Thank you pregnancy…

…for taking away a food I’ve been looking forward to eating for months. 

Sunday was Carl and my first anniversary. A whole year since our wedding…and what a year it’s been! To celebrate, my Mum, sister and future brother in law came round to look after Sam, allowing us to go out for our first meal as a couple since he was born. 

We chose Little Dudley House in Dorking. It’s a lovely restaurant; beautiful both inside and out, with great food. A long-standing favourite of ours, it was the obvious choice. 

 
A glass of champagne to celebrate and a three course meal, perfect. 

We spent 3 hours out of the house, chatting and laughing over our meal and remembering that as well as being parents, we are still a couple. It was a wonderful day. 

Until early evening. 

I started feeling a bit sick and by 8pm, since Sam had fallen asleep, I decided to go to bed. Carl kept Sam downstairs so I could get some rest, while I shivered in bed and hoped I could sleep it off. By the time Carl and Sam came up at midnight, I was feeling horrendous. Shivers had turned to hot sweats. Feeling sick but not able to be sick, I fed Sam but partway through the feed – typically – my body was ready. Hurriedly passing him to Carl, I ran for the bathroom. A few minutes later, I threw up the entire three course meal. The speed and quantity would almost have been comical if it hadn’t been so horrible. 

What I always forget about sickness is how weak it leaves you feeling. Last night I was still feeling incredibly delicate and not able to eat much, although trying to since I need the calories to feed Sam – never before have I wished so hard that he would take a bottle. 

There’s no way I could have handled a day of full on baby entertaining yesterday. However, fortunately for me, Sam may well have begun his 12 week growth spurt and slept for the majority of the day. For the first time, I was able to sleep when the baby does. 

The offending food? Goats cheese. I love a goats cheese salad from Viva, it’s one of my favourites. I can’t think of anything else I ate that would have had this effect. It may have been a one-off, but do I want to test it? No way. 

I forgot that pregnancy can alter your tastes and leave you with new allergies so, 11 weeks after giving birth, it seems I’m still feeling the after effects of it all. Oh the joys! 

Thank goodness for Carl helping with Sam in the middle of the night and on Monday both before and after work. 

Of course, since he slept all day yesterday, he woke every hour during the night. Fed badly, wriggled during feeds, thrashed around in his cot. All in all, a bad night. 

Go with the flow

We’ve had a difficult couple of nights. This week, we’ve started putting Sam into his cot at the start of the night but, surprisingly, this hasn’t bothered him. He seems quite content in his cot (provided we put him in it when he’s fast asleep…!!) and while he wakes up sooner than he does in our bed, he still sleeps up to 1.5 hours in it. Definitely a start…

What has caused disruption is my lack of ability to sleep well with him in the cot – that surely can’t be the right way round!? In our bed, I seemed to be able to sleep through his little noises and gurgles, only waking when he needed feeding. In the cot, every noise wakes me, just in case he has woken up and needs food. Sam is a noisy, fidgety sleeper (much like his parents!) so this is fairly frequent/constant. Night before last night, I was awake from 3-4.30am when I put him in his cot after a night feed, until he needed feeding again. Not quite what I’d intended! 

Last night. What can I say about last night. It felt like hell. Awake nearly all night feeding Sam until the early hours, then he was crying and seemed to be inconsolable. What was wrong? He was clean, fed, winded…what did we miss? Thinking he might be hungry, I fed him again…he ate…and then threw it all up, all over me. Not that then. 

After 1.5 hours of us alternating trying to settle him, I went to sleep – on the edge of a breakdown – and Carl figured it out. Sam was cold. He wrapped a blanket round him while walking round and he fell asleep straight away. He must have fed just for the comfort and maybe to be warmer in our bed, making himself feel better about being chilly. 

We’ve always kept him wrapped in a blanket, but this week we’ve become a bit remiss. Thinking it’s getting warmer, we haven’t been quite so vigilant and after a window being open for 2 days (although the room door was shut) while we had work done, he must have become pretty chilled. Poor little man. I felt awful when I realised that was the reason for him being so sad. 

Today, he started the morning off by crying again, with my thinking a nervous breakdown was just round the corner. Fortunately, he was just hungry. So, I cancelled my plans and we spent the whole morning in bed with him feeding and us both catching up on sleep. Much needed. 

We became best friends again when he smiled and gurgled through his nappy change; melted my heart. 

I’m pretty dead on my feet, but I count it as an accomplishment that we made it downstairs at all today, both freshly dressed and he has fed and napped as he usually does. 

I’ve noticed he struggles more at night when he doesn’t cluster feed in the evenings – he hasn’t done this for the last 2 nights…coincidence!? – so hopefully we’ll return to this tonight. 

While I look forward to him out growing cluster feeding, it helps him at night so I will embrace it for now! 

Sometimes plans need cancelling, sometimes a morning will be spent in bed. Sometimes you will feel like a terrible mother and like you can’t handle it anymore. You can. You just need someone to remind you of that, like Carl did for me today. Thank goodness for him. 

Here’s to a better night tonight. 

Cluster feeds

Disheartening, hard work, tiring, frustrating…just a few words to describe the dreaded (but almost inevitable) cluster feeds.

Samuel enjoys feeding all evening and, as of this week, for most of the morning too. It may not sound hard; all you’re doing is sitting while your baby feeds, right? Well, yes…but in reality it’s thirsty work that all but prevents you from getting anything done. In the short gap between feeds, Samuel fusses or cries, making even hopping in the shower an all but impossible task. 

In the mornings, I’ve started setting up Sky Go on the iPad to watch tv series. In the evenings, at least I have Carl for company! 

The advantage of these feeds is that Samuel ‘tends’ to sleep fairly well at night and in the afternoon. So at least there’s some silver lining! Just need to make sure I have snacks and drinks nearby at all times… 

The fourth trimester

This is something I’d only vaguely heard of before giving birth but, having read up on it a bit, it makes perfect sense to me. 

In a nutshell, it is helping your baby adapt to the new world they’ve suddenly arrived in. Everything is different; what was dark is light, quiet is loud, warm is cold, food has to be worked for, they’re suddenly alone in a cot rather than constantly moving with Mum, nights are silent not accompanied by the comforting sound of Mum’s heartbeat…and the list goes on. 

Yesterday, I came across a blog post on a Facebook page I follow which really summed it all up. Written from the baby’s perspective, it struck a chord with me and (along with my other reading on the 4th tri), helps understand the huge transition Samuel is going through. I would thoroughly recommend having a read, it’s very touching and I’m sure any parent will identify with some or all of the article. 

Letter from baby to mum

Hormones 

To say your hormones go crazy after giving birth is an understatement! My first real experience of this was the ‘day 3 hormones‘. This is the day that most women’s milk starts to kick in and consequently your hormones go wild. From feeling fairly rational and like I was handling motherhood, I suddenly spent the best part of 24 hours crying and feeling (and looking) like I was in a mental institution. Being in hospital in a bed surrounded by curtains didn’t help this feeling as I sat huddled on the bed, tears rolling down my face…for no apparent reason. 

Fortunately, the midwives and nurses are well used to this and, when seeing me, calmly stated that these hormones hit nearly everyone at some point between day 3 and 5 and it was totally normal. It didn’t make it any easier for me or for Carl, who went to get lunch one day and returned to find me silently crying into my lunch, but it made it ok to cry. You’re specifically told not to try and keep it in…which is helpful because I really did need to cry it out, even though I didn’t really know what I was crying about, other than feeling overwhelmed.  

Then we get to yesterday. After a long night of 2 hourly feeds, I was exhausted and ended up having another cry about feeling overwhelmed. This is normal

In the evening, I looked at my Facebook profile picture of Samuel at 12 or so hours old and then gazed down at his sleeping face, content after a feed. It hit me that he has already changed and will never look like that 12 hour old newborn again (now he’s the grand old age of 13 days…) and this realisation made me well up and cry for the tiny baby I already miss! This is a bit mental

I’ve realised that although hospital time was hard, I did like the closeness Samuel and I had; he would sleep on me skin to skin every night and we would bond, while Carl could bond by helping with feeds and naps during the day. Since switching to breastfeeding and coming home, I feel more like a milk machine and that Carl gets the lovely nap time cuddles…but I realise that this is just my tiredness and hormones speaking. Although, after a night of almost no sleep last night since he decided to feed almost constantly, I struggled to feel rational about being a dairy cow this morning. Fortunately, we’ve had some lovely cuddles today which will hopefully keep me smiling during whatever tonight has to offer…

It will get easier, but this is a huge period of adjustment for all 3 of us. In the meantime, I need to remember that the best remedy to my occasional tears is really simple – a shower followed by a big hug from Carl. It’s amazing how much better it makes you feel. 

Sleep when the baby sleeps…

This is all very well and good, except when your baby chooses the moment you’re doing something like eating lunch to fall asleep. Then, because you’re used to him only sleeping for a little while before demanding more food, you stay awake anticipating the next marathon cluster feed session. And that’s the time he decides to sleep for 4 hours….

When he wakes, you aren’t sure whether you’re in for a quick feed or a 2-3 hour feeding session, so it’s hard to decide where to be; on the sofa, or in bed just in case he decides to go to sleep afterwards. (FYI, it’s the latter – currently 1.5 hours into a cluster feeding session). 

However, this is the choice we made when – after speaking to my aunt 2 days ago (a former breastfeeding councillor) – we dropped the formula and stopped the ‘top ups’ after feeds. Almost instantly, our fairly neat 3 hour-ish feeding pattern disappeared and cluster feeding with totally random occasional 3-4 hour naps took its place – but we are feeding on demand; this is what Samuel evidently needs, so who am I to argue? 

Admittedly, this post would be unlikely to be so matter of fact if written at 3am, after hours of solid feeding… That would be more along the lines of “Is formula feeding really so detrimental? Why doesn’t my baby ever sleep? Am I asleep right now? When did I last sleep? Why don’t men have breasts? They really should….” and so on. 

But we persevere. At least we’re off the formula and feeding in a more natural way now. I ask again…who needs sleep anyway? 

I miss my spreadsheets and neatly organised diary…routine has officially gone out of the window. 

Oh what a night

Samuel spoiled us for the first few nights; he would sleep from midnight to 3 and then again until 7…giving us a very false sense of security. Last night he decided enough with the lies. 

We headed up at around 11 as usual and put our sleeping angel in bed. He immediately woke up. He was fed, changed, winded, fed, sick on Carl, winded, changed, fed, winded, fed…until 3am when he finally settled. At least he wasn’t constantly screaming – this only happened during each nappy change, when the world came to an end and he let loose with the heartbreaking screams that make my mummy hormones go into overdrive. He also decided to latch incorrectly at every feeding attempt, leaving me in pain and all but crying with frustration after yesterday’s success. Thank god for pre expressed milk and formula…and for Carl, who told me to go to sleep while he continually walked round and winded our little gas man for nearly 4 hours. 

When I awoke at 6ish, it was to see the perfect example of a sleeping cherub in the cot next to me. Then he wanted changing, feeding, winding, feeding, winding…and at least 3 naps during this time, waking each time he was returned to his cot. He slept on me for an hour before returning to his extensive ‘to do’ list. 

I risked breastfeeding again and, thankfully for my sanity, he went on ok. Unfortunately, this was the moment my body decided to give me my first nose bleed in 20 years…all over our now sleepy, happily feeding newborn. Spurred into action, Carl grabbed some tissues, held them to my nose and covered Sam with a towel to stop him becoming a human tissue, while I attempted to reattach Sam to the breast using one hand (obviously he chose that moment to unlatch!). 

He is now fast asleep and has been for hours. What an angel. Who needs sleep anyway? 

Crib vs cot bed…which to choose?

The crib hunt was less full on than the travel system dilemma and, fortunately, we knew roughly what we were after and there aren’t that many options available! There was a lot of reading, but it was a far simpler question to answer. All it meant was researching and comparing 2 cribs carefully, once we had decided on crib vs cot bed…

A cot bed would be suitable right up until a full size bed is required, while a crib will only last a few months. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a cot bed is a better option – it might be, for you, but we didn’t have the space in our bedroom, which was a decision maker.

So, it depends on what sort of cot/crib you are looking for, but we decided that we would like a ‘co-sleeper’ one where the baby is at roughly the same height as our bed, is still in its own bed but allows for easy night feeds (of whatever form), checking during the night or simply for cuddles.

All set up

Snuzpod set up & ready

After a lot of reading, we have gone for the Snuzpod. It’s not the cheapest on the market at £200 (current offer, which includes mattress – we bought ours for £180 with an NCT code, so have a look for one), but the reviews all look excellent and for those who are considering a moses basket or similar, the top detaches for use as a bassinet during the day or when visiting family/friends. It also has a handy shelf underneath (which our cats will probably end up using as a bed).

The mesh side can be rolled down or zipped up to allow for almost co-sleeping (the crib can be attached to your bed for safety) and means it can also be used safely as a separate crib. Bedding-wise, the Mothercare fitted crib size sheets fit and we bought a mattress protector at the same time as the crib.

Below are links to a forum where 3 of the available co-sleeper cribs are compared (including the Chicco Next to Me, our original choice) and also The Little Green Sheep website . They’re all fairly new to the market. The Snuzpod is now out of stock until the end of March and when we ordered at the start of January it was out of stock until end of the month; it’s nothing if not popular!

Co-sleeper crib comparison

Buy the Snuzpod from Little Green Sheep

snuzpod

A good night’s sleep….all but a distant memory

No one tells you that when you get to the final weeks, you will physically feel that baby has no room. At times, my belly feels so tight that I can’t believe there are still a couple of weeks (or so) to go. I’ve had multiple dreams about hands and feet bursting out of my bump, or a particularly stressful one where I could hear Bud crying because there was no space but I couldn’t do anything to help. That dream was the most traumatising I’ve had.

Bud has a habit of stretching his/her long legs out – they are generally crossed over – which means the feet stick out of my side. Believe me, this really hurts, especially if they get caught under your rib cage! Fortunately, I can usually give the feet a little tickle and they’ll move back in quickly enough.

At night however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a comfortable way to sleep. I don’t know what was going on last night, but Bud seemed to be simultaneously stretching legs and feet one way, bottom pushing back the other way and head pushed down…with a furious bout of hiccups. A particularly uncomfortable moment!

After hours of lying awake, I gave up and retired downstairs to the sofa so my continual tossing and turning wouldn’t wake Carl up. Realising I didn’t know where our blanket is (I keep one downstairs for chilly winter nights), I huddled in my massive dressing gown and kept Percy company; he was more than happy with the unexpected hugs! Not the best night I’ve had. Fortunately, once Carl got up for work, I was able to return, rearrange my stack of pillows to be semi-comfortable and get snuggled in.

I am so lucky to have such a supportive husband; his offer of breakfast (after telling me off for not sending him downstairs) was amazing, so I had some toast with a hot Manuka honey drink, before all but passing out until 11.

For those bad nights, a supportive partner or friend is vital. Make sure you talk to someone rather than getting frustrated or angry. My advice is that if you can’t sleep, get up or move somewhere else. Lying in bed awake all night will just drive you insane.

The princess and the pea

Otherwise known as ‘The pregnant woman can’t sleep’.

“Sleep is for the weak”

“I’ll sleep when I die”

…said no parent or parent to be, ever. These now unimaginable phrases are uttered by those who willingly deprive themselves of sleep due to social activities and a life bursting at the seams.

I used to have ‘enforced insomnia’ as I called it, otherwise known as the teens and early 20s; you just don’t seem to need sleep at that age! Remember the times you would stay awake all night with friends, then easily do a day’s work? No, nor do I, they are but a distant memory. The habit took a while to disappear though, especially after a world tour when I was 23. However, since meeting Carl, I’ve always slept soundly, maybe in the knowledge that I’m happy and safe. Plus, I LOVE sleep.

When pregnant, you can’t sleep on your front and changing your lifelong sleeping position is ridiculously hard. So I purchased a second hand pregnancy pillow, basically a long sausage pillow that you’re meant to lie up against or something. I didn’t get it. I just couldn’t work it out. The one night I managed to get it all supportive around me, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to get out again, took up most of the bed and had a claustrophobic panic trying to escape.

I gave up, we weren’t meant to be together.

This disaster aside, once my bump had grown a bit (around the 18 week mark) it ensured I didn’t sleep on my front and my troubles ended. I had weeks of blissful sleep, feeling lucky that Bud didn’t kick in the night, leaving me to get a solid 8 hours at times (and woke up feeling rather smug about all the rest I was getting).

Then I entered the third trimester and with that came breathlessness. This doesn’t affect all pregnant women, but it means that when I lie down, it can become harder to breathe. So after weeks of adjusting to a new sleeping style, I now had to raise myself up and start again. A few nights of experimenting and I had it:

My huge pile of pillows

My pillow ramp

Now I am not only unable to sleep in my preferred position, at my preferred height, I am basically sitting up, and changing sides is…well, it’s not pretty. I even stop for a rest halfway. Poor Carl can only watch – or help with a shove if I’m rolling away from him – as I lurch around like a beached whale.

I think the honeymoon phase is well and truly over.

Now, who said pregnancy wasn’t beautiful?