Aiden’s four month update

Last Friday we hit the four-month mark with Aiden. He’s picking up weight well but is a small little fellow, clocking in at the lower end of the growth chart. Perhaps the Goodwin genes are stronger in this one; perhaps he’s just a late bloomer. Time will tell.

At 11 weeks old (14 December to be precise) he started smiling, and this time round I was the lucky recipient of his first grin. He’s gurgling delightfully and his level of interaction grows each day. He’s generally a very easy baby and, as non-first children must, has learnt to be fairly adaptable. He loves being in both the sling and wrap, neither of which I got right with Cam.

The only thing blighting our existence right now is Aidy’s reflux. Just when I think it’s getting better it seems to get worse again. He’s also struggling with wind and those pesky ones that I don’t manage to get out during the day, build up and come back to haunt us at 3am. It’s for this reason that I chose ‘ickle grunion’ (little someone who moans) as the Roald Dahl phrase for this month’s photo – the soundtrack to our wee hours is the poor mite complaining about wind-related discomfort.

We are nearly at the three-month mark in terms of his corrected age, and I mention this with a mixture of trepidation and hope. Hope, because at three months some things usually get easier – winding, longer stretches between feeds, more interaction to fill one’s heart. But trepidation too because at four months Cameron started cutting his first tooth and The Dark Days (which lasted for the next five months) began.

In some ways the last four months have flown by, in others I feel like my entire life has become a never ending loop of feeding, burping, rocking … Do it all again. But from our previous flip on this ride I know how many changes come about in the months ahead – solid food, more sleep, mobility! So at the risk of having to eat my words, I’m going to say that it feels like we are through the hardest bit. The very fact I have written this post after months of silence seems proof of that. We live in hope!

2015/02/img_4245.jpg

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

017b.jpg

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 …

PicMonkey Collage

They grow up so fast

Today I had to pack away all of Cameron’s newborn clothes.  It was an incredibly hard thing to do! It’s the end of the first phase we’ve had with him, and while I’m so grateful that he’s growing so well, there was a big part of my heart that cried a little over the fact that he’ll never be that small again.

While I was repacking his chest of drawers though, it occurred to me that God really does have a sense of humour. When I was in Grade 7 my parents bought me a Jack Russell. She was the runt of the litter and as a result remained a really small dog for her whole life. I used to joke that I had a puppy who never really grew up and her cuddly little frame was something that always delighted me. Fifteen years later my son is born a month early and I get an extra four weeks of the newborn phase, which while trying in some ways, thrilled that part of me that cherishes small things.

So while today’s milestone made me sad in a small way, I’m excited for the next phase with Cameron. And as further consolation, I have a whole host of new outfits to dress him in, including this cute little Dr Seuss baby grow I found at Woolworths a few weeks back! (Amazing that I decorate Cam’s nursery with a Dr Seuss theme and suddenly it’s everywhere in the shops too. Further evidence of that heavenly humour me thinks!)

A reality check

This evening I dropped off our recycling. I mention this because I’ve been trying to drop it off since last Saturday, so it’s indicative of the sort of week I’ve had. Firstly Cameron has been sick (nothing too serious, but still a new experience for both of us). Secondly my parents were here and rather over-ambitiously, I tried to use this time to get a whole lot of admin done. Thirdly, we’ve been having a heat wave. Combined, these three factors have resulted in one exhausted mamma!

Cameron’s health woes started last week when he had a slight sniffle. With no temperature or change in behaviour, I treated it at home with saline rinse, a humidifier (we have this cool froggie one) and a nasal aspirator. However last weekend he became so congested that we took him to the emergency room on Sunday morning to see a doctor (not the cheapest way to go about health care). He was diagnosed with an ear infection. At five weeks, my poor boy was given his first antibiotic and I experienced my first serious case of mothering guilt (why, oh why, did I not follow the advice of our paediatrician: always overreact).

Armed with antibiotics I saw no reason to change any of the plans I’d made for the week. If what I had to do took less than two hours, I left Cameron with my folks. If it took more than two hours, he came with me. My boy has an incredibly high tolerance for adventuring it seems, and only when I’ve really pushed him does he start to fuss. This leads me to believe that I can do more adventuring with him than is probably wise. By Tuesday afternoon I’d pushed him too far. On reflection I realised I’d taken him out every day since the previous Friday. A day at home with lots of mommy-cuddles was in order so that’s what we did on Wednesday.

And then Thursday dawned. It was to be the toughest day in my mothering journey so far. It was the last day of Cameron’s antibiotic, but his nose didn’t seem much better so I made an appointment with the paediatrician (always overreact). I rushed to the hospital for the 12:30 appointment only to receive an SMS in the parking lot saying that the doctor was running half an hour late. I settled in for a wait that ended up being closer to an hour. While Cam’s ears had cleared up, he’d developed a post-nasal drip and had viral bronchiolitis. On the plus side all his reflexes were absolutely perfect and he passed his six-week check up with flying colours (weight 3.9kgs if anyone is interested). I fed him before leaving as there is a breastfeeding room at the paediatrician. This turned out to be an excellent decision as there had been a fire at Eskom while I was with the doctor and as a result the whole of Pretoria East was without power. It took me nearly an hour to get home while outside the temperature soared to 34 degrees. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

Part of Cameron’s new medication routine included nebulising him every four hours. I had my six-month check-up at the pulmonologist that afternoon, to which I had to take Cameron as he was due for a feed while I was there. (I’m only going to start expressing a bottle for him when he gets to eight weeks for those who think I’m overcomplicating matters.) Worried about the traffic, my mom and I decided to leave early for the pulmonologist and stop to buy a nebuliser on the way. And then the drama began. I was carrying Cameron to the car in his carry cot and I missed the last step on the way out. This resulted in me putting the carry cot down with some serious force as I collapsed on all fours. Super-sized dose of the mothering guilt! Cameron got such a fright he burst into tears but mercifully was absolutely fine as he was well cushioned. I immediately picked him up to console him. My mom rushed downstairs and started consoling me – at which point I burst into tears! We re-evaluated our plans and I left Cameron with my mom while I rushed out for the nebuliser. I cried all the way there, popping rescue remedy pills at every robot. I hobbled into the pharmacy, and demanded a nebuliser from the first shop assistant unfortunate to cross my path. On the trip home I managed to calm myself somewhat. I picked up my mom and Cameron and off to the pulmonologist we went. On arrival at his rooms we were met with a full waiting room – never a good sign at 16:30. That visit ended up taking two hours, during which time the events of the last four hours caught up with me. By the time we left, the sun was setting and I was absolutely exhausted.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then and have titled this post ‘Reality check’ because that’s exactly what this week was in two ways. Firstly it was a reminder of just how little Cameron still is. Time has really warped for me in the last six weeks. On one hand it feels like Cameron has been here for months, which makes me a little complacent when planning outings. On the other hand I have to remember that he’s only two weeks past his due date which means I should be treating him more like a two-week old, and major adventuring is definitely not on the cards for two-week olds. In addition, he is still bonding with Col and I and leaving him with others (no matter how loving and wonderful those others are) is still a stressful experience for him.

The second reality check applied to how much I can realistically expect to do at the moment. Up until now I’ve been focusing solely on Cameron with one or two house-bound tasks on the side. However, trying to expand this focus while my parents were here has highlighted how much life has changed for me. I set incredibly high expectations for myself and once again I am having to reign those in – something I was challenged with during my pregnancy as well. With this comes the feeling of inadequacy as I see odd jobs around the house that need attention. I have to fight hard against these thoughts, remind myself of the season I am in and remember to be gentle with myself.

As I sit here, out of the corner of my eye I can see the canvases I was given by the wonderful EMD team when I resigned in June. On one of them is Isaiah 40:11, the last line of which I repeat to myself like some sort of mantra:

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.

Another of the canvases says, ‘Love never fails.’ In the last two days I’ve fallen in love with Cameron on a whole new level. I love how he smells, his little noises, his expressions, how peacefully he sleeps. I sit for ages just staring at him. And in those moments with my precious baby boy, that love just rises and swells, completely and utterly overwhelming every part of me. God always knows just what we need, and I know this new level of love I feel for Cam is a well-timed gift. As a result, when I reflect on this tough week, all I feel is gratitude that I get to be on this amazing journey of motherhood.

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!