Thursday, 17 October 2013

Top Five Moments

What are the moments of motherhood that fills you with joy? A stock response is something like: "Seeing them smile back at you erases all memories of a sleepless night/ the two hours of constant crying/ the nappies."

Olive's first smile was stunning (and it would have been even more of a memorable if she'd been smiling at me rather than the striped blind over my shoulder) but my daily moments of bliss are a little less predictable.

Here are my top five things:

1) Removing a bogy
Seeing your baby snuffling through her first cold is heart wrenching. The gasps for breath as they try to breath through a nose stuffed with snot is both distressing but also quite worrying as you frantically google "can a baby suffocate because of a blocked nose?" (Answer: no).

One way to remove mucous from your little one is to use your mouth to suck out the offending booger. I would do anything for love, but I think I've discovered the "that" that Meatloaf also drew a line at.

Instead I managed to use my little finger to pick out a massive green nose dweller the other day. It was only the reaction from the husband when I texted him him a photo of Olive's first merconian nappy that stopped me sending him a picture of my latest triumph. Which means, unfortunately, I don't have a picture to share with you guys.


2) Saving Clothes
I have discussed, at length, Olive's propensity for projectile poo. So I am not going to go into that again. However there is little more satisfying than scooping a clean vest or baby grow out of the way of a river of piss.

I have never put on as many washes as I have since Olive was born, and if there is one essential purchase for anyone about to have a baby - forget moses baskets or changing table - I'd vote tumble dryer every time.

So going back to my original point. There is nothing like the high of rescuing an item of clothing from what would otherwise have been destined for the laundry basket.

3) Sleeping in a Cot
Those of you who follow me on twitter (@womb4improve) will have seen the other day I was contemplating cutting off my own arm to enable me to get on with some day-to-day tasks (like putting another bloody wash on - see above) without waking the baby who was happily snoozing on my arm.

Olive, like many other babies, likes to sleep a lot. She sleeps in the pram when I take her out, or the sling as I potter around. What she is less good at during the day is sleeping in her moses basket by herself. Which somewhat hampers my ability to do anything other than care for the little mite.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but I still haven't unpacked all my boxes from moving house back in June.

So when she does managed to sleep and leave me unencumbered it is a high five moment all round. (Yes, I high five myself, something I can only do because I have two free hands.)

4) Being hungry
Olive seems to spend 90% of her waking hours feeding. This might be an exaggeration, my mind says it is, my chewed on nipples are claiming it is closer to 99%. However her levels of hunger changes during the day. The witching hours between 4 and 6 are hard, with her desultory nipple-gunning without getting a proper feed.

What I love though is when she is hungry and my boobs are full. She sets about her feed with a an satisfying amount of vigour. Then, when she has finished, will pull off the tit extending my nipple by about four times, she'll throw back her head, arching on my lap, eyes half closed in ecstasy, mouth gaping and smeared with milk. Pure contentment.

And I look down at this happy, milk-drunk baby and think "I did that."

5) Recognition
At Olive's eight week check the Doctor went through a number of little tests. Reflexes, hip movement. She even counted her toes which for a moment filled me with dread as I suddenly asked myself whether I had ever counted her toes, what if she only had nine toes and I'd not noticed? Then I remembered whilst I hadn't counted to ten I had certainly made sure that she had her full complement of piggies; 'market, home, roast beef, none and wee-wee-wee'.

One thing that made my heart sing was when the Doctor said "Good tracking of Mummy with her eyes."

She is 11 weeks. Of course she recognises me and watches out for me - I am, at the moment, her whole world, but it is nice when other people notice it too.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

In Which I Turn Fashion Blogger

There is more to this photo than a tastefully rendered in black and white image of me with my boob out.

In 1983 my family moved abroad. My Dad went on ahead to learn the language and get trained up  leaving my Mum to take my two sisters and me half-way round the world all by herself. Two seven-year-olds and a-nine-year-old.

The journey entailed a long haul flight, a night spent in Delhi airport and then another flight within the continent.

Much like the von Trapp family we were dressed in matching traveling outfits - in our case rather than pulling down the curtains we went for blue and white stripy dungarees.

All of us.

Including my Mum.

The rationale was that should one of us go astray she could point at another child and say that the child she was missing looks like that one. Being a twin I was quite use to being dressed like someone else, and it wasn't the first time my older sister had muscled in on the act - who can forget the velvet-dress debacle of Christmas '81? But my Mum joining in was novel indeed, and one that was never repeated.

I didn't think much about it at the time. It was only years later when I remembered the journey it struck me as a little odd. The four of us in matching jumpsuits. I mean who would do a thing like that?

Last month I went to a wedding. I hadn't been sure whether I would be able to make it prior to giving birth as, if Olive had arrived late, she could potentially only have been two or three weeks old. As it was she came early so was a robust eight-week-old.

The issue was I hadn't bought an outfit prior to giving birth and once I'd had the kid I didn't have the opportunity to buy myself a new frock. I rifled through my wardrobe to see what I could wear and drew a blank. Until my old mucker Caroline No (lifestyle blogger extraordinaire) gave Olive a pair of purple dungarees, telling me she bought them because I had a matching jump suit.

Well, suddenly there was no question about what I would wear to the wedding.

Olive and I in our matching jump suits (and her close up):

But that isn't all. Olive also wore a bespoke vest. On the front, a caveat in case she ruined the marriage service by screaming (not my idea, thank the womb-mate for this - it says I always cry at weddings):

And on the back to commemorate the happy couple:

They will be getting this once-worn vest if they have a kid, and judging by the attention Olive got from the both the mothers of the bride and the groom they will be under a lot of pressure to procreate, and fast.

They say that being a mother yourself gives you a new insight into how your own mother behaved.

I totally get the matching dungarees now.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Newborn with hole in the heart

I choose my post titles for a variety of reasons. They might be song titles, or something cryptic to pique your interest, or more often than not something bunged in as I am just about to hit publish when I realise I've not thought of one. This time however my title has been chosen quite deliberately for search engine optimisation. I've noticed that if you have key words in your headings they get ranked higher than it they appear in your post body. I am not aiming for world domination through this blog but this is a post that I wish I had read nine weeks ago, and if another parent in the same situation as me finds it then the title will have done its job.

Nine weeks ago I was in the process of being discharged from hospital. Olive had to be checked before she was allowed to come home. The final check was going well until the stethoscope-wielding Doctor notice a slight irregularity in her heartbeat.

We were whisked downstairs and Olive was given a echo-cardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart). He discovered a small hole in her heart. "They are quite common" he said "this is the third I've see this week ... although ..." he faltered a bit "this is the biggest one." It was a hole of 1.8mm between her lowever ventricals.

The doctor went on to explain that in the womb the heart has lots of holes that gradually close up as the baby develops but occassionally they aren't all fully closed at birth; some will spontatneously close after birth others remain open. If the hole remains open the prognosis is variable - for some people it never affects them, for others there can be complications related to blood flow round the lungs.

We told we'd have a follow up in a few weeks and in the meantime we could leave hospital but we just needed to keep an eye on her if she has difficulty breathing whilst feeding - particularly if she starts to go blue.

Which was a comfort.

I was distraught. To the point that I couldn't tell anyone about her diagnosis. Just thinking about it  made me feel cold and weepy. I didn't want there to be anything wrong with my beautiful, hard-won baby.

I also felt responsible.

Olive was unnaturally premature, she was induced because of my pre-eclampsia. I didn't blame myself for having high blood pressure but I did wonder whether I should have resisted being induced for a few more days rather than passively agreeing to it. Maybe one more week in the womb wouldn't have done me any harm but would have been enough to let her heart develop properly.

Since the diagnosis and our appointment with the specialist this week I've tried to put the problem to the back of my mind. It hasn't been hard. All my mother's intuition has told me Olive is doing well. After an initial falter, with jaundice and failing to gain weight, she has been piling on the ounces. She has been sleeping, gurgling, getting increasingly responsive and, most importantly, not turning blue or struggling to draw breath.

On Tuesday the specialist saw her. She still has a hole but it is tiny and, apparently, not affecting her adversely. The consultant told us that to all intents and purposes her heart is normal. She will have a follow up appointment to check how things are going. But not for two years, which indicates a distinct lack of urgency which is reassuring.

Obviously a hole in the heart can have a variety of implications, but if your newborn has just been diagnoised with one don't dispair. As we left the appointment on Wednesday the consultant was at pains to reassure us that Olive's heart is normal. I can take that.


In other news I've written about my first seven weeks as a mother here. And as a special bonus feature you get to see a picture of me with a tit out, all done in the best possible taste...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

We all know the myth of King Midas. The dude who had one wish; to be able to turn everything he touched into gold, it was only when he wanted to tuck into a nice sandwich and give his daughter a cuddle he saw the error of his ways.

Fairytales from across the world warn us against our wishes coming true.

When I was younger I fervently wanted a dog.

My Christmas wish-list would look like this:
A dog
A set of pens
A dog
A pair of pixie boots (well, it was the 80s)
A dog
Did I mention I wanted a dog?

When I was 13 my Grandpa gave me a puppy. The deal was he'd live with me during school holidays and my Grandad (who lived just two miles away) during the term time.

I absolutely adored that dog.

But, I wasn't a very good owner. I was rubbish at getting out of bed in the morning to take him for walks. I got bored trying to train him when he didn't pick up on my meaning straight away and I gave him a fucking ridiculous name (Buffle).

There is always a worry when you want something as much as a child that you are willing to spend years having medical treatment, spending your life savings on IVF and subjecting yourself to every speculum going that, when you finally achieve motherhood, you realise it isn't as wonderful as you imagined.

I'd worry, when pregnant, that I just might not be very good at it. That I might not enjoy it as much as my rose-tinted views of motherhood would have me believe.

Eight weeks in and I love every minute of it.

For anyone else wondering if all the treatment, injections and anguish is worth it. From this sample-size of one I can say it is.

Yes, there are moments in the early hours of the morning when she needs a feed that I have to drag myself into consciousness and wish that she'd lull herself back into sleep. But I find myself wanting to get up in the night more often than not. For a start if I haven't fed her for four hours not only do I find my boobs are aching, dying for a bit of milk release but also, I've missed her. She might be sleeping next to me in a moses basket but I've missed the physical contact and I am happy to scoop her up into a cuddle.

(And yes, I appreciate that I am lucky that she does, at 8 weeks, regularly sleep in four hour blocks. Which might be making the parenting easier than for some.)

And whilst motherhood is relentless - there is no clocking off at 5pm - it is also less pressured than many jobs I've done. It might take three days to answer a text message, but people understand this and I don't get hounded by emails chasing emails.

In short, I have absolutely no regrets in my wish. I am happier than I have been for years.

I also love the her name even more since I noticed Olive is an anagram of 'I love'.

(I'm glossing over the other anagram 'O, evil!' here.)

(I also have dog, and I'm a much better owner now. But he still has a fucking stupid name - Moon).