virtually delirious

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I’ve begun a number of posts in the past couple of weeks. I get a few sentences in, or sometimes just a word, and it’s all gone. My mind is a tangle of half finished thoughts and stray sentences. I have been here before. And I know I will come out the other side. It’s always around this six month mark with each baby that I’ve had a little malfunction, a few technical errors, solely due to lack of sleep. The first four or five months with a new baby I seem to sail on through, feeling fairly energetic for someone who is being continually woken over night and never getting a full night’s sleep.

But come six months, I’ve had it.

Almost like clockwork, Pea turned six months old and the next night she began waking every 45 minutes to an hour. She’s continued like that all week. It will pass. IT WILL PASS. Prior to that she woke three to four times each night, and has done since she was born (apart from a couple of odd nights where she only woke once or twice, I can count those on one hand). They talk about a six month sleep regression, but she wakes so much anyway it’s hard to see exactly what this is, and I don’t really care to find out, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I wasted so much energy with Bird and the Pixie worrying about why they did or didn’t do certain things. It’s with a light heart that I let all that go the third time around (provided it’s not something serious, of course!). It’s wonderful to just enjoy having a baby.

So this is just a ramble, really. A delirious cacophony of thoughts and half baked ideas from a lady who is silently going loopy from lack of sleep. I can see why it truly is a form of torture. It’s a good thing my torturer has wonderful fat thighs and she allows me to grab onto them and kiss her chubby cheeks whenever I like. She’s good like that.

I was chatting to another mum this morning, she has a babe of similar age who also wakes every two hours or so. It’s amazing how many babies do this, and we only hear about the ones who sleep through the night. I won’t go on and on about it…

I’ve had two coffees and it’s going to be mid to high thirties for the next few days (celsius)… the baby is sleeping (surprise) scratch that, the baby is awake, and the girls are playing on the iPad… we will have a bit of lunch soon… and hopefully go for a swim this afternoon… if I can manage to stay awake… sentences coming and going… you can see why I haven’t posted… I hope you’ve all followed me up to now. If so… have a great day! And to all the other mothers out there who are feeling exactly the same way, have a lovely day with your babies, squeeze their thighs and kiss their cheeks and remember it will, will, will pass!

Next post: Christmassy updates, news other than baby talk, etc, I’m sure…

that mythical baby

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I’ve been thinking a lot about that mythical baby. You know, the one that sleeps through the night, has two or three solid naps per day, plays contentedly during tummy time, drifts off to sleep without assistance  when she is tired, breastfeeds well (and only ever every three to four hours) and so on. Who knows, she probably has a preference for green vegetables too.

You’ve heard of her, haven’t you? She pops up so much in conversation that you’d be forgiven for assuming that she accounted for 95% of all babies. To be honest, mythical baby gets on my nerves. Because even the third time around she occasionally has the ability to make me question whether or not my real baby is doing the ‘right thing’.

Luckily I have more confidence this time and I know a bit more. I know that breastfeeding overnight helps to maintain my milk supply. I know that the majority of babies wake in the night, and that “sleeping through” is technically only five hours. I know that my breastmilk has special hormones that help to relax my baby (and me) and I have no problem using it the way nature intended (to nourish, but also to comfort).

I am not worried about any type of “rod” that I may or may not be creating for my back. My only problem with my back is that it gets sore from time to time… wait, is that the rod? Hmmm…

Most importantly I know that “this too, shall pass” and in my limited experience it passes all too quickly.

So I will continue to hold and cuddle and comfort my baby. I will keep on feeding her whenever she wants to be fed. I will feed her and rock her to sleep if she wants. I’ll look at her dimply bottom with heart shaped eyes and blow raspberries on her tummy and I’ll cuddle her all through the night. And while sometimes it feels hard and tiring and I don’t recognise myself or know what to do if I have five minutes alone, I know one day this time in my life will be a mere whisper, and I’ll long to bring these memories back to life.

daily life

Today is KB’s first day back at work after long service leave and we are missing him terribly! It’s grey outside and so far I’ve only managed to get one child dressed. (I’ll give you one guess as to which girl is dressed and which replied No, I tan’t when I asked her politely to put her clothes on.)

It’s been a really busy couple of weeks since we got back from our holiday. Most notably, my sister had her first baby and I became an Aunty! The girls love having a little cousin, another girl! I’m aching for my next cuddle.

A while back I mentioned things were a little rocky in the breastfeeding arena. Last week Peach had her posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie fixed and it’s safe to say I had the toughest week in my motherly life. It was such a difficult decision to make and we deliberated for a couple of months consulting one specialist after another. Views are so mixed that we had to gather all the information and make the best decision we could for little P. In the end we decided to go along with the procedure (where the tongue tie and upper lip tie are lasered, giving the baby more movement and ability to feed, swallow, develop speech, etc). It’s still too early to say whether we made the right decision and it certainly isn’t a procedure I would be wanting to repeat any time soon. I found myself wallowing in such a black cloud of mother guilt in the days following that I couldn’t see straight. I’ve found my way out now, but gee, the toughest job in the world alright.

In other news we set up a raised garden bed in our yard and I spray painted the legs of one of my coffee tables gold, just because we needed some sparkle.

We also went to the zoo and I pretended it was the apocalypse:

Hope you’re all having a great start to the week.

adjusting

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Pixie hauls herself onto my lap while I’m breastfeeding Peach. She grabs each side of my face and forces me to look at her while I’m ushering lots of “careful, careful, careful of the baby.” She looks at the baby. “I love your baby, she’s beautiful. ” (“luff”, “boo-full”) she says. She thinks momentarily. “Now your baby has come out, there’s room for me in your tummy again.”

This has been a common thread of late, Pixie commenting on the appearance of the baby, and the vacant accommodations she has left behind. And how she would dearly like to climb back into said vacant block. Please.

I look at this enormous creature perched precariously on my knee, her gigantic deep brown eyes staring at me, eagerly awaiting a response. I’m confused. Only three weeks ago this huge being was my baby. I would pick her up like a tiny doll and balance her on top of my rounded stomach. I would play with her soft curls and wipe vegemite from her stained baby lips. Now she appears in front of me like a monstrous Japanese cartoon; all eyes and head and face. She reaches out a finger and pokes the side of Peach’s face. “Can I kiss your baby?” (“tan”, “tiss”) She asks, sick of waiting for a response to her request to climb back inside me.

She kisses the baby then pulls my hand away from where it is rested, cradling Peach’s back. She holds my hand and makes sure I can’t touch the baby with it.

We are all adjusting to this new way of life, this new being who is suddenly in our family and in our space after an eternity of pregnancy. Adjusting to my constant “shhhhh’s” and “careful’s!!”. Adjusting to the crying, to the constant commands of this tiny person.

And then I see my eldest two daughters playing and hugging and kissing each other. I see them holding hands tonight while we walked to get fish and chips. I see them giggling together and whispering rude secrets (namely about poo). And I remember when Pixie was this tiny thing in my arms and Bird was the giant child poking and prodding. And I know everything and everyone will be just fine.

a baby’s prerogative

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Many of you have been around to hear about my breastfeeding journey with the Pixie, about how things didn’t go to plan and everything went awry and I was very sad.

Three months later not a feed goes by without me wishing I was nuzzling her into my breast, not the silicone teat of a bottle. As I watch powdered formula slowly dissolve in cooled boiled water, I feel cheated. When I see the ominous can sitting on my kitchen bench, I glare at it angrily.

There are times too that I am so thankful for it, so thankful things have worked out, so thankful to have a healthy and thriving baby despite earlier challenges, so thankful to have a backup. But nothing can heal or replace the upset I feel at our breastfeeding journey being cut short.

I watched this video yesterday, have you seen it? It’s fantastic, a poem by Hollie McNish about her experience of people judging her for breastfeeding in public. No mother should ever feel too embarrassed to feed her baby in public.

As I watched the video, I longed for her problems. I wished it was me deciding what to wear in the morning so that I could easily access my breast. I wished it was me swearing about ugly breastfeeding bras as I clip myself up in the morning. I wished it was me contemplating the weather and feeling the icy air on my stomach as I lift my shirt at the coffee shop for my baby. I wished it was me having people glare at me for flashing a small piece of flesh while they sipped lattes or walked their dogs.

Instead, I feel embarrassed about placing my bottle of cooled boiled water on the table. I feel eyes on me as I scoop powder and swirl it around in the water while I chat to a friend. I anticipate their thoughts, wondering if I am lazy, if I couldn’t be bothered, if breastfeeding wasn’t for me or if I didn’t think it mattered. If they think I didn’t put the effort in to breastfeed, if they think that I’m not educated, that I don’t know that breast is best, that I don’t care. I wonder if they wonder these things, I wonder if they judge me. I feel judged, maybe because once upon a time I was the person at the other table, breastfeeding my baby and making what I thought were innocent assumptions about the women who didn’t.

Last night I was rifling around in my bedside table drawer looking for a pen. I found a few bits of paper torn from a notebook, dated 10 September 2010 when Birdie was five months old. On the paper were scribbled words in blue texta. I thought I would share them with you today, for although things have been different with the Pixie, my thoughts about breastfeeding haven’t changed. I would do anything to be able to feed her again. I tried a few weeks ago, after I got out of the shower. I thrust a breast at her, knowing full well I have no milk, knowing it was weird. She just looked at me with the expression what the hell are you doing? And I asked myself the same question and went to get dressed.

Here are the notes I found last night:

A single tear drifts across the bridge of your nose as you suck.

A gentle dance along your smooth skin.

You’re lying sideways, longways. Horizontal. A perfect palm lays across my breast. 

Skin to skin.

Warm.

I can feel the outline of your tiny hand on my skin.

Gentle pressure.

Slight, unconscious movements.

Your perfect face is barely moving but for shallow breaths.

Inside your mouth your tongue pulls at my nipple, bringing forth abundance.

Your eyes are closed but just moments ago they curled and rolled with the most basic of pleasures. 

The very heart of humanity and beauty and life itself is caught in this single moment.

This one single moment of truth, of real, of substance. 

Nothing else matters.

a mini break

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We took off down to the beach five days ago. A wintery, blustery, windy, soulful, refreshing time we had. We are back home now feeling relaxed, but of course not as relaxed as one would like once the pressures of life and all its administration return to flood us.

My favourite part of our time away was heading off for the afternoon with Prince Charming. We made left-over roast lamb sandwiches and chose a 6km bushwalk along the coast. It was just brilliant! Simple bliss. Just the two of us, stopping midway on a sandy beach to have our sandwiches before walking back. While we were walking down the little bush track we realised with amazement that it was actually the first time we had gone out together and left the children with the grandparents since the pesky pixie was born! Didn’t take us nearly as long the first time around!

I have been asking many questions of myself and Prince Charming lately. Who are we, what is our capital P Plan, where are we headed, which path will we take, and so on. We seem to have hit a time in our life where we are faced with a number of options, which is nice but also a bit daunting. One of the options is to stay put and do nothing different, which we have decided we will do, for a spell. I’m a dreamer but the Mr is a sensible chap, he only likes to delve into big plans if he has some sense they might actually happen. Boo to that Prince Charming.

My mouth spilled questions on our journey back from the beach. Then I got home and after the unpacking of the car, the dinner rush, the bedtime sagas, I sat a moment and had a little scan of a few blogs. I stumbled across this post and it was once again the little reminder I needed to stay put, in body and in mind, and be content with where we are at this moment.

What have you been doing this school holidays?

when breastfeeding costs more than formula

IMG_3808I have tried not to harp on too much about the breastfeeding saga at our house. Nevertheless our battles continue and take up such a large part of my energy, thoughts and emotional space it is hard not to mention it here. It would be untruthful to say that a minute goes by without me thinking about it. Mainly in a stressed out kind of way which, of course, is pretty counter-productive when you are struggling to keep up your milk supply.

Last post on this topic I think I had just begun a formula top up post breastfeed with the hope of this being temporary. Things improved for a while and overall the Pixie is much happier than she was when I was trying to feed her, express, then top her up with expressed milk.

She feeds overnight, usually three times (yep, I’m tired) with minimal fussing. Her day time feeds built *up* (yes, up) to three-four minutes in length with a lot of chiro sessions. To an outsider this sounds like nothing, but for us, three-four minutes of relatively fuss-free breastfeeding was like a miracle.

Six days ago, the Pixie decided she would not have a bar of either of my breasts during her waking hours, thank you very much. I offered her the breast at every feed for four days to have her scream, yell, arch her back and push me away with both hands. At one feed she made a half-hearted attempt at sucking for about 40 seconds. This is what Birdie did when she weaned herself – at 15 months of age… the Pixie is six months old now and my motherly instincts tell me that we are not ready for weaning just yet, thank you very much. You can see the battle of wills we have going here… I can only hope this does not continue into her teenage years, yikes.

I have been trying to separate my disappointment and sorrow at this breastfeeding relationship from what my baby needs now on a practical level. I have had to let go of my expectations and in particular I am trying ever so hard to stop reminiscing about breastfeeding Birdie – which was joyous and peaceful and lovely. Six months of breastfeeding dramas and I am still battling internally with this. I visited a friend and her newborn baby yesterday and felt tugs at my heart watching her feed him – wishing I could go back and try again, wondering if I did something wrong, questioning myself over and over again. I am ashamed to say I felt jealous and had to nip that in the bud.

A very sensible and lovely friend came over to check on me on Monday, when I was ready to throw in the towel with the whole thing, feeling like the stress of trying to breastfeed is causing nothing but heartache and distress to our entire family. She helped me formulate a plan, something that is so very hard to do when you are exhausted and fed up and can’t see beyond the next hour.

On Tuesday I headed out to the chemist and hired a hospital grade breast pump. I have let go of trying to feed her from the breast and yesterday began expressing at every feed and feeding her from a bottle. My supply has dropped so drastically I can’t get enough to cover all the feeds of the day so am still supplementing with formula.

I’m giving this one more go. I’ve set myself a time limit: four weeks. I’ll re-evaluate then.

saying goodbye to my babies

IMG_3563I was home alone with the kids one night last week. I was rubbing my hands together at the thought of a tidy house followed by a hot cup of tea, a spot of sewing and an episode of Vampire Diaries (NB: no one likes a judgey-judge).

At 6.30pm Birdie was tucked into bed. At 6.45pm she did a poo. I changed her nappy and tucked her back in. At 7pm she did another one. I changed her nappy again with gritted teeth and kissed her goodnight.

Time to work on number two… err… I mean, the second child. By 8.45pm I had fed the Pixie twice and rocked her to sleep and tucked her in four times.

I felt quite frustrated by this point, glancing at the clock and seeing my night disappear before my eyes.

But being a second time parent, you notice things that you didn’t notice the first time. This time I notice how quickly they are growing up. I look at Birdie in her big girl bed, getting dressed and undressed with minimal help from me, talking in full, elaborate sentences. I remember who she used to be, and it dawned on me.

I don’t have that baby any more. That baby that is all over this blog a few years ago, is gone.

And now it’s happening again. The Pixie as I know and love her now, right now, here, today, is not mine to keep. Another Pixie will replace her, and another and another and another. These moments I have with each of them are so fleeting, as tomorrow I will meet yet another version of my children.

Of course this is what makes the beautiful tapestry of life: comings and goings, old and new.

Sometimes though, I wish the tapestry would slow down just a stitch, just a day, just a minute, so I can linger just a little longer with my soft skinned babies.

watching

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I was at a friend’s house the other day. There were three mamas and six children including myself and my own. We each had a toddler and a small baby, my Pixie being the youngest of all.

At one point we were all chatting and doing our thing – all the regular things one does when one is trying to have a conversation and mind small children simultaneously, that is. I needed to go to the loo and as I walked away Pixie started squawking. One of the other mamas swooped down and placed her on their hip.

I remember at that moment somewhere in my mind noting how my friend was holding the pixie: with ease on her left hip, her left arm supporting her back and her left hand underneath Pixie’s armpit. I came home and later that afternoon found myself holding her in exactly the same way, testing out where it was comfortable on my hip, and recalling the way my friend’s arm supported her back.

It was another reminder of how we learn, as mothers. How we instinctually watch one another to find out how to do things with our babies. I mentioned this to another friend of mine over coffee on the weekend, and she nodded telling me how just the other day she had watched me sway her little seven week old babe to sleep at a barbeque at my house and had gone home to try it herself.

We lead blessed lives here in this country, but as a result of our ‘modern’ lifestyles, while we are at home, alone, parenting and raising our children, we do miss out on some of the most basic of life lessons: instinctually watching and learning from other women.

I often find myself yearning and craving contact from other women during the {sometimes long} days at home. Wise words from a mother who has done it all before me. The soft arms of another woman to hold my child while my hands are occupied elsewhere. The guidance and support and knowledge that comes from being part of group.

Tell me, do you feel it too?

a rotten couple of days

We’ve all had a case of the sads here the last few days. It’s a terrible cycle really, when you are a tight knit family and things aren’t going so well. Negativity feeds negativity and as soon as one person is a little off, you can be sure others will follow.

Pixie and I have been having the battle of the breast every few hours, which has become steadily worse. Suffice it to say it is me who set our little family into the downward spiral since the weekend, that much I will admit!

It got to the point where Pix was wanting to feed, crying as I began to lean her towards the breast, screaming by the time she got there, and latching on and off and on and off for about three to five minutes before we both called it quits. I would keep trying to offer her more but it only upset us both more. Then she would cry for an hour or so and generally be unsettled before it was time to try the whole thing again.

The last two days have been the worst, with both of us ending up in tears numerous times.

After spending the weekend emailing back and forth with a breastfeeding counsellor from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, I took their advice and today went to the ABA centre in Dandenong, Melbourne. When I looked them up last night I saw they have an open session every Wednesday where you can turn up and get support from a lactation consultant.

The drive to get there really put me off, even though I had my sister volunteer to come along and entertain the biggest, plus provide support to any criers along the journey! I wasn’t sure if they would be able to help us as I had convinced myself she had reflux and what could they do to help me then? I felt hopeless and helpless and annoyed at myself. I’m a second time mum and have done all this before, why couldn’t I get it right? Why couldn’t I do the most basic thing a mother is meant to do for her baby and feed her? I just haven’t been able to figure it out and honestly didn’t know what to do next. But I knew I had to do something. Although Pixie still had wet nappies, I was beginning to feel a real sense of urgency that this get sorted out ASAP.

After reviewing a few options, I am just so glad I bit the bullet and went. I spent two hours sitting with a lactation consultant who listened to my story and before long had me and my baby topless and skin to skin. I was really sceptical, thinking that my kid hated breastfeeding and that this wasn’t going to work for us, other people – maybe – but not us… Within moments of me placing Pixie on my chest, she rooted around, moved herself straight for the breast (this was really amazing to watch) and latched on. Feeding! No crying, no on and off and on and off.

Apparently, she just wasn’t into my style! Apparently, my style is ‘mother led attachment’, where I was guiding her head onto the breast. She wasn’t too keen on this. The lactation consultant taught me ‘baby lead attachment’ which is just like what you are encouraged to do after your baby is born. Basically, we went right back to basics and tried to start fresh. We are going to hang out at home and do it this way for a whole week to establish a new pattern.

Three feeds later I still feel shocked. My baby, who at her worst was feeding for three to five minutes, ten-ish if we were having an awesome time, has fed for up to an hour at each sitting today. Turns out she is super excited about breastfeeding! We just weren’t working too well together as a team. A result of all her crying she was gulping lots of air, and then drinking milk on top was creating a lot of wind, resulting in an upset tummy and a really cranky kid. I was then thinking she’d had enough and would pace around with her to no avail, because she was still hungry and really just wanted to be fed! I feel awful that I didn’t figure this out myself but also thrilled that I went out and got the help we really needed.

We spoke about how our lives are so busy, so instead of really focussing on her I had been thinking, ok well you’re done, what do I have to do next? And on our day would go juggling baby and toddler. I was trying to feed her really sporadically and just all the time basically, when I thought she must be hungry, rather than following her cues. We just got ourselves into a real tangle and I needed the support of someone external to give me more ideas and get us back on track.

We are lying on my bed now as I type this, skin to skin, and she is sound asleep. She’s been asleep on my chest for a few hours and words can’t describe what I am getting out of having this time with her.

Calm and soft and full bellied and warm and happy.