This was originally the blog of a first-time Mum to remember the ups and downs of my pregnancy - and chart the first year of my daughter's life. But I've kept it going, and am now a mother of two! More than anything, it helps me to get to sleep once I've emptied my brain of issues and concerns and emotions onto the laptop.
If you're reading this and also a mum- or dad-to-be, first time parent, or just someone who's thinking about it - I hope it gives a little insight into one person's experiences - good and bad....

Monday, 29 August 2011

THE SECOND GUESSING

Firstly, just a quick update on the breastfeeding. I've persevered and I think we're getting back on track. Charlotte's still being rather fussy after about 10 minutes, but I just keep going, and all the signs are that she's getting plenty of food. She's certainly content - she's currently playing with her favourite toy: a helium balloon tied to her ankle or where she can grab the ribbon with her hands, and squealing and kicking like a mad woman!

video


Still not managing to express much, but I'll persevere with that as well, and hopefully that'll also get better once the 'message' gets to my body over several days that it needs to produce a bit more milk at certain times. All in all I think we only ended up giving her one bottle and a couple of top-ups of formula, which makes me feel good. We'll see what happens at her weigh-in on Wednesday, but wet nappies and a happy, content child tells me what I need to know.

Now, I spent much of yesterday wondering how Charlotte managed three nights of sleeping for six-and-a-half to seven hour when we were up North. What were we doing differently last week up there? Was it a slightly darker room? Was it the long sleeps in the middle of the day in the car? Was it the more relaxed atmosphere with lots of relatives helping me stay relaxed and giving her plenty of attention? Was she getting more fresh air? Was it because her Moses basket was static, not in its rocker? Was it even the couple of alcoholic drinks I had while we were away? There are just too many variables - as has also proved to be the case in today's unusual daytime sleeps (see below).

Since we've been back home though she's been back to her 2330 and 0330 wake ups - no longer than four hours sleep at one time.... until last night, out of nowhere! She slept from 1900 until 0130 which really threw me. Sadly, she didn't go back down to sleep very well. She spent the best part of three hours chewing on her hands, despite my best efforts to restrict her arms under her sheet and put her dummy back in.

The chewing her hands is really un-nerving me - she's doing it right now - though I'm still pretty sure it's her just discovering them, rather than necessarily telling me she's hungry. But I fed her again, and she eventually dropped off for another hour and a half.

Charlotte then threw us another curve ball. After a week of sleeping for no longer than half an hour in her Moses basket in the day, she went down for more than an hour and a half this morning between 0830 and 1010. She wasn't in her gro-bag, so may have been slightly cooler, which might have helped. Or was it because she was in her slightly darker nursery, rather than our room? I really have no idea. The only thing I can guarantee is that if we try the same things again tomorrow, they won't work...!

edit: just put her in her basket for a second while I got ready to take her out for a lunchtime sleep in her pram as I was pretty sure we wouldn't see a repeat of this morning - and she's fallen asleep! She must be really tired after last night's fist chewing session (and all that playing with her balloon!).

We're a long way from the first two weeks when she'd only sleep on people (she won't do that now!) - and I find myself not knowing what to do with myself once she's asleep in day!


Saturday, 27 August 2011

WHEN BREAST ISN'T BEST

My confidence has been knocked again - partly from Charlotte's disappointing weight gain earlier in the week, but also down to several other issues surrounding breastfeeding.

Without going into too much detail, my breasts feel physically different and Charlotte's become increasing fussy around feeding. She's also taken to sucking and chewing on her hands more and more - which I think is just the coincidence of her discovering her hands and fingers at a bad time rather than her being permanently hungry.

After most feeds she still seems content, and we're still getting through as many nappies. But things just don't feel like they did a week or so ago.  I know feeding changes as babies get older and more efficient at it, but I feel more like we're going backwards - with her not always latching on properly and fussing so much. I've also not successfully expressed for days.

Myself and my OH have decided on the occasions Charlotte still seems hungry after feeding from me, we'll offer her formula. Currently she's not taken anymore than about 50ml, usually much less, which means she must be mostly satisfied from me. Such is the propaganda from all the health professionals, though, it makes me feel like I'm offering her poison - which is obviously ridiculous because millions of babies are brought up on formula alone, and it's far more important that my daughter is well-fed however that happens. Knocking expressing on the head for the moment, while I concentrate on making sure I feed Charlotte everytime myself.

But just the idea that I may have to give up breastfeeding before the 3 or 4 months I had intended to do it exclusively found me in a very emotional state. That stress itself won't help my milk production or help Charlotte feed more properly. Hopefully seeing her well-fed and happy (and if that means using some formula, so be it) will lower my stress and anxiety levels and get us back on an even keel.







Wednesday, 24 August 2011

TWO MONTHS OLD

Charlotte is two months old today, and we've just got back from having her first immunisations (or second if you count her BCG on day one). What another absolute farce at the doctors. Despite going over with them at length if there was any problems in her not having her 6 week check-up until she was nearly 10 weeks (after they kept cancelling and not having the available staff), when I got there today I was told she couldn't have her jabs until she'd had her check-up.

After an angry and tearful exchange, they booked me in for both her check up and immunisations for Friday, but I was allowed to see the Health Visitor today. She was weighed - 4.3 kg/ 9.47lb - and sadly she's dropped into a lower percentile. While the HV said she wasn't concerned at this stage (though asked me such stupid questions such as 'do you think you've got enough milk in your breasts? - how should I know???), she does want to weigh Charlotte again next week.

And despite her saying she's not concerned, it still knocked me sideways a bit, because I think she's been feeding really well. But - as both Grandmothers have pointed out to me - when she's awake she's so active, she'll burn off far more energy than many more docile babies. We're back to 'no two babies being the same' again. All I do know, is that after her feeds she is almost always content. 90% of the time we seem to have a very happy, playful baby. Certainly not one that is underfed and constantly crying for food (though the increased chewing on her hands has caused me some concern, but she does that even after a really good feed as she's clearly discovering her hands and fingers).

When I came out from that check-up, a little upset, the receptionist told me there'd been a cancellation, so the Doctor could do her 6 week check up (at nearly 9 weeks!) then and there, and therefore she could have her jabs. Check-up was mostly fine, but we've been referred to a specialist as the GP picked up a heart murmur. He said it was more than likely benign, and pretty common, and nothing really to worry about. But you can't help but do with a tiny, helpless baby when you're told her heart needs attention.

And then came her jabs. At first she screamed no more than we hear most days when she's overtired, but about 30 seconds later she let out an almighty howl - louder than I've ever heard. It was the perfect storm of the needles, being tired and hungry. I just tried to comfort her as best I could.

We're back home now after the best part of two weeks at both sets of grandparents. And I must say it feels a bit daunting all over again without their support for the coming weeks. But Charlotte is definitely still making progress. I think we've just about nailed getting her an hour's sleep in the mid morning - usually around 9am - without too much of a fuss. Now we're trying to crack a longer sleep around lunchtime. The past six days though, that's been easy because we've had long car journeys that have fitted in, and she's slept right through most of them. Just need to transfer that sleep to the Moses basket now.

Talking of sleep, as expected, her seven hour stretches at night from the past few nights didn't continue. She was up as usual at around midnight and 4am for feeds. Only what I expected to be honest, and it really isn't a problem. Not sure what she'll do tonight after her jabs.

Driving back down yesterday - with two months under our belts - I got to thinking about what advice I'd give to one my closest friends who's expecting her first baby in December. Here's what I think I'd tell her to expect:

  • You will read books and internet forums searching for advice - but take all of that with a pinch of salt and really try not to. A lot will scare you. The best people you can go to, for the best advice and reassurance, are your friends who've been through it all so recently.
  • You will live your life by the clock - checking how long since your baby last fed, had a sleep, has been asleep, needs waking for a feed.
  • Just as you think you've got the hang of something, i.e. breastfeeding, your confidence will be knocked when your baby throws you a curve-ball by doing something different (eg sleeping for longer/shorter, feeding for longer/shorter) and so you start to question everything all over again.
  • You will get conflicting and confusing advice from all the health professionals - and they'll make you feel guilty about everything: feeding, weight gain, sleep - yet qualify it with every baby is different. Try to follow your gut instinct, even when you feel you have none.
  • The overwhelming love and bond may not be there instantly. It's taking me weeks to get there, slowly.
  • And the one thing that EVERYONE says, that is ABSOLUTELY TRUE, but which seems impossible during that first month, is that it DOES get easier. Your baby will become more manageable once you get to recognise their needs more and more, and once they start learning what to expect throughout each day.








Saturday, 20 August 2011

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

I'm starting to understand the truth behind that phrase - Mother knows best. I really am starting to know a little more about what our little girl wants. Most of the time it's the sleep she still continues to fight in the day.

The trouble comes when other people - mostly grandparents and other family members, on both sides - make me question it all. When I can see she's on the cusp of needing sleep, they want to carry on playing, when I know she's grizzling because she's not had enough sleep they tell me she's hungry or - both grandmas favourite - it's her tummy/wind. And because they've all been there before I do listen to them.

But then I'm proved right when we get into the overtired vicious circle. Yet I'm still made to feel like I'm obsessing over her getting enough sleep. But it is really important.

On a brighter note - and an example of the effect a good sleep can have - Charlotte was an unbelievable angel at her second Welcome to the World BBQ. This time it was for her Northern family and friends. We'd made sure she had a good hour and a half's sleep at lunchtime. And for the rest of the afternoon we had smiles, happy noises, another kip, good feeds and not a whimper.

with Great-Grandma

Even her bath and pre-bed massage were perfect. As I'm writing this I have just put her down to sleep. Unfortunately the party is still very noisily going on, and Charlotte's wide awake, so we'll see how long it takes her to nod off...

edit: Ok, so she settled herself to sleep beautifully within 20 minutes, despite the cocophony of noise... and then slept for a personal best SEVEN hours before waking for a feed. I was obviously awake several times before that worrying why she hadn't woken as usual. Let's hope this isn't a one off, and she continues to be an angel child.

edit2: but then it took more than an hour to get her back to sleep:(

Thursday, 18 August 2011

DOCTOR WHEN?

Yet again we're having issues with the NHS. After previously documented examples during my pregnancy, delivery and since, we're now struggling to get Charlotte her 6 week check-up with a GP.

She's 8 weeks tomorrow and the appointment we had for her yesterday got cancalled because doctors at our surgery are on holiday or being called away. The soonest they can now fit her in is in another 2 weeks time, by which time she'll be almost 10 weeks old. No one seems especially bothered by this - despite it being drummed into us by the health visitors and various literature given to us how important it is.

Thankfully I don't have any real health concerns surroundibg Charlotte. But if there is anything that the GP picks up I'll be incredibly angry about the month delay in getting her an appointment - providing this one isn't also cancelled.

And I hope it's a bit more thorough than my own 6 week post-natal check-up. Aside from checking my blood pressure., the locum I saw just asked me if I felt OK and how my moods were. She didn't check my stitches had healed properly, no mention that I need a smear test, and just the slight mention that I should be considering contraception again. It really did feel like another pointless box ticking exercise where I wasn't really checked at all.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

PARTY GIRL



We're in the middle of a bit of a holiday, split between both sets of Grandparents. The first half coincided with one Grandad's birthday, so we decided to through a 'Welcome to the World, Charlotte' party at the same time. It was just a BBQ on a  lovely Sunday afternoon with a couple of dozen of my friends, their kids and a few of my Mum and Dad's friends.

It all went very well - though the over-stimulation from being passed from person to person, lack of daytime sleep and very hot temperatures equaled a pretty rough night. Charlotte wouldn't sleep for any more than 2 hours at a time, and I fed her each time she woke - which meant about four feeds in the night, more than she'd get in the day. I won't be doing that again in a hurry if I can help it, and have taken on board several suggestions of trying cooled boiled water when it's especially hot (despite advice to the contrary from various health visitors).

It is very lovely being down at my parents' where there are twice as many hands on deck to help out. Plus a lovely big house and garden to calm Charlotte down in. And in still trying to get her to sleep properly in the day, she's taken quite well to sleeping in the pram or car seat in the outdoors...

catching flies in the garden


... there are a couple of downsides though. As her maternal grandparents dote on her so much, I've become something of just the 'milk bar'. All I seem to do is feed her, then one of them will want to play, or have a cuddle, or take her for a walk. I barely see her other than attached to my breast or when the hard work to get her to sleep starts. At one point, my Mum passed Charlotte over to me and said "here's your 'other' Mummy" - to which I didn't quite know what to reply I was so taken aback.

I do get the impression from them sometimes that I'm not doing it 'right' - whatever that is. When me and C's Dad use tools like White Noise to calm her down, or question using cooled boiled water to quench her thirst - and various other differences that creep in over a 34 year span of 'new rules' and ways of doing things - I get the odd look or slightly disapproving comment. All I can say is that I am doing what I think is best. There is no right or wrong, but it does upset me at times.

They always see the best bits of Charlotte. The beauty of being a Grandparent is it comes without quite so much stress and anxiety of being a first-time parent. If they think back 34 years, I'm sure they might just remember that it wasn't all smiles, gurgles and happy playtimes for them when I came into the world. They were coupled with concern, tough nights, trying anything to calm me down and stop me crying. But decades on all that gets forgotten, and - happily - replaced with just the fun, fond memories.

I guess what upsets me most is that I'm still bonding with Charlotte. I'll readily admit I'm not fully there yet. I don't yet feel the overwhelming, unconditional love - that's not to say I don't love her. But her Grandad and Grandma are there - in spades. I wish I was. I'll get there.





Monday, 8 August 2011

HOLY MOSES!

I think it's telling that I've not felt the need to blog a new post in the past week (and not really had the time). I've not had to empty my brain of all the worry and anxiety nearly so much. Things are definitely heading in the right direction.

Last Tuesday I went to a breastfeeding 'cafe' at the local SureStart Centre - partly to get a bit advice to make sure I was still feeding Charlotte correctly, but also to try to meet a few new Mums. Chatted to a few women, but didn't really 'click' with anyone. Good tips on feeding in the searing heat - she was much less fussy when I stripped her naked, and feeding her more often to quench her thirst is also something I'll make sure I do.

Most importantly though, they weighed her. And she'd put on more than 200g in a week, which is excellent. I think part of my concerns over whether I'm doing OK with the breastfeeding was because my confidence was completely knocked by the previous week's tiny weight gain. Really, really pleased she's putting on weight.

She may have shed a few grammes on Thursday and Friday though, the amount she pooed! Since she was about three weeks old Charlotte's always had a 'bowel movement' every other day, which we were told was fine. But this week she had 4 or 5 A DAY. No idea why - maybe something I'd eaten - but she seemed perfectly happy.

If she doesn't have another one for a few days, we have a sure fire way of making sure she does have one - the poo chair. Without fail, if we put her in her swing chair or bouncer, and she hasn't pooed for more than a day, she always has one!

The last few days, she really has been good as gold. We were down at my parents for three days - I think she thrives off their attention, and me being more relaxed. We had a wonderful lunch out at a pub, got her passport photo taken, had a lovely afternoon with a crowd of my friends and their children, and plenty of gorgeous smiles and good playtimes - all despite a couple of disturbed night's sleep.



And today I've really seen several beams of light at the end of the tunnel. Charlotte managed an hour's sleep in her Moses basket for one of her morning naps, and a further half an hour in the afternoon. Still had to take her for a long walk in her pram at lunchtime when she was having none of it, but she stayed asleep in it once we got home for another half hour.

She also had a very enjoyable bath, and less than half an hour after putting her down to sleep (having read her half of The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck!) she'd settled herself straight to sleep without so much as a whimper.



Dream child - let's hope it continues and we can make further headway with her daytime sleeps.