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


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.


Day two update

Author’s note: this post breaks all the rules about the length that a good post should be but I so don’t care!

To start off with an update on both patients: Cameron could not be doing better. He’s really healthy and just completely adorable. We have no concerns about him at the moment other than the standard preemie baby ones (i.e learning to suck and keeping his under-developed immune system safe from infection). What a champion! I’m feeling strong, managing to move around easily and am not in too much pain all things considered.

We’ve had a number of breakthroughs today.
1. I could have a shower (first one since Sunday) and wash my hair. It was heaven!
2. I had an hour of kangaroo care with Cameron (that’s skin to skin care – google it if you want more info). It was so awesome to just to sit and bond with him.
3. I changed my first nappy! (I know I’ve opened myself up to them, but no snide comments please.) It was a really gooey, gross one but I didn’t care in the least. I had been struggling with the fact that I wasn’t learning how to care for him and was just so excited to be able to do something.
4. Cameron and I managed our first breast feed. He took a while to figure out what was expected of him, but got it in the end. The sucking reflex doesn’t fully develop until 37 weeks (he’s 36 today) so it’s hard work for him but we’ll keep practising.
5. Col changed his first nappy! There was no gooey grossness to be seen (snide comments are now welcome.)
6. Col got to hold his baby boy for the first time (this should really be number one but I’m listing them as they happened not in order of mind-blowing marvellousness.) It was the most precious moment to witness. Col’s been incredibly patient but it’s been a long wait for him.
7. Col got an hour of kangaroo care. So much bonding going on – its just brilliant.

We’re working on a day-to-day basis for the next week. I am being discharged tomorrow but Cameron can only go home when he’s established his feeds. The process for this is progressive and depends very much on how he responds so we have no idea how long it will take. If all goes well we’ll be able to take him home early next week. While this is hard, we’ve been separated from him since his birth and that makes it easier. The hospital only allows the mother to lodge (stay over) for the night before the baby is discharged so there is going to be a lot of driving backwards and forwards (and of course I cant drive myself because of the op; logistical challenges loom but we’ll make it work.) We are focusing firmly on positives and are going to try and use the time to recover some strength. For the next two or three days I won’t have to be at the hospital very much, and as much as I want to spend time with our boy, I figure I should try to get some sleep in preparation for when the feeding establishment process gets really hectic.

On Sunday when I was having my ‘I’m having a baby in 2 hours’ freak out, my friend Katy wisely said that God would give me grace to deal with each thing as it came. I’m really finding this to be true. I feel like I’m in some kind of calm bubble. Every now and then something will get through and I’ll have a stressed or tearful moment, but a few reminders of all the positives restores my perspective and sense of peace. This bubble may burst soon (the three day blues are expected tomorrow according to all the books) but I’m appreciating it while I can.

To sum up there are challenges to be dealt with but then our boy arrived a whole month early so there were bound to be. Col and I fall more in love with Cameron every time we see him, are marvelling at his teeny-tinyness and enjoying what interaction we have with him. We are so excited for the day when we can take home and you can come and meet him. In the meantime I’ll post more pics on Facebook.

PS Sorry about any typos. One my brain is turning to goo, and two I’m using my phone to type this which is a touch challenging.