Tired of being tired

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that something you thought was going to be temporary has become permanent? I had one at three in the morning a few weeks back when I realized that Cameron just has horrific sleep habits and that this is no longer a passing phase. It was a bit of a crushing realization, but at the same time I’ve actually known its the truth for a while and have just been merrily rowing down that river known as ‘Denial’.

One of the possible reasons for my four-month long river cruise is that initially I thought Cameron was going to be a good sleeper. I read the Sleep Sense book shortly after he was born and it seemed so simple. When he started sleeping for a 6-7 hour stretch at three months, just as the book recommended for his age, I thought, ‘Hey, no problem! This is easy.’ In fact, when I saw on Facebook that a friend was going to a sleep consultant I even had the arrogance to think, ‘Shame, I wonder where it wrong?’

And then February arrived and with it Cameron’s growing appetite. In my quest to push through with exclusive breastfeeding until he was six months old, I just started feeding him whenever he woke. Which was every two hours. That’s where it all went pear shaped for me and four months later the situation is the same. My nine-month old is waking more frequently now than he did as a newborn and its really no joke.

You expect a level of sleep deprivation as a new parent and consequently I sometimes get the feeling that people aren’t really taking me seriously when I complain about being tired. But this is ‘tired’ on a whole new level, and the consistency of it over a period of months has left me utterly ragged. So yes, I may sound like a stuck record with my perpetual statement of ‘I’m tired’ but really, those words just don’t convey the extent of my exhaustion. And I’m too tired to think of ones that do.

I recently read a post on one of my favourite blogs, Science of Mom, called ‘Sleep deprivation – the dark side of parenting‘ and that, combined with desperation, started me on the process of getting out of that river. So I’ve found a sleep consultant. It is costing a fair amount of hard cash but my sanity and the health of Cameron and I is priceless. Oh, and did I mention that it’s the same lady my Facebook friend used? Now that’s humble pie, but I’m happy to eat it.

P.S. Our session with the consultant is only next week Wednesday so you’ll have to watch this space for a while.

Handle with care

This afternoon I put Cameron down on the floor in the study and went to fetch some pillows with which to build a fort for him. Before I’d even left the room he’d fallen over and bumped his head on the only hazard available – the metal catch at the bottom of the door. Major tears ensued and my poor child now has a noticeable bump on his head. (Rookie mistake I know – always build the fort first.)

While this is the worst of the knocks he’s sustained so far, it is also the most recent in a worryingly regular series of them. Alas – it is not a lack of co-ordination that is to blame, but his doting parents. As Cam gets older and more interactive we are really enjoying playing with him. But occasionally we take it a bit far and laughter turns to tears. We’ve also stupidly allowed his interest in some things to warrant those items becoming playthings. Like the toy on a spring which resulted in said spring clamping onto his lip when he started chewing on it. Epic fail Mom and Dad! And then of course exhaustion is also a contributing factor. Not once, but twice, my tired fingers have dropped my phone onto the poor child’s head while he was nursing. My only consolation is that so far I’ve been alert enough to prevent him from falling off any beds.

I was at the clinic the other day and I saw a couple with a new-born. I had to laugh (inwardly – outwardly would have been rude) at the caution they were displaying while getting little one into her pram. As I played with Cam on my lap – bouncing him around and swooping him from side to side – I marvelled at how much more comfortable and confident Colin and I have become with our baby. And then Cam gave a mad wriggle which I barely saved from becoming a nose-dive into the floor and I thought that perhaps a little more caution wouldn’t go amiss…

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

As my current state of sleep deprivation reaches new heights, I feel as though I am getting more and more stupid by the day. My mind definitely isn’t as sharp as it used to be and in the last few weeks this has manifested itself in a worrying new way – I’ve started throwing stuff away unintentionally.

The first casualty was our veggie peeler which I tipped into the bin inadvertently. Then I had a nervous few days searching for a gift voucher my gran had given me for my birthday. I was just getting worried that I’d achieved an unhappy first of throwing something away with the gift wrapping when I unearthed it in my desk drawer to my profound relief.

This morning I was faced with another conundrum as I searched frantically for the wet wipes while changing Cameron’s nappy. They were nowhere to be found, a situation made even more annoying by the fact that I only opened the packet three days ago. I phoned Col to find out if he knew anything of their whereabouts but he only said he’d resorted to raiding the nappy bag as he hadn’t been able to find them either. It was a mystery. And that’s the other problem with sleep deprivation – mysteries abound as one’s short-term memory is utterly shot. However, after carrying out episode one of CSI: Cameron’s Nursery I think I’ve solved this one. Cam often amuses himself with some frantic kicking during nappy changes and this detective suspects that a well-aimed thrust sent the wet wipes hurtling into the bin, which the maid duly emptied before their absence was noted.

Aside from these frustrating episodes I have had one or two heart-stopping moments when I catch sight of the empty car seat while driving, only to remember that Cameron is with a babysitter. All things considered, this mom is having to check the bath water (and all other Cameron related locations) far more thoroughly than one would think necessary.

The preemie gap

Cameron is eight weeks today and getting cuter by the minute. He’s almost completely over his recent bout of bronchiolitis and is once again a predominately contented little chap. He is getting really chubby now, with little fat rolls everywhere (there is definitely a resemblance to a shar-pei developing). He has got the most beautiful blue eyes and is becoming increasingly alert. I am starting to see more and more of Col in him, especially in the way he stretches when he’s waking up. All in all, our boy is making wonderful progress.

However, having said all that, for the first time we are noticing the preemie gap. Until now there hasn’t seemed to be much different between Cameron and a full term baby. But while full-term babies have now reached that magic six week mark, Cameron is still very much in the two to six week phase. His smile reflex is very evident but we have yet to see our first social smile. He is still on a three-hour feeding schedule, occasionally pushing it to four hours at night. If he is awake for more than an hour he starts to get really cranky and he still gets over stimulated incredibly quickly. That initial gruelling ‘new born’ period is turning out to be slightly longer for us and we are starting to take a wee bit of strain.

The thing that is getting to me the most is the lack of sleep. At six weeks most babies start to skip one of the night feeds, giving moms a blissful six-hour stretch. I’m still on a two-hour sleep schedule and it’s starting to show. My short-term memory is completely shot. I am heavily dependent on my lists as I can’t remember what medication I gave Cam at his last feed, never mind what happened yesterday. I read a page of my book and can’t process what it was about. It’s a bit of a miracle actually that I’m managing to string these sentences together at all (please ignore the typos – I am sure there are many).

But the worst part about it, and the real irony, is that I’m not sleeping all that well when I do sleep. I am so aware of Cameron’s every little noise that often I leap out of bed ready for the next feed but he still sleeps for another hour while I doze fitfully in the nursery. I dream that I’m feeding him in our room and then wake with a jolt and frantically start searching for him in our bed. And invariably when I lie down for a nap during the day he stirs 20 minutes later, waking me with a rush of adrenaline which leaves me wide-eyed while he drifts back to dreamland. Suffice to say I am starting to understand why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture.

Taking the preemie gap into account, Cameron should start moving into his next developmental phase in about two weeks. It seems an eternity right now, but we’ll continue to take it one day at a time and try to take the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.’

Baptism of fire

Because Cameron was born only slightly premature, had no complications and was really just in ICU for monitoring, for us his time there can be compared to test driving a really cool car*. We got short periods of utter delight with none of the maintenance and upkeep.Yes we learnt how to change him, feed him and bath him, but there was always an experienced professional hovering over our shoulders and dispensing advice. And so it is perhaps not that surprising that we were a tad over confident when we brought him home.

By the end of Cameron’s first day at home, the poor boy was utterly overwhelmed. In less than 12 hours he’d had his first immunisations, first trip in a car, was exposed to a whole new environment and met seven new people who all had some cuddle time. On top of that his dad was a bit stressed about bringing him home and his mom was grumpy because she was feeling a bit sore. So it really is no surprise that he didn’t settle down after his 20:00 feed.

When he was in the ICU we discovered that he’s a really contented baby. If something is bothering him he cries, but as soon as the cause is sorted out he stops. This remains the same – it’s just that we are horribly slow on the uptake and can take hours figuring out what that cause is! And so began Cameron’s first long, long night at home.

The 20:00 feed was the last really good meal he had for the next 12 hours. Initially he was overstimulated, but we didn’t really know how to deal with that so alternated between picking him up and putting him in his cot. Not helpful. When he woke for the 23:00 feed we spilt surgical spirits on his baby grow, but knowing how quickly it dries, didn’t change his clothes. He kept fussing after he’d fed, and in desperation I spent two hours lying with him on my chest. It took me far longer than it should have to realise that if I was being bothered by the smell of surgical spirits, I could be damn sure it was driving him mad as initially a baby’s most sensitive sense is the sense of smell. And so at 03:30 we changed his clothes as well as his nappy. Still we had an unhappy boy on our hands. Some investigation (which lasted about 30 minutes) led us to conclude that he was cold. He’s sleeping next to our bed in his pram at the moment, and we discovered that there was a big gap right over his head. We added a nice warm blanket to the bottom of his bed, covered the gap and put a hat on him. Low and behold – he slept!

The next day we tried to be as peaceful as possible. We spent some good time on kangaroo care, just trying to reassure and calm him. He fed a bit fitfully, but slept much better. We were confident of a much better night’s sleep on night two.

And it started out just that way. He fed really well at 21:00, and was in a deep and contented sleep until 00:25. When he woke I changed and fed him. And then it all fell apart again. He wouldn’t settle. This time I knew he wasn’t cold, wasn’t hungry and didn’t have surgical spirits on his clothes! After an hour of trying to comfort him I woke up Col who read up on his symptoms and discovered that he was suffering from cramps due to built-up wind. Unsurprising since we hadn’t been winding him properly. We then spent three torturous hours trying to comfort our poor boy who was in such discomfort. Just when I was contemplating exactly how large the peace offering to our neighbour Linda should be, he finally found some relief and it was smooth sailing from there until 09:00.

What we should have done today was repeat yesterday’s strategy of calm and peaceful. But I’m afraid to report that lunacy took hold. In our commitment to mastering the art of burping a baby we’ve hardly given the boy a moment’s respite all day. One cry and Col was at the cot. The poor man was in a bit of a state after our early morning trauma and just wanted to ease his boy’s pain. But instead Cameron picked up on Dad’s stress and wasn’t the happiest chappie by 15:00 this afternoon. Col and I then had a frank discussion, tried to calm down to a panic and somehow managed to revert back to calm and peaceful. As a result, Cameron is sleeping peacefully in his bed as I type this.

Two days in (is it really only two days?) we are looking decidedly bleary eyed but have hopefully found some sort of fragile equilibrium. All I can say is that thank goodness God made babies so resilient – they need to be to cope with first time parents!

*I don’t mean to be flippant about having a baby in ICU. I know that generally it is a much more stressful and heart wrenching time than what we had to endure, so please take this for what it is – my experience only.

Parenting’s first casualty – logical thought

The cumulative effect of interrupted sleep is starting to take it’s toll and my brain is really not functioning that well anymore. This means that firstly I can no longer seem to trust myself with admin tasks of any kind. Yesterday I persistently wrote ’28 August’ while labelling all my bottles of breast milk. And while always a believer in lists I can absolutely no longer seem to function without them.

Secondly, I’m committing serious faux pas at every turn. Thank heavens for name badges because I can’t remember the nurses’ names, even though I’ve been getting to know them for days now. Then last night my friend Tash came to visit. I spent half an hour in mental anguish trying to work out if this was the first time I’d seen her since Cameron was born. She, in fact, came to visit me on Monday, but I bored her with all the same stories I tell first time visitors before that sluggish part of my brain finally got through with the message that she’d heard it all before. Darling that she is, she listened with just as much enthusiasm as a first time visitor and didn’t let on that she was probably wondering if I was going mad.

Frustrating as this is, it did lead to lots of laughs last night. I stayed up for the 11pm ‘feed’ (read ‘expressing of milk’). Afterwards Col asked me what time I’d set my alarm for, with the next ‘feed’ at 2am. ’22:45,’ I replied. He looked at me quizzically and said, ‘But babe, you’ve just done the 11 o’clock one.’ I was completely flummoxed and asked in disbelief, ‘Have I?’ When Col realised that I had been genuinely confused we packed out laughing (incidentally a rather painful experience with my stiff tummy muscles). While he’s also sleep deprived at least he is still capable of logical thought so my new strategy is to run every action by him before I do anything!

This absent mindedness is bound to get progressively worse so if your birthday is anytime in the next two months I will most likely forget it and beg forgiveness in advance. And if I make plans with you please remind me on the day or run the serious risk of being stood up!