Tag Archives: bonding

Some clouds have platinum linings

Bed day survival kit: toys, Jaffa cakes, magazines, board books and pic n mix!

Bed day survival kit: toys, Jaffa cakes, magazines, board books and pic n mix!

So, the last couple of days have not been rockstar, ending in (minor) surgery as they did. Today I was disappointed that I would ‘lose’ my whole weekend by being bed ridden, to recover. I was looking forward to crafting, sorting my room out, maybe taking Sam shopping. Bed was really not on the cards.

But it seemed that bed was my only option, so I said to Wes that he might as well take a day of freedom, and I would look after Sam. Not that he doesn’t love Sam, and love looking after him. But I am very sympathetic to the view that as a parent you so rarely get free time: you’re always conscious of your child, what they are doing, how long you have completing a certain activity before they wake / make a fuss / need feeding. Let me repeat: we love being parents, and adore Sam, but I do know how much I appreciate those few stolen moments when you don’t have to think about anything or anyone but yourself and your activities.

So, Wes made bullets while I settled into my second choice day: a day stuck in bed, in pain, albeit with the best boy ever.

Greatest. Day. Ever.

sleeping baby

It started when I got Sam into my bed at about 5 am. As Wes had done the 2 am feed I was really rested and I couldn’t sleep, but wasn’t tired. I just sat and watched Sam. Watched him sleep. It has been 3 months since I got to do that. Since going to back to work at ~3 weeks postpartum nighttime is always a rush to either spend time with Wes, or get my work finished, and the morning is a chance to cram in extra sleep, or a rush to get up and get pumping so I can get to work. I have forgotten how my son sleeps, or at least, it has changed since we I last saw it. It is deeper than it used to be, but his movements are different, less jerky, and much stronger.

Then we got up and had breakfast. Me, a LaraBar and Sam: a bottle of formula. I never get to feed Sam breakfast! My morning pump is the longest (sometimes an hour) and so Wes gives Sam his bottle. Morning is Sam’s best time, and he was so awake. He watched me with sparkling eyes and kept breaking away from the bottle just to grin at me, and then latched himself back on. It was so much fun!

Is that your monster, Sam?

Is that your monster, Sam?

Then we settled in to play together. I picked up a book and started to read it to Sam. He loved it! All my previous attempts at reading to him had fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes. But he really locked onto the first book. So I got out another… and another. Sam had a definite favorite: ‘That’s not my monster’. He was not interested in feeling the pages, but just looked at the pictures and listened. About 5 times. The other books he would have once or twice, but this one: over and over again he was enraptured.

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When I could stand it no more, we sang songs until he got grizzly. I put him in my arms and sang him to sleep in about 2 minutes. He liked ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ way more than ‘Mr Moon’, or ‘Twinkle Twinkle’. We napped together until 10 am when Wes woke up. While I watched Grey’s Anatomy, Wes went and got me an egg biscuit and 2 crafting magazines, and Sam slept on.

An angel in my arms

An angel in my arms

The day passed like this. I just got to know my son. I play peek-a-boo with him most days, and he has never loved it. I learned he doesn’t really like a big, surprise ‘boo’, he likes to watch you slowly peek around a teddy and smile at him. I already knew what his favorite toys are, and I held one of them up for him. I got to watch how much he has changed: he no longer just stares at toys, but engages and anticipates where they will go. He is no longer just ‘not bored’ by them, but engaged and stimulated. It was so much fun watching him.

One of his favorite toys

One of his favorite toys

I read him to sleep again (more ‘That’s Not my Monster’).

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I did what I usually and do and imitated his noises back at him.

I let him lie in his ‘pack n play’ and giggle. I leaned over the pack n play and chatted to him.

In his pack n play, chatting to me

In his pack n play, chatting to me

I sat and read my magazine, while he watched Sesame Street.

We don't mind a little structured TV time if Sam is enjoying it

We don’t mind a little structured TV time if Sam is enjoying it

In truth, I mostly did what I always do with him. But, instead of doing it for 10 minutes before we went to the grocery store, or for 15 minutes before we got dressed for lunch, or doing it while reading a manuscript or at arm’s length while pumping, or my eyes on my email, I did it all with the luxury of time. I did it as if it was the only thing in the world that mattered.

Is THIS your monster, Sam?

Is THIS your monster, Sam?

And you know what? To Sam, it is the only thing that matters.

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We had a fabulous day. We got to know each other so much more. Sam is such an easy, happy baby, it is easy to take him for granted. It is easy to take all those we know for granted. I am so grateful that at the end of a scary and painful experience, I got this: a day learning about the new little person in our house. The best gift I could have asked for.

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We have not been very successful at putting Sam to sleep. In truth, I had a grant due Jan 31st, and another one yesterday (got an extension – phew!). So, I have always bathed with Sam, played with him, fed him while we ate dinner and got Wes to put him to bed. Sam gets wound up and Wes uses the swing to make him sleepy most nights. It’s a battle of Sam fussing, and frustration, and eventually swinging. I remembered that before going back to work full time, I put Sam to bed every night, without a problem.

Tonight, I took the time. I left my unfinished grant (due Monday) and took Sam,a book, and some milk into his room. I read to him, fed him, and sang to him (more ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’) until he was sleepy, laid him down in his crib and patted him to sleep. When he woke 10 min later, I fed him again, and sang him back to sleep in his crib.

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I forgot that we already knew each other inside and out. We just needed to have a chance to show it.

A fantastic reminder of what is important in my life right now.

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Sam at 3 months

1 month, and again at 3 months

1 month, and again at 3 months

My little man is 3 months already. *Insert obligatory ‘I can’t believe how time has flown’ remark*. Actually, I think I am the only Mum in the world who thinks ‘has it only been three months?”. I guess because I have been so busy at work, I can’t believe that in 3 months I have had a baby, submitted two grants, started up a study and got my student through her qualifiers.

The headline picture shows how much Sam has grown. He was adorable at 1 month, but now at 3, he has so much more of an individual personality. I love how he has emotions he conveys, and has more intent driven behavior. He has his likes (singing ‘incy wincy spider’, chatting to the baby in the mirror (who is equally as chatty), and having his feet kissed) and his dislikes (being clicked at, and going to his room at bedtime).

He is equally as vocal now in both – likes will elicit fits of baby giggles and chatter, dislikes anything from repeated grunting to an angry shriek which descends into a wail.

Love his giggles

Love his giggles

I am a bit dismayed that my DNA is so far absent. If I hadn’t witnessed him come out of me… I might be skeptical. He looks so like his Dad. I like to think my jawline and cheekbones are still hidden under all that baby chub, but I am not so sure…

It's like a freakin' spot the difference

Baby Wes & Sam. It’s like a freakin’ spot the difference

Physically, I was always little and somewhat behind developmentally (why walk when you can be carried?). Sam is the opposite – a hefty chunk of baby who can support his own weight, and has done for weeks. Thighs like tree trunks and a belly to match. While I showed no inclination to walk for ages, Sam is already able to pull himself up to standing by using his legs (waaay early) and support his weight almost indefinitely, using our fingers only for balance.

5 days, and again at 3 months

5 days, and again at 3 months. Where did all this chunk come from? No wonder I had trouble producing enough milk for him 🙂

I was always hitting the cognitive milestones early. Again, Sam does not yet take after me – he pretty much hits each benchmark just about as he is supposed to. He has found his hands, a great source of fascination (and chewing), but not his feet yet. He’ll grab at dangling toys, but not at ones on the floor. He’ll look at a book, but only as he’ll look at any new object. He does have a good memory for the games I play with him though (such as itsy bitsy spider above – he has learned to like that) , thus showing good anticipation. And he turn took pretty early with his babbling – I guess chattiness is definitely something he gets from me, and NOT his Dad.

Grabbing my toys but....

Grabbing my toys but….

... it is short lived. Sam says 'I eat this now'

… it is short lived. Chewing on hands is so much more fun, apparently

The best part, and the biggest change, has been watching Sam become a part of our family. I have known people describe seeing their child for the first time as the greatest love ever; At The Art of Making a Baby she describes seeing her daughter Lexi as a ‘duh, of course I have always loved her’ feeling. For me, it was not like that. The initial feeling was just one of deep concern: is the baby OK (not Sam, just ‘the baby’)? Like, I had been given a terribly fragile thing to look after, and was very concerned no harm came to it.

It grew from there, but it grew in stages. I always liked to hold him, but wanting to look at look at him was something that increased… recognizing him was something that came slowly. The feeling dawned bit by bit that Sam was actually the best baby in the hospital (seriously, Wes and I would have whispered conversations of ‘no, I actually think our baby is one of the cuter ones… the nurses definitely prefer him… they are not just saying that he is awesome with him – they really think he is’.)

Then we bought him home, and it was all ‘I want to do X, but, oh wait, how do we do it with Sam?”. Now Sam is just a part of our lives, it is automatically “Sam and I are off to do X’. It’s fulfilling and gratifying and amazing and beautiful to see him just become part of our family. I don’t yet feel like a Mum though, I still often feel like I am taking care of a baby, not my baby – but it is coming. I don’t feel bonded to him as I think I will. Don’t get me wrong: I adore him, and utterly love him. But it still hits me in waves, and while I feel protective and oh so proud of Sam, I guess I don’t yet think of Sam as mine. I think it would come more quickly if I had had some maternity leave – I never really had a time of just me & him together, against the world. I have always shared his care, and never just been utterly responsible for him. I also wonder about lingering effects of going to OR within minutes of birth, of being in ICU, of being on heavy drugs for so many days. The bonding is coming, and I am loving watching it blossom.

The closest I come at ‘feeling Mummy’ is when I sit at 3 am with him, breast feeding him, rocking him to sleep. That’s when it feels like we are bonded. Or when I see how he lights up when I come home from work. Or when he was feeling unwell the other night and would only settle in my arms (you know that ‘I-just-want-my-Mum-when-unwell’ feeling?). This, to me, is the best part of the journey. I am confident he’ll walk, talk and do all those things in good time (and how lucky we are to be able to say that), so I don’t get too hung up on milestones, fun though they are. It is the growing love and the two-way bond which is best.

Who's that then?

Who’s that then?

I do feel so blessed with my little monkey. I can’t wait to see the little man he grows up to be.

Post-partum complication reflections

Sam’s birth really comes in three stages to me: the ‘last day‘, the induction and birth, and the post-partum aftermath. Although I was happy to share, in glorious details (too glorious for some?) the first two parts, I have decided not to blog in detail about the last bit. This is because:

(1) I don’t want to be another internet scare story;

(2) It is incredibly painful for my family, and some of my friends, to think about and thus they do not need a permanent reminder to pour over;

(3) I don’t think I have fully processed everything – for example, I still see pictures that haunt me or feel funny when someone writes ‘you nearly died in childbirth’, it’s as if it didn’t actually happen in my mind, at least, it still seems like a story someone told me.

So, in the spirit of positivity, I am not going to rehash the sorry tale (although any curious peeps are perfectly welcome to email me about it – I have a fairly blow-by-blow account I can forward on with no problem), but instead leave you with the thoughts that are in head, as I process the whole sorry tale:

(1) Dear God, I am glad I did not give birth in a birth center after all. Quite simply, I would not be here now. I now do not know where I stand on home / birth center births.

ICU machines

Not available at a birth center…

(2) Wes’ Aunt is a nurse, and is fairly sure that many hospitals in the US would not have been able to cope with the demands of a 10-unit blood transfusion. I ended up at Texas Children’s utterly by chance: they were about the only people who would take me as I moved state mid-pregnancy. I wonder if God was looking out for me at that time.

(3) I am ridiculously grateful I am a health nut. When we went in for the cervadil, as is standard procedure, I was monitored overnight. My temperature is 1 full degree lower than average, my reflexes are (literally) kick ass, and my heart rate drops so low in my sleep that the machines kept sounding alarms for the nurse to come as I had dropped into a Brady (below 50 beats per minute). These are all indicators of good health and our nurse commented “Why, you’re just going to live forever” [words that would later haunt Wes]. I suspect the speed of my recovery, and possibly my recovery itself, was due to a long relationship with weight-lifting, healthy eating and running. I really would urge all my readers to care for their health.

(4) I am amazed at how much humans can rebuild a body. I was left as a kind of shell and it blows my mind how much blood, plasma, fluid etc the doctors could pump into me, and how much they could do to keep my body going: it was for a brief while, almost like I was a vessel and the ‘life’ was just happening artificially outside of me with machines and so on doing all the work. The gifts that Science has given us are incredible.

Body not really functioning outside of the machines here…

(5) That being said, I am also amazed at all the things Science / Medicine couldn’t do. After rebuilding as much as possible, and troubleshooting, the doctors just had to wait to see if my ‘body would take over’. Of course it did, but it took time. It was interesting to me to watch certain systems start working again and reminded me what an amazingly complex and phenomenal thing the human body is.

Body working again

(6) I am clearly not at all used to ‘giving in’ to my body, when it wants to be weak. Every physical and mental challenge, I have just pushed through at taken my body to limits people did not think I was capable of: Tough Mudder? I’ll do it all. Grant due? I’ll work until 2 am every night and STILL train twice a day… I’ll recoup and recover later. This gave me a feeling of invincibility, and it has been hard learning I am not. The recovery was / is difficult… when I pushed it too hard (with ooooh, a trip to the grocery store), I got two infections. My anemia is bad enough that my heart is skipping beats / fluttering as it works extra heard to get oxygen around. Nothing to worry about, but serious signs that I have to be careful. I literally have had to bow down to my body holding me back, or watch it fail. It sucks to be reminded of my limitations, frailty, and human-ness.

Recovering at home – finally.

Writing this out made me realise something hidden deep inside: I used to love my body, because it was so strong. Now I hate it because its weakness betrayed me, and still does, every day. I’ll get over it.

(7) The hardest thing of all – of all – is that Sam’s coming into this world was not met with joy. I still cry when I think of how he – as an innocent little baby – got his start. I came across a picture Wesley took of himself right after he was handed Sam:

 

It breaks my heart that there is no joy here, just sadness that no one could tell him if he would see his wife again. When he called my parents when I was out of OR he said “Well… you have a grandson” but because it was followed up with “but we don’t know if you’ll have a daughter” my parents did not celebrate. In fact, they did not tell anyone about Sam for a couple of days when I was in the clear.

Possibly what breaks my heart the most is that when I was out of the OR and regained consciousness, I was in a lot of pain. I literally yelled and writhed my way through the first night. The nurses asked if Sam should be taken to the nursery and although ‘no separation’ was drummed into me, I was so consumed by my own pain, and so inward looking, I just said “yes. Take him”. I hate that I did that. My head says it was necessary… my heart says I was not a good mother.

Sam watching his Mum in ICU the next day

I also hate that I couldn’t really care for him initially. Sam was placed in my arms and I just held him passively – Wes did feeds and diaper changes, cuddled him, brought him to me. Wes placed him in my arms and I just held him passively. When most people are going home with their babies, I was considered too ill to be allowed to be alone with Sam and had to call a nurse to take him to the nursery if Wes went out (to get food or something). When I was out of ICU, we had a family photo shoot. Usually the Mum holds the baby and the Dad sits behind. I couldn’t really do this, as I could not get close enough to the camera while attached to IV lines, so the photographer said “OK, Dad come to the front, Mum can be in the background”. I wanted to cry as I felt this summed up Sam’s start in life: Mum a useless figure in the background. I worry that there is vital bonding time we’ll never get back.

Not ideal conditions for being a Mum…

Ultimately, the physical recovery was (and still is) tough. I have no immune system and still not enough red blood cells. I get infections easily, and I don’t beat them well. I have an extra layer to my tiredness, and my heart has an irregular beat (this will sort itself out!). But, though I hate that, and hate that I can’t just beat my body into submission, I get better and better every day and soon will be left with no visible traces of the ordeal. Emotionally, I think the wounds will take a bit longer to heal. That is where the scars will be.

On a happier note, it was of course all worth it, and if the Frazier-Wood’s can get through this OK, they can get through anything! Wes was amazing, and this was a bonding experience for us. There were happy times even in that first week, and there will be many more.

Now… back to blogging about happy topics. It’s advent, which means I have a whole lot of decorating and crafts to tell you about 🙂