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!


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.

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