A first we’d rather forget

A while ago we attended the 30th birthday of one of my dear friends. The party was at her house and we arrived early so that we could go through Cam’s routine with him and settle him for the night before the festivities began. This all went to plan, but then I discovered that the area in the garden where the party was being held was out of range for the baby monitor. However my phone came to the rescue – I have a baby monitor app that can be programmed to call a specific number if it registers a certain level of noise. So I set that up to phone Colin and off I went to have some fun.

We’ve used the app before and while it does work, there is a bit of a delay because the app has to close and put the call through which takes a few seconds. So it didn’t surprise me that much when someone came to call me around 10 because Cameron was crying. After I’d settled him I checked Colin’s phone and to our horror we saw that the call had come through 10 minutes earlier but we hadn’t heard it over the noise. We felt absolutely awful and spent the rest of the night checking on Cameron at regular intervals to appease our guilty hearts.

The next morning we gave Cam an extra dose of love and attention, but had accepted the incident as a horrible mistake and thought of a few preventative steps to avoid it happening again. We were even doing pretty well with getting over our guilt until Colin listened to his voice messages. Sure enough there was one with the heart-wrenching sounds of Cameron crying.

While we love our smartphones and know they will be an intrinsic part of Cameron’s life, we didn’t expect him to start using them quite so soon. Furthermore, of all the exciting firsts we’ve experienced so far, that voicemail is certainly not one we want to remember!

First taste of solids

On Sunday 10 February we gave Cameron his first taste of solids. On the menu was a teaspoon of sweet potato. He loved it and has been gobbling it up every morning since!

It’s an absolute delight to see Cam experiencing this new sensation, exploring the taste and texture and learning to anticipate what’s coming every morning. Today he even made a grab for the spoon!

CollageThe meal plan that I’m using is a very gradual one which only introduces a new food every seven days. I managed 24 weeks of exclusive breastfeeding and was glad that I didn’t start solids 10 days ago when I had one of my sleep-deprivation inspired meltdowns. Just giving it that little bit of extra time meant that I was much more ready for it, and I think it was better timing for Cam too as we were both excited about it. Over the next few weeks we’ll build up to three meals a day and hopefully that will result in better sleep at night too.

Is that your final answer?

My blog seems to be taking on a game show theme, because as well as playing Sleep Survivor this week I also embarked on a new-moms version of Who wants to be a millionaire.

Firstly, a bit of background … I mentioned in my last post that Cam’s sleep patterns have been a bit erratic. To be more precise, about a week ago he started waking up hourly between midnight and 06:00. This led to a vicious cycle because he was tired when he woke up, therefore cranky all day, meaning I struggled to get him down for his day naps too.

As any mom will tell you, when something is wrong with your baby, figuring out what’s wrong is a case of elimination and educated guessing. In fact, all the baby books come with helpful checklists to assist you in this quest. Is your baby hungry, sick, tired, bored? Does he have a dirty nappy? Is the light too bright, the sun too hot, the breeze too cold? The problem with this process is that the sleep-deprived mommy brain does not always make the most logical of deductions.

And now, having set the stage, dim the lights and let’s play Who wants to be a first-time mom.

Question one: for your sanity

Why is Cameron waking so frequently at night?

a)      Hunger

b)      Sickness

c)      Teething

50/50

As Cameron has no fever and was certainly feeding well, I felt I could safely eliminate ‘B: Sickness.’ And so my first guess was ‘A: Hunger’ as many babies need more sustenance than just breast milk from about five months on. However, in my dedication to exclusively breast feeding for the first six months I decided I could handle waking more frequently at night for the next few weeks. I changed my mind about this strategy at 03:00 on Wednesday morning. I had just woken for the fourth time since going to bed at 22:00 and I knew with absolute clarity that I could not keep this up for another four weeks. What’s more, I was feeding Cameron whenever he woke at night which was leaving my milk supply severely depleted. And so the next morning I announced that I was going to start supplementing Cameron’s last feed of the day with formula, and also start solids within 48 hours. And so that afternoon I took myself off to the shops to buy a tin of formula, as well as some weaning spoons and sweet potatoes (which constitute step one of the meal plan my clinic advocates).

This decision did not come easily though and I spent the entire day in a state of utter emotional turmoil. When I tell you exactly what I was feeling you will probably think I’m a complete lunatic, but such are the bizarre workings of this mother’s mind. I felt let down by my body but also guilty for not starting solids. I was heartbroken that the end of the exclusive breastfeeding period had come to such an abrupt end. I was annoyed that my six-month plan wasn’t working out. I was desperate for Cameron to take the formula, but anxious about whether he would. I spent the day either in tears, or fighting back tears, and for the first time I was just too tired to handle Cameron. By happy coincidence we were staying with my mom-in-law (we’d been chased away by our neighbour’s renovations) so she and my sister-in-law stepped in take over.

It was such a relief to have a plan, but that night Cameron refused to take the formula. After employing various techniques over a period of two hours we gave up and resolved to try again the next day.

Phone a friend

Thursday started peacefully but at 11:30 all hell broke loose. Cam started crying inconsolably and nothing would help. I eventually phoned Colin’s mom in tears and she rushed over to drive us to the doctor. On the way Cameron fell asleep, and after his five-minute power nap was all smiles when we arrived. The receptionist which whom I had pleaded for an emergency appointment for my inconsolable child gave me a wry smile when we walked in. (Another requirement for being a mom: be prepared to look the fool.)

The doctor diagnosed a post-nasal drip, with sore ears being a nasty side effect. Armed with decongestant and nose drops, Thursday night went relatively well. We elected not to try the formula again until Cam was better to avoid adding new variables to the mix.

‘B: Sickness’ was now back in the mix.

Ask the audience

Friday night was one of the longest of my life. At midnight Cam woke to feed and simply would not go back to sleep. I spent two hours trying every trick in the book before going to wake my mom for relief. (Again by happy coincidence my parents spent Friday night with us.) She took over and had Cam down within 15 minutes. I then spent the next three hours sleeping fitfully on the couch as Cam was now sleeping in his camp cot in the lounge. I got another three hours of sleep after his 05:00 feed, and so Saturday commenced.

We had a wedding that afternoon so the morning passed in a haze of preparation. On the way to the venue I was sitting in back with Cameron who was protesting most vocally to being in the car. While trying to console him, I noticed a white mark on his lower gum, which even a novice mom such as I could immediately recognise as a tooth on the verge of making a break for freedom.

‘C: Teething.’ Final answer!

On reflection, a number of people had suggested during the week that teething might be the problem. But for whatever reason I was sure it wasn’t that and so put the now obvious teething symptoms down to something else. It is remarkable how the same facts can look completely different in light of new information!

I’m glad that we’ve finally figured out what’s wrong, but it’s a small consolidation as Cameron is struggling so much with this process. My poor little baby is in such pain and it is absolutely heart-wrenching to witness. He is struggling to feed, which means he’s too hungry to sleep, so is staying awake for hours, which means he is completely exhausted. Last night he cried non-stop for two hours and we had a repeat performance this evening. We’ve added teething gel, ice cubes, teething rings and iced water to our arsenal but are having limited success. Our house looks like a warzone, we are emotionally and physically worn out and l I just keep thinking, ‘Still nineteen teeth to go.’

Yet somehow, in the midst of all this, I can’t help feeling a frisson of excitement over the fact that my baby has his first tooth. Such is the lunacy of motherhood, that even in the pain of the process, as I rest my weary head on my pillow, I can’t help smiling a little smile of pride.