So far he still doesn’t suck on a dummy, although I give it to him when we go to sleep.  He does like it to chew on and play with, but when it’s time to sleep he will get upset if I put the dummy in his mouth.  He doesn’t accept substitutes!  At some level it’s as though he knows it’s just not the same.  He’s like that with everything actually.  I’m sure he understands what I’m saying most of the time.  He looks at me so intently, listens to everything I say, and responds accordingly.  He has known his name for months now, and will always respond, even if it’s to just give a cheeky look and go back to whatever havoc he was wreaking.  Although usually he’ll pay attention and actually turn back, as though he knows exactly what I’ve said and is doing just what I’ve asked.  It’s pretty amazing.

Anyway, at the moment, five days off eight months, he is just about to crawl, beginning to say words, and just turning into an amazing little boy.  I wish he’d sleep by himself as I’d love to be able to stretch out in bed again and go to sleep and wake up whenever I want, but I know it will pass and eventually he will sleep in his own bed.  For the moment, he is how he is, and he is just perfect.