Sleeping solo

Last night Cameron slept in the nursery for the first time. (Up until now he’s been sleeping next to our bed in his pram.) We’ve been discussing when to make this move in a halfhearted way for the last week but hadn’t actually made a call. Yesterday I woke up in a ‘today is the day’ mood and just decided to give it a go.

I spent some time in the afternoon preparing. I set up the baby monitor. I built him a little nest at one end of the crib (he’s still so small that I’m using the width as the length). I unpacked the humidifier we bought and got that working (poor guy has been a bit congested the last few days). I was ready.

And now our first night is already behind us. In his typical stoical style, Cameron doesn’t seem to care where he rests his weary head. He slept wonderfully. His parents on the other hand … Firstly we spent half an hour missing him and discussing whether he was feeling rejected and unloved. Then I acted like a bit of a jack-in-the-box after each feed, taking 5 or 6 trips down our little passage to check on his well being. Col and I both had nightmares about imaginary death traps in the nursery – for example shelves falling off the wall or the roof caving in. And then there was the noise. The baby monitor not only picks up Cameron’s little squeaks but other noise too. So last night we heard all the trucks on the highway twice – once when they were going past Cam’s window and then again as they passed ours! Perhaps tonight I will be brave enough to turn down the sensitivity.

All in all though I think it’s safe to say that the move couldn’t have been smoother. Let’s just hope that tonight Col and I can be as relaxed as our son!

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All hail King Cameron

The other day I came across the following quote from a book called Baby proofing your marriage:

Meet the new boss – a tyrannical (albeit cute) despot whose demands are incessant and often indecipherable. Whatever freedom we once enjoyed is gone. If we try to make ourselves a sandwich … or sleep, that all-seeing, all-knowing tiny autocrat will yell his or her head off. And quite possibly take ours with it.

One month in, we can hardly remember what life was like as an independent state. Fortunately we are living under the rule of a fairly benevolent dictator. As long as his needs are met first, his minions are free to do whatever they’d like as long as it doesn’t take more than two hours and can be abandoned if necessary. He runs a tight ship and doesn’t deviate much from his three-hour feeding routine. He sleeps an awful lot which means that generally life is pretty peaceful.

His royal disposition is starting to shine through. If all is well in his kingdom, he is a peaceful and contented baby. He’s had a few unpleasant experiences in his short reign (immunisations, a visit to the chiropractor, parents who are a bit slow on the uptake) but aside from a few tears at the time, he really doesn’t indulge in lengthy screaming sessions for the heck of it. He is stoical – when required to drink various potions or take his royal bath he does so with minimal fuss. The only area in which he really likes to wield his power is during nappy changes when he seems to take great delight in making as much mess as possible.

He has been labelled with three nicknames so far:

  • Wriggle worm – the other day he wriggled clean out of his nappy, leaving rather a mess behind.
  • Handini – no matter how tightly we swaddle his hands, he always manages to free them.
  • The Goat Strangler of Tugela Park – the poor little tyke really struggles with tummy cramps and the noises he makes during these tough times really do sound like a goat in distress.

His wonderfully animated range of expressions and wide variety of cute noises are a constant source of delight to the members of his court. He is growing at a rapid rate and really starting to fill out so his presence is increasing day by day.

As for his lord father and lady mother – our priorities and perceptions have been drastically altered by this tiny person. After our initial acceptance of our new roles we’ve suddenly hit this phase when we can’t believe he’s ours and that we are in fact parents. The other day I had this moment when I thought, ‘I have a baby. I am a mom. Surely I’m not grown up enough for this.’ We are still swinging wildly between emotional extremes (not helped by the lack of sleep), but in general have adapted pretty well to life in Cam’s Kingdom. Our opinion is that it’s a pretty special place to be!

Due date

If things had gone to plan, Cameron would only have been making his appearance sometime around today. It’s quite strange for me to consider this alternative – another month of pregnancy, possibly a natural birth as opposed to the C-section I had, only now starting with the daunting task of caring for a newborn. These post-post-partum reflections have been simmering in my mind over the last weeks, but this auspicious date has brought them all to the fore and now they are demanding some serious attention.

An abrupt ending

I have had moments over the last month when I’ve missed being pregnant. There are two reasons for this: firstly I never got to the really uncomfortable stage so was still enjoying it; and secondly, my pregnancy ended so abruptly that at times I’ve felt a bit short changed. But in those moments I remind myself that there wasn’t much awaiting me in that last month except a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be a beached whale. That quite effectively shatters those rose-tinted glasses.

An unplanned route of arrival

Having my stitches taken out 10 days after Cameron was born acted as some sort of trigger and I started having these flashbacks to the C-section. My plan had been to have a natural birth, but I remained open to the idea of a caesarean if necessary. When crunch time came, it was really a very simple decision to go under the knife, but once it was all over I realised that during all my preparation I never actually thought it would become necessary for me to go that route. This left me in the very odd position of trying to mentally prepare myself for something that had already happened.

Then of course there was dealing with the actual op. At the time there was so much going on that I zoned out and just did what needed to be done. But it’s a stressful procedure and at some point that suppressed emotion had to be dealt with. I remember sitting in the theatre waiting for the spinal block with my legs shaking like the last leaves of autumn. Once that had been administered it was utterly bizarre not being able to feel more than half of my body and at times I had to fight down a sense of panic. While the op was actually taking place, I couldn’t feel specific things, but I could feel general tugging and pulling. I tried not to think about what they were doing, but when the bed bounced around beneath me it was hard not to imagine what was happening. And then that magical moment arrived when Cameron was born. But after that brief island of relief and joy, all attention switched to him and I was left feeling like a slab of redundant meat.

Dealing with all of these feelings after the event resulted in me reacting very negatively towards my scar for the first few days after the stitches were removed. Combined with my flabby tum, leaky breasts and general state of tiredness, I had never felt more unattractive in my entire life. (Reassuringly, my books all state that most women feel this way and that patience is the order of the day during recovery.)

I am sure that the natural birth process brings with it a myriad of other factors that play havoc with one’s state of mind post-delivery, so it’s hard to know which of these feelings I would have had to deal with anyway. I must also confess that when I look at the size of Cameron now (small as he still is), I am immensely relieved that he made his entrance when he did. Whichever way one does it – birthing a baby is no walk in the park. So in juxtaposition to my feelings on pregnancy, I am so grateful that the birth is behind me and this last month has left me feeling a lot more at peace with all that it entailed.

A head start

Last night Col and I had a braai while Cameron slept upstairs. When we look back on the last month it seems both incredibly short and unbelievably long. Caring for a newborn is a fairly routine and mundane process and provides ample opportunity for getting up to speed. (As an example, Cameron needs roughly eight nappy changes a day, which means we’ve already changed at least 176 nappies. One’s proficiency improves pretty quickly with that kind of repetition!) Having said that we are still experiencing new things every day, and the last month has had its own special brand of stress to deal with. As with the birth, we are glad that it’s behind us!

Having discussed all of this though, our overwhelming sense at the moment is one of gratitude. Arriving a month ahead of schedule seems to have done Cameron no harm. Despite its trauma, the caesarean went as well as it could have and we are actually a lot more positive about that route than we were before. I’ve recovered quickly from the op, the breastfeeding is going well and our boy is growing beautifully. Our family and friends have provided incredible support. We are privileged to have so many friends, that three weeks in there are still people waiting to meet our little man (and we’ve had visitors as often as we can manage). There is much to be thankful for. Yes there is indeed!

‘You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!’

Psalm 139:5-6 (NLT)

Safety first

A few weeks before Cameron was born I had a nightmare in which I was trying to change his nappy and he just wouldn’t stop pooping. Last week I realised that this wasn’t so much a nightmare as a prophetic dream! I further wish I could say it’s only happened once …

The first time I had the unfortunate experience of a badly timed nappy change was in the ICU on the Saturday night before we brought Cameron home. It was 2am. However, at that point I was so effervescent with enthusiasm that I laughed about it and sent Col a message saying ‘Remind me to tell you the nappy story when I see you later today.’ We both found it amusing that my nightmare had become a reality.

I laughed even harder when Cameron caught Col out last week. It was fortunately a civilised hour, but the little tyke made up for that with a double fronted attack – poop and pee! I heard a strangled cry from upstairs and on arriving on the scene saw Col frantically shielding his eyes from the fountain, while trying to desperately grasp a wet wipe to clean up the other stuff.

Last night Cameron got me again and the realisation is slowly sinking in that this will probably be a far more regular occurrence than one would like. The nurse who taught me how to change his nappy used the catch phrase, ‘Safety first’ while illustrating that the flap of the new nappy should be firmly held down whenever possible. ‘Safety first’ is now printed boldly on a post-it above the changing station and Col and I are daily improving our nappy changing speeds to minimise opportunity for mishaps.

Cayden and Keeno

The theme I had planned for Cameron’s nursery before the Dr Seuss baby shower changed everything was ‘Knights and (friendly) dragons.’ I had it all planned out, but it centred on these cute felt dragons I’d seen at the Irene Market in February and a dragon wall sticker I found on Amazon. When I tried to actually buy these items, the stall at Irene was no more and I discovered that Amazon wouldn’t ship that item to South Africa. I was disappointed, and in an effort to lift my spirits my Dad went on a dragon hunting mission. At Mr Price Home he found this awesome dinosaur which I decided would work as a dragon – albeit a wingless one.

At the baby shower a few days later, my dear friends Katy and Lee, who had been in on the dragon theme, presented me with the same dinosaur. Except that Katy took it one step further and sewed wings on it! When I changed my theme to Horton hears a who the matching dragons still earned a place in the nursery, purely on merit of the love and dedication that had gone into finding them. (Besides which it’s entirely possible that there are dragons/dinosaurs still living on Mount Nool.)

When Cameron was in ICU, there were twin girls named Cayden and Keeno in the beds next to him. They were born the day before Cameron, and were 35 weeks and 6 days to Cameron’s 35 weeks and 5 days. The nurses joked that Cameron would one day marry one of them (bets are on Cayden because ‘Cameron and Cayden’ has such a nice ring to it). One tends to strike up conversations with other moms in ICU, and on chatting to Karen, the girls’ mom,we discovered that we actually live in the same suburb. Friendships have started in stranger ways and perhaps Cameron and the girls will get to know each other after all. In the meantime, we’ve absorbed this part of Cameron’s story into the nursery by naming our twin dinosaurs after these special little girls!

Facebook is my friend

Col and I had a social media plan for Cameron’s birth. Knowing how quickly things snowball on Facebook, we’d decided not to post anything for a few hours after Cameron was born. We wanted a little bubble to enjoy him in without the incessant beeping of our phones. It was a good plan but with one giant flaw – we didn’t tell anyone about it.

The first crack showed itself a few hours before the caesarean even took place. Col’s dad took a photo of me with Isabel, Katy and Leigh Anne who’d been visiting when the doctor decided to stop supressing the labour. On Facebook it went with the caption, ‘It seems Speckle’s is not going to wait any longer. All our love to Lucy and Colin as we wait upon Speckle.’

The second crack occurred when I was still in theatre being stitched up. Col’s sister got in with the first photo of Cameron. Swiftly on her heels was Col’s brother in Switzerland declaring to his virtual world that he was an uncle. My brother and Marlies were next with a photo of themselves which they took while receiving the news over the phone. As our plan had been blown well and truly out of the water, immediate action was needed if Col and I wanted to be the ones to at least announce his name!

Since then I’ve really been maximising Facebook and this blog to keep my world updated on Cameron’s progress. While I know that there are many out there who will be unsubscribing to the flood of Cameron photos I’ve been posting, I also know that there are a handful who are hopefully still looking out for them.

But there’s another side to all of this, and that’s the response Col and I have received from all of you. In the midst of the stress of the last two weeks it was incredible to know that whenever we checked our phones there would be an encouraging message or comment from someone – we read and appreciated every one.

There has been so much to deal with, but a big one for me has been a sense of isolation. My world has shrunk down to Cameron’s feeding routine and that’s how it will stay for a while. So while Facebook may have some disadvantages, right now I’ve got a much greater appreciation for what a wonderful tool it can be. And in the wee hours of the morning, it most certainly is my friend!