Monday, February 28, 2011

Gus's birth story (part one)

I'm so excited to share with you Gus's birth story! It was such a great day for Jon and me, not only because we finally got to meet our little guy, but the whole anticipation and excitement leading up to the birth made the day a really happy one, even if the work was hard! I apparently couldn't leave any detail out and wrote a very long story, so part one is today, and you'll get the rest in the near future. Without further ado, Gus's story!


On Wednesday morning, Jon left the house at about 6 to go to the gym before work. As we were saying our au revoirs, I said to him, “you’ll probably be getting a call later, because I told this baby to come today!” He said he would make sure he kept his phone on in the gym, but I said that no, it probably wouldn’t be before 9. And off he went.

At around 8, I woke up to use the toilet and noticed some bright red blood as I was there.  Now, I didn’t really know what this meant, but figured bright red is never good in pregnancy.  I called up triage at the hospital, and the midwife on duty there said I should come in to be checked out.  This was possibly the worst part of the whole day.  I had no idea what this could be, and although the midwife didn’t sound urgently concerned, it definitely wasn’t normal.  Gus (as he is now known), often didn’t squirm around too much in the mornings, so I felt a few small movements, but no reassuring big sessions like I desperately wanted. I had to pack a bag to prepare for a possible labour in hospital, which I really didn’t want, but I didn’t even know at the time whether it could just be a natural labour, or if we would end up needing lots of interventions to expedite the delivery.  And I really didn’t think that Jon would be okay with a home birth even if we were given the all-clear from the hospital.  So the sum of it was, I felt that all my hopes for the day were crashing down around me and I didn’t even know if my baby was safe at the start of the day.  And Jon was an hour’s journey away in London.

So I called Jon, trying to reassure him for his journey while (unsuccessfully) holding back my own tears, called a taxi, and was off to the hospital.

I arrived at triage to be assessed.  There were two couples in front of me in line, and the midwife asked if I could wait, which I found encouraging, since she didn’t think it was an urgent situation. Plus, Jon hadn’t arrived yet.  When it was our turn to be assessed, she explained that, generally, the cervix initially opens with the mucus plug, which has both blood and mucus.  Since I had just seen liquidy blood, she would have to do an exam to see if she could see any mucus, which would confirm that it was just this mucus plug and the blood wasn’t coming from anywhere else.  First she listened to baby’s heart rate with the doppler, though, which was strong and regular--yay! But, no mucus upon examination, so I would have to go up to labour ward to be assessed and possibly be seen by a doctor. 

First she wanted to get a CTG trace of baby’s heart rate to send up to labour ward with me.  This was 20 minutes monitoring baby’s heart rate compared to any uterine activity, as it was being called at the time, since I wasn’t in established labour.  The first 10 minutes looked really good—several uterine tightenings and baby’s heart rate responding accordingly.  Second half wasn’t quite so promising—we think our little man decided to take a nap!

Up to the labour ward we went.  We were put in a home-from-home room, which is one of the hospital’s less medicalised rooms and included an en suite bathroom with a big tub. The midwife asked if she could do a vaginal exam to get an idea of what was going on. The result: I was almost four centimetres dilated, a shock to us all since I had hardly even noticed any contractions! It was not that I was completely oblivious to the contractions, it was just that I felt the tightenings with hardly any discomfort.  I had been noticing Braxton-Hicks contractions for several weeks (after one of my midwife friends pointed one out to me as it was occurring!), and I just didn’t realise that they had transitioned into “the real thing”.  Anyway, the midwife explained that the bleeding may have just been from a relatively quick initial dilation, causing trauma to the cervix. After  discussing it with the supervisor, the midwife said that they were happy for me to go back home for labour and delivery, if that was what we wanted, as long as I could assure them that I knew when the contractions were occurring and would be able to call the homebirth midwife at the appropriate time.  They just wanted to double-check that Gus was doing well first, since he had fallen asleep during the previous CTG, and monitor the contractions, so they hooked me back up to the monitor for a while.  Jon and I hung out, ate a bit of snack / lunch (since it was about noon by this time) and played a fun game whereby I would think I was having a contraction and get Jon to look at the monitor to see if I was right. (I got pretty good at it!) And we tried to decide whether we should stay at the hospital or go back home. Surprisingly to me, Jon was leaning toward home and I was leaning toward stay in hospital! I felt I had been thrown for a loop and somehow didn’t trust the labour to progress normally, since it had started the way it had. And I didn’t want to end up at home with no midwife. Plus, the room we had was fairly cosy. I just kept thinking, people don’t leave the hospital at four cm dilation, they go to the hospital at that point! But I had planned and hoped for a home birth.

Finally I decided that we would ask for another VE after the monitoring was finished (I ended up being on there for almost an hour), and if there was normal progression, I would head home.  If I had progressed more than expected, I would stay, so as to not get caught out at home.  VE was done, and dilation was about 4.5 to 5 cm—I was headed back home!

Friday, February 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 5)

Welcome to this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! As always, you can continue the fun over at Jen's place, Conversion Diary.

I have not been sleeping well this week. The annoying thing is, Gus hasn't even been waking up! He has been sleeping pretty restlessly, though, which has been waking me up more or less hourly from about 1 to 4 am. Combine that with my habit of not turning off the light till midnight, and you get one tired mama! Wednesday, I hardly slept a wink--even when Gus was calm, I just couldn't fall asleep. Luckily, last night was much much better. Hopefully I can catch up a bit this weekend!

WARNING: Skip to next take if you do not want to read about poop!

I have cut dairy out of my diet this week.  I have heard so many people say Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies, so there is very little waste.  Some babies only have a bowel movement once a week! Yeah, try telling that to my kid.  Every. single. diaper. was a dirty one. And not a little bit, either.  So I thought maybe something was upsetting his tummy a bit, the most likely culprit being dairy. So no more cheese for me.    Lunches are tough. I have never been much of a sandwich person anyway--I like a hot meal--but now I feel really strapped for ideas for quick and easy vegetarian lunches. Hummus and eggs, mostly, this week. Although not together. That would be weird.  And the plan to make a big batch of soup that never quite materialised. Anyway, I think it has been beneficial to Gus, so we'll keep going with it for a bit.

You all know how I love me my Moby wrap. I have mentioned it before, haven't I? If not, here goes: I love wearing my baby in my wrap. Whether you love wearing your baby or just love the look of cute little ones tucked up in papooses and such, check this out. Pictures of women from all different countries and eras, wearing their babies.  There are some super cool ones in there, too--baskets you carry on the back where the toddler can stand up and play with toys! And I do not know how people can carry a child on their head, but it  apparently can be done. (via Fill Your Pants Facebook page).  PS. It's in French, so I don't know what it says, but the pictures are pretty self-explanatory!

We're getting our family photo done this weekend.  I really need a haircut, but I actually want to grow it out again, and I hate paying someone to cut it when I want it longer. We'll see what happens. Gus will look great for the pictures, regardless of how I look!

My goal for the coming week is to finish writing Gus's birth story.  I have it mostly written, but it is 5 pages long, with probably one more page to go! So I either have to edit before posting or do a multi-part series. And my labour was fairly quick and uneventful. How do people with 24-hour labours write a concise account? Anyway, look out for it next week.

Updated:  I was rushing to finish this yesterday, and forgot to say that I have been spurred on to finish my birth story after reading Elizabeth's and Kaitlin's stories this week.  Thanks, ladies!

I finally called the hospital yesterday to become a milk donor!  I am blessed with an abundant supply of milk, and breastmilk is so beneficial to babies born sick, too early, or too small. It can be really hard for mothers to maintain an adequate supply if their babies are too small or sick to suckle, especially if the baby can't be held, and formula increases babies' risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and infections. In the UK, you can see UKAMB for more information on milk banks and donating breastmilk.

One week till Gus's baptism!  Can't wait!  I just need to find something for me to wear and book a pub for lunch afterward. I also wanted to get a St Augustine and St Monica (St Augustine's mother) medal before the baptism, but it seems like it will cost me either about £1 for two (I want something a bit nicer than that) or £50 (not really in my budget for a necklace at the moment). Or I can get this $600 one

Have a great weekend! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes (volume 5)

It's Quick Takes time again!  Head over to Conversion Diary for more quick fun!

I have been drooling over wooden toys this week. Do people even own wooden alphabet blocks, Lincoln logs, or hammer and peg toys anymore?  They should, that is for sure.  But the one I want the most looks like this:
wooden stackable rainbow toy
I am in love! Check out Myriad toys for more, if you have an hour and some cash to spare!

I made two purchases for Gus this week to help him as he embarks on his teething journey. A wooden ring rattle for chewing on, from Myriad. I think this will also be great as he continues to develop his reaching and grabbing, which is super sweet.  The other thing I bought was an amber teething necklace.  Apparently the oils from the amber are supposed to be absorbed through the skin and help with the pain of teething.  I have no idea if it will make a difference or not, but I figured it couldn't hurt. Plus, he looks really cute wearing the necklace :)

Speaking of teething, I am hoping we were premature in our attribution of his symptoms to that. He is still super drooly and bites his and my hands all the time, but hasn't been as fussy in the I have no idea what you want sort of way in the past few days. I will gladly and thankfully take this reprieve.

Jon and I have just started watching The Tudors.  We started on series four, but are hoping to find the beginning at Blockbuster at the weekend. We both really like Tudor history. But I was thinking while watching the show that there are a lot of children's stories about Henry VIII, but either they leave a lot out or modern tellings embellish a bit, because there is a lot of sex in this show.  We have to cover Gus's eyes at those parts.

Our stroller finally arrived this week!  We got the Quinny Zapp Xtra. Gus and I took it out for a test run yesterday. He cried, loudly, when I put him into it, but then looked pretty happy once we left the house. He slept most of the way, so it couldn't have been too bad! Everyone seemed to be concerned that I needed a stroller because he is getting so heavy, but I am not really sure how I felt about it yesterday. I definitely still like carrying him and will probably continue to do so a lot of the time. It was nice not to have to carry home my groceries, though!

Now that I am a ravenous breastfeeding monster, I am always looking for easy healthy snacks. As such, I just had ants on a log. It was really yummy. Why haven't I eaten this in such a long time? Definitely in the rotation.

Will somebody please send the washing up fairy over to my house?  I haven't been very good about keeping the kitchen tidy this week.  But the house is still fairly put together, so I'll take what I can.  Domestic goddess I am not.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

angel boy

the little snow angel
Something I was thinking about the other day is how new babies, to a certain extent, are genderless.  Besides the way we dress new babies (and why must every girl's outfit be pink and every boy's outfit be blue? a range of colors is good, shops!), most of our interactions with them are the same whether the baby is a boy or a girl. We play the same games, give them the same toys, love them the same way (hopefully that last one, at least, never changes!).  What brought this to mind is that Jon often calls Gus a little angel. Although technically angels are sexless, and the three angels in the Bible actually have male names and characteristics, in our society, we generally seem to think of angels as female and something associated with girls and women.  Yet it seems a perfectly natural thing to call a baby boy, maybe because he is a baby first and the boy part doesn't really matter at this stage?  At what stage, though, will it start to "matter"?  Is there a time in a child's life, tacitly agreed upon by society, at which point we no longer call our boys angels (and is it the same point that they start earning the rather disturbing moniker little devils with their behaviour!)?  Will we wake up one day and realise that we no longer refer to Gus as beautiful or gorgeous, but handsome? What do we as a society, and our boys as individuals, lose when all the best words are too "girly" to be used to describe growing boys and men?

There are societal pressures on both sexes to fit into certain roles in life.  We often encourage girls to challenge these boundaries.  Part of parenting a girl is to ensure that she knows that she can choose any toy, clothing, or even profession that she likes and that being a girl shouldn't keep her from doing what she wants to do.  I don't know, though, if we make this effort for boys.  This isn't meant to be an "OH NOES, WHAT ABOUT THE BOYZ?!" sort of idea (i.e. pretending that boys and men don't have all kinds of privilege in our society in relation to women and girls).  It is about giving all our children the same opportunities and a full range of experiences and options. For example, if my son grows up and has children, I obviously want him to be a caring and empathetic father. To help with that, I want him to have the opportunity to play with dolls and develop that empathy as a child (doing this by making sure there are suitable toys for this in the house, even if we have only boys, but obviously not forcing him to play with them). On the flip side, I would want to gently discourage him from the overly aggressive ways of playing that are often described as "boys being boys".

So how do you go about raising a well-rounded individual, boy or girl?  Who knows. I think it is really easy to buy into some of the stereotypes on a day-to-day basis.  Even now, I find myself attributing some of Gus's characteristics, like his wanting to stand up all the time, to him being a boy.  But they are really just part of who he is, as a person, no need for limiting adjectives. When we go for walks and I point out the trucks in the construction site to him, I always think, "would I do that if he were a girl?"  And I guess that's the point: do it. If you talk about trucks on the way to the store, try and talk about something more "girly" on the way home. Take an occasional inventory of clothes or wardrobe and see what is missing. And actively try to notice the characteristics in children that don't adhere to society's preconceived notions of what a boy or a girl is meant to be; it is so easy to see only what we expect to see. It's not that I think there are no innate differences between males and females--there probably are. But not nearly as much difference as is normally assumed. And regardless of whether there are innate differences or not, each child should be treated as an individual and not expected to fit some mold of who they should be.  That is the real trick to parenting (although probably not the easiest one to master!).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Love

It's Valentine's Day!

OK, to be honest, this is not really a day that fills me with excitement. I do like doing something special for my love once in a while, and this is as good an excuse as any. But I don't really go in for busy restaurants and overpriced roses. And Jon and I hardly get each other gifts at Christmas, so I certainly don't expect anything on February 14.

However, I do have a pretty amazing husband, and I thought I should take the opportunity to express that. I decided, rather than buy a Hallmark card, I would make a little something from Gus to his daddy. And...

It's surprisingly difficult to cut straight lines while holding an infant.

voila! An I love my daddy paper chain (patent pending). This was a super easy "craft" that, I hope, can grow with Gus. I didn't actually have any craft supplies in the house and was too lazy to go out and buy some, so this year, I just typed up 8 phrases that all start with "I love my Pa when / because".  Then I thought of things that Gus and Jon do together to finish the phrase.  Cut the strips out and tape them together, and you've got your craft!  I hope that I can save this, and next year we can add onto it.  As Gus grows, he will be able to have more input into the phrases and decorations (can't wait till the year of glitter!). I'll write the year on each strip, and we can look back at it as a little snapshot of what Gus was doing with Daddy over the years. Love, craft, decoration, and memories all rolled into one easy package--how can you go wrong?

Hope you have (had) a fantastic Valentine's Day, full of love and chocolate!

PS.  Jon loved it!  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reflections on Gus’s third month

I have been feeling a bit sad these past couple of days—I feel like Gus is just growing up too quickly!  And he is still just a baby. Imagine what I am going to be like as he passes even more milestones!

This has been a really good month. I think that we are really settling into a routine and figuring stuff out, more or less. We have had our hiccoughs, such as last week’s growth spurt that threw me for a bit of a loop. And I still worry way too much—is he sleeping too much; is he sleeping enough; Jon, do you think he has a temperature; ad nauseum. Do you think that ever goes away, or do the specific worries just change? 

He has grown out of almost all of his 0-3 month clothes.  It is funny, because I don’t realise how much he has grown, then I look back at photos from his first week, and I can’t believe how much he has changed!  My friend knitted Gus this great hat (thanks, Lilah!), and I put it to the side when he was first born, thinking it was impossibly big. I came across it yesterday, and he has almost outgrown it—doh!  We’ll have to squeeze a lot of wear into these next couple of weeks J

Gus continues to roll onto his side from his back (he really started that just as he turned 2 months old, I think), mainly to get a better angle to suck his hands. Which he is doing constantly at the moment. For a couple of weeks now, he has been chewing his hands all the time, gnawing on our fingers (he’s got a strong bite!) and drooling a lot. We tried to explain it away, but now we can’t really come up with any other explanation—we thinking he is teething. Or at least pre-teething. He generally doesn’t seem too bothered about it. Here’s hoping it continues that way!

One of his favourite things to do is stand. It is so funny, because he has loved to stand up, with us holding him up under the arms or holding onto his hands, since he was about two weeks old. Other moms are often really impressed, but I didn’t realise it was out of the ordinary! It means that he has developed really strong muscles in his neck, back and legs. Plus, he looks so cute while doing it! Apparently Jon never crawled as a baby and went right to walking. Now, I don’t expect Gus to start walking anytime soon, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he skips over crawling like his pa did, seeing how much he likes to be upright at the moment!

Just this week, he has developed / is in the process of developing, a new skill: he is starting to grab at things. This is very exciting! It started with my hands, where he would touch them and play with them and pull them to his mouth (I think I helped them get to his mouth, to be honest). Jon has been trying to get Gus to hit the rattles in his play gym, which he occasionally does, but we weren’t sure whether it was intentional or accidental. But in the past two days, he has definitely been grabbing toys and pulling them towards his mouth. He isn’t very proficient at it yet, and he doesn’t always even try to do it, but it is pretty neat to watch.

He also seems to be getting very independent, or at least as independent as a person who can’t move under their own steam or talk can be! He loves sucking his thumb. Which I feel I should be happy about, but sometimes it just breaks my heart a little bit, especially when he chooses to suck his thumb instead of nurse.  I believe that nursing should be for more than just nutrition, so I feed on demand, whether it is for hunger or comfort or to help him sleep. The first time he slept for 6 hours at night (which he has only done a couple of times), with his thumb going into his mouth as needed to help him stay / fall back to sleep, I felt so dejected:  he doesn’t need me anymore! And the other night, for the first time ever, he fell asleep on his own, lying next to Jon and I, but without any help (i.e. nursing, rocking, etc) from us, just sucking away on that thumb of his. Yay?

He is just so little. Obviously, he needs Jon and me for just about everything still, but sometimes it feels like he is already growing away from us. Granted, it is absolutely adorable when he lies in his baby gym, talking to the butterflies and birds that hang down from it. Part of me could just watch for hours, and part of me wants to run over there and scoop him up, hug him close and never let him go!

I feel like I am being melodramatic with all of this. He is only three months old. He is really not independent, and the little things that he is doing are good and necessary to help him grow into a mature and healthy person.  I can’t hold him back and keep him from growing up. But he is already passing through stages, growing out of things. I did not expect this to happen so soon and am just not ready for it. Luckily, in most ways he is still my little tiny baby. Maybe not a quite a newborn still, but my son, who needs me.  Maybe I need to work doubly hard to cherish all these amazing little moments!

Some posts from fellow bloggers that I really identify with at the moment:
On growing up, from Code Name: Mama
On thumb sucking, from It's all about the hat

Friday, February 4, 2011

Health Visiting Fail

I went and got Gussy weighed yesterday—he’s at a very healthy 14 lbs 4 oz, which is in the 80th centile!  He is now the biggest of all the babies from our antenatal group. My arms could definitely tell that he was growing quickly!

While we were at the clinic, I decided to ask the Health Visitor about some changes in behaviour that Gus had shown this week. For about five days, he had been eating all the time (i.e. even more than usual!), dirtying his diaper constantly, and not sleeping very well—napping for only about half an hour at a time and waking up more often in the night. I assumed it was just a growth spurt, but I though those usually only lasted a day or two, so I wanted her opinion on the situation, just to make sure that this was a normal variation rather than indicative of something to worry about .  Big mistake.

The HV just started going on and on about how he should be napping for 1.5 hours at a time in his own bed, he should be sleeping 8 hours without a feed at night (!), how I should just comfort him when he wakes up at night instead of feeding him, and how I shouldn’t be picking him up and/or feeding him every time he fusses because he’ll learn that he only needs to cry to get attention (as if that is a bad thing—he is learning that his parents will attend to his needs!) and I should instead pick him up when he is “good” (and we know how I feel about that terminology).

I was so annoyed. I tried to just smile and nod, hoping she would stop talking quickly so I could just leave. But I disagreed with almost everything she had to say! She didn’t seem to grasp that his naps and night sleep had been more regular and had changed.  Furthermore, I was happy with the way things were going, even with the extra wakings at night, as long as he was healthy. Maybe I hadn’t explained the situation properly, but once she started talking, I wasn’t interested in discussing it with her. (Except when she said Gus should be sleeping in his own room. I pointed out that the official recommendation is that babies should sleep in the room with parents until 6 months, to reduce risk of SIDS. She said, “Oh, I meant for naps.”)

Talking to Jon about this last night (probably better described as ranting to Jon about this), he pointed out that the advice that the HV gave isn’t unusual. Just because we have made a conscious decision to parent differently than that doesn’t mean that others don’t make a conscious decision to do the exact things she mentioned. It is true, sometimes I wish I could put Gus down napping in the afternoon and guarantee that he will stay asleep. But most of the time, I am more than happy to let him nap in my arms or in the Moby wrap. He is only going to be this little once, and I want to savour these moments. One thing the HV said was that if I lived in an African village where there were lots of people around to take care of me, then I could just sit around with baby all day, but we live in the real world. I just felt she was missing the point. I would much rather sit around with Gus than clean the house all day, and not just because I am lazy! She kept talking about how she was giving me goals to work toward. It is easy for someone like a health visitor to talk about goals, but I want to live in the moment. I don’t want my interactions with Gus to mainly be focussed on goals to achieve, unless that goal is to help to bring him up to be a loving, compassionate, secure person in this life and a saint in the next.

The thing that really bothered me about the HV’s advice was that I felt really undermined in what I was doing. I’m sure that wasn’t her intention and she wasn’t to know my beliefs.  But as I thought back on it over the course of the day, I just felt bad. I didn’t exactly doubt that we are making the decisions that are right for our family, but my confidence was shaken. And it makes me sad that a health visitor can make a mother feel this way. I am lucky that I have such a supportive husband to reassure me and that I know that the way we are parenting is a tried and true approach, even if different than the things the HV described. But it is so easy, as a new mother, to feel the guilt about what you are doing, and that should not come from the health visiting service, although several people I have talked to find that they do leave the HVs with guilt. Health Visiting has the potential to be, and in many cases is, such a valuable service. I have met a few HVs that can give you advice and reassurance about your child’s development and health while also giving you confidence in your ability as a parent. I just wish I had spoken to one of those yesterday!

In the end, I was reassured about Gus’s sleeping habits the old-fashioned way: by talking to other mums. Gus and I had some friends from the antenatal group over for coffee yesterday afternoon, and it turns out that all four of the babies have started waking up more in the night this week. (And one woman was told by her HV that babies only wake up in the night at this age when they are hungry—thanks for the contradicting advice, HV services!) Also, Gus slept much better yesterday and last night and is eating on a bit less frantic schedule, so it must have just been a long growth spurt.   I probably will go back to the HV clinic next time I have questions or concerns, but I’ll try my best not to take the advice quite so personally—and maybe avoid that particular Health Visitor!