Quote of the day...

"... on that occasion she had felt great satisfaction deep down for the fact that [her son] gave her life a meaning far beyond any satisfaction she could derive from doctoral dissertations or archaeological digs. If there is a meaning in life it must be centred upon a person, she thought, nothing else. It had to be a person." (Henning Mankell: Kennedy's Brain)

Monday, August 1, 2011

First plane trip

When Charlotte was just 7 weeks old, she had her first plane trip. B's cousin was getting married in Cairns and we made the trip up there to see him get married (it was my first time in Cairns). B, myself and B's dad travelled with Charlotte on the plane and I was really impressed with how easily she made the trip. She sucked her dummy through take-off and landing and showed no sign at all that she was in any way upset or bothered by the flight or what the altitude might being doing to her ears.

Here we are on the plane getting ready to take off...
The wedding was lovely and it gave us a chance to introduce Charlotte to a lot of B's mother's family. His aunts were there and were happy to fawn over Charlotte which was great to see. Unfortunately we don't have a picture of her all dressed up for the wedding, but she made it into the formal wedding photos so soon we'll have a memory of that day when J and S gives us a copy of the photo.

The Cairns trip meant that Charlotte had to sleep in a porta-cot for the first time (provided by the hotel). It was so cute to see her sleep in a 'big bed' (relatively speaking). It made us realise that we probably could take her out of the bassinet at home (thus returning the rental!) and we could start using our own porta-cot in our room. She didn't wake herself up nearly as much because she didn't have anything to bang her arms into like she did in the bassinet!

So from this point onwards, Charlotte started sleeping in the porta-cot. Eventually, when the weather gets nicer, we'll move her into her regular cot in her own room. I'm looking forward to that because the big cot has a proper inner-spring mattress which has to be better than porta-cot mattresses. We have a second foam mattress in the porta-cot but I think it's far too soft for her and when I pick her up each morning I see the indentation where her head has been resting through the night. I think a firmer mattress might actually allow her to sleep more comfortably. But the nursery gets far too cold overnight at the moment for her to be in there at this age, so we'll wait until spring to move her into there. It's the coolest room in summer which will be good, and then next year we'll invest in a good heater for her to use over winter.

We have two more plane trips coming up, a trip to Adelaide in November and then hopefully if I get my paper accepted, a trip to Chicago next July. That's going to be the big one that I'm not really looking forward to but if this trip to Cairns is anything to go on, she should take it all in her stride.

Two months old and still growing!

By the time Charlotte was two months old, she was pretty much completely in 000 clothes - the speed at which she was out-growing her clothes (and still does) completely amazed me. Babies grow fast!! I wish I really did listen to friends and paid more attention to what I read in books when I was told not to buy too much stuff early on because you'll just never use/wear it. How true that is! I have some really gorgeous outfits in Charlotte's closet that she has never, ever worn because she grew so quickly and simply could not wear that many clothes.

It's hard to know what to do with the old clothes. If I were younger or more 'committed' (?) to being a parent, I would probably say to myself "I'll put them aside for the next baby". But in this case, there isn't going to be another baby. But I can't bring myself to get rid of them because I feel they haven't been appreciated enough or looked at enough :-( I could sell them on ebay, but I probably wouldn't get enough for them to really justify the effort (or to reflect what I feel their true value is, in a more emotional way). So for now, the outgrown clothes have been vacuum packed into bags and stored in the wardrobe. Who knows, maybe Charlotte will play dress-up with her dolls one day?

At two months, Charlotte's smiles were becoming more frequent, but still rather random in nature. They weren't always related to something we'd said or done, but it was nice to get the recognition all the same ;-)

One thing I really noticed was how easily soothed Charlotte was by B's voice. Whether it was his tone or the fact that she didn't hear it as often as mine and therefore was more of a novelty, she would almost instantly behave better when she heard him speak. Of course, this meant that the 'devil child' I complained about to B as soon as he got home from work had all but disappeared for him when he started the 6pm feed. Who'd have thought my life would turn into that stereotype - being the harried, stuck-at-home Mum with a crying baby who complains about said baby to hubbie, only to have the bub start to behave perfectly as soon as hubbie walks through the door. That's a picture I really don't find amusing!

We were still having some feeding troubles at this point and at one point I wondered if she was mildly lactose intolerant. But I realised that if she were lactose intolerant, then she'd probably not be quite as settled as she was after her feed and would be quite distressed after each feed. She did show some occasional signs of distress, but certainly not after each feed. So once again, I had to just keep believing it would all get better in time and I should stop worrying and just enjoy my baby!

I had a visit with my friend J around this time who helped me do a feed. It was interesting to hear her say how 'tense' Charlotte felt after the feed, like she wasn't as settled and relaxed as I thought she was. After J pointed this out to me, I realised I had noticed this as well and wondered what I could do about it. Partly I think it was Charlotte 'feeding' off me and my stress with her regurgitation, but I think she might also not be taking her formula as well as I once thought she was. You really could feel her whole body was quite tense after her feed, as she tried to burp and process her food. So I made the decision to move from the cheaper Heinz formula to the more expensive Nan formula and see if this made a difference. In fact, I think it did. After that point, Charlotte regurgitated her food a little less and she seemed to lose some of the rigidity and tension I felt in her body after a feed. Whether it was just me becoming more relaxed or her actually taking the formula better, for what ever reason, I felt we were starting to get somewhere with her feeding problems.

Charlotte being comforted by J after her feed

Six weeks old

I have made things difficult for myself by going back and reliving things with these posts. If I was really smart, I would have been blogging as I went, but unfortunately the transition to becoming a new mum was far too over-whelming for me!

My memory of Charlotte at six weeks was of a baby who was very much starting to respond to her environment. While she didn't yet have the hand-eye coordination or strength to deliberately grab at things, she was certainly making a good attempt. Her play mat (below) become more fun for her as she was able to see the toys better. She also started to see the toys in her stroller better and made half-hearted attempts to grab at them (well, they looked half-hearted but I know that's not actually the case - she just didn't have the capacity to be full-hearted about it!)

She was definitely starting to smile at us, although her smiles weren't frequent or regular. Still, when they did occur, we knew they weren't just wind for a change!

I also remember this period being the time when I first noticed Charlotte starting to get more head control. I couldn't yet pick her up and have her hold her head high, but she needed less support from us while feeding and was able to look around for a few seconds before getting all wobbly. Sometimes, though, the power of the milk was just too strong and her head would need lots of support!... LOL

Unfortunately, Charlotte was still chucking up her food quite a lot at 6 weeks. We were assured that she would eventually grow strong enough muscles (internally) to stop this from happening, but I shed quite a few tears as I watched Charlotte bring up close to half of what she drank at each meal. There was no predicting when it would come up or on what, which made it even harder to cope with. But we were thankful that she was what the books referred to as "a happy chucker", meaning she didn't seem to experience any discomfort or pain. So she didn't have reflux, just "an immature sphincter". It was a nuisance and meant we went through lots of bibs, but other than that, she was feeding well. She was still putting on weight (lots of weight!) and certainly didn't appear to suffer as a result of the regurgitation, so we knew it was just a matter of time.

(As I write this now, some 8 weeks later, Charlotte has all but stopped regurgitating her food. And despite how upset I was about it at the time, I don't actually think I noticed when she stopped! It's funny how these things work...)

It was still over-whelming being a new parent with a 6 week-old baby, but things were slowly getting better and we were slowly starting to develop a routine. One thing I'll always be thankful for was that Charlotte was a good sleeper. While she didn't sleep through the whole night or anything like that, she went to bed at night without much fuss and slept a predictably solid 5-6 hours before needing another feed. So even with the chucking up, I still felt we were rather lucky and had a pretty fantastic baby :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One month in and we're slowly getting used to this!

After being home for a month, B had to go back to work. It was great that he was able to take so much time off, to get to know his daughter and to allow us to settle into a routine. It was also a great help to me because I wasn't allowed to drive initially. My obstetrician said it was up to me as to when I wanted to start driving again, but as I wasn't really allowed to do anything else either, I just let B do all the driving. I wasn't allowed to lift Charlotte in the car capsule or lift the pram, I couldn't really bend down easily, I couldn't put my arms up past shoulder height... so B had to do everything.

I'd asked Mum to come down for the first few weeks to do most of the 'grunt' work while B and I got used to being parents. That was a tremendous blessing for us to have her help. It wasn't always smooth sailing as B was trying so hard to do everything for me that sometimes he got upset when Mum did something instead of him. But I know he'd agree there was no way we would have managed without her there to help with the cooking and to generally be another set of hands when we needed it, and to offer much-needed emotional support to me. I very much under-estimated my emotional reactions to the whole parenting thing, probably made worse by having a c-section rather than a natural delivery. My body just suddenly stopped being pregnant and it was taking a little while for my hormones to settle down again. I cried at the drop of a hat, I was moody, I felt like a failure as a parent because I really felt I couldn't cope. No doubt it was extremely difficult to be around me, but somehow B and Mum (and Dad) managed it and we slowly settled into a routine.

Unfortunately our time was made harder by the fact that Charlotte was a chucky baby. She would regurgitate just about everything we fed her. Thankfully she was a happy chucker so she didn't really seem to be troubled by her regurgitation. This meant she probably didn't have reflux but it didn't make it any easier on us. I felt I couldn't really cuddle her without the risk of her bringing something up and the inconvenience of having to change her clothes or my clothes, or wipe down the furniture. But the fact that she took to formula and was generally a happy, peaceful baby was a real god-send. So I guess you have to take the good with the bad, eh?

At one point I tried her on a new formula for reflux and regurgitation - oh boy, that was a mistake! The formula was a thickened one, that went thicker in her stomach in an effort to stay in the stomach. But the only thing this did was constipate her and give her bad wind pains. So we went back to our old formula after 24 hours and realised that a happy chucky baby with wet clothes was easier and better than an upset, in pain constipated baby!

By this time (one month) we were starting to see that Charlotte had a little bit more head control. Nothing too exciting, but she was definitely starting to be able to lift her head up for longer periods and wasn't so 'bobble-headed' all the time. She was also starting slowly to pay more attention to her environment and started to really see some of the stuff around her. For example, it was around this time that she discovered the musical mobile that we had hanging up over her cot. We would lie her under that and wind it up and she'd be entertained for hours! (well, for the few minutes the winding up would last). She would kick her little legs up and down in glee and make all sorts of cute noises to show her appreciation and excitement.

Onwards we go, past the one month mark. I'd like to think we're slowly getting better at being parents, but I suspect other people probably think we're doing a better job of it than we think we are!

The first few days...

Charlotte's arrival was planned because she had an 'unstable lie' - apparently it's safer for Mum and bub to do a c-section. I'm sure there are some obstetricians who let you deliver naturally, or in the very least go into labour, but mine decided a c-section was going to be best. So I made my way into the hospital at dawn on the 19th with B by my side and nerves in my belly.

There is something really bizarre about knowing when your baby is going to arrive. I spent all of the night before petrified, thinking about the whole thing and what was going to happen the next day. I wasn't at all concerned about the operation itself, but about everything that came after that! The suddenness of going from being just the two of us (three if you count Lucy-Lou!) to having Charlotte in our lives and what that was going to involve was very overwhelming - needless to say, I didn't get much sleep the night before and unfortunately that was going to be the last time in a long while I would have the chance to get a full night of sleep!

B came with me to the operating theatre (that in itself felt weird - normally you say good bye to loved ones at a certain point but this time he came all the way!) I was 'parked' outside for a while as the anaesthetist had to do an emergency c-section but eventually we were in the operating theatre and things started happening.

Unfortunately I was carrying so much fluid that the anaesthetist had trouble finding the right spot to insert the needle into my spine and had to try a couple of times (!) but eventually she got going and suddenly everything started happening really quickly. I started to feel really nauseous and my blood pressure dropped a bit which felt horrid - the lack of sensation below my chest coupled with the lack of vision was really unnerving and contributed to my feeling of mild distress. But I was given some drugs to help bring up my blood pressure and stem the nausea and eventually I felt much better. Then the tugging and pushing started - now THAT's weird! To have your insides tugged and pulled like that, to be able to feel it but not really feel it... very strange! It's a bit like going to the dentist and having a tooth pulled - you don't feel the pain but you feel the pressure, you can hear what they're doing and have other sensations.

The anaesthetist's assistant took photos throughout the whole thing - I didn't realise until I looked at them exactly what was happening but it's a pretty cool thing! Eventually they said "here she is" and held her up over the screen for B and me to see. I couldn't believe it - literally, I could not believe it. The feeling was surreal - to see the baby that until just moments ago was wriggling around inside me. Both B and I had tears in our eyes.

The paediatrician and B took Charlotte over to another table and did their thing (cut the cord, attach the cord plug thingie, weigh and measure etc) and during that time I was cleaned up and stitched up.

Then B and Charlotte went back up to my room while I went to recovery for about 20 minutes. I was back in my room just after 9am and suddenly we were parents! B said the 20 or so minutes he was sitting in the hospital room alone with Charlotte was really strange - he didn't really know what to do except sit there and look at her (and wonder where I was and when I was coming back).

That first day and night was a bit of a blur - my Mum and Dad and B's Dad came in and held their new granddaughter and I dozed on and off.

I didn't get movement back in my legs until later that afternoon/early evening so I was pretty much stuck on the bed and couldn't even move myself up or down really. B sat with me the whole day and didn't leave the hospital until 10.30pm. It was horrible saying goodbye to him - I really wanted him to stay, but the chairs were very uncomfortable and he'd get more sleep at home in our own bed.

Because I had a c-section, Charlotte was taken away from me in the night and put in the nursery to allow me to get some sleep. I was amazed that, even on that first night, I kept waking up every few hours wondering where she was. It was like my body had already been programmed to expect her to be there and when I woke up and saw that she wasn't there, I had a moment of panic and then remembered where she was. The mid-wives brought her in to me for a feed around 1am but otherwise I didn't see her until 6am!

The next day I was up and about after my drip was removed, around 8am. I very tentatively had a shower and started packing my belongings. I was being moved to a bigger room with a queen size bed so that B could stay with me in the evenings. Once settled in the new room, I was immediately more comfortable and it felt good to spend the day just learning about our new baby and relaxing into parenthood with B at my side. We learnt about bathing her, I had a visit with a lactation consultant, I did some physiotherapy exercises, slowly started moving around from the bed to the bathroom etc. I wasn't in much pain, just feeling stiff and a bit sore in my stomach muscles. I was expecting to be in quite a bit of pain so to feel almost nothing afterwards was a pleasant surprise.

Our second night was also spent with Charlotte in the nursery - again, to give me rest. This time however they asked if I gave permission for her to have a supplementary feed of formula which we said was OK. We thought she'd come back in at some point during the night, but they kept her all night!! In the morning I found myself actually pleased to see her rolled back in to our room.

Unfortunately, having those first two nights away from Charlotte proved tricky because on night 3 we had our first night with her in our room full-time and she was horrid! She cried and cried and didn't settle after feeds and I was at the end of my tether. I eventually called in a midwife around 4.30am and she said she was probably hungry and I should give her some formula. She managed to get Charlotte to calm down and we were able to get some sleep. I knew then I was going to miss having that magic red call button by my bedside when we eventually went back home!

You might be wondering why there was so many offers of formula for Charlotte. Yes, I was breastfeeding but by day 2 my nipples were bleeding and cracked due to improper latching in those early hours following my c-section when I was too druggie and overwhelmed to really focus on if I was doing things correctly. This was also coupled with the impact that my breast reduction surgery had on my milk production - my breasts never swelled up, I never felt that 'hot' feeling that women talk about when their milk comes in, I ended up wearing the same bras I had before I got pregnant. So unfortunately, being able to breastfeed Charlotte 100% was going to be really difficult, and in order to ensure she had enough sustenance she was given a little bit of formula during those early days when my early milk would have otherwise been sustaining her.

At that point I didn't really mind - I just wanted her to feel full and comfortable. But the impact of this on me was felt much later, when I made the decision after 3 weeks to stop breastfeeding altogether. My nipples still hadn't healed and I was in constant pain, even when she wasn't on the breast. I was expressing in between each feed, trying to stimulate more milk production, but getting very little milk from my efforts. I was becoming stressed and more tired and I cringed whenever Charlotte went anywhere near my breasts. For our own sanity, we decided to stop the struggle and just do 100% formula by the time she was 3 weeks old.

I didn't realise then how much this would impact me emotionally. I felt like a complete failure and was really very depressed about not being able to breastfeed. I didn't think I would feel this way. After all, I knew there was a chance I wasn't going to be able to breastfeed, but it wasn't until after I stopped feeding her that I realised just how badly I wanted to do it. After my breasts healed, about 10 days after I made the decision to stop, I noticed a small droplet of milk on my nipple after a shower. So I put Charlotte on the breast to see if she'd still take it - she did, but I don't think she got very much milk and eventually she stopped sucking. But my gosh - the difference in how that felt compared to those early weeks was incredible. It felt fantastic - I wasn't in any pain, it felt natural to have her on my breast and I was really upset that I had given up so quickly. I know from a rational perspective that I really couldn't have done more than I did, that I couldn't reverse the effects of my surgery so I'd never produce enough milk for her. But to feel what it was 'supposed' to feel like to feed without pain and to just sit and enjoy your baby...... a small part of me will never forgive myself for not persevering for longer.

We went home after 5 days - on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Wow - what a scary thing that was. For the previous 5 days we weren't allowed to leave the ward with Charlotte and my vitals were constantly being monitored and recorded etc. Then suddenly they say "off you go" and you're on your own. Buckling her into that car capsule and driving off (B did the driving) was extremely anxiety-provoking and I'll never forget how tentatively B drove that day!

Our new life as parents had begun and we were now on our own. As I sit here and write this, some 9 weeks later, I realise how 'green' we were, and how I wish I knew then what I know now! We had a very sharp learning curve ahead of us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The weekend from hell...

This weekend has not been kind to us. Charlotte had her 2 month immunisation shots on Friday afternoon and she coped with the injections so well we were lulled into a false sense of security, believing all would be well. Turns out, these things can take a while to fester!

B was out all day Saturday helping a friend move house and I should have known something wasn't right when Charlotte didn't go back to sleep after her early morning feed. She progressively got grumpier and grumpier throughout the day, barely sleeping for more than 2-3 minutes at a go, until she was completely over-wraught by dinner time. B came home for a short while before going out fishing most of the night (I've learned my lesson - don't let your husband be gone all day when your daughter is in a mood!! LOL) Anyway, by the time B came home I was beside myself - I'd called my Mum and called my best friend and had no idea how to soothe her. I'd taken her for a walk and rocked her in the pram; I'd put her in the swing; I'd worn her in the sling; I'd fed her; I'd burped her; I'd changed her nappy. I simply could not stop her from screaming. It was the most horrible experience I think I've had as a parent - feeling completely helpless and watching someone so young and defenseless experience so much distress.

When B came home we jumped in the car and took Charlotte for a drive. I hadn't had time to eat anything all day (or even feed the dog!) so we went to McDonalds for a quick fix and then took off for an hour or so driving around near the water, hoping the driving would soothe Charlotte. Thankfully it did! By the time we got home, around 11pm, my eyelids were barely open and Charlotte's were well and truly closed. We transferred her from the car capsule to the cot and she slept soundly for the rest of the night. In fact, she didn't wake up again until 5.30am! All these weeks I've been praying she'd sleep through her 2am feed and when she finally does, it's at the expense of my sanity... be careful what you wish for!

This morning she's still a bit crotchety but definitely more settled than yesterday. I think part of her problem is actually related to bloating and not being able to manage her formula properly. She seems to get very uncomfortable after a feed and doesn't pass wind/bowel movements easily. So this on top of the general aches and pains from the immunisations, we were bound for problems. I've started putting some Coloxyl drops in her bottle now to try and clear up any 'blockages' she might have and get things moving again. She doesn't actually seem constipated, but there is definitely something not quite right with her insides. Here's hoping we finish the weekend on a better note!

(After writing this post we went out to dinner at Sizzler and Charlotte slept through the whole thing! We're planning a late night hot bath and feed around 10.30pm and hopefully she'll be so buggered after the weekend that she'll sleep right through!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Introducing... Charlotte Maudie Hazelwood

I can't believe how long it has been since my last blog post, although in my defence quite a lot has happened since then! Charlotte Maudie Hazelwood entered the world by c-section at 8.35am on Tuesday, 19 April, weighing a rather healthy 3870g and measuring 52cm in length. That was 8 weeks ago now and this is the first chance I've had to sit and write about it!

I am clearly not going to be able to recap on the past 2 months in a single blog post so I won't even try but over the coming days I hope to catch people up on my experiences since the birth and in the future I plan to use this blog as a weekly record of Charlotte's development. It will be a good way for me to record when milestones are achieved and the ups and downs of parenthood as we go through it all!