Friday, 28 December 2012

Parenthood: These things happened...

...About six weeks ago (in no particular order):

Oliver had his first electrocardiogram. He has a small and benign heart murmur, which nobody is worried about and everyone expects will close up. We go back for a follow-up in February. Plus we got to tour Rexdale while we looked for the wrong address. I know so much more of the GTA since I've been a dad!

He got his first shots. We delayed them a month until he was a bit more settled and bigger, and Danijela had more time to come to terms with jabbing the boy. Wow, that first needle; his eyes just grew and grew, almost comically large. And after the second one, Danijela silenced his cry quickly by feeding him. Then he was fine, thank god. He wasn't quite himself for the rest of the day, but he handled it very well. I don't look forward to the ones later when he won't be soothed so easily. There seem always to be kids at the doctor's office getting shots and screaming their heads off.

A couple of days later, he seemed to get congested and he was having trouble sleeping at night. Maybe this was due to the shots; maybe not. We thought he might have a cold, but he didn't show any symptoms beside stuffiness. Danijela picked up the Hydrasense nasal aspirator, which several people recommended, and we went to work. If you don't know what that means, it involves spraying salt water into the nose and then using a filtered tube to suck out any mucous. The things we do. But it works wonders! After the first try, he was much clearer, and we could see the result in the aspirator's reservoir. Very gross and very effective. We've used it on Oliver regularly since, every two or three days. Oliver's a pretty good sneezer, but the snot that comes out with the aspirator needs more force than he can muster yet.

One fine day, almost directly after placing Oliver on his tummy on the floor, he rolled onto his back. I was amazed! Then he repeated it, and he did it numerous times over the following week or so. We were expecting he would follow up that performance with a front-to-back roll, but it never materialized, although he seemed to come close a few times. He's stopped trying any rolls for the moment, but we're happy that he's comfortable on his stomach. In fact, the other day, he made some definite forward lurches (it's too soon to call it crawling). I'm both worried and excited about that development!

While Danijela was out one afternoon in mid-November, I had the then-rare pleasure of feeding Oliver by bottle. At the time, I was doing this infrequently, maybe every couple of weeks. He usually took it well, with little fussing. This time though, he spent some time gnawing on the nipple, not quite sucking, but not crying. Then he put his hands on the bottle and started guiding it in and out of his mouth, with only little support from me. Since he'd previously shown no such coordination, I was very impressed. He was not even grabbing things at that time, but I started giving him toys right away after that—and he started taking them. This was a huge step. It didn't take long at all for him to get his toys. One of them at least has lots of loops and is very easy to grab and hold on to (although not so easy to get in his mouth).

Previously, he could amuse himself for some time just lying on his back. When Oliver was quite little—maybe six weeks or so—we borrowed a nice wooden hanging toy that he could look at and swat while lying down, and it certainly amused him. Eventually, he started wanting to put things in his mouth, but lacked the coordination to do so. Whenever we would put something near his face, he would move in that direction and flail his arms. Now, he grabs whatever is within his reach, and usually tries to stuff it into his mouth. He's getting particularly good at sucking his fingers. He still doesn't have the coordination to consistently get things in his mouth every time, but I'm sure, like with the bottle, one day soon he'll just grab his soother and get it.

Then there is laughing (now a little giggling), teething (well, it's a long process, right?), and did I mention that Oliver has left our room for his very own crib and nursery (I know I did)? Plus a whole new routine, and more recently, more sounds, more grabbing, more awful sleep, but fewer night-time diaper changes!

Despite the fatigue and frustration, it's all very exciting, and I wish I could record it all! But that is looking increasingly unlikely. And alas, I return to work next week—it's been almost twenty weeks already! So, on to the next stage, and maybe—I hope—I'll be able to keep updating. But that's it for 2012. Happy new year all! Read on..!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Naps, nursing, and new plans

Let's talk naps, before the last few weeks disappear into a sleepy fog.

At some point, I read that a repetitive movement of approximately ten centimetres per second will lull a baby to sleep, and this is the principle behind rockers and swings. Well, it works with exercise balls, too (the big bouncy kind, not the heavy weight-training kind), and for a little while, I was getting Oliver to sleep with a moderate to vigorous bounce for five to ten minutes. It worked like a charm, although I worried sometimes that I was bouncing him a little too vigorously—besides the strain it was placing on my back! Anyway, it doesn't seem to have done him any physical harm.

According to Dana Obleman (The Sleep Sense Program), up to three months, a newborn shouldn't really be awake for more than an hour at a time. This makes sense, since babies of that age are supposed to sleep sixteen to twenty hours a day. Of course, Oliver had (and perhaps has) very seldom met that standard, but he does generally show the signs of tiredness after being awake for forty-five minutes to an hour: rubbing his eyes, yawning, saying "owh", droopy eyes, distant stares. (But he'd never just, you know, fall asleep.) So we were trying that out. Danijela would nurse him, he'd have a bit of play time, and then I'd bounce him to sleep and put him down in the swing. It was working fairly well, although we didn't make any record of how well or how long he napped at that time.

Like most other sleep consultants, Obleman also recommends making sure babies are awake when you put them down to sleep, which we had achieved at night, but attempted only accidentally during the day. Also, eliminating sleep props. So that was our next step. After our success at night, we figured the same strategy would work for naps. But we would implement it gradually. We moved the ball from the living room into the nursery, and gradually reduced the bouncing from Colombian mountain road to average Toronto road to calm lake. Around this time, we also found some experts believe sleep in motion or not fully reclined (i.e., in a swing, car seat, carrier, &c.) doesn't offer the same restfulness as regular sleep, so we decided to stop putting him in the swing right away. Instead, we brought his bassinet up from our room each day for naps. I also sang to him and patted his back. Then I would put him down in his bassinet when I saw he was having trouble keeping his eyes open, and usually he would go to sleep.

A few times, I had the very great pleasure of just watching him as he slowly nodded off. He lay there peacefully, lightly stirring, like he just knew what to do. That felt good. Other times were not so pleasant. Despite being clearly tired, he would often fight sleep, and soon, he started crying directly I put him down, if not before, despite my concerted efforts to calm him with gentle rubs and pats and song. Oof. Our plan wasn't working.

I could go into greater detail, but I'm starting to bore myself, especially when there is so much more exciting stuff going on! I almost feel like I shouldn't even be mentioning all of this stuff, like it makes us seem hyper-(re)active and hyper-stressed. Is this how kids get hyperactive? But let me just get round to the end of this tale. It gets better.

Danijela has found a local sleep consultant, Debbie Fazio, who holds regular free "clinics" on Facebook where parents can ask questions about their kids' difficulties. Around eight weeks, after Oliver had had a week-long growth spurt, he would no longer sleep at night for more than three hours at a time (when he had for the previous two weeks been doing well with regular six-hour stretches). So our first question was about why this might be happening and what we could do about it. The consultant suggested that such growth often ends with the baby needing more food, so we did. We must have just tried to feed him more often, although I don't remember exactly. Things improved a little, but were definitely spotty. We kept following the clinics and got some more good information from others' questions.

The sleep consultant had recommended to friends that they feed their daughter not just after waking, but also before naps (but still put her down awake), and we decided that we would give it a try. I mean, we knew it would work, because when he's tired, nursing will certainly put him to sleep, but we thought he would learn to use nursing as a prop and need it to get to sleep. I guess there are different opinions about this practice, but for now whatever, it did work. So, for the past week or so, we've had no trouble putting him down for naps. He's even started to nap in his crib instead of the bassinet, which is decidedly too small for him now. I was starting to feel bad for him when he woke up during his naps and I'd check on him; even though we are still swaddling him, he looked uncomfortable, like he was struggling to move around.

The point is, we wanted to feed Oliver more, but were still having problems. He was losing his latch, being fussy while nursing, and getting a bit cranky, like he was early on. Back to the breastfeeding clinic we went, where we found out that Danijela was taking only a third of the recommended dose of domperidone, the milk-producing drug. Double-oof! For some reason, the pharmacy had written the wrong instructions on the bottle. Despite the prescription clearly stating 30 mg, three times daily, the bottle said 10 mg. It's amazing that things went as well as they did for as long as they did. The dose Danijela was taking was barely better than a placebo. Unfortunately, the stuff can take up to two weeks to kick in, so now we're waiting.

Here's the better part. With our new routine and arrangement (feeding before naps, in the crib), Oliver goes down easily, often sleeps longer, and with our help he will go back to sleep when he wakes mid-nap. All except for the late-afternoon nap, which is usually a real trial. Sometimes, it just works, sometimes it's a struggle, and sometimes, it just doesn't work. But we're more relaxed about it. I don't know how or why! Probably because we're not fighting to get him to sleep as much. Besides, he's pretty great, and so much has been happening! Since I'm about two weeks behind with my posts these days, though, you'll have to wait to hear about it all.

Notes

I'm hearing things in the white noise.

Everyone has a new name now. Danijela and I are mommy and daddy; my parents are grandma and grandpa; Danijela's parent's are baka and deda; our sisters are aunties or tetkas; Pippin is big brother. Talk about identity crises!

Did I mention that he naps in his crib (in his nursery)!? I am unreasonably excited about this. I hope it means he won't have any trouble sleeping there at night.

He reached seven kilograms (fifteen pounds, seven ounces) two weeks ago and stayed there for about a week, but I'm sure he's grown since. I don't know when we'll weigh him again, but he'll probably surpass eight kg by then. I continually forget to ask his height. Read on..!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Babies for problem solvers: night and day are a world apart

It takes a lot of energy to fail to put a baby down for a nap. Sure, sometimes it takes a lot to succeed at it, too, but failing just drains me.

It's important to set limits. I imagine that's a lesson I'll learn again. It's probably the most generally applicable thing we've learned during this brief period of trying to teach Oliver to fall asleep (day and night) on his own, i.e., without nursing, bouncing, rocking, walking, soothing, and so on.

Everything started so well! We had a simple plan: make sure Oliver was awake when we put him down to sleep at night and after each nighttime feed. That meant making sure he didn't fall asleep while nursing. He didn't have to be very awake—besides being very difficult sometimes, that would be counterproductive—but definitely not asleep. If he whined or cried, I would pick him up, calm him, and put him down again, and repeat until he fell asleep. And it worked! The first night, I only had to pick him up maybe two or three times at each waking, the next night, less, and I think by the third night, he had figured it out—huzzah! He no longer complained when we put him down awake. He just went to sleep. We felt good. We had succeeded at adjusting Oliver's nighttime sleep habits!

How hard could it be to adjust his daytime habits? Ha ha ha ha.

As an aside, I think I have tried to add a bit of humour to my posts, but the air is not the only thing getting drier in our house as the weather gets colder. Humour is among the first senses to fail without deep sleep, and I haven't had any of that for some time. So, if you think I'm making a joke, I probably am. It just might not be very funny. Or it might not make sense.

Another thing that dries up with poor sleep is sympathy, which is unfortunate, since it's extremely important! That probably suggests something bad about how sympathetic I am regularly. But things are generally good. Oliver's been getting regular six-hour stretches of sleep at night, and we're sort of figuring out how to turn "regular" into "consistent". The key: feed him as much as possible during the day and before bed! That might sound obvious, particularly given our past issues, but I'll talk about it more next time.

I wonder sometimes whether we're fussing too much about this or that, trying to solve problems that aren't really problems at all. He's only twelve weeks old after all! But we must balance our needs and Oliver's, all while trying to figure out what the heck is happening.

Part of the reason we are taking these steps is so that we can all be in better shape by the time I return to work (January), and by the time Oliver is too big for his bassinet (December) and needs to move into his crib—in his nursery—on a different floor from our bedroom. We figure that if Oliver develops good sleeping habits asap—ideally, sleeping through the night—we might not have to come up with any interim crib measures. Well, it's a good thing we started when we did!

But I'll get into the daytime another time, or else this will turn into an endless post.

Notes

Over nine days, Oliver grew half a kilogram, around eighteen ounces, two ounces a day. That's twice the expected rate. After that growth spurt, he weighed six and a half kilos (fourteen pounds, five ounces), and that was a week ago. He's had another brief spurt and is surely closing in on seven kilos. Still, he hasn't gotten very chubby yet. He's growing long as well as wide.

It seems a bit absurd that we have to take care of these helpless animals for so long before they can really do anything. Parenthood—at least at the beginning—is a condition that does not fit into the modern desire for convenience, instant gratification, and "individualism". It's a giant reminder of our humanness and a true end to adolescence—if one takes the endeavour seriously, I guess. At the same time, it feels animal, even though most baby animals are considerably more competent than baby humans! Moreover, because I've been the homemaker since Oliver was born—with Danijela working and me on leave—it's really been non-stop baby with only very small windows for anything else. (I'll return to that thought later.) It's very exciting to get to guide this little human through the early stages of being, but I'm certainly still getting used to it.

Hmm.

In developmental news, Oliver has clearly found his hands, and will suck them when he can get them in his mouth, which is fairly often. So he's gaining control of his limbs, but he's certainly got some flailing left to do. He's also taken to tummy time, and is lifting his head and starting to hold himself up with his arms. He hasn't rolled over yet though, and he's got a way to go before he knows what he's doing on his tummy. He is more responsive, too, and talkative, cooing and gooing whenever he's in a good mood, whether someone is around to listen or not. These are great signs!

More later. Read on..!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Parenthood: a quick dispatch from the eleventh week

Hey fine friends and family! I haven't had a lot of time to put finger to key recently, and I don't know when I will again, so I just wanted to give a brief update.

First, the old news. (The fashion note everyone has been waiting for.) We were thrilled that Jane, Jean-Pierre (sounds funny ;), and my niece Raven came to Toronto from London, even for a whirlwind visit. Thanks to the The Shows for featuring Jean-Pierre Braganza again and again, so we have an additional opportunity to see the London family! Of course, this was the first time Jane or TJ got to meet Oliver, so it was extra special. Cousin Raven, on the other hand, was lucky enough to meet him within days of his birth.

The occasion of Toronto Fashion Week also provided Oliver the opportunity to make his society debut, besides the general excitement of viewing TJ's tremendous work first hand (and being social ourselves/leaving the house). So we dressed him up in some stylish pieces from aunt Jane and set off. Only when we arrived did we really consider what it meant to bring a still unpredictable babe to a crowded and unfamiliar venue for an indeterminate length of time, but we weren't about to turn back. Plus, we knew there were friends and family waiting to meet him, as well as an unsuspecting throng ready to be charmed. (Even the night's host Brian Bailey told Danijela we have a beautiful child! Jeremy Laing, another featured designer, was also suitably impressed.)

He was good and he charmed all his lady cousins, although to no one's surprise, he soiled his diaper just before the show started and fussed right through, until we rushed away to a bathroom unfit for two people and a baby to change him on the floor (on a changing mat, of course). Sadly, we didn't bring a backup outfit as fashionable as the first. Anyway, I'm sorry to all who didn't get the chance to hold him, squeeze him, or snatch a kiss! (It was lovely to see you all!) But not too sorry. We were (and are) still fresh and afraid of bugs and viruses and other stuff that passes from hand to hand. And he hasn't had any of his shots yet. (Coming soon—eep!)

After most everyone had left, we managed a brief visit with Jane, TJ, and Raven, and then we said our goodbyes. While they headed to the bar, we headed to bed. xo! I'd say let's talk soon, but soon will pass before we all know it. Instead, I'll think of you often.

Okay, only the old news.

Notes

He blinks!

I should clarify that mostly phone photos fail to capture the full finesse of Oliver's features. A proper lens (which of course we seldom use) does the job perfectly well.

Oh my knees!

There's a heck of a lot more to tell, but I don't know when it'll happen. Read on..!

Monday, 22 October 2012

On sleep: parenthood at nine weeks

The thing about sleep—for us, and I assume many parents will recognize this—is not that we get less of it. In fact, I'd say we sleep at least as many hours as we did before the babe. It's that that sleep is interrupted up to three times a night for periods from half an hour to three hours. I say this because so many people have said to us, "Oh, no more sleep for you!" or asked, "Are you sleeping?" Well, we are sleeping, but we are certainly not getting the kind of rest that uninterrupted sleep offers.

Danijela is taking it like a champ, but we're both going a bit loopy.

So sleep is our challenge at the moment—for us more than Oliver. He is thriving, as far as we can tell. He's sleeping more, eating well, interacting, growing, and developing. But we were spoiled by numerous nights of five- and six-hour stretches of unbroken sleep. We want those nights back! So, we're tweaking a couple of things that we let slide before.

First, the swaddle. Oliver would almost always wriggle his arms free from his swaddle in the night, which would invariably wake him up as he flailed them about. He'd always done this, but since he was sleeping so well, we didn't bother trying to stop it. Thankfully, there are lots of swaddle solutions, most of which look like baby straightjackets with velcro. Well, I guess they are baby straightjackets. On Tuesday, after Oliver's pediatrician appointment, we stopped at Marlene's Just Babies on Dupont at Clinton and settled on a SwaddleMe. We strapped him in that night and I think he slept almost five hours. Every night since he's done between four and five, so, improvement.

On the topic of swaddling, the Globe and Mail recently discussed the "controversy":
Several studies have linked swaddling to a higher risk of respiratory infections and, if done improperly, hip dysplasia. Swaddled babies may overheat, especially if their heads are partially covered, which can cause hyperthermia and even death. There is ongoing debate over whether swaddling prevents infants from waking easily, hinders weight gain or, most troubling, increases the chance of SIDS.
There’s also a fundamental question of whether the very function of swaddling—keeping the movements of infants restricted in order to soothe—is good for babies, or is just good for parents.
One pediatric physiotherapist in Toronto says, "Really, [parents] shouldn’t be doing this. [Swaddling] is really not that beneficial." This despite the fact that the article notes "not enough quality research into swaddling has been done."

I suppose it wasn't the intent, but I find this type of comment pointlessly antagonistic, especially from a medical professional. How am I supposed to feel as a parent who swaddles his baby when I read something like that? However, I'm sure there are people on both sides of the issue who will make confident statements based on limited information.

Had we more information about calming and sleeping baby early on, we might have swaddled Oliver less, but nobody ever recommended we not do it. In fact, most of our caregivers said it would be beneficial, and it has been, as far as we can tell. Anyway, we don't cover Oliver's head, we don't wrap his hips or legs tightly, he has no trouble waking, he's definitely finding his mouth with his hands, and he has grown very well.

Second, the white noise. We've been using rain sounds for maybe six weeks now—all night and fairly loud—to improve Oliver's sleep. I'm getting sick of it—I miss blessed silence!—but I can block out the noise fairly easily. We had set up portable speakers on our window ledge connected to an ipod on repeat, but the noise mostly passed over the bassinet, and no matter how loud we set the volume, it was actually quite quiet in the cradle. Again, we knew about this, but didn't really see the need to do anything about it. Not so now! We picked up a couple of smaller speakers and have secured them to the bassinet so there's no escaping the noise. They sound terrible, though, and they're not very loud, so I don't know. We'll just have to give them a try.

I do worry that using these things—"props" as they are commonly called—is instilling bad habits that we will eventually have to break, but I also think it's still too early to worry too much. We've just had a book recommended to us, The Sleep Sense Program, by Dana Obleman, which suggests that parents can't really train a baby to sleep until three months or so, but they can prime the child by implementing a sleep routine with bathing, singing, stories, and repeated cue phrases, like "night-night". We had started doing this a while ago, during the breastfeeding troubles, but never did it consistently. I think we'll try again asap, and I'll surely be talking more about sleep over the next while! Obleman also recommends eliminating props, including rocking, nursing, bouncing, and swinging to sleep—eep! Dr. Karp (of The Happiest Baby on the Block) suggests that it's the easiest thing in the world to wean a baby off of props, but I don't share his optimism!

For the moment, there are things we can't do much about, I think. If Oliver needs to have a bowel movement in the night, he will wake up (and us too, likely), and he will not go back to sleep until he's done, at which point, we might as well feed and change him. And some nights, he poos three times—come on baby; hold it in! We've been using disposable diapers at night in the hope that their extra absorbency will prevent him from getting uncomfortable, but I don't think it's making any difference, and I'd like to return to cloth at night.

And of course, if he's hungry in the night...

While we don't seem much better at controlling Oliver's sleep patterns, we are definitely better able to understand when he's sleepy and getting him to sleep. He makes a very distinctive sound of varying intensities when he's getting tired. I think Danijela described it like a cat in heat. That would be in the "quite tired" range. It sounds like a short or slightly extended "Ow" (or "Owh" in the Dunstan baby language), and it's become clearer in the past week. So he makes it much clearer when he's tired and at those times it's much easier to rock or bounce him to sleep.

He's getting more tired in the evenings, too, and we're debating putting him down earlier, but we want to be sure that we're in bed when he has his long stretch, and we're not quite ready to sleep at eight! We'll see though. Now, in the mornings he often wakes up around seven-thirty or eight, for comfort or a change (or if Danijela is sufficiently awake, a feed), and then goes back to sleep until ten or so. Usually, I get up with him and stay up. Maybe if he went to bed earlier, he—and we—could have a couple of good long stretches of sleep. Who knows!

In other sleep-related news, it won't be long before Oliver is too big for his bassinet—maybe six weeks; I doubt more than eight. Danijela dreads this time because he'll have to sleep in his crib in his nursery upstairs from our bedroom. I guess I should dread it for the same reason, as I'm the diaper man. It's possible that we'll move the crib downstairs temporarily, but we'll just see how it goes. Ideally, by that time, he'll sleep through the night! Then it simply wouldn't be an issue. Ah, a new parent can dream.

Notes

Not only do babies not blink, they do not ever close their eyes voluntarily. The only times they close their eyes are to sneeze, to sleep, and when triggered by some other reflex. I'm not kidding. It's weird.
We almost always have to induce sleep eye-closing. But then, there is little Oliver does that is voluntary. In fact, at this stage, while he's certainly gaining increasing control over his limbs and movements, I'd say pretty much all of his actions are responses to internal or external stimuli.

Photos simply do not do justice to this little one. They flatten out his features and make his face much more round. His features are far more refined.

I know I promised to follow up on recent events and milestones, but You'll have to wait to hear about Oliver's first fashion show, I'm afraid. However, I will say that at his pediatrician appointment, the doctor weighed him at 5.52 kilograms (12 pounds, two ounces), so it seems he grew more than two pounds from six to eight weeks (including the spurt) or better than an ounce and a half a day!

Since I've abandoned Facebook and Twitter for the time being, if you want to leave me a comment or ask a question, please do so here, rather than there. However, I am still collecting Facebook private messages.

More later! Read on..!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ups and downs in babytown: eight weeks of parenthood

So, wow: two weeks.

I want to thank everyone who has offered help and advice, given us clothes and other baby stuff, and brought us food and cheer over the past eight-plus weeks. We appreciate everything, even when we haven't been able to use it! We are both feeling much better about this parenting business, and Oliver is growing and developing as well as we could ask.

Now the news!

When I started this post two weeks ago, I wrote that since things had gotten better, we were probably in for a big change any day, which would shake our newfound confidence... At that time, breastfeeding had improved dramatically—Oliver feeds faster and gets fuller—and I suppose he had settled into a loose pattern of sleep—up to six hours at a stretch—that was allowing us to feel moderately rested. Then, at about seven weeks, the change came. Oliver's appetite increased and his sleep declined. For the next week, our panic climbed near previous heights: a week-long growth spurt, and boy did he grow. We're still feeling the effects, and things certainly aren't back to where we'd like!

But let me step back in time.

The past two weeks were full of appointments, visits, events (both fun and responsible), and continuing developments. The thing is, while Oliver doesn't seem too far from where he was two weeks ago, I feel like I can hardly remember what it was like then.

In week seven, he had his final visits at the Better Breastfeeding Clinic, the midwives, and the osteopath, and all were satisfied with his progress. He weighed 4.92 kilos (~ten pounds, thirteen ounces) that Tuesday, and 4.96 kilos (ten and fifteen) by Thursday. The midwife also measured him at about fifty-seven centimetres.

A pediatrician at the breastfeeding clinic thought he heard a slight murmur, and recommended we mention it to Oliver's permanent doctor when we saw her. However, he told us not to worry, which was hard to avoid.

The osteopath showed us some more positions to release gas, and endorsed Dr. Karp's use of soothers, so that was reassuring. She also recommended Danijela have craniosacral treatments. If she does, it will be interesting to see the results.

Then we had an informal baby choking and CPR lesson with our friends Juli and John, who are especially concerned since their daughter is starting to eat solid foods. There's a worry we have to look forward to in a few months.

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, Danijela worked her third wedding since Oliver was born, this one the longest at eleven hours. My mum came by to help out again, and Oliver was fine except by the end of the night he had taken all the milk we had collected, and I was worried that he'd want more before bed. Luckily he didn't, although he fed soon after Danijela got home. Somehow, I also managed to make chutney and pickles that day.

Our friends Jen and Mike had invited us for Thanksgiving dinner the next day in Hamilton, and with the lure of a bacon-wrapped turkey—as well as a social visit, of course!—we were keen to go. And we managed it, even though Danijela was exhausted from her long day. It was well worth it though. I hate to miss a Michael Kennedy feast, and this one was no exception. Plus, we got to see Marco and Melissa and their two-week-old daughter. We didn't want to reflect on our own experience of Oliver at two weeks! But it was a treat to see another family so new, and it was a reminder that things move so quickly. We also passed on a bag full of Oliver's clothes, some of which he didn't even get to wear. That night in Hamilton, Oliver slept for six and a half hours straight. Life was good.

The next day we gathered our energy to drive back to Toronto for a nice big family Thanksgiving at my folks' house, with Anne and Robert, Danijela's parents, and Snjezana and Carlos. We filled ourselves up again, and stocked up on leftovers, looking forward to the next weekend, when we'd head back to Hamilton for Danijela's family slava dinner. But this was the week...

We assume that it was all a growth spurt that has been causing Oliver to wake more frequently, but there are probably other factors. The less sleep we get, the more stress we feel, and I'm certain that affects Oliver's state. And now that Danijela has brought her computer home from her studio to work, things feel a bit less loose than before. Also, he seemed to be napping more during the days, and even had a couple of unprecedented three-hour early evening sleeps. Maybe that was keeping him from sleeping at length. I don't know. Of course, those extended daytime sleeps are making it easier for Danijela to actually get work done at home, and should allow me to cook us up some dinners.

We managed to get to High Park for a couple of walks to see the colours, although there wasn't much change yet, and we tried to get dinner at the new Hey Meatball! restaurant (simply, "Hey!") on Roncesvalles, but one night it closed early and the other we learned that their dinner menu doesn't include meatballs—how disappointing! (It's also fairly pricey for what looks like pretty basic fare.) I think we both managed to fight off burgeoning colds, too, despite our advancing exhaustion.

Meanwhile, I worried about frost and having the time to pull down all my tomato plants. I managed to get them out mid-week and make (and then burn) another batch of chutney. Still waiting to make more pickles and plant my garlic though!

Somewhere along the way, we learned that Jane and TJ and Raven were coming to town—yay!—for a whirlwind weekend visit so TJ could participate in The Shows, a Toronto Fashion Week event showcasing ex-pat Canadian designers. Of course, we already had a full weekend ahead, and we were worried we might not even see them—at least until the show on Tuesday, which we wouldn't miss if at all possible.

Saturday, friends Leslie and Andrew finally got hitched after sixteen years. We were excited about this for many reasons, the big one being that we were going out without Oliver—gasp! My parents brought Jane and Raven along to babysit, so we had a brief reunion while we rushed around getting ourselves ready. I had to instruct my mum in diaper-changing, bottle-warming, and to-bed-putting—well not really instructing, but you know, we have our ways of doing these things. It was too much a rush, especially when we see the London Gorleys so infrequently, but it can hardly be helped. We are lucky to see them as often as we do (in fact this year has been especially good to us). It was only in the spring they were in Toronto last, and nearly six-year-old Raven seems to have grown up quite a bit. I'm sure attending school is making a difference.

The wedding was lovely, the ceremony brief and charming. I find most ceremonies short after being at so many Serbian weddings! Sometimes I want them to go on a bit—to be a bit more ceremonious—but maybe not to the length Danijela's and mine did. It was a great pleasure to see many friends, although we left before dancing. Our babysitters were also getting tired.

Then back to Hamilton on Sunday! It never stops! Danijela's family's saint is St. Michael and their slava day always falls on or around Thanksgiving. Slava is always an important dinner, similar to Thanksgiving, but this year was especially important, due to the new addition to the family—Mile and Mara's first grandchild. Snjezana and Carlos were there of course, along with our friend Tijana and one small branch of Danijela's mum's family: her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Given the gravity of the occasion, Mile had also invited the family's priest—now retired—Otac Lazar, to sing and bless Oliver. It was fitting, as he married us and will probably christen Oliver, too. Mile had already opened (and the party—mainly he, Carlos, and Otac Lazar—had gone through) a third of a bottle of very good cognac reserved four years earlier just for the occasion of Oliver's birth. I caught up quickly before dinner. It was an important celebration after all.

Oliver was happy enough to be doted over by family, and we were happy to have someone else take care of him for a little while! That night, the Hamilton magic returned and he slept for six hours. Was the growth spurt over? Could we return to background panic? Could we sleep again? Would I once again avoid a hangover? Tune in next time to find out!

But seriously, I want to stop here, so I can think about other things for a minute. The boy will awake soon, and then, who knows!

Notes

Babies don't blink.
Read on..!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Parenthood: every day's a little the same, a little different

As we approach six weeks of parenthood, we are seeing more signs of Oliver's personhood. It is a tremendous pleasure to watch his face respond, his eyes follow, his lips curl into a smile, and it's nice to think that we are a part of that progress. He is happy, as far as I can tell, and we're happy, too, especially when he's calm!

What else is Oliver doing? He's paying much closer attention to things around him than before, and I think he's starting to see beyond his immediate surroundings. He's holding his head up very well—"almost too well", according to one source! (I'll return to that later.) He's much happier to lie by himself for periods, looking at whatever we place nearby, which allows us to do things like use the bathroom or make tea. He seems to be gaining control over his limbs; he still flails about, but he also makes clearly coordinated motions, like stretching both arms at once. He sometimes turns his head towards familiar voices. He definitely follows faces with his eyes. He's starting to get his hands in his mouth more consistently.

God, it fills my heart to look at this magical creature, this helpless little human who holds all the power in the world.

In occasional spare moments, I think of what it means to be a parent. There is so much advice, much of it conflicting, and it is difficult to imagine how a person can feel at all confident in the early days of parenthood. I think the general goal of parenting is to raise a child who can navigate the ways of life independently yet in cooperation with others. Specifically however, that means teaching not just about the timeless ways of people and relationships, but also the contemporary ways and relations of society today: what it means to live now. I suppose a strong education in the former will generally improve the chances of understanding the latter. But these are thoughts for another day.

We are still dealing with the immediate concerns of improving Oliver's latch and, thereby, our ability to cope. To that end, on the recommendation of our lactation consultant, Lynda, we took Oliver on Friday to see an osteopath for craniosacral therapy. Lynda suggested that due to the long labour and efforts of birth, Oliver might have a tight jaw, which prevents him from opening his mouth wide enough to patch properly. It seemed plausible enough, especially since nothing else was working. We were certainly willing to give it a shot—at least as long as my insurance covered it!

Somehow we made it out to the Footprints clinic in Fairview for ten o'clock, and the therapist, Tema Stein, was very friendly and helpful and told us everything she was doing, and she was quite good at reading Oliver. The treatment involves very light pressure at various points on the head. She seemed to release his jaw somewhat and open up his latch, but as with everything we've tried, it has been difficult in the ensuing days. Still, it was the most promising thing we've seen, I think. We have another appointment next week, and we have high hopes.

It was Tema who said that Oliver is holding his head up almost too well. She suggested that some tension throughout his body is lifting his diaphragms, keeping his back and neck excessively straight, preventing him from arching his back (i.e., relaxing), and perhaps contributing to his difficulty latching. The jaw and back tension are related, so the treatment should improve both. Oliver was definitely more relaxed than usual for the rest of Friday.

Tema also mentioned the Dunstan baby language, and showed us how Oliver was saying he needed to burp. We had looked at (and attempted to use) the Dunstan method when Oliver was about two weeks old, but then promptly forgot about it in our early desperation. According to Priscilla Dunstan, babies use five universal sounds to communicate hunger, gas (upper and lower), discomfort, and sleepiness. The sounds aren't language per se, but rather vocal expressions of bodily states. It's pretty remarkable, but requires the parent to listen calmly and carefully, even when the baby seems to be in distress. We weren't really ready for that at two weeks!

Notes

My knees hurt from the bouncing.

I don't know how I missed this before, but last week I noticed (and marvelled at) the power of the sun to bleach stained diapers. I was stunned when I started pulling the diapers off the clothesline, no doubt in part because as I was hanging them, I thought to myself just how bad they looked and wondered what I would do to whiten them.

If anyone cares to know, I spend about an hour every two or three days cleaning diapers. Usually, I have to handwash the diaper covers every other day. (But only because I'm too cheap to buy more!)

Wow, I was tired last week. I think I caught a bug, but managed to beat it before it took hold. I don't care what studies say, I find Cold FX almost always works to prevent illness. Read on..!
 
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The New Dilettantes by Adam Gorley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.