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..!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Parenthood: five weeks (and a day)

After a busy week, a busy weekend, and then a return to something like normal. Plus: smiles!

On Saturday, our friends Ben and Annick, who eloped the day Oliver was born, visited and were lucky enough to actually see (and hold) the boy. That is, he wasn't sleeping in confinement, which is often the case when people visit. It is terrific to see friends again and laugh and catch up a bit. We need it! Danijela and I have both felt fairly isolated since the birth, trying to get used to the new normal and avoiding most external interruptions to the anti-routine. I at least have got out to pick up groceries and other necessities. We have gone out for walks and had the occasional visitor, but not much, and the end of summer is an especially bad time to be stuck inside. Anyway, Ben and Annick brought some remnants of that summer sunshine, and I hope Oliver passed one some of his own light.

Danijela's parents followed (overlapped, really) for a brief visit before taking in some Toronto culture. They would return the next day to celebrate Danijela's mum's birthday.

Oliver was still having trouble latching, and his sleep that night was not what we are used to, but he was fine the next day. It's Danijela and I who are most bothered by the interruptions!

On Sunday, Danijela had the first of a series of mothering classes, recommended by our doula, so she would be away mid-afternoon for a few hours. Our friend and slightly less-recent mother Keira is taking the course with Danijela, so we arranged that her husband Joe and their daughter Evelyn would come to ours for the afternoon and have a daddy daycare. We all had lunch together—well, I bounced with Oliver while everyone else ate, then I ate—and Danijela and Keira took the TTC downtown. I'm pretty excited for Danijela. I think she could use the activity and the company and some different perspective that it's not easy to get from close friends or family.

Meanwhile, Joe and I tried to talk dad stuff without being interrupted, but we were unknowingly in the middle of a bit of an emergency: Oliver's swing was failing! It was acting erratically and wouldn't stay on, so I was having trouble getting Oliver to stay asleep, besides changing his diaper a bunch of times. Evelyn was fine—amazing actually—and gives me great hope for Oliver in a couple of months. She was wide-eyed, but entertained, not upset. She can sit up, sort of, and control her arms, sort of. She talks to herself and others, and puts things in her mouth. She responds to all kinds of cues. She wanted to be near her daddy, of course, but she could sit or lie by herself for periods without Joe worrying about meltdowns! What a pleasure. She did have a tired meltdown later on in the afternoon, but she is still a baby after all. Oliver was fine but for the fact that I couldn't put him down for any length of time, which is not unusual. I bottle-fed him in the mid-afternoon and he did sleep some, but mostly on my shoulder while we walked about the house. I did manage to throw one load of laundry in to wash, a surprisingly difficult task sometimes.

Then the moms returned and Danijela's parents, sister, and brother-in-law arrived. After Keira and Joe left, we passed Oliver around while the others ate dinner, and the men drank, we had cake, and finally Oliver slept, and everyone left. Alone again, with baby. One of these nights, we tried to watch This is Spinal Tap, but couldn't quite finish. We watch movies in two parts now. Sunday night was interrupted more often than usual, too, but Monday morning, I took Oliver upstairs and we hung out for a couple of hours while Danijela got much-(desperately-)needed sleep.

My big task for Monday was to diagnose the swing's condition and correct it, if possible. Danijela thought it was batteries. I was skeptical, since the people we bought it from said they replaced them only once over a couple of years, and we've only had it for less than a month. I suspected corrosion, which we had noticed when we first brought it home. I was just hopeful there was something we could do about it! I was right. There was moisture in the battery compartment, which we must have failed to eliminate when we first set the thing up. Some of the contacts had corroded, but remarkably not beyond repair. The setup is quite simple, too, and I could remove, clean, and replace some of the bits, even the battery contacts. Now it's back in working condition, and dry with the help of the hair dryer, although there is a bit of shock-absorbent sponge in there that doesn't seem to want to dry.

I finished up with the swing just in time to put Oliver to sleep in it, before our friends Finlay and Justyna dropped by with cheese, sausage, and fresh bread. This felt like more people in three days than we saw in a month. And despite not being able to show off Oliver, it was a pleasure to sit and chat with friends, even if there was light despair in our voices and fatigue in our eyes.

And somehow that night, I found time to bake a pumpkin pie with some frozen pie filling from last year, as well as round two of cherry tomato paste, with a few additional frozen tomatoes also from last year. However, I didn't know that the pie filling was the unseasoned and unsweetened type, so the finished pie was a bit of a bland surprise! In case this happens to you, though, all is not lost. You can mix up all the seasonings with the sugar and spread the mixture on top of the pie, and by the next day it will have soaked into the pumpkin—pie saved!

Since our new normal involves frequent trips to the breastfeeding clinic, that's what we did Tuesday (the day I started this post) for another follow-up. Despite nursing better over the past couple of days, Oliver showed no dramatic signs or intention of improving his latch, so the consultant suggested using a lactation aid to help fill him up. That means putting one end of a fine tube into a bottle of expressed milk and the other end in his mouth when he's nursing to increase the amount of milk he takes in and fill him up. It seems to work pretty well, but it is more labour-intensive than our previous efforts, involving both of us rather than just Danijela, and it doesn't take any less time than without! But it's a temporary measure while we attempt to increase Danijela's milk supply via herbs and a drug called domperidon. It all feels a little bit crazy, no doubt in part because of our new-parent state of mind. If I understand correctly, babies become much more efficient at breastfeeding as they grow, taking much less time and eating less often, but it's no surprise to me that many—most—mothers choose not to continue after a few weeks, since it sure can be a figurative and literal pain early on.

Anyway, things feel good. After the clinic, we drove downtown to pick some processed film for Danijela, grabbed lunch at Sense Appeal (cheap and delicious) where we ran into another friend, and walked to St. Andrew's Playground where we ate lunch in the warm September air. I had to amble around as I ate to keep Oliver asleep, and then amble some more as Danijela went for a quick shop. It was a treat to be out and about, to take in some of the city before the leaves and weather turn. Especially now as the city is on constant renewal. Too, I am used to travelling all around town and seeing what there is to see, although, not so much in the past year.

Well, now it's Wednesday, and I wanted to post this yesterday, and I'd love to take a nap, so I'll finish up.

Notes

In the five days from one appointment to the next, Oliver gained 170 grams (six ounces), and now weighs 4.68 kilos (ten pounds, five ounces), so still no worries about whether he's getting enough to eat.

Did I mention smiles? On the weekend, Oliver gave us his first big smiles, as well as lots of new (i.e., non-crying) talk. It really is a whole different thing now, and I'll gush about his beautiful newness when I'm more awake!

I don't think Danijela will agree, but I think Oliver is becoming somewhat predictable. Either we or he are settling into our roles and routines. Of course, I fully expect that to change completely now that I've said it.

More later! Read on..!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Parenthood: day thirty-two

Well well, we've had a fair amount of excitement since Oliver passed the four week mark, and I have alternated between being too busy and too lazy to document it all.

On Tuesday, we had a routine visit with the midwife, which was truly routine. She weighed him—nine pounds, fifteen ounces (4.51 kilos)—and answered some questions and then we were done. We said our goodbyes, since our final appointment in two weeks will be with our other midwife. The midwife care has been a great experience overall. They were very helpful and accommodating throughout the pregnancy, and they made several house visits in the first week after Oliver was born.

On the other hand, we've visited the Better Breastfeeding Clinic three times now, and the consultants we've seen there—one doctor and one nurse—have been a little surprised at what the midwives have omitted in their recent care. The clinicians have paid much more attention to his thrush and diaper rash, as well as a couple of other things that slip my mind at the moment, even though these things are not explicitly within their purview. But that's what doctors do, I think. They fuss a lot more about details. The important thing is that Oliver is healthy and has been healthy. And it was the midwife who recommended the breastfeeding clinic in the first place.

Regardless, I'm very happy that we had midwives, and we would certainly do so again.

So, on Wednesday, we had our first follow-up visit at the breastfeeding clinic. The doctor saw some improvement in Oliver's latch, but his feedings were still taking quite a long time and he was still doing a lot of fussing and causing Danijela pain, which was making things difficult for everyone.

While I've talked mostly about Oliver's sleeping and crying, it's feeding that has caused the most problems, and I think it is probably the main source of his other troubles. You might think that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, since it's (well, was) fundamental to the survival of the human race, but it is not easy. In fact, it's probably the most difficult aspect of parenthood we've faced. A baby who doesn't latch properly will have trouble filling his stomach in a reasonable period of time. A baby who doesn't fill his stomach at a feeding will likely be cranky and not sleep properly, and it may be very difficult to determine the cause of the trouble. Indeed, it may be very difficult to determine the cause of a poor latch, let alone what to do about it. Not only that, improper latches can be painful for nursing mothers and make feedings excessively long. What a system, nature! We've experienced all of this with Oliver; hence our visits to the clinic, as well as another one at Toronto East General. Adding to the difficulty, Oliver is growing perfectly well and voiding regularly, so we have no reason to think that he's not getting enough milk.

I guess I only mentioned briefly our first visit to the clinic before. Well, at that meeting, the previous week, the doctor talked at us for an hour and a half and we left more confused than when we arrived. Despite the information overload, things did seem to improve afterward. The doctor offered more detail about the correct latch than we had previously, and some other reassurances. She also diagnosed his thrush; we already knew about the diaper rash.

Then she mentioned that Oliver might have a tongue tie, which neither Danijela nor I had heard of before, and suggested that releasing it might improve his latch. Surgery—yikes! A tongue tie occurs when the band of flesh anchoring the tongue to the bottom of the mouth (the frenulum) is too tight to allow free tongue movement. It's fairly common, which is a bit of an evolutionary mystery to me. Children generally grow out of it eventually, but it often interferes with breastfeeding. Releasing a tongue tie involves simply snipping the frenulum. There's little blood, and the baby goes straight to the breast afterward to eat, soothe, and heal. We weren't at all keen on the idea initially, but at our follow-up visit, we agreed that it would be a good idea at least to have the clinic's tongue-tie expert assess it and go from there. "Luckily", there was an appointment available the next day. It was all a bit of a rush and we are still hesitant to take him in the car, as he is unpredictable in his seat.

So, back we went on Thursday, to see another lactation consultant and the tongue-tie man. By this time, we'd already decided to go ahead with the tongue-tie release if the doctor recommended it. The risks are low, the potential benefits high, they could do the thing right there in the office, and the doc assured us he'd treated similar tongue ties many many times. We said yes—we are keen to try what we can to continue breastfeeding—and they did it. I had a brief moment of fear as they held Oliver down, opened his mouth, and inserted the scissors, but it was over before the fear set in (and before Danijela even realized), and there really was very little blood. He nursed immediately after, while the clinicians looked on and continued to fret over his latch.

Unfortunately, while the doctor was impressed with the release, the operation doesn't seem to have made any improvement yet. Indeed, Oliver seems to be having a little more difficulty latching since then, which one might expect with a completely different range of tongue motion. The lactation consultant has recommended craniosacral therapy for Oliver to relax his jaw and allow him to open his mouth wider, and we'll be trying that soon I guess—as long as the treatment is covered by my health insurance!

Let me leave it at that, and I'll probably forget to pick up the story between now and the next time. Read on..!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Parenthood: day twenty-seven

There is some triple-nap action happening in our house these days (Oliver, Danijela, Pippin), and it is making clear the limitations of our space. We have six and a half rooms (using Québec notation, and not including the cramped utility/tool room and laundry corridor). The nursery, where Oliver sleeps during the day, is off the kitchen and has a hollow door that might as well be a beaded curtain for all the sound it blocks. However, it is currently the darkest room in the house and will probably remain so. Our bedroom is in the basement, away from the general noise (but beside the laundry) but has no curtain, and Danijela doesn't like to nap there. So when it's nap time, which means at least Oliver is sleeping, possibly Danijela, and almost definitely the cat, we or I must be very, very quiet. You might not think that a problem, but I'm used to spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen, and it drastically limits what we can do during these periods. It's not like I've got a lot of time to cook when Oliver's awake!

It's clear that we did not consider the implications of locating the kid's room beside the kitchen, for the near or distant future. Only now am I thinking of what it will mean when, at any time in the next few years, we want to have guests after, you know, seven o'clock. Ha ha ha!

We could put Oliver down to nap in our bedroom, but that is a temporary solution, as eventually we'll want him to sleep in the nursery day and night. We could also switch bedrooms, but some of you will know that we already did that in preparation for baby time, and we would be loath to do it again, for a number of reasons. For one, we bought a bed that won't fit in the nursery! The current arrangement is definitely a far better use of space, in my opinion, but it does present challenges. I can only hope that a good new door will take care of the greatest of them. If you will indulge my home renovationist for  a moment, we had hoped to put a nice french door there, and maybe even open up the wall a bit, but I don't think that'll be happening now! Of course, pretty near all of our planned renovations are in doubt now—except the bathroom. That must happen!

Notes

Oliver has clearly grown heavier, and we'll find out just how much tomorrow at our four-week (!) midwife appointment, another trip into Kensington, hopefully with less rain than last time.

Tomorrow will be four weeks of parenting! We haven't dropped Oliver yet, although he occasionally seems intent on lurching from our grasp.

I am intent on making the most of this glorious late summer weather and spending lots of time outdoors, preferably away from our property. I would like to spend time in the garden, which I've sorely neglected, leaving it to the whiteflies. There are tomatoes to harvest and plants to prune—always—but there's also lots of other household/personal/baby stuff to do.

Such as:

Cleaning diapers! A friend asked the other day how I'm dealing with diaper stains. I said I'm not bothering, which seems to me the only reasonable course of action. But I didn't mention that we're using diaper covers that hide any stains. Know this: cloth diapers will stain. Since we're using diaper covers, the important thing is not necessarily to whiten the diapers themselves, but just to make sure we thoroughly clean and rinse them. When the diapers reach a stain level where we can no longer stand to look a them, I suppose I'll bleach them and rinse, rinse, rinse. However, we have some diapers made of unbleached organic cotton and I'd hate to treat them that way. Those I might boil, treat with some other stain remover, and hang in the sun. Heck, if that works, I'll do it to all of them. But for now, they've mostly got pale green blotches, and that's okay by me.

Reading (about babies)! Our doula recommended Your Baby & Child: from Birth to Age Five by Penelope Leach as her go-to baby book, and we took it out from the library last week. I've only just started reading it, but it's very reassuring.

More later. Gotta go hang some diapers while the sun is shining! Read on..!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Parenthood: day twenty-five

Lest anyone think that I'm having a bad time as a new father, I assure you I'm in love with my son and adjusting fairly well to my role as his dad. He is a beautiful boy, and I only pray I can do the right things to support him on his ascent to the stars. It is frustrating—often!—but that is the nature of challenge, particularly such a great one as parenthood. And the goal is one of the most important and rewarding: a happy child. I believe I'm up to it. Just, you know, I'm used to certain things, but now I can't have expectations of time.

So on to positive stuff!

Oliver is most like a person when he is holding his head up. Otherwise, he still seems to be little more than a living doll. He is certainly demonstrating development besides lifting his head though. Yesterday and today, when he awoke from a stint in the swing, I saw him sucking his thumb. I'm sure it is still accidental, but it's promising nonetheless. The swing seems good for this, because the shoulder straps keep his hands near his face and prevent them from flailing around too much. When we lay him on his front, he lifts his head, kicks and pushes, starting to make crawling motions. He's also starting to follow objects with his eyes and take a keen interest in patterns.

He also doesn't seem to complain as much about gastrointestinal activity, although at this point I don't want to suggest that I can predict anything about his behaviour! We tried gripe water a few times, and he liked it and it calmed him, but did it help him digest? I couldn't say. We haven't used it in a few days, and he hasn't made any of the grunting cries we associated with internal argy-bargy.

Notes

Only Oliver's head and back are still peeling, and only a little, and his thrush and diaper rash appear to be receding. I think my diaper cleaning practices have improved. Actually, I'm sure they have. I think I simply wasn't rinsing them enough. I've also been changing him more frequently. He went through all of his cloth diapers—almost thirty—in about a day and a half! He was eating a lot more that day, too; maybe a growth spurt.

His face is taking on shape, or so Danijela says. I think he still doesn't look much like either of us—although he resembles Danijela as a baby—but she says he looks like me, which I suppose is inevitable. This is one of the ways parenthood distorts time. It is possible, even easy, to try to imagine the future Oliver—what he'll look like, what he'll like, how he'll behave—but day-to-day it is happening almost maddeningly slow. Still, it will be only a few weeks before he is an entirely different baby.

I've all but given up on stretching. Our days will have to be quite different than they are for that to continue.

Danijela is working today, a longer day than last weekend. The day has been uneventful so far though. He's napped for three hours already. I can only guess that he'll awaken soon, but who knows! We'll be feeding Oliver with a cup for the first time, rather than a bottle, in the hopes of avoiding nipple confusion and interfering with his ability to breastfeed. My parents are here to help, but they have barely even seen the babe, as he's been in his nursery the whole time. I managed to get a lie-down, and I might manage to run out to grab some groceries, but not until after a change and a feed. Now with the luxury of a still moment, I have no idea what to do but continue to write.

Okay, I do have some chores that I might be able to finish quickly. So: more later! Read on..!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Parenthood: day twenty-four

It's one thing getting used to interrupted sleep. Sometimes I get a chunk of six hours, followed by another two or three (oh sweet nights). Sometimes I get four hours, then three, then two. Sometimes, I get two, two, two, and two. I'm dealing with this better than Danijela, I think. I generally function okay on limited sleep; it's really only the nights with several interruptions that really set up bad days for me. Of course, Danijela is actually getting less sleep than me, since while Oliver might wake us both in the night, she's the one who has to stay up to nurse him.

It's a whole other thing handling Oliver's interrupted daytime sleeping. When he naps regularly during the day, he's terrific; when he doesn't, he's trouble. He gets overtired and doesn't know what he wants; anything might set him off; he's never really comfortable, often inconsolable. And we're all miserable. Yesterday was one of those days. Nothing seems to go right; we feel trapped because he's demanding our attention; we can hardly eat or visit the bathroom; we certainly can't take naps ourselves! I didn't brush my teeth until four in the afternoon yesterday. (Usually I get to it by at least two.) We can't wait for those days to be over, and hope for the next one to be more calm.

(I've spoken too soon though. Today, he's been pretty good—he even had a good hour or so of grandma time—yet by four o'clock, I still hadn't brushed my teeth, to my recollection. I did, however, cook lunch and put all of his diapers in the wash. Big accomplishments!)

Looking back, besides general confusion, lack of sleep (on all fronts) pretty much defined the first two weeks of this little boy's life! It was hard to feel good about anything, even looking at his sweet face. But things have definitely improved—his sleep and ours. The difference is really amazing. When Oliver is rested, he takes things in stride. He won't kick and scream when we're changing his diaper; he'll wait longer to nurse; he won't complain about a few minutes of tummy-time; he's less likely to cry for no apparent reason; he's generally an agreeable little boy.

Still, getting him to sleep is almost always a challenge! Even when it's clear he's tired, he seems to want to keep his eyes open and look at things, or when he does fall asleep and we put him down, he wakes himself up with his flailing limbs. Sometimes, he'll pass out after (or while) eating, but he seldom gets so full that he's out for the long haul. Right now, it's my shoulder and continuous motion (walking, specifically) that do the trick, but even that is not a sure bet. The swing works, too, but still not consistently. Oof, just now, at nine-thirty, I'm doing all I can to get him to close his eyes.

Anyway, I think I'm repeating myself here. No notes today, I've got to get this kid to sleep. Hopefully tomorrow! Read on..!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Parenthood: day twenty

Almost three weeks! I'd like to say that time seems to be going quickly, but really it just seems like time no longer exists. There is only waking, baby, eating, baby, sleeping, baby, hygiene, and baby. Occasionally there are television, reading, appointments, guests, cat, bills, the outdoors, and this here blog. But time? None of that!

I am frequently reminded of the words of Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." I feel more that a little of Arthur Dent's disorientation that when he learns from Prefect that his world is about to be bulldozed. I could use a copy of the good guide, with its reassuring cover: "Don't panic!"

The lessons at the moment are that nothing works every time, and everything takes time. I suppose those are fairly good general life lessons, but they apply particularly well to babies—my Oliver at least. The swing calms only sometimes; the white noise pretty consistently; driving, well, faster seems better; Dr. Karp's five S's are a last resort, but even then, don't always do the trick; talking, sshing, rocking, cuddling, bouncing, patting, ignoring, walking, strolling, rubbing, changing positions, distracting, eliminating distractions, you get the picture. But also expecting any of these things to work after only a minute or two—or ten—is a big mistake. When Oliver is worked up, it's always over something, and unfortunately it's often the last thing we think of. It doesn't help that babies have a somewhat inefficient mode of communication. It's obvious that baby cries require action, but it's not at all clear what that action should be. But we're learning!

To use a terrible car metaphor (I've been driving everywhere), we're still learning to operate the parental transmission, and experiencing a few stalls. Indeed, I'd say we're still working in first gear. For example, I've had to get used to holding Oliver for ten, twenty, or thirty minutes at a time. Of course I enjoy this time with him, but it engages my complete attention and tires me, physically and sometimes mentally. I'm used to having much more freedom with my time, whether I used that time for anything worthwhile or not. When I'm tired (much more common now :) I become impatient more easily, and am more likely to feel frustrated or trapped if I can't seem to have a moment to myself. But this is life now. I love my boy, I'll do what I need to do, and I'm learning to slow down a little bit to appreciate these moments, just to be with him and not worry about what else is going on or what I could be doing.

I'm glad to be on parental leave until the end of the year, despite taking a pretty significant cut in my income over that time. If I had to return to work after two weeks of leave, we'd all be freaking out, even though I work mainly at home. Also, since Oliver was born eleven days after I started my leave, I would only have had five free days with him and Danijela—yikes! I can hardly imagine. I feel sorry for other new dads who don't have this option, whose partners will take the full allotment of parental leave. Quebec does a little better by new dads than the other provinces, offering a paternity leave of up to five weeks—at seventy percent of their regular income, what! Anyway, we'll make do with fifty-five percent. It's much better than nothing.

Notes

Oliver has gained about 140 grams (five ounces) this week and now weighs approximately 4.25 kilos.

He is currently enjoying his first cases of thrush and diaper rash, although they don't seem to be causing him much discomfort.

We've visited two breastfeeding clinics, and got lots of great and overwhelming advice, which I'll try to talk about later.

Danijela worked her first job since the birth yesterday—remarkable! (Our doula repeatedly told us how strong Danijela is, and I can't help but agree.) Her parents came in for the day to help out, but Oliver was no trouble at all, even with bottle feeding. He ate and slept and ate and slept, barely giving his baka and deda (and tetka, too) any time at all to dote on him. I'm missing my folks more and more! We'll see them on Thursday probably.

I've been reading up on cloth diapers. I really went into this blind, and am keen to do things—folding, washing, etc.—a little differently.

Okay, the little Dragon awakes. More later! Read on..!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Parenthood: day seventeen

A couple of nights ago, I drove from Symington to the edge of Markham, fifty kilometres each way, to pick up a strange baby-rocking contraption from a kind family that no longer needed it. They charged us fifty dollars for the otherwise two hundred dollar beast, so the two-hour trek was worth it. Anyway, I love a good drive.

When I first saw the thing though, I was a bit stunned. There it sat in this family's foyer, like some infant space flight training machine. I had no idea these things are so big! I was a little worried that it wouldn't fit in the car, but it did, and now it sits in our living room, giving us some idea of what our house will look like over the coming years.

Swings are another recommendation from Dr. Karp. Although they're clearly a popular choice for helping infants sleep, we hadn't thought about them until watching his video, which makes them look like miracle machines. I was unsure, thinking we could get by without, but Danijela was immediately convinced. She was right.

After washing the seat covers and cleaning the leaked battery acid from two of the four D batteries left in the compartment (and worrying that maybe we'd bought a dud), we plopped a cranky Oliver in the seat, set it to swing at the fastest speed, turned on the white noise, and waited. A minute of rocking and he was calm as can be. A couple minutes more and he was asleep. Yes!

So not only does this thing swing at six speeds, it also offers two levels of "soothing vibration", five or six varieties of white noise, including one with bird sounds, tinny lullabies, volume control, a mobile, and other distractions. Strangely, though (to me at least), it only runs on batteries. However, the seller assured us that she had only replaced them once for two kids, so I guess four Ds go a fair distance.

The key of course is that it works, that is, it puts Oliver to sleep. This is mainly important for naps. He might nap otherwise, but up until we got this thing, that was unpredictable at best, and certainly a lot more effort. As far as we can tell, in the first couple of weeks, Oliver slept about ten or eleven hours in a twenty-four-hour period, almost entirely at night. Much of his daytime sleep was in five-minute increments while he was nursing. But the normal range for newborns is fifteen to twenty hours. He should have been having several naps during the day, but he wasn't, and I think that had a lot to do with his fussiness and crying. We could see that he was tired, but he wouldn't sleep. He didn't know how to nap yet.

A common refrain from parenting guides is that infants have to learn how to sleep properly (and parents have to teach them). Without aids like motorized swing chairs, that means creating an appropriate environment for naps, looking for the signs of sleepiness (usually not too hard to catch), putting the kid down, and hoping for the best. Then, when the baby cries out five, ten or fifteen minutes later, soothing him to sleep again and on and on, until he finally naps. Or doesn't, which was often the case with Oliver. And then there's overtiredness. Oh man. But both child and parent learn from this process, right?

The contraption in our living room requires no training. We notice the signs of regular or overtiredness, put him in the seat, turn it on, and watch—voila! Whatever. If we had to spend another few weeks teaching Oliver how to nap, we'd all lose it. Anyway, he's already napping better both in and out of the seat, and he seems happier for it, so while I wonder a bit about what it means to use the fancy seat, I don't feel bad using it.

Notes

Oliver gained two pounds in his first two weeks. Usually newborns lose weight before the gain it, but he didn't lose any weight at all.

He seems to enjoy car rides, although this humidity is tricky. Today, we went location-scouting for an upcoming shoot of Danijela's, and he fell asleep on the drive, even after already having a couple of good naps. But on the drive home, he was hot and bothered, and we simply couldn't calm him.

It feels great to get out of the house and do things. The other day, we went for coffee and snacks at Starving Artist and stopped in Campbell Park to feed the little dude. On Tuesday, we took him to the midwives clinic in Kensington and then into the market for some supplies and sandwiches. That excursion might have been nicer if Danijela and Oliver weren't confined to the car due to the torrential rain. But these things are helping us feel normal.

While we're starting to sort out Oliver's sleep (fingers crossed), I don't know what to do about mine. I was spoiled last week with a couple of uninterrupted six-hour sleeps with couple-hour bookends, but that's not normal and I don't expect to enjoy such moments very often. I (and Danijela) haven't really napped either. There's generally too much to do. I feel pretty good though. I'm trying to do a few sun salutations every morning before breakfast to get the blood flowing.

We've been sleeping with a white noise rain track for the past week (another Karp recommendation—for baby, not specifically for us), so that has been weird, too. I don't think it has interfered with my sleep, but it is still odd.

We have both (all!) been much happier the last few days. Oliver has cried less, and has been easier to soothe, and Danijela and I have felt a lot more comfortable and confident, which I'm sure will not last!  

There really is too much to write, and I'm afraid I'm not completely coherent—not really finishing my thoughts. So more later! Read on..!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Parenthood: day thirteen

I'm feeling much calmer today, but frustrated in a different way. I think these days could have been easier if someone had told us that our baby might cry between half an hour and six hours a day, sometimes for no particular or apparent reason, and that is totally normal—in fact, part of healthy baby development. Soothing, too, is important to child development, and new parents might have to hold or nurse their babies for the better part of the day. Are these things controversial? I hardly think so. But not even Canada's Baby Care Book, by a pair of Sick Kids' Hospital doctors ("A complete guide from birth to 12 months old") discusses these things in any detail.

Of course, I knew before we got into this baby business that babies cry, sometimes a lot, and that they cry to communicate their needs. But I didn't know whether it was important to stop the crying or whether the crying was harmful and many other things. Are these things obvious? I'm not sure they are, especially when the baby doesn't stop crying. I guess it's my own fault for not asking more questions. I suppose the controversial part is that there are competing schools of thought on how and whether to soothe an infant's crying, and it's up to parents to decide what to do.

It doesn't matter now. We're all learning to understand each other better. Danijela and I have been able to help Oliver nap during the day, which he has mainly refused to do, and to sleep better at night, which is helpful for all of us. Indeed, last night, he slept for six hours, nursed, and then slept for another two and a half hours. I was almost fresh in the morning, and Oliver was far less cranky, letting us change him twice without fuss. He was much easier to soothe. He napped several times. We even went out for coffee in the afternoon, our farthest and longest trip yet. He did cry when he awoke, but it was very hot and he was hungry.

His worst cries seem to be about bowel movements. But he'll definitely give us an earful with little apparent provocation.

Anyway, I've continued my reading and here are some resources that I've found helpful:

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau, offers lots of good general advice about starting infants on a structured (but flexible) routine.

The Happiest Baby on the Block video, by Dr. Harvey Karp, proposes that the first three months of life are like a fourth trimester, and offers techniques to engage a baby's "calming reflex" by mimicking the conditions of the womb. I'm interested in looking at the accompanying book, which I'm sure provides far greater insight into the techniques, but the demonstrations in the video were sufficient for us to get started—and they work. However, Karp's methods are somewhat controversial because they aim to stop the baby's crying, which may prevent the baby from communicating her needs, and limit the amount of general soothing parents provide their baby.

"Is 'The Happiest Baby On The Block' the Most Oppressed?", by Lisa Sunbury, criticizes Dr. Karp's methods as disrespectful and manipulative of babies. Sunbury makes fine points, and it's definitely worth a read, but I don't think her general dismissal of the techniques is realistic. However, she does offer a list of very good links to additional resources.

In particular, "What is this crying all about?" (PDF), by Dr. Ronald G. Barr for the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. This 2007 article should be required reading for all new parents. Simply put, Barr notes that recent studies have found "that early increased crying—including the prolonged inconsolable crying bouts that so irritate caregivers—is actually a normal developmental phenomenon that occurs in completely normal developing infants. Further more, the outcome for these infants is excellent." Thank the good lord. There's lots more helpful information than that, too.

Another resource that Sunbury links to is The Period of Purple Crying, which, while clearly descriptive, is actually a simple acronym to help parents of infants react to baby crying. Essentially, research shows that from about two weeks to sixteen, infants cry more than any other time in their lives. The crying usually peaks around six to eight weeks, and then tapers off. If I had known that...

Notes

Oliver has had dry skin from the time he was born, likely because he was eleven days late to the party. I understand this is pretty common, and is usually done around two weeks. He's been peeling since the beginning, from his hands and arms, to his torso and legs, and now his head and feet. Seems like it's on schedule to clear up in a few days though. Then we have a brand new baby!

From the earliest of these early days, Oliver has been lifting and swinging his head like a champ. I feel like he's going to be rolling over in no time, yikes!

I haven't kept on top of Pippin's litter box, and now he's using the garden. It must be pretty bad in the box; he meowed through the night to get out, presumably to avoid stepping into the smell zone.

We eat fast and not according to any type of rational schedule. I have to be careful that I don't skip meals. Time, too, has become erratic, especially the afternoon. It disappears before I even notice it, swallowed by soothing and nap attempts (not my own) and laundry and whatever little household chores I can squeeze in (like changing that litter).

My mother-in-law stayed with us for the last week, which was very helpful, but also strange, and made me miss my parents! (Surely I've never said that before, although I may have felt it.) Conveniently, they had scheduled a vacation a three-week soon after Oliver's birth. But I can't blame them. Oliver made things hard on everyone by being so late!

Okay, enough. There's too much to say, but I must sleep. More later! Read on..!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Parenthood: day eleven

After nine days, I felt like things were going fine. Oliver was fussy, but I figured we just don't know what we're doing yet, right? But after one more day, my patience was nearing a plateau.

One day—about day five or six—he slept. It rained all day, and he slept all day. Then he slept fine in the night, too. I thought that was incredible. That was before I knew that newborns are supposed to sleep as much as cats.

From that day to yesterday, Oliver did not sleep during the day. Instead, he demanded the breast and cried whenever we put him down or changed him—especially when we changed him. He was clearly tired, but couldn't or wouldn't sleep, probably due in part to inappropriate (as opposed to excessive) stimulation and poor training—already! We swaddled, held, rocked, and bounced him; we sshed him and talked to him, and sometimes these things worked for a while, but never really long enough to feel confident they would work again.

Still, yesterday had some bright moments. I nursed him from a bottle, and he accepted that just fine. This was a lovely brief moment, even though he was a bit frantic. He napped in the morning, which we hoped was a good sign. (It meant nothing!) He is clearly growing well, and his lungs are developing nicely.

But by the evening, we were frazzled. He was fussy and cranky whenever he wasn't nursing, and we had no idea what to do about it. I was worried that he was becoming dependent on the breast to sleep. (Indeed, I think he is, but I'm not so worried about it today.) I was also worried that we were feeding him to soothe him whenever he was upset, and soon we would be unable to tell the difference between his various cries. (This is a less rational fear, I think.)

Save us baby whisperer!

Alas, as helpful as she can be, the whisperer's first book simply doesn't offer the type of immediate relief we needed.

Luckily, we have many new parent friends, and one suggested we look at The Happiest Baby on the Block, a calming method by pediatrician to the stars Harvey Karp. They even offered to bring over the DVD right away, which in our state was a very tempting offer. But I found it quickly online, and we watched it right away. We hadn't even finished watching before I applied four of Dr. Karp's "Five S's" to Oliver, and he was quiet and calm in a minute. In another couple of minutes, he fell asleep in my lap. That was about 8:30 last night. It's 9:30 in the morning now, and he woke for only about an hour and a half between then and now.

Holy...

I almost feel guilty, like I'm cheating. But mercy it was sweet relief.

Notes

Dining together has been an increasingly rare treat. We have, however, managed to watch Corrie a couple of times this week.

I've managed to get a decent kink in my lower back.

We took Oliver on a brief stroll around Perth Park the other day, which went well, although the ride was bumpy. We'll try again today I think.

Our first big outing will happen Tuesday when we take him to the midwives' clinic downtown. Then we'll see how much he's grown and how well he behaves out.

Things are looking bright again. The day holds great promise.

More later! Read on..!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Parenthood: day nine

Holy crow—this baby is amazing! What the hey hey—this baby is crazy!

The first week was strange and hard and wonderful. It was a blur of visitors, diapers, fatigue, one-arm tasks, and everything is different. He nursed, slept, woke, cried, and filled his diaper, all of which we expected, but for which we were nonetheless unprepared.

We did things for ourselves before. The first week, everything we did was for Oliver.

It is marvellous to look at him and feel our new family and to imagine the possibilities he embodies.

Notes

Meconium, the initial baby poo, while black-green and gooey as expected, was not as tar-sticky as we were told. Nonetheless, we used disposable diapers for those first days—for convenience and fear.

Regular infant poo is yellow and curdy, like sour milk, which it is essentially. (It also smells that way.) After a brief period, it turns green. There is a lot of pressure in an infant's intestine, which Oliver demonstrated by projecting his stool across the room when I wasn't prepared. The first time happened in the middle of the night, when in my dozy state I missed the signs that he wasn't quite finished moving his bowels. He nearly damaged one or two designer dresses of Danijela's. I said then that I wouldn't be so careless again, but mere hours later, I missed the signs at his morning change, and another clean-up job ensued.

Cloth diapers aren't terribly difficult to use—or inconvenient. We are using washable velcro diaper covers that enclose a thick replaceable cotton pad. No pins required! They're not quite as quick as disposables, and they are bulkier to be sure, but I feel pretty good about them so far. Obviously there's more laundry, too, but methinks that's the reality of parenthood, with or without cloth diapers.

It is strange not to sleep through the night. I'm getting used to it. Or am I?

I am washing my hands twice as much as usual, which is hard on my dermatitis.

Oliver has been difficult to soothe. This is among the most frustrating things I have ever experienced. His wants and needs are so simple, but our languages are utterly incompatible for the first while. But I understand that he's having an existential crisis pretty much constantly now that he's out of the womb, so I appreciate his anguish. Parenthood without patience must be a terrible experience.

The baby whisperer (Tracy Hogg) is a godsend.

More later. I have to eat and run! Read on..!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Medical marijuana: get used to it

After a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gustin L. Reichbach eventually discovered that "inhaled marijuana" was the only medication that allowed him to eat and sleep as needed to manage his pain and maintain his weight, energy, and morale. Unfortunately, for him, New York has not legalized medical marijuana, so his friends provide it "at some personal risk", illegally. Says Reichbach:
"This is not a law-and-order issue; it is a medical and a human rights issue. Being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I am receiving the absolute gold standard of medical care. But doctors cannot be expected to do what the law prohibits, even when they know it is in the best interests of their patients. When palliative care is understood as a fundamental human and medical right, marijuana for medical use should be beyond controversy."
"Because criminalizing an effective medical technique affects the fair administration of justice, I feel obliged to speak out as both a judge and a cancer patient suffering with a fatal disease."
Notice that he is not advocating for the more controversial general legalization of marijuana, but simply that medical patients should have legal access to medicine that has been proven effective. He also implies that marijuana is already so easy to get that there is little risk involved, but that isn't the point. Who benefits when otherwise law-abiding citizens are made into criminals for accessing medicine that can greatly improve their lives at little cost to themselves, government, and society?

In Canada, the question remains relevant as the government works to make it as difficult as possible for medical marijuana users to get their stuff. Why? Read on..!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

G20 report chastises police. But who's responsible?

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) has denounced the tactics that police and their superiors used during the G20 gathering in Toronto. The OIPRD has released a report that, hopefully, will be less easy to ignore than the past reports. See the Star's initial take.

I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this, but the thing that strikes me is the lack of accountability. No one seems to know (or name) who made the offending orders to leave the violent protesters (the "black bloc") alone and to trap and arrest the peaceful protesters the next day.

While a small group was breaking store windows and destroying police cars, the Major Incident Command Centre held a meeting about the havoc:
"At a point where there was silence, I asked the question, ‘Why are we not arresting these people?’" [incident commander Mark] Fenton is quoted as saying. "The Chief [Bill Blair] responded by looking at me and saying, ‘That is a very good question, Mark.’" 
Fenton said he also asked another incident commander how the situation had spiralled out of control. 
"Superintendent Ferguson responded by shaking his head and saying words to the effect of, ‘I tried, but I could not get the public order to move’ … I asked them to move and I was told that they couldn’t.’"
To whom did superintendent Ferguson make his request for a "public order"? Why was the request denied?

Then:
During the Queen and Spadina kettling, commanders on the ground made two requests to the major command centre at police headquarters: to use the LRAD—colloquially referred to as a “sound cannon”—to communicate with the crowd, and for an exit route for people to leave.  
"Both requests were denied," the [OIPRD] report said.
Again, who denied the orders and why? Read on..!

Friday, 20 January 2012

This is Mars

Read on..!
 
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