Attack of the two foot baby

Awwwwww babies. Gorgeously chubby, gurgling slabs of joy and fulfilment. That’s what we think before becoming parents.
On some level we are aware that they are also urine-soaked, poo-covered, sleep hijackers who scream and cry to get what they want, burp in your face and think nothing of covering both you and themselves in milky vomit on a pretty regular basis but generally speaking they have managed to cultivate the appearance of being relatively gentle, peace-loving creatures.

But don’t be taken in by their chubby thighs and toothless grins. Babies are violent little thugs who will inflict as much physical suffering on you as possible and then laugh in your face. By the time they reach the 7 month mark they have already acquired a fair few dirty fighting techniques and, like the best free fighters, generally prefer (dimpled) bare-knuckle fighting to using weapons. Here are just a few of the things to watch out for:

1 Claws – sharp little baby nails primed to wreak havoc on whatever uncovered part of face or body you happen to place within striking range. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re trying to grab your cheek, they’re really going for the eyes. Babies and their talons have provided inspiration for such characters as Edward Scissorhands, Freddie Kruger and Wolverine. It doesn’t matter how often you cut their nails they are always long enough and sharp enough to slash you.

How we see baby hands. Note the cute dimples around the knuckes

How we see baby hands. Note the cute dimples around the knuckles

...what baby hands actually feel like

…what baby hands actually feel like

2 Finger jabs – who pre-parenthood could have imagined the force with which a 18lb chub-monkey with little or no muscle definition can insert a finger in your eye or nose or both simultaneously.

3 Slaps- open handed rhythmic slapping. Cute when they do it on the high chair tray to show how much they’re just loving their apple purée, not so cute when they do it to your boobs while they’re feeding. Sort of reminiscent of a farmer patting his prize sow.

4 The boob pinch and twist – the slightly loose skin, a consequence of spending several months with a not inconsiderable weight dangling from it at all hours of the day and night, is irresistible to your child’s vice-like grasp. None breastfed babies content themselves with doing a similar move on ears and noses.

Adorably pinching teddy

Adorably pinching teddy

...the not so adorable boob pinch

…the not so adorable boob pinch

5 The nipple stretch- breastfeeders wince at the very mention. New babies are too in the feeding-zone to have any interest in the world beyond the boob. Unfortunately, older babies hear someone yawn half a mile away, whip their head round to see what’s disturbing their lunch and take your nipple with them.

6 Headbutting – one of the first skills honed. It isn’t so bad, and actually quite sweet, when a floppy 6-weeker rams your chin with their still softish skull but it’s a potential nose breaker when a 7-month old moves in for a kiss.

7 Hair pulling – most new mums complain about hair loss, what they don’t tell you is that 50% of loss is hormonal, the other 50% is yanked out in handfuls by those grasping little fingers: so precise when it comes to grabbing hair, yet so rubbish at picking up rice crackers.

Even with rubbish motor skills most babies have no problems grabbing hold of this ...

Even with rubbish motor skills most babies have no problems grabbing hold of this …

...months and months of precision hair pulling and yet they struggle to pick up one of these

…months and months of precision hair pulling and yet they struggle to pick up one of these

8 Plastic shapes-  the weapon of choice for the under-1s. Like that mad bloke down the pub who punches himself in the stomach saying ‘I’m well hard me’, the pre-toddler will bash themselves repeatedly in the face with the blue plastic triangle from their shape sorter and show no signs of distress. They will then proceed to hit you with it too and laugh at you when you cry.

9 Gumming-  there are those nights when you’re breastfeeding in the dark and you get gummed so hard that you’re convinced that the first tooth has come through. In the morning (clutching your still bruised nipple) you eagerly check your offspring’s mouth for the evidence. And…there are no teeth, just amazingly hard gums.

10 The realization that it can only get worse………

Premature Birth- bloody awful bloody wonderful bloody miserable bloody miraculous

T NICUIMG_3921

Today, 17th November, is World Prematurity Day and I felt that I should write something to mark the occasion as this year I had the (mis)fortune of becoming mum to a preemie. I say ‘(mis)fortune’ because everything about giving birth to a premature baby is a guaranteed-to-mess-with-your-mind-not-so-happy bundle of mixed emotions. It’s also something which to me still feels very raw, hence this feeling that I should write something while not particularly relishing the idea of reliving the experience.

When I tell people that T was born 10 weeks early they inevitably say something along the lines of ‘Aw, bless, he was in such a hurry to meet you’. There are many reasons why babies get born early but the unborn foetus’s desire to meet its parents is not one of them.

Some babies get wrenched into the world too soon because either they or their mother, or both, will die if they stay in utero any longer, sometimes preterm labour is triggered by a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) medical condition such as an incompetent cervix or untreated urinary tract infection and sometimes medics can’t find any good reason why. Whatever the medical reason given, every mother of a preemie will almost inevitably blame herself.

Today, 9 months, 2 weeks (quick look at clock) and almost exactly 3 hours after T was born, I’m still haunted by the question of what I did wrong or wonder if somehow I could have kept him inside just a few weeks more. Things that I sometimes wonder if they made a difference include:

1) I was a superfit (though borderline anoxeric) vegan when I conceived T, so part of me wonders if my body somehow ran out of resources to sustain the pregnancy (though I do also wonder whether my (over)consumption of decidedly non-vegan chocolate biscuits, fried foods and as much cheese as I could ram into my mouth as soon as the pregnancy hormones hit also played a role).

2)My whole pregnancy was quite frankly rubbish. I bled on and off from 6 weeks and after 4 previous miscarriages, 14 years of trying to conceive, 4 goes at IUI and 7 attempts at IVF I spent the whole pregnancy convinced that I was going to lose this baby too. Perhaps all that worrying turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically I think I jinxed it.

3) The weekend I went into labour, I’d just started to relax about going into premature labour (my reasoning was that the survival rate for babies born at 30 weeks is pretty damn good). The very fact that I was the type of pregnant woman who read up on survival rates for premature babies also leads me to conclude that I jinxed it.

4) I’d just started to read a book about hypnobirthing (basically relaxation techniques to help you achieve a wonderfully calm and natural birth). Jinxed it.

4) That week I had finally got over my fear of jinxing things and started buying things for the baby. Thereby jinxing it.

There are, however, two things that I just can’t forgive myself

T was born on a Monday morning. I’d spent most of Saturday at the hospital because I was having contractions, after having an IV drip of Buscopan the contractions had calmed down sufficiently to no longer be picked up on the monitor. But I could still feel them. Why didn’t I make more of a fuss about being sent home?

The contractions gradually got stronger throughout the day on Sunday but I put off going to the hospital because I didn’t want to cause a fuss and because the inlaws were due to pop over for a visit. I decided that yes I did need to go back to the hospital but that I could wait until after they’d gone home.

My waters broke 5 minutes after my inlaws arrived.

And so I will no doubt torture myself to the end of my days with the idea that perhaps I could have stopped T coming so soon if I’d just gone back to the hospital on the Sunday morning.

By the time we got the maternity ward it was basically too late to do anything but hope that they could slow down labour long enough for me to be given a series of steroid shots in the hope of boosting T’s lung function. I was told that he’d be arriving by C-section as he was breech but that I needed to do everything within my power to keep him in as long as possible. Cue the longest night of my (and my husband’s) life.

Labour hurts but when you go into labour at full term you have the consolation that each wave of searing pain will bring you closer to meeting your baby. So much of the literature about giving birth talks about welcoming each contraction and trying to relax into it. When you go into premature labour it’s the opposite- you just want the contractions to stop, not because of the pain but because if the contractions continue it means that your baby is coming and you would do anything in the world to keep that baby inside you for longer. You can’t welcome the contractions because everything in your head is screaming ‘Nooooooo’ and you can’t relax into the contractions because you’ve been told that you have to do everything in your power to keep that baby where it is for as long as possible.

From7pm to 10.30am I had contractions every couple of minutes, I couldn’t move from the bed to pee or change position because I was hooked up to drips (pumping me full of antibiotics, drugs to try to slow things down and fluids -I was nil by mouth as they knew I would have to rushed into theatre at any moment) and a foetal heart rate monitor (nothing like staring at one of those go up and down for 15hours, except then spending 7 weeks in NICU watching a monitor showing your baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen saturation levels).

Anyway, after having two steroid shots 12 hours apart and rejoicing at having managed to make it through the night, at 10.30 I felt a sudden need to go to the bathroom (and we’re not talking a pee). Having barely been dilated through the night, the doctor who examined me was not impressed to find that not only was I now fully dilated, but that T was heading out buttocks first.

Never have I seen so many people flood into a room so fast. I don’t imagine emergency c-sections are ever much fun. And mine was no different. I particularly wasn’t keen on the fact that the epidural was only partially successful, and had to ask for more pain relief as the surgeons started whatever they were doing behind the sheet.

I’d like to say I can laugh about it now. But I can’t. It makes me cry just thinking about it and it makes me feel physically sick. The worst thing about the whole experience was that nobody talked to me. Nobody looked at me. Nobody told me what was going on. Nobody told me if they had got T out. Nobody told me if T was alive or dead. At one point I begged the person nearest to me to tell me what was happening. She said she couldn’t tell me anything. That someone would tell me something soon. I know at some point I caught sight of someone rushing from the room. And I also heard a baby cry -though given that we were in a room on the delivery suite (as there was no time to wait for an OR to become available), there was no way of knowing if that was the first time I heard T cry or if I heard someone else’s baby. It was the loneliest, most terrifying wait of my life. Eventually, a doctor came in and held an aluminium foil wrapped thing close to my face. All I saw was a red face and a blue hat. My baby. And then he was taken away.

I didn’t get to hold T until he was 9 days old.

That’s something you don’t know about having a preemie until it happens to you. All any woman who has just given birth wants to do is hold their baby close to them,. You can’t hold your preemie until they’re stable. It’s torture sitting by their incubator and only being allowed to touch their head or cup their feet-though of course they’re so tiny that you’re terrified of touching them, of breaking them and their fragile looking skin.

And here is where preemie mums start to feel guilty again. We feel guilty because of not being able to keep our babies safe inside us and we feel guilty because in any NICU there are other babies who are so much sicker, so much tinier than ours. 9 days to hold my baby was nothing compared to those mothers whose babies had been born at 24 weeks.

I was one of the lucky ones. T was born weighing 1.4kg (just over 3lbs) and though he dropped down to 1.2kg (2lbs10oz) he didn’t have any serious medical problems- no brain bleeds, no hole in the heart, no real breathing difficulties. And though two weeks in, when he’d been doing brilliantly, he developed septicemia and I thought I was going to lose him, our seven week stay was medically just a matter of T learning to feed and put on weight.

I’ve only recently begun to think about those weeks again, and to be honest I’m not sure that I’ll ever really get over the experience. When you give birth to a preemie you find yourself in some bizarre limbo- everyone congratulates you on becoming a mother but you don’t feel like a mother because you aren’t doing any of the things which mothers do for their newborn child. You can’t hold them when they cry, you can’t change their nappies (at least until they’re catheter free and stable), you can’t be with them 24 hours a day (though I wanted to be), you can’t feed them (though after a few days you might be allowed to slowly depress the syringe to send a couple of ml of milk into their feeding tube). You have to stand back and let the neonatologists and nurses do everything in their power to keep your baby alive. T’s birth was probably both the best and worst experience of my life. The second worse was being discharged from the maternity ward three days after his birth and not being able to take him home with me. I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed so much as I did that day, watching all the other dischargees and new dads set off with their lovely plump babies tucked into car seats while we trudged slowly back to the NICU to spend more hours sitting next to T’s incubator.

I felt robbed. The birth of a baby should be joyous and a cause for celebration but with a preemie it’s hard to feel the joy. Even on a day when your NICU baby is doing well and the medical team are ‘cautiously optimistic’ you can’t celebrate because all around you are other babies who aren’t doing so well. You learn to live one day at a time, measuring out your days in mls of breastmilk pumped and grams of weight gained.

Today, I do feel the joy.

It’s a day to give thanks to the dedicated medical teams who keep our ‘little fighters’ alive, a day to be grateful that modern medicine has made it possible for so many preemies to make it home, T included, but it’s also a day to remember the ones who didn’t make it.

In memory of Alexander C and Judith N.

Sleeeeeeppppp (for the love of god, sleep) Part 3

Ah the good old days when T had to be woken for a feed (or dreamfed through a tube)

Ah the good old days when T had to be woken for a feed (or dreamfed through a tube)

When did sleep become such an obsession? Obviously for me and every other new parent it more or less coincides with the birth of your first child (come to think of it, for the first few months even your conversational repertoire is reduced to just three things:  sleep, milk and poo) but when did society start becoming so desperate to get infants to sleep through the night?

I can’t imagine prehistoric parents were swapping parenting tips- ‘Oooh breastfeeding him to sleep? You’re creating a rod for your own back, you know, you should give him a twig to suck on. Try putting him in the next cave and let him cry it out, he’ll soon stop crying when he realises you’re not going to pick him up. My sister-in-law used PUPD, what you should do is leave him in the next cave, go to him when he cries and pick him up, as soon as he stops crying put him down, when he cries again, pick him up, then put him down again. My mum used to fill us up with some pre-chewed wild boar meat, as a dreamfeed, never did us any harm’  -and yet nor do I imagine that human infants have changed in any way over the intervening millenia. So why do we now expect babies to sleep through the night and why do we believe in the existence of some magic formula (of the spell kind not the artificial milk kind) to get them to do so??

Of course, it would be fabulous if every baby slept from 7pm to 7am without making a peep. Mummies and daddies across the land could spend the evening having a civilized meal together, perhaps watch on film on TV (remember those days, fellow new mums, when you actually saw a film from beginning to end?), before a relaxing soak in the bath and then climbing into (the same) bed together. They’d all wake up refreshed and rested the next morning. The sun would shine,  the birds would sing in the trees, mothers would have the energy and desire to do a spot of exercise and self grooming, they’d feel marginally better about their post-pregnancy bodies especially as they would no longer have to combat the tiredness by mainlining high fat, high-sugar snacks and because they felt better about themselves they would also (possibly) feel a bit more inclined to actually have sex with their partner because they wanted to and not because they felt they should.  And they could spend the day engaging their offspring in age-appropriate, stimulating games, while merrily trilling songs and making up wonderfully inventive fairy tales (rather than sticking said child in the Jumperoo while simultaneously having the world’s quickest shower and shovelling in chocolate biscuits and cold coffee). They’d never get frustrated with their child and nor would they cry with guilt and shame because they just got frustrated with their child.

At times, and despite our best intentions, it feels like tiredness robs us of our ability to be a good parent and worse than that is the fact that we’ve somehow ended up in a situation where we feel that if our baby doesn’t sleep more than 4 hours at a time, we are to blame. We are doing something wrong. It’s all our fault. This was one of the conclusions reached in a 2008 study: “perhaps infant sleep has become, not only a developmental milestone for infants, but a measure of parental competence as well. The question arises about whether infant sleep is truly problematic or has the pressure increased on parents so that even normative sleep is increasingly perceived as problematic?” (from ‘What to do about sleep? A survey of parents’ experiences with sleep interventions and popular advice.’ Gordon, M. D., & Hill, S. L.)

It does seem that we’ve collectively somehow forgotten how babies are supposed to sleep. The ISIS website -bet they wish they had a different name at the moment- is great for clearly explained infant sleep theory but look at any forum for new parents and it is full of people asking what they are doing wrong. Parents now don’t understand why their baby keeps waking up (or in some cases why their baby has just started waking up more often) and what they get in return are suggestions for various forms of sleep training, or various reasons why it’s happening -these range from the reasonable (cold, hunger, wind) to the rather more debatable (teething, growth spurt, ‘wonder weeks’)- or recommendations for professional sleep consultants, ‘experts’ who will purportedly get your child to sleep through the night (for a not indifferent sum of money). Personally, I recommend this brilliant post for some no nonsense advice http://stolensleep.com/2014/09/27/how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep-through-the-night-in-just-two-years/

Rather than us all just taking a moment to stop and say ‘Ermmm….hang on a minute…if we’re all experiencing ongoing nights of broken sleep, maybe this is actually perfectly normal’, we refuse to accept that we don’t have one of those ‘good’ (bloody awful word) babies who sleep 12 hours a night.

If you read any literature about sleep, then it soon becomes clear that we all stir various times through the night. Some people slip seamlessly from one sleep cycle into the next and some people (me) wake numerous times and get up to pee, read to get back to sleep, put the dishwasher on, let the dog out, worry endlessly about the past and the future etc. And, of course, it’s the same for infants. Some are brilliant at ‘self-settling’ and some, like T, do the baby equivalent of checking Twitter, their email, Facebook account at 3am (oh, and at 11pm, 1am, 4.30am and 6am).

 

 

Marital (cough) relations

I wonder how many relationships break down in the first year or so after the birth of a child? I’m guessing a lot. If I could be bothered to google it then I’m sure I’d find some convincing statistics but who needs statistics when there’s Facebook? Eh? I hear you cry. Let me explain,  I had what some may call a misspent youth, and what I personally call being a bit of a slapper at university. Though I met my now husband in the months after graduation, I continued to cultivate an air of general sluttiness which still continues to this day (though it is now somewhat hampered by never leaving the house without T attached to my boob, and the few remaining clothes I can get into being accessorised with baby sick).

Anyway, over the years a number of exes/ brief dalliances/ random men I once halfheartedly flirted with have looked me up out of the blue on Facebook and the one thing that they have all had in common was that they had become fathers in the last 18 months. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Now, I’m not saying that fatherhood automatically turns all men into cheating cocknobs or justifying those who do start scouring the internet for some extramarital jollies but having now become a mother I can sort of understand why it happens.

The truth is that motherhood has turned me into a bit of a bad-tempered bitch with a real knack for passive aggression and bugger all interest in having sex with poor husband anytime soon. I have problems feigning even the minimum amount of interest in how his day was, can barely conceal my disdain for his nappy changing/baby dressing technique and swan off to bed with T at 9pm every night. Of course, motherhood doesn’t turn every woman into a libido-less nag like me but if I was married to me, I might be tempted to start to indulge in litttle fantasies of uncomplicated flirtation too.

Aaaarrgggggg. Now having a moment of major self doubt. Is it wrong to publish this? Feel somehow disloyal to my sex admitting these things.

Sleep (for the love of god, sleep) Part 2

I so wanted to write this last week but my best intentions were foiled by two things:

1) I killed my trusty netbook by standing on it as I stumbled out of bed to rush to the bathroom for a 3 am pee. I probably would have been more careful had T not been screaming like a burning howler monkey because I had the audacity to prise his sleeping gums from my nipple and try to slip him back into his cot. In my defence I was seriously worried about my bed linen given my dodgy post pregnancy bladder and pelvic floor  muscles. (Oh the glamour)

2) I have been too tired this week to be able to even attempt to converse with husband, never mind attempt to write a coherent blog post. Lack of sleep has addled my brain to such an extent that whichever lobe it is that is respnsible for language appears to have been disconnected until further notice. When my husband arrives home from work, I now hand him his first born son with just a grunt. (Tone, volume and length of grunt varies according to the type of day I’ve had but generally expresses something along the lines of ‘You’re late. I ran out of ways of entertaining your son about an hour and a half ago.  I can’t do this any more. If you want me I’ll be in the kitchen making dinner and sobbing about how bloody tired I am.)’

Now, this, dear reader or random member of the general public who asks me the dreaded question about whether T is sleeping through, is your chance to offer advice about how to get the little bugger darling to go to bed at 8pm and not stir again until 8am the next morning. If my motherhood-impaired memory serves, I’ve already written about my refusal to give T a bottle of formula (being able to successfully breastfeed a preemie is something which I worked hard for and which I’m damned proud of) and to be honest the internet is still full of mothers with formula fed babies who don’t sleep through so it-s not exactly a miracle cure.

Here’s a list of other things that have been suggested to me to get T to sleep through the night:

1) A dummy (or a pacifier if you’re American) Oh, of course, because all babies who have dummies sleep through the night. Doh.T doesn’t have a dummy because his grandfather is a retired dentist who reels in horror at the very idea of giving a dummy and then the internet is full of parents trying to find ways of weaning their children off dummies- surely it’s just much easier not to give them one in the first place. Or am I missing something?

2)  Not just a bottle of formula but a bottle of formula with a rusk dissolved in it. Are you fucking kidding me?  Let’s just ignore for a moment the increased risk of choking which putting anything into a baby’s bottle poses, I accept that breastfed babies are more likely to wake during the night hungry because breastmilk is much easier to digest than formula but why on earth would I want to slow down my child’s digestion with a sugar laden piece of processed crap in the hope that I might gain a couple of extra hours of sleep. Oh andf the same goes for adding baby rice.

3) Early weaning. Essentially this is just the same point as 2) because there aren’t actually a whole lot of foods that you can offer a  baby who isn’t developmentally ready to be weaned. Early weaners inevitably end up giving babies bulked up formula (baby rice, baby porridge etc.). Aside from the fact that there are pretty clear guidelines as to why early weaning is not a good idea (unless specifically recommended by a pediatrician for medical reasons such as reflux) weaning does not, and I repeat, DOES NOT, make babies sleep for longer. T started weaning at 26 weeks (16 weeks corrected age) and has been on three meals a day for   couple of months now. Has it made any difference at all to his sleep? No, bugger all.

4) Establishing a good bedtime routine. Oh, thanks for that suggestion because of course I’ve been dragging T round all the local nightspots until the early hours of the morning. I like to make sure that no one evening is ever the same for him and am always sure to get him good and over-stimulated  with strobe lighting and thrash metal before putting him down in his cot. Luckily, our unconventional bedtime routine makes NO difference whatsoever to T’s sleeping habits – he breastfeeds to sleep and drops of without any problem (it’s the 16 million times he wakes up after this which are slightly more problematic).

5) Giving him a worn T-shirt of mine to snuggle with. Errmmm…when we’re not co-sleeping, his face is about 10cm away from mine. I can smell his sweet baby breath and he can smell my stinky mummy breath.

6) Co-sleeping/moving his cot further away from my bed. Come on, you baby sleep experts, make your bloody minds up. Is he not close enough or too close? Which is it?

And last but not least (though it is my least favourite)

7) Sleep training.

I’m going to save this juicy area for my next post because the way I see it, it’s not babies who need sleep training but their parents’ expectations.

Sleep (for the love of god, sleep)- Part 1

One of our first attempts at breastfeeding

One of our first attempts at breastfeeding in NICU

Yes, random person on the street, I do indeed have a baby. Yes, he does look very comfy snuggled up against me in his soft baby carrier (and because I’m a determined.to-get-every-single-aspect-of-this-parenting-lark-nailed-even-if-it-kills-me type of mother he is of course in an nice ergonomically-designed, organic cotton carrier not one of those awful ones that the majority of people use with the baby facing out, good lord, don’t you know that those things will cause devastating hip damage as soon as your child’s crotch gets up close to that nasty bit of synthetic fibre). ‘Oh,’ random person exclaims as they reel back in horror as they realise that nice snuggled up baby is not sleeping, or in some zoned out baby state of zen but is actually slurping on my nipple like a famished suckling pig. ‘Ah…’ their horrified brain scrambles quickly for default question which must be asked of all parents of small children, ‘…does he sleep?’

I’d love to reply ‘Of course, he sleeps, you knob. Everybody sleeps. People die if they don’t sleep.’ But, sadly, I don’t. Instead I make a tight, little wincing face or do a pantomime grimace because of course what they are referring to has become the Holy Grail of parenting an infant. The ….oh…and let’s assume a wonderfully reverential tone here ..as we place inverted commas around …the one…the only “sleeping through the night”.

No, the little fucker does not sleep through the night.

On a good night he’ll wake up just two or three times over a twelve hour period on a not so good (read, an absolutely fuck bollocking awful) night when I start to understand those poor women who get so desperate that they abandon their child or do (much, much) worse, he’ll wake up every half an hour or so, particularly if  I try to put him down in his cot. And when I say put him down in his cot, what I mean is shift him a couple of inches over to the left because his cot is basically just an extension of the parental bed (cheap Ikea cot, with the side taken off- I got the idea from here- http://fromheretomaternityeventually.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/how-we-converted-out-cot-into-a-co-sleeper/ ) .

So, this is now where random person on the street (oh and my husband, and all of my husband’s family and my mother in a slightly more roundabout way) gets to tell me exactly where I’m going wrong. Apparently, these are things I’m fucking up big time:

1) I’m breastfeeding.

2) I’m breastfeeding him to sleep

3) I’m not giving him a bottle of formula before bed

Now, can anyone see a pattern here? Anyone?

Breastfeeding T is one of the few things that I actually feel pretty damn proud of. T arrived 10 weeks early by emergency c-section, weighing just 1.4kg and spent 7 weeks in NICU and I hooked myself up to the breast pump every three hours, all through the day and night, because the only thing that I could do for him which his doctors and nurses couldn’t was to provide him with breastmilk. At first he was fed through a tube, then bottle fed my milk and when he came home he was on 7 bottles and one breastfeed a day. I was told that I could only make the transition to 100% breastfeeding when he weighed 4.5kg. And we managed to make the transition pretty seamlessly (though it is only seamless in retrospect, at the time I was crippled with self doubt) – T spent hours at a time doing nothing but sucking and I spent hours at a time doing nothing but watching T feed and reading forums and blogs about breastfeeding. I read up on cluster feeding and given that T was gaining weight well, I saw no reason to supplement his feeds with formula. Let’s just say that when someone suggests the idea of introducing a bottle feed because there’s the chance that,  because formula takes longer to digest, it might make him sleep longer, I look at them like they’ve suggested I purée up a McDonald’s Happy Meal with coke and give it to him as a first food. I don’t mean to upset or offend anyone who doesn’t breastfeed, particularly other preemie/NICU mums, but having had the chance to try both bottlefeeding and breastfeeding then I can, hand on heart, say that the two are very, very different and I feel genuinely blessed (if that’s not too awfully gushing a word) to have been able to create such a bond with T.

So I’m not going to give him a sodding bottle, alright?

I’m a Mummy….Get Me Out of Here

Okay, perhaps I should clarify the title just a teensy bit:

1) I love my son, who shall hereafter be known simply as T.

2) I genuinely can’t remember what life was like without him (though that is most likely due to extreme sleep deprivation wiping 98% of my memory- I can barely remember my name these days).

3) I wouldn’t change him for the world

BUT, how the effing heck does everybody else in the world (not to mention every parent in history) manage to do this parenting lark and retain at least the semblance of sanity? I have started to wonder if it’s just me. Am I manifesting some new psychological disorder which turns what should essentially be one of the most straightforward, instinctive things in life into an all-consuming (physically, mentally and emotionally) Herculean task. I mean there are days when I almost pee myself, not because of a combination of a sneeze and my horribly pregnancy-weakened pelvic floor, but because I never get round to actually going to the bathroom. Oh and yes, I often end up taking T with me because I can’t stand the sound of his crying (and I’m also scared that the dog might eat him). Is it really just me? Reading posts from other mums on parenting forums (and I rarely read much else these days) it seems that there is an ever-increasing number of us afflicted with an extreme case of what a fabulous Mumsnet thread terms ‘Precious Firstborn Syndrome’ http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/parenting/346540-your-top-pfb-precious-first-born-moments/AllOnOnePage

Of course every first time mum is at risk of becoming a bit obsessed and no doubt we’re genetically programmed to do just that – prehistoric babies wouldn’t have survived for very long if their mothers left them to their own devices while they popped next door to check out their neighbours new cave paintings or buggered off to hunt down some bunnies to turn into new sandals- but with the advent of what feels like 16 billion different parenting experts, guides and constantly conflicting advice (wonderfully summarized here: http://cogitoergomum.me/2014/11/02/how-to-be-a-parent-20-sure-fire-ways-to-guarantee-happy-well-adjusted-children/) about how best to bring up baby, then new mothers (by which I specifically mean me) find themselves in a relentless cycle of feeling like they are probably not doing things quite right and that everyone else is almost certainly doing a better job than them.

Glance at any parenting forum aimed at parents of parents of babies under 6 months and it’s the same questions and fears, over and over again, regarding sleeping, eating and getting your child to hit developmental milestones. Mums posts links to other websites and blogs and articles and posts for the benefit of other mums all repeating exactly the same mantra ‘you’re normal, your baby’s normal, you’re doing a good job’ yet still we question our own judgement and ability to parent.

From my own perspective,  I think my fear of fucking up as a parent leaves very little room for doing anything other than being a mummy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m comfortable with my decision to become an attachment parenting, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, no TV and good lord, I’m never going to let my child eat anything containing sugar (and that includes evil fruit juice) type of mother but it does also make me slightly envious of women who have the courage to say ‘fuck-it, I’m off out for a drunken night out with the girls, see you in the morning’.