The tiny people days

There’s a song on the radio at the moment called ‘The Days’ by Avicii. It’s one of those upbeat summer anthem types, yet I can’t listen to it without getting choked up. Because while the carefree lyrics are, I think, aimed at those in their halcyon university years, somehow they have come to carry a much more substantial meaning to me. While I have found various lines that are applicable to me for weird, personal reasons, it’s really the chorus that gets me:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
And days like these who couldn’t ask for more
Keep them coming
Cause we’re not done yet
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we won’t forget

On good days, these words feed into my joy. On bad days, they become a bit of a mantra, helping me regain a bit of perspective and reminding me of the value of the time I’m investing in my tiny people.

Colin and I often talk about the paradox of the toddler years. They are so fundamental to who we become, yet we don’t remember them. As children we don’t remember how cute we were, or all the games and outings we had. But as parents, once the trauma of sleep deprivation has passed, I think they become golden years. Already I know we are going to miss these days and look back on them with nostalgic fondness. And isn’t that the strange thing about time? Because right now, the average day is pretty hard!

The exhausting days
At two months old, Aiden is now such a part of our family that it’s hard to imagine a time without him. But wow, it is exhausting! Cameron is an absolute whirlwind, always on the go and perpetually bursting with energy. When that force (and believe me, it is a force) is combined with the energy depleting nature of breastfeeding and broken nights, it’s a deadly cocktail. And so the exhausting days have a number of spin offs including the ‘forgetful’ days, the ‘impatient’ days and the ‘what were we thinking having another kiddie so soon’ days.

One of my challenges at the moment is that my reserves have been depleted by a long and tough year. So I reach that tired, emotional breakdown point, where everything feels overwhelming, much more frequently that I did when Cam was a newborn. As Col is also suffering from burnout we are having to regularly call in the grandmother reinforcements. We are just so grateful to have both our moms near by and available.

The ‘just say no’ days
I am finding that if I keep my social and personal engagements to a bare minimum, and focus my energy on Cameron and Aiden, then life can be really pleasant. But the problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t leave any time for Colin or myself, and after a while I start to crave something other than finger painting, playing dinos, reading stories and rocking Aiden to sleep. But the moment I let my expectations include something not toddler or baby friendly, tension immediately arises because Cam wants to be involved or Aiden refuses to sleep and I quickly find myself frustrated and impatient.

So right now I am just trying to say no. It’s especially hard at this time of year when there is so much going on socially, and there are so many little traditions that I love but need to shelve (like making fudge – a truly risky undertaking when one is at the mercy of temperamental nap times).

The rapidly changing days
The equilibrium of peace and merriment in our house can change in an instant. We go from playing happily outside, with Aiden gurgling away under a tree, to Cameron hurting himself and throwing all his resources into fighting off my Savlon wielding hands. By the time Cam is sorted, Aiden in inevitably crying and my half drunk tea is stone cold. Next thing I know I am utterly drained and wondering bemusedly how twenty minutes ago I was feeling so energetic.

The thankful days
One of my coping strategies at the moment is my Happier app. I try to end off each day by sharing three things I am grateful for. Even on tough days there are usually far more than three. Because Cameron is just so delightful, coming up with the cutest statements and antics. Because our house and garden is a blessing and is full of unexpected wonders if you have the time to look for them. (For example, two days ago we saw a pair of hoopoes mating!) Because Aiden is growing before our very eyes and is starting to give us glimpses of his personality. So back to Avicii:

These are the days we’ve been waiting for
Neither of us knows what’s in store
You just roll your window down and place your bets
These are the days we won’t regret
These are the days we’ll never forget

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Finding a new normal

We’ve had a number of milestones to celebrate lately: Aiden has been home for three weeks, he is now a month old, and this past Tuesday would have been his due date. With these events behind me I feel like I can finally find a bit of objectivity to write an update.

The first week home was incredibly tough. Having two kiddies under one roof was much more of an adjustment than I anticipated. I spent most of it on the verge of panic, feeling as though someone had turned the speed on the treadmill up to max and that it was only a matter of time before I face-planted into the floor! Cameron and Aiden seemed to have such vastly different needs and I couldn’t fathom how I was going to find any sort of rhythm that somehow juggled both. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the brotherly love we’d anticipated just wasn’t there initially. Cameron wasn’t aggressive towards his brother, but any time I was with Aiden, he pumped up his attention seeking antics a few notches. This meant a high energy toddler throwing himself around the room, shouting ‘Look at me’ and resorting to physical violence (towards his mother) if that didn’t garner the required result. I had also forgotten just how exhausting the newborn phase is. Aiden has been struggling with bad cramps which hasn’t helped and I am averaging four hours of very broken sleep each night.

But somehow in the weeks since then we’ve all adjusted. Cameron is much more settled and starting to accept his brother. He very sweetly imitates Col by saying ‘Hello boy’, asks to hold Aiden occasionally and doesn’t get as stressed when his baby brother cries. He’s also protective of Aiden and gets upset if other people go near him ­­– evidenced by him shouting ‘No’ and pointing an accusing finger at the guilty party until he or she backs off!

I have been surprised by how I’ve adapted to the lack of sleep. While it takes me half an hour to wake up in the mornings (and I spend most of it wondering how on earth I’m going to get through the next hour, never mind the day), when I’m up and going I’m generally okay. My short-term memory is completely shot though and I’m doing a number of incredibly stupid things every day, but fortunately to no detrimental effects yet! I am also feeling much stronger physically which is a relief as I found the recovery from this c-section much harder and more painful than my previous one.

The passing of Aiden’s due date didn’t find me as contemplative as Cameron’s did, but I think that’s because I’ve had too much emotional baggage from Aiden’s last month in utero, birth and hospital stay to work through. I am just grateful that it has come and gone as we’ve now caught up to where we should have been and I know that soon the pressure of this phase will lift a bit.

Physically Aiden is doing really well, starting to put on weight and developing some lovely rolls. (This does lead me to think that while I’m disappointed I didn’t have the natural birth I was hoping for, when I look at the size of him now I’m just grateful I didn’t have to push him out of my lady parts!) Aside from the cramps, the only struggle in his life is second-child syndrome. Cameron is such a forceful personality and at such an attention seeking age, that poor Aiden is getting lost in the whirlwind a bit. But our tiny man has a big voice and is starting to use it with gusto.

Despite the chaos that is our life right now, I find myself in a contented and grateful space. I am really enjoying having a baby in the house, probably because I am so much more relaxed this time. In the absence of anxiety there is far more space for delight and appreciation. We have also decided that we won’t be having any more children and consequently I’m cherishing everything about Aiden so much more because I know I won’t experience this again.

And as for Colin … he’s burning the candle at both ends! Work is incredibly busy yet he’s putting in plenty of hours playing with Cameron and bonding with Aiden. The pace is taking its toll, and while I’m trying to ensure he gets good sleep, the man is exhausted. But December is not far away and in six weeks or so he can take a well-earned rest.

But now I must wrap up. Aiden is stirring and once I’ve fed him, it’s time for me to snatch what sleep I can! Until next time …

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An Aiden update

It’s been five long, long days since my last post. For the first three days of this week Aiden simply slept. All efforts to wake him up were fruitless. As a result we had no luck with breastfeeding. But there were lots of positives. Both of his drips were removed, as were all the sensors on his chest and tummy when he had his first bath on Wednesday. Which means all that’s left is the feeding tube and a sensor picking up his heart rate, but that one is moved from one foot to the other every three hours so is easily attached and removed. In addition, the volume of his feeds was steadily increased and by Thursday he was up to full feeds (50ml), even if they were all being given through the feeding tube.

Yesterday I arrived at 08:00 to find Aiden the most awake and alert that I’ve seen him. He breastfed well at 08:00 and lasted until 11:00 without needing a top up through the tube. This was a big breakthrough. He also fed at 20:00 so we managed two feeds in a day.

I managed to catch the paedatrician on his rounds and he also only had good news to deliver. He said that Aiden is doing wonderfully. As soon as he’s up to full feeds on the breast (eight a day) we can take him home. The doctor said this can happen in as little as two or three days but did warn me that little boys tend to take two steps forward and one step back, so to mentally prepare myself for a longer wait.

As for the rest of the family … Cameron has settled a bit more as the week goes on but had a major wobbly on Wednesday night as neither Col or I were there for bath and bedtime. He seems to be coming to terms with the reality of having a brother. We’ve been showing him photos and videos of Aiden and whenever I express milk at home he comes up and says, ‘Milkies, baby.’ He did the cutest thing yesterday – he found one of his teddies, said ‘Baby’ and then pretended to give it some milk. Next moment he popped the teddy down my T-shirt and said ‘Sleeping.’ Clearly all the photos of Col and I doing kangaroo care have made an impression!

As for the parents – we are running on fumes. I think this is largely because this stressful period has come on the back of a tiring month so we didn’t start out rested. We are finding balancing home and hospital utterly exhausting and to top it all, Col is incredibly busy at work (something we are very grateful for as it’s been a tough year for his practise). I don’t think either of us have ever been so tired in our lives.

We are handling our days on an hour-by-hour basis at the moment and eagerly await the day Aiden is discharged. The future holds plenty more interrupted sleep, but at least we’ll all be together and the logistical complications will be a thing of the past.

Cameron, classic

Of late, Cameron has developed the most endearing way of describing things. He puts the adjective after the verb so says things like, ‘Park, lovely’ or ‘Milkies, yummy.’ Today however he came up with a combo that is sure to haunt him to his 21st birthday.

This morning Colin took him to a zoo. Amoung the ‘ami-nals’ they have are a number of tortoises roaming the grounds. At one point they came across a pair who were mating. Cam took a look at the male’s face, turned to Col and said, ‘Tortoise, happy.’ Classic!

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NICU – remembering, adjusting, surviving

The fact that both my boys were born at 35 weeks is an rather odd coincidence for me. In some ways having had a baby in NICU has made it easier this time round. We’re far less anxious and are approaching the whole situation with more patience.

Aiden has been in for five nights now and we’ve been given no indication of when he’ll be discharged. What’s more, we haven’t asked for one. We learnt last time how quickly things can change; how the information one receives in the morning is irrelevant by the afternoon; how babies have breakthroughs and suddenly the whole process speeds up. We are also approaching each day without the expectation that it will be the same as the previous one. I remember Cameron feeding marvelously on day three of his stay, and expecting to have him home by the Friday. On the Thursday he slept all day, wouldn’t feed at all and was only discharged on the Sunday. Making plans for more than the current day is just a waste of energy so I simply don’t.

I also remember how every day in the NICU feels like two. You can have a great morning, with excellent breastfeeding sessions, which leaves you feeling hopeful and positive. But that very afternoon, your baby can’t be persuaded to latch, develops jaundice or just won’t be roused from sleep and you’re left feeling utterly discouraged. The range of emotions one experiences, the lack of sleep and constantly changing circumstances leaves one emotionally drained and confused about what happened when.

But of course it’s not the same this time round as it was with Cameron, because this time there’s a two-year old at home to consider. And so at the moment I find myself living in two parallel realities. There’s Aiden and our quest to establish breastfeeding. And then there’s Cameron, needing reassurance, patience and a lot of energy. Colin is bearing the brunt of caring for Cam, and trying especially hard to spend time with him on weekends as Cam is spending the majority of weekdays without either Col or I around.

Days in NICU are divided into three hour sessions, and that division has carried over to our home as well. Those sessions when I’m at home leave me feeling like I’ve tried to squish in a whole extra day. Trying to keep the house from disintegrating into total chaos, remembering to turn the oven on early enough to heat whichever freezer meal is on the menu tonight, spending time with Cam, getting that three-hourly reminder that it’s time to express again – at times it’s overwhelming. By comparison, the NICU, where all I have to do is cuddle with Aiden and attempt to feed every few hours, feels like a holiday!

Since I’ve been discharged, the two realities are coming closer together. There are moments when they are almost touching. Like yesterday when I changed Cam’s nappy and mentally compared it to changing Aiden’s. It was such a strange experience and I could almost feel my brain short circuiting! I can foresee a moment when the two realities merge, the effort of maintaining them both will catch up with me and I’ll just cry uncontrollably for a while! Until then, we’ll just keep swimming.

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The big brother

I think the time has come for a post about how Cameron is handling the arrival of Aiden. It’s been a tough month for Cam with his mom disappearing off to hospital every few weeks and not being her usual active self when at home. As I’ve been here since Sunday this is my longest stay and the way things have worked out, we’ve only managed one visit a day. But we’ve developed a few hospital routines that Cam enjoys – eating my jelly and custard for one! Since Tuesday there have also been exciting gifts to play with – an Avengers balloon my brother brought and a huge Mickey Mouse and teddy bear that have been put into service as wrestling partners! My bed moves up and down with a remote so we’ve had fun riding that. And of course Aiden, being the generous soul he is, has given Cam presents for the last three days.

Yesterday we had a really wonderful visit as I was feeling strong enough to walk to the coffee shop. Cam held my hand the whole way and gave me such wonderful cuddles while sitting on my lap and drinking my milkshake. Between the bed rest before Aiden was born and the pain I was in for the first two days after the op I’ve been handling Cam a bit cautiously lately. Yesterday was the first time in weeks that I could physically engage with him more normally and it did my heart and his a lot of good.

As for the reality of being a big brother, we aren’t sure how much Cameron understands. He hasn’t been able to meet Aiden as he’s not allowed into the NICU. We’ve shown him photos but we aren’t sure what sort of connections he’s made yet. With Aiden being in NICU, Colin and I are finding ourselves thinking of our sons in a compartmentalized way. It’s going to be special moment when we can finally see our boys together!

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Day three update

Just a quick post to update you on Aiden’s progress today. His blood tests showed that the infection has gone so the doctor has stopped the antibiotics. He has also started to digest the breastmilk and is up to 5ml every 3 hours now. This is a huge relief for us and for him – the isotech (nutrients given intravenously) is providing all he needs but not filling his tummy so the poor boy was hungry and unhappy this morning. At least now his tummy is being filled up, even if he isn’t able to taste the milk as its being given through a feeding tube. Odd to think he’s three days old and hasn’t tasted anything yet!

He has developed jaundice and his bilirubin level is 187 (should be below 160). So he’s been under the UV lights since 15:00 this afternoon and will remain so until tomorrow morning. The downside of this is that we can’t hold him so Col missed out on his afternoon cuddle. Fortunately I had lovely cuddles this morning and a two hour kangaroo mother care (KMC, skin to skin) stint from 09:00-11:00. Lots to be grateful for today!

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