Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sam on Anna's Birthday

Today is Anna's fourth birthday, and Sam spent much of the day trailing his big sister. He succeeded in climbing up onto her bed all by himself. He also climbed all the stairs at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery this morning - very nonchalantly, as if he climbs stairs all the time, even though we have no stairs in the house for him to practice on.

The great mystery at our house this week is what "a-duh-a-duh-a-duh" might mean. Sam says it all day, and insistently. It clearly means something. We think it might be a general noun - "toy"? "book"? or even something more generic such as "that"? When we point out things Sam might be interested in, he understands when we say "look" and follows a pointing finger with curiosity. If we say, "Oh, isn't that beautiful?" he repeats, "Oh!" in a short, sharp imitation.

Sam is determined to get more teeth than the four he has managed to grow so far. He is looking forward to being able to chew better. With his four little front choppers, he does a mean job biting into toast fingers and peeling apples to chomping into their flesh and prying corn kernels off cobs. He tries to chew things with non-existent molars, fails (because, hey, the molars don't exist) and then bits fall out of his mouth. He uses his dextrous little fingers to pick up any bits that fall and he delicately puts them into his mouth, and the cycle continues.

Sam isn't quite walking but isn't far off. He is able to move from standing to squatting to sitting with great ease and to edge around tables and chairs. He manoeuvres into corners and stands unsupported for quite a while before he notices and then he gently lowers himself to the ground.

I go back to work in such a short time - just six weeks or so - but Sam is uninterested in formula or in reducing his nursing. He's polite about our offers of bottles and is delighted by the action of shaking a bottle to mix in the powdered formula. He just doesn't consider it FOOD. I can't say I blame him, because I don't consider it food either, so I've decided to wait three weeks and see if he's willing to give another try to an adapted schedule. We took another conflict resolution course last week and he only had to join me at lunch time.

Sam is a morning bird, happy to wake at 5:30 a.m. if he can get away with it. He makes sure to wake both his mom and his dad with happy morning crowing, though he rarely succeeds in getting both of us out of bed at once.

His sense of humour is getting more and more defined, too. When anyone laughs, he laughs - and looks around wondering what he has done that is so funny so he can try it again. (He also thinks all applause are for him, even applause on TV.) He loves to pull my glasses off and thinks this is hilarious - this accounts for the rakish angle of my poor mangled specs, when I bother to wear them around the house. He loves it when Anna bangs things or makes them fall on the floor or yells or stomps around. In just one evening a few weeks ago, he figured out how to clap his hands, wave to people, and say "bye-bye" in just one evening, and he was terribly pleased with himself. He grins with delight when he claps or waves. He can also give kisses. He likes to press his forehead against mine and rub noses and then engulf my nose or cheek or whole head in a big slobbery kiss.

Almost a year old already, and we know from watching Anna fly through the last four years that in a blink he will be grown.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nine Months In, Nine Months Out

Summer is holding on longer than usual, though the evening crickets us tell us that fall will soon have its way with the world. Today and yesterday were late-summer beach days, with lots of splashing and swimsuits full of sand. Sam sets out to taste every rock and shell on the beach and grins with a sand-encircled mouth. He loves to feel the waves break over his feet and is curious about the undertow that pulls sand out from under him. He would crawl out to sea after his mermaid older sister if we let him.

Last week, several milestones. He showed that he can stand unsupported for at least a few seconds at a time. (This week, he even repeated the feat by standing in the ocean by himself, despite the water's movement.) He climbed three steps at Grandma Carolyn's before being stopped by his father, and he tried to climb the open ladder at home, too - and could probably make it to the top if he tried. (He wasn't allowed to try beyond one step.) On Friday, he also said Anna's name, clear as a bell. He has called her "ayayayaya" for weeks, but the other morning, he was playing in the early morning light in the living room and heard her wake. He bounced excitedly on his bum, and then when she called out "Hi, Sam," from her bedroom, he exclaimed, "Anna!"

He has four words, which he uses on whims rather than on demand, but which he uses meaningfully. He says "Ha-a" for "Hi" and then "Dada," "Mama," and "Anna." He has no word for Moonlight the cat, but that does have designs on her. He sets out to catch her often, but she has been through this baby thing before and always manages to get away. Sam would settle for a chance to squish his fingers through her catfood and dip his fingers in her water, but he gets scooped up by his mom en route to the cat's dish every time he gets close.

Sam continues to love to sing - he and Anna sing together loudly quite frequently - and he today discovered to his delight that he can reach up and play the piano.

Sam is beginning to be interested in food he has to chew and loves to gnaw messily on corn cobs. He has started eating yogurt, his first dairy food. Well, I say "first," but there was the incident at a cousin's wedding in mid-August when I heard him sucking particularly noisily on what I thought was his soother. It was actually an almost-but-not-quite-empty plastic container for a butter pat. And then there was the day he stole my chocolate dip ice cream popsicle. Cow's milk, here we come.

When he is on his own and not being hauled around by the armpits by his sister or having playthings snatched from him (also by his sister), Sam loves to play with toys. He will sit contented for whole dozens of minutes just figuring out how to flip the pages of books (and rip out the title page, if possible). He loves to play with Anna's princess castle, which has lots of little triggers for sounds and lights. He turns the knobs on Anna's play stove. He loves to talk to Anna's hobby horse, Beatrice June, and poke her plastic eyes. Today, his sister went to the park and as soon as she was gone, he lit out for her bedroom to explore her treasures. He hid under the play table and sucked on the beads of one of her necklaces and tried to flip through her books and was so happy and quiet that at one point I lost him completely. Next week, he will have mornings to himself when Anna goes to playschool. It will be an unaccustomed quiet time for all of us. (Possibly for Anna, as well, since we keep her pretty active and engaged.)

What Sam does not wish to do is go to sleep. The dastardly fourth tooth that plagued him for a month finally popped out of his gums, and he has been exploring and testing it with his lips and his fingers and his crackers. Since then, he has had a few better nights' sleep, but he still does not sleep through the night (by anyone's definition) and he now does not want to go to bed at bedtime. He wants to jump in his crib or explore the living room or sing along to lullabies or just arch his back and cry. He wants to chase the cat and see what Anna's doing. But not sleep.

In the daytime, he is down to two naps. Since he was born he was on a fairly regular routine of three cat-naps of about thirty minutes each. Now, he has two naps, and usually one or the other is an hour. When he is awake, he is always moving, exploring, playing. And soon - very soon - he will be walking, too.

It is amazing to think that he has only just past the threshold of being out in the world longer than he was brewing in my belly. What another nine months will bring...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crawling, Climbing, Curious

Now that he is almost nine months old, Sam is all personality: happy, goofy, laid-back, fun, curious, and active. Sam mastered crawling all of a sudden one day in mid-July and hasn't looked back - though he mostly uses crawling as a means to get to things he can then climb up on. We see his head and his mischievous grin peeking over the edge of the couch, our knees, the coffee table, the kitchen chairs, and the edge of his crib. And when he sees that we see him, he bounces up and down with delight.

No matter how much his sister mauls him - and she will not give him an inch of space or a moment to play on his own before she hauls him up under his shoulders and carts him around - he comes back for more. He follows her around the house, trying to do whatever she is doing.

He cut a third tooth at the end of July but is still suffering terribly for a fourth. I keep thinking that it will cut through the gum by tomorrow, but several tomorrows have come and gone and several sleep-deprived nights and no tooth yet. This evening, Sam got unusually overtired and out of sorts and couldn't manage to do anything except pull on his ear and bite me (hard) on the arms and shoulders and cry about his sore gums. Poor little pumpkin. And also poor me. I'm hard up for sleep, too.

Sam has now been on his first big trip, to Quebec for his uncle's wedding. The last forty minutes of every leg of the car trip were tough. Sam and Anna both cried miserably. Sam was saddest at the end of the first morning of driving, and when we arrived in Fredericton, New Brunswick, he was still hiccoughing in sadness and his little face was smudged and crusted with snot and tears. Lunch by the St. John River and a crawl around the Beaverbrook Art Gallery cheered him up considerably.

The second leg of the trip, to Edmundston, also ended in tears, but after he was liberated from his car seat, he and his sister loved sleeping in a tent and energetically stayed up until the sun set at 9:30 and then until all my lullaby supplies were exhausted and I was just resorting to singing age-inappropriate, mournful Leonard Cohen songs.

The next morning, he and I woke at dawn and listened to each bird and animal awake in sequence and greet the dawn. Back in the carseat, then, for a long run past Quebec City. Anna got carsick and Sam got restless, but they were really amazingly patient, and it was more than worth the trip. We arrived to playgrounds and picnic spaces and swimming pools and incoming relatives and friends. Then we shared the most lovely cottage on the lake with Emily and her family, adjoining with the other aunts and uncles.

On Friday evening, Sam got to meet his godparents, Thom and Isabelle, for the first time at a welcoming barbecue party at the cottage. He was his happy, friendly self and - we hope - made a good impression.

The wedding day was sunny and clear and full of activity and excitement. Sam wore/ate his first tie and met tons of relatives, all of whom contemplated who he looks like. (The consensus seems to be that he looks a bit like my uncle Regis and cousin Paul - with expressions like his cousin Ryan on his Dad's side.)

The wedding was beautiful, and Anna and Youders outdid themselves as flower-girl and ring-bearer. The kids were tired but mostly good during the perfectly tasteful ceremony in the glorious church. Stephen and I only missed the vows when Sam needed space and Anna needed juice. There were many small babies at the church, so also many parents loitering in back pews with restless little ones.

Back at the reception, Sam was the first party guest to take off his pants, an important precedent-setting move at any wedding. He changed into formalwear for the evening, then - a t-shirt with a tuxedo painted on it. While other guests had cocktails outside, Sam finished up his supper of beets and breastmilk and then enjoyed dancing with his mama to the jazz Thom and Isa had chosen to accompany the cocktails. We had the dancefloor to ourselves.

We didn't make it to the actual dance, though we stayed up well past bedtime, but Sam still slept in his tux. Another important precedent-setting move at any wedding.

Sunday, Sam swam in a lake for the first time and then caught up on some missed naps before we said goodbye to the cottage on the lake on Monday morning and set forth again on the highway. We put in a long day of driving with stops along the St. Lawrence before putting in for the night at a kooky little campground in NB where they played bingo in the communal campground space. We woke and packed up in the pouring rain and drove fast enough to get ahead of the low front. After a leisurely stop in Sackville to visit the swan pond and the Owens Art Gallery, we were home in time for supper. The kids were delighted to be home, though they missed the cottage and lake and all the time and attention they had gotten from their aunts and uncles.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seven Months Sam, and Counting

Another six weeks have passed since I wrote here with news about Sam. Six months and seven months are a great age - full of smiles and discoveries and emerging personality. Not many milestones in the seventh month that you can write down on a calendar, but lots of skill-building towards the big leaps that come in this eighth month and beyond...

Tonight, I watched Sam creep backwards in a circle around his vast frustration that he can't crawl forwards yet. He hates going backwards but is happier now that at least he can manoeuvre in a circle. He marks his path with drool, like a snail.

We suspect he wants to, or plans to, skip crawling and go straight to walking or possibly running. He can't sit up from a lying-down position yet, but he is adept at pulling himself to standing from sitting. If I set him down on the floor, he grabs my legs and tries to climb them. If I'm wearing pants he can get a grip on, he succeeds. If I'm wearing shorts, he wobbles around my ankle and reaches for my knee then decides if he can't pull himself up he might as well chew on my shin. With his two sharp bottom teeth, this is not comfortable for me.

Sam also loves to try to climb up on the box of board books in the living room. When he gets hold of a book, he is very pleased, and he either beats on it in an effort to open it or picks it up and chews on the corner. Beating on and chewing on are two favourite ways of manipulating objects. I read him Eric Carle's Very Busy Spider this evening, and he loved it - especially the farm animal sounds, which made him laugh. Especially the pigs.

Sam is still teething ferociously, but his third and fourth teeth are still hiding out in his gums. He is enjoying his first tastes of solid food but only likes purees - he spits out even the smallest lumps with precision. He has a sweet tooth and has yet to taste anything green that he greets with anything less than disdain and a sense of betrayal. If he likes something (applesauce, mango, sweet potato, squash) not a drop gets on his chin. If he's iffy about something, very little gets into his face and very much gets on his face.

He will put anything and everything in his mouth - except the baby crackers we got for him to gnaw on.

Sam still has a great sense of humour. He laughs and jumps with excitement watching his sister play, of course, but he is developing his own little jokes, too. He thinks it's hilarious to reach up while he's nursing and pull off my glasses. He never fails to make himself giggle with that one.

And the phonemes of the English language are set up as an elaborate joke on mamas. After nine months of gestating him and seven months of feeding him every two hours (though he is down to nursing just seven times a day, now!), I left him alone with his dad and sister just two afternoons in a row - just two afternoons, mind you - and came home to find him babbling "dadadadadada" happily. He is keen to express his opinions.

(I should note that I then paid for the two afternoons away from the baby with a blocked milk duct and I spent three days and long nights of full-time effort to prevent mastitis! Not the most fun I've ever had.)

Summer is here, and with it comes beach weather. Sam likes to sit in a puddle of warm salt water, digging in the sand with his hands and feet, tasting the occasional fistful of sand. Sam still responds in a special way to green growing things and to music. He is sitting forward-facing in the stroller, now, and he doesn't miss anything on walks. He likes to sing with his sister and loves the songs we have to mark his days, especially his "Yay, Sam, you ate it all up" song that we sing for him after every meal.

One very special happening since I posted last: the arrival of Sam's beautiful girl-cousin at the end of May. Her big brother got lots of practice taking care of babies by visiting his cousin Anna and playing with "Baby Sam."

Emily and Youdin call Sam "Baby Sam." Stephen tends to call him "Sammy" or "Sammy-boy." Anna likes to draw it out to a sing-songy two syllables - "Say-yam" - or to call him by his full name, which she pronounces "Sam-lee-oll." I seem to call him "Sam-sam" most of the time. He responds to all of these names with delight. He's never ungrateful for attention!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Six Months Sam

I wish I had been a baby born in November. I am amazed at the wonder in the eyes of a baby whose awareness of the world is blossoming at the same time that the world itself is blossoming with spring flowers and grass and leaves. Sam loves plants. Ever since he was tiny, he would grasp at the green leaves of houseplants. That the world is full of these green wonders is a sheer and utter delight to him.

Sam is six months old today, still a healthy and happy baby, thriving as his world blooms. He sat up by himself - unsupported but un-expertly - for the first time in mid-April, on what would have been his granddad's eightieth birthday. Now, he sits up straight and true for as long as ever you may please. He cut his first two little teeth last week, in a torrent of drool and with two sleepless nights of discomfort. He spent the rest of the week running his tongue and lower lip over the sharp new edges on his lower gums. This week, he took his first tastes of rice cereal and quickly grabbed the spoon from his mom and his sister, the better to shovel it into his mouth.

He has been grabbing for our food for weeks and his reach has been getting longer. I had to pry some arugula from his gooey hand the other day to prevent him from making vinaigrette his first food. He has always been interested in the food we eat - when he was small, if he was hungry and the house smelled good he would cry and cry, hopeful of a morsel. He would open his little mouth like a hungry baby bird, hoping for tidbits. Rice cereal doesn't quite live up to his expectations, but he is not complaining. I think he knows it is just for practice and that the real deal is coming soon. He ate up all the cereal in his bowl tonight without remarking in the least that the rest of us had eaten pizza for every meal today.

I'm happy he's making a transition to eating some solids, finally. He has been a hungry boyo at the breast these past six months, and I've loved the convenience and healthiness of breastfeeding, but six months of sleep deprivation caught up with me after five months and this past month has been a blur of exhaustion and several rounds of colds and viruses. I'll be happy for a week (any week) with a full household free of snot, sneezes, and coughs. Ever since I had a terrible cold two weeks before Sam was born, we've all been susceptible to every bug going.

I'm beginning to think the sleep deprivation is designed to wipe a mother's memory clean of all but the happiest and most pleasurable moments of a baby's first months, though, because the memories of struggle are hard to hold onto - and who would want to hold onto them anyway? The world must be peopled!

Perhaps I am remembering wrongly, but Sam seems to me to have a lot of manual dexterity for a baby his age. He picks things up and holds them carefully and turns them around and around in ways that seem difficult. He still doesn't roll from his back to his belly but has mostly lost interest in rolling compared to sitting up or trying to crawl or testing his weight on his chubby legs.

He still has the most amazing smile and a great laugh. He still laughs most of all and hardest at his sister's activities. Whether she is galloping through the kitchen on a hobby horse or digging in the garden or hopping on one foot or pushing him on the baby swings in the park, he hollers and laughs with happiness. When Anna and Youdin play together, he follows their every move, and if he is being held in your arms, you have to hold him carefully, because he waves his arms and jumps his legs with all his might, trying to join in the games. We're still waiting for Sam's new cousin to be born and to enjoy all the stages of life we have witnessed with him this half-year gone.

Happy half-birthday, Sam. Much growing lies ahead in the next six months!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Four Months Plus

Sam is four months and a week old, still a thriving and happy baby. Today, he cycled his arms in an effort to make lift-off from his dad's knee as he watched his sister circle the kitchen.

Whatever she does, he wants to do. Walk, run, dance, talk, sing, eat real food, play with toys. Watching a second child learn is different from watching a first child learn, because the second child learns so much from watching the first. He tries to talk like a child, not an adult - hearing his sister gives him more range and more options for self-expression. (Some of them shrill. Some of the quite shouty.)

Sam is more interested in toys and in manipulating objects than Anna. It could be a gender thing - he shrieked with delight the first time he played with Anna's firetruck with its wheels, ladders, and lights - but Stephen thinks it is simply an imitation thing. He sees Anna playing with toys and using objects, and he wants to as well.

Sam can flip from his belly to his back now, much to his surprise when he manages it, but he doesn't get to practise as much as Anna did at his age, mostly because Anna gives him no space at all to roll over.

All the same, I can see that these treasured and peaceful days with a baby who stays where you put him down are coming to an end, and quickly. Already, Sam kicks himself in circles and edges himself to edges. He has a body built for crawling and can already almost get his knees under him. His bum reaches an alarming height and will soon enough propel him forward and then there will be no stopping him. Those few little tasks that are now possible to accomplish with a just-set-down-for-a-moment-on-the-floor baby will soon be gone.

When he can catch up with his sister under his own steam, she will be the one who needs her parents' help to get breaks from a space-invading sibling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


This week, Stephen and I celebrated our eighth anniversary. Tomorrow is my birthday. Next week (St. Patrick's Day, and my grandmother's birthday) marks ten years since I came to own our little house. And Saturday will mark a year since I found out I was pregnant with Sam. (I was too superstitious to try a pregnancy test on my birthday.) A few weeks later, we went through a tough several days of threatened miscarriage and then another week or two of constant follow-up of HCG levels and vague disbelief that anything could work out. A year later, Sam is here after all, almost 16 weeks old, and coming into his own more every day.

After eight years married, our anniversary was all we could have hoped for. Not in a romantic sense, of course. Instead, our day was filled with unromantic events and happenings. Trying to get a wide-awake, talkative, pee-filled baby back to sleep between 3:00 and 4:30 a.m. Getting up with a chain-talking stream-of-consciousness toddler with a yen for yogurt at 6:30 a.m. Contemplating the best ways to prepare our household to transition to daylight savings time. Spelling each other off for morning catnaps (complete with cat). Stephen having his leftover spaghetti and meatballs for lunch commandeered and eaten by Anna on the pretext that "it is good to share, papa." Going skating with Anna's playschool class and helping make sure she only fell on her face and bit her lip once. Getting a whole hour to ourselves (with baby) but foregoing the planned-for "date" at an all-chocolate restaurant for our usual, ordinary coffee place because it has good changing tables and is a comfortable place to breastfeed in public. Using up the non-nursing part of our anniversary-hour-to-ourselves to buy milk and vitamin D (and some on-sale chocolate, for celebration's sake). Preparing a special meal of smoked salmon while the toddler writhed on the kitchen floor crying for smoked salmon and decrying the time it was taking to cook her some potatoes when what she really wanted was smokes salmon NOW, PLEASE, PLEEEEEASSSE! because it is her FAVOURITE!! Watching a Winnie the Pooh video all together (including cat) on our broken-down couch. Putting the children to bed. And finally watching a children's cartoon on DVD - one that we had only seen half of at the movie theatre before having to leave with a not-quite-old-enough daughter.

Just the kind of anniversary we might have hoped for eight years ago.

And as for Sam these days... He is thriving. He is still easy, happy, full of delight. He is getting stronger every day and will soon be rolling over - though he is more intent on moving forward. When he isn't eating his fingers, he is able to hold and manipulate objects better every single day and can now play with toys - a ball with baby grips, a light stuffed doggie with floppy ears, and a schoolbus that he can roll forward and back are his favourite things to play with. He watches every move his sister makes attentively and jealousy and is especially keen to bounce like she can.

Sam still nurses nine times a day. He eats less frequently at night, which is a nice adjustment, but he makes up for it by eating about every ninety minutes in the daytime. He also still takes short naps. A few two-hour naps have given us hope that he might start a trend, but they proved to be exceptions. He can't wait until he can eat real food, though, and gets really cranky sometimes at suppertime when the house is full of the aromas of good food he is evidently too small to eat. He sometimes paws at my shirt and tries to find a way in to his supper. We call this "trying to break into the refrigerator."

Sam laughs more and more, too. Peekaboo is hilarious to him, now, and so are peeks into the mirror with his dad. Sneezes always make him laugh, and when I choked on a cracker last week, he thought that was a hilarious performance put on just for him. Getting his clothes taken off is a guaranteed cause for a giggle. As the temperature cracks above freezing and the sun comes out, he loves walks outside in the fresh air, smelling and seeing the spring as it peers at us from its hideout, just around the corner.

He is eager to communicate and likes to mimic the shapes of people's mouths. Stuck-out tongues and raspberries are a big hit with him. Singing makes his eyes shine. His favourite noises to make himself are a happy hooting owl-baby sound (hoo! hoo! hoo!) and "ngluh! ngluh!" He has never been very ambiguous in his messages. When he's hungry, he says so clearly. When he is tired, there is no doubt. When he is pissed off at his sister invading his space, he yells at her.

Sam also makes special grunts when he wants to play and grunts non-stop until he gets to lie on the floor and kick his legs or jump up and down on someone's lap. ("It's kicking time!" his sister says, and hauls out the playmat and then hogs most of the space on it.) He also loves to arch his back far back and stretch out his strong spine.

Sam is almost big enough for many things he is keen to do, but he is still just "almost" for now - almost teething, almost sitting up, almost ready for his exersaucer, almost ready to taste rice cereal, almost rolling over, almost outgrowing his 3-6 month sleepers, almost able to fend off his sister. In two more months, it will truly be spring and he will truly be past some of these signposts and gazing towards the next things he wants to be able to do.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Happiest Baby in the World

Three months old today. Congratulations, Sam!

Sam had such a nice day, he is just telling me as he settles to sleep. He is in his bassinet, stroking the soft seam on the right and the meshy mesh on the left, creaking and drooling and snorting softly as he gets ready for sleep. He tried to convince us that 5:30 was time to get up for the day this morning - no, thank you, it is not. But he was ready for the day when it arrived.

He visited both his grandmas today and saw numerous aunts and uncles and was especially charming - laughing and trying to talk very obligingly. By bedtime, he was pulling himself off my breast to tell me things - happy and important things like "glah-glah-guh" and "om-mmom-glah." He also made a valiant attempt to follow the Vancouver Olympics women's curling round robin and men's downhill ski cross finals.

He seems to have come through the intense part of his three-month growth spurt and is settling in to new routines and a new size of diapers. He literally outgrew size ones overnight, in one of those amazing "didn't these fit him yesterday?" sort of moments that make parents wonder if their diapers or minds are playing tricks on them.

We wanted to jot down some of the special things about Sam in his first three months before we forget them. Some of these we might have mentioned already, but we thought it would be fun to compile a little list of quick memories in no particular order or developmental significance.
  • When Sam was born, we called him our Growly Bear for the grunts and growls he made, especially when he was hungry. Sometimes he seemed to think he had to hunt down the breast and subdue it with slobber before chomping on it.
  • Sam rarely cries during the night. He just growls until his mom wakes up - or he chews madly on his hands until the sound of slobbery sucking wakes her.
  • A great eater and lover of food, Sam often is grouchy at the supper table when the kitchen smells of supper and everyone but him is tucking in to a tasty meal. He can't wait to get his hands on something delicious.
  • It was impossible to say when his first social smile was because Sam has always been able to smile with his eyes and always defaults to a happy, contented expression when he isn't crying or howling in outrage. He started to turn on the charm on purpose at three weeks, but even though he is the happiest baby in the world, it has seemed hard to catch him smiling wide for a photo. This is partly because he is often photographed with his sister, and this requires wariness in his expression - a survival tactic, I'm sure. Also, he likes to stick out his tongue.
  • Sam loves to have his clothes changed. When I take off his shirtie, he giggles with delight. While he is on the changing table, he also loves the red wall beside him and since he was very small has loved to talk to the red wall. He loves baths, of course, but he has dry skin and so most often gets sponged down. I often seem to forget to wash my baby. Oops.
  • Sam gets the hiccups often, and if they last too long, he is outraged by them. He frequently hiccuped before he was born - but it mostly began at about eight months' gestation, about three days after I foolishly said out loud, "This baby doesn't seem to get the hiccups nearly as much as Anna did."
  • Sam is very tactile - he loves to explore different textures with his fingers and to stroke uneven and surprising surfaces. Nothing makes him happier. He is gaining more ability to manipulate his fingers every day. He still delights in hanging his right hand high over his head and watching himself sway it back and forth.
  • Now that he is three months old, Sam loves to sit up and take notice, and he also loves to test his feet under him to see how much of his weight they can hold, but when he was smaller, he liked to tuck his feet up under him much more than his leg-stretching sister ever did. Sam preferred to stretch his back rather than his legs, always arching deeply backwards to see what was going on behind him. He has always seemed fascinated by ceilings and ceiling-related architectural features!
  • Sam's back was so strong and flexible - and he was so squirmy - that he often flipped himself from his belly to his back (inadvertently) in the first few weeks of his life. The first two times, I thought for sure it was a fluke. The third time made me rethink that conclusion...
  • Sam squirmed in his sleep for the first week of his life. Then he used his sleep time to rest up for full-on activity while awake. Now that he is three months old, he complains if he hasn't had enough time to stretch and kick and sit up.
  • Sam has always been pretty focused on his food sources when his mom holds him, but with his dad, he enjoys more varied experiences. As a tiny baby, he loved to push his head under people's chins, especially his dad's bearded chin. He loved the texture. He and his dad also love to look in the mirror - and it's fascinating to think about what Sam sees and perceives there. Sam also loves to drift off to sleep on his dad's arm in a football hold, usually while we are eating lunch.
  • We used to call Anna's arms the "lateral stabilizers" because she thrust them out so forcefully from her body while she slept - but Sam has taken to falling asleep and waking up with his hands behind his head, in the universal gesture signifying "laid-back dude." Stephen thinks this might be a sign of his personality-to-come.
There are so many things we've probably forgotten already - but if others occur to us, I'll jot down another list soon.

Anna often describes Sam as "delighted," and she is right that he delights in life, in people, and in his senses. It's hard not to share his delight on these days of discovery for him - even though it can be a challenge to be delighted on six hours' (interrupted) sleep.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sam's Birth Day

Depending on who you ask, Sam was due on November 11 or November 16th. For months, I had schizophrenically switched back and forth between preparing for an early birth and saying I was holding out for a Sagitarrius. In the end, Sam was neither early nor a Sag. But he was welcome, welcome, welcome when he arrived on November 21.

I had hoped to have a natural childbirth after the stressful recovery from Anna's birth by emergency c-section following 17 hours hard labour. I felt confident that the baby I was carrying was in a happy head-down position and keen to drop. But November 11 and November 16 passed with no signs of early labour. Due to my "advanced maternal age" and being "past my dates," I received lots of follow-up from the hospital to make sure the baby was doing well. A biophysical exam at Labour and Delivery on the 13th showed he was doing great - he was just very comfy where he was. On Sunday the 15th, I accidentally poisoned myself with gluten - like the world's worst dose of castor oil - and was violently ill for two hours. We made a trip to Labour and Delivery to make sure all was well and that the baby wasn't dehydrated. Despite intensified Braxton-Hicks contractions into that evening, not even my major purge started labour.

Back to Labour and Delivery on Tuesday, where I was determined not to be induced. My effort to steel my nerve against medical pressure was wasted. There wasn't anything happening labour-wise that could be sped up anyway.

Another biophysical on Friday the 20th - another healthy, happy baby, growing by the day and sucking madly on his fist. I was so encouraged to see him sucking on his fist in utero - after Anna's inability to suck, I was so hopeful I would be able to nurse my new little one. And I was determined not to compromise nursing by enduring labour AND an emergency section, if I could avoid it. And, frankly, Stephen and I just didn't know if we could manage the recovery from a section after a labour with an active and demanding three-year-old to care for at home.

On that morning of the 20th, when there were still no signs at all of labour, and I knew I had been walking, running, and jumping as much as humanly possible to get things moving, we were content to book a section. We thought Tuesday, November 24, would be a great day to have a baby, for instance. That would give us a leisurely weekend to get prepared and a few more days to hope that everything would take its course swiftly and naturally. Our doc was thinking along the same lines.

Except the OR was booked solid. For the whole week.

The options were to wait a week, spending a few exhausting and uncomfortable hours every two days on monitors at Labour and Delivery and risking an emergency section if nothing progressed. Or fasting overnight, arriving at the hospital on Saturday morning, and hoping for an opening in the operating room on November 21st.

Stephen and I had quite an afternoon on Friday, getting ready for the baby to be born the next day. Despite all the many months of waiting, I couldn't get my head around the thought that the baby would arrive the next day. The only thing I accomplished all day was a trip to buy a supply of magazines for reading at the hospital.

We managed a reasonable night's sleep and arrived at the hospital the next morning. The operating room was booked for six procedures already, and no one could say how many emergencies would emerge in the course of the day. We had expected to know by 9:30 a.m. if today would be the day, but it wasn't until 11:00 a.m. that the docs told us they thought we would get in by 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. and they hooked me up to an IV.

I figured 4:00 or 5:00 would really mean 6:00 or 7:00, but we had enough magazines to carry us through the day, and when word came at 5:00 that we would be waiting until 7:00, we were tired and excited but prepared to wait that final few hours. Our doula, Sylvie, helped the last hours pass before they came to prep me for surgery.

It seemed like we were only in the operating room for moments before we heard a baby's lusty cry on the other side of the curtain - so strong and loud and pissed off to be disturbed it hardly seemed real. He was born at 8:10 p.m., a solid 9 pounds and 3 ounces, almost 20 inches long. We named him Samuel Francis and held him for the first time. His dad and Sylvie cared for him that long first hour while I waited in the recovery room and while Sam made sucking faces waiting to eat. I got back to the room tired and almost as thirsty as the baby, and I fed him and then barely slept all night, I was so excited to see him in the bassinette beside me, and so sure he would wake at any moment, since he squirmed in his sleep constantly for that first week of his life.

We got home on Tuesday, after a short and not-too-stressful stay in hospital, and Anna met her brother for the first time when she got home from playschool. She bounced in the door, nervous but excited, and said, "I love him!"

Anna still asks for her "just-born story" every night before she goes to sleep, and this is her brother Sam's "just-born story."

The Amnesia Bits

In my two posts since Sam was born, I have painted the happiest picture of our time together, and in truth our time is very happy. But in fairness to other new parents and parents-to-be, I must acknowledge the Amnesia Bits: the difficult bits that we forget almost as soon as they occur because sleep deprivation and nature need us to forget them for the good of the continuation of the species.

For instance, the night when the baby is about six days old when he has been cluster-feeding at a different time every single day and his mother's new milk supply can't get in sync with his schedule, and she hasn't had more than two hours' sleep in a row since the baby was born and is sore from surgery and carrying a baby around, and it's one in the morning and the three-year-old is awake due to the crying baby's crying, and this whole breastfeeding thing seems like a monumentally bad idea, and you try to get your loving partner to come out from settling the three-year-old and to find an all-night pharmacy that will sell him some FORMULA and a BOTTLE and FAST before mama loses her mind.

Hypothetically speaking. You can see how this kind of scenario would be possible. If it happened to me, it slipped my mind almost as soon as Stephen talked me down from the late-night pharmacy search and patiently picked up a bottle and some formula in the morning. (The formula can remains unopened ten weeks later and the bottle has only been used for breastmilk.)

I don't remember any of it, of course, but in the first two weeks of any baby's life it is impossible to hold a thought in your head, and if you manage to hold a thought, it is likely to be an irrational one and it would be better for all involved to let it go.

In eleven weeks, Anna has had three overlapping colds. Sam shared the first one, when he was just three weeks old, and we spent five nights sitting up with both kids, each of us keeping one of the sitting upright so they could breathe better. Anna went on to a croupy cough, a reprieve over Christmas, then another bad cough that went away only to be replaced with a different cough and cold two days later. And now Sam has the new cold, though he is not so thoroughly sick and run-down as his sister.

Add to the rotating rhinoviruses the ordinary difficulty of adjusting to a new sibling, and Anna has had a tough time all-round. She adores her brother and her role as a big sister - which she takes very seriously. She plays with Sam on his playmat and sings songs and reads stories to him. She holds him any time she is allowed to. And she's not jealous, per se. She's just confused, and overwhelmed, and inspired to regress in all the predictable ways for a child her age who is faced with a new sibling. She's so precocious verbally it is sometimes hard to remember that emotionally, she's just a three-year-old kid.

The other challenge already best forgotten was my breastfeeding injury of two weeks ago. I managed to sprain my elbow so painfully that it was swollen and immovable for five days. I did this by hiking up and tensing my shoulders while feeding Sam in the middle of the night - and made it worse and worse because I had to feed him every two hours. Fortunately, a massage and some careful work to stretch my shoulders and arms and position myself in the best possible posture healed the injury.

I seem to have been almost housebound for a different reason every week since Christmas - Anna's adjustment back to a regular routine one week, lack of a second stroller until we picked up one secondhand another, a dramatic dip in temperature after mild mild winter days a third week. Then the injury, and the colds, blah blah blah. It has all added up to some serious inertia, but we're beginning to see the light.

In fact, we're the last in our neighbourhood to still have our Christmas lights blinking. This is so we continue to see the light during the long Canadian winter. Stephen unplugged the lights on the front and back deck today, but we'll leave up the festive solar twinklers in the hawthorn bush. They are a great reminder of how much longer the days are getting, week by week. At Christmastime, the solar panels only collected enough light for about three hours of evening twinkling. On these sunny, snowy days, the lights sometimes collect enough sunlight to stay on almost until dawn.

Eleven Weeks

Sam is eleven weeks old today. With his second cold of the winter scratching at his throat and making his nose run, he has had a few moments of frustration today, and he expresses his frustration pretty clearly. But mostly he has been his active, cheerful self. He's pretty easy on the head, is Sam, and pretty fun to be around.

He has discovered his hands. Today, he spent a lot of time watching himself wave his fist in the air, moving it in all directions. A few times, he accidentally bonked himself in the head with the waving hand. When he eats, he soothes himself with his hands interlaced, as he has done since he was born, caressing his hands and fingers and wringing his hands together. These days, he also unclasps his grip to explore the textures around him, patting the nubbles on my sweater or waving his hand from my bare skin to my soft shirt. He also spends a lot of time trying to swallow his fingers, hands, or entire arms - whatever he finds he can fit in his mouth, and whatever he can soften up with his copious drool. We've wakened more than one night to the sound of his slurping on his fingers. He still doesn't cry at night unless he has to.

Sam is a ravenous baby, still nursing every three hours or so at night and every two hours during the day. While I was feeding him yesterday, Anna looked at him and said, "Mommy, he has got hold of you and I think he is going to eat you all up." Yes, I sometimes think so too. Mostly, I hydrate and lactate all day, every day. And while I still haven't slept longer than 3 1/2 hours at any stretch since he was born, I am grateful for his consistent patterns and good cheer through the night and have nothing to complain about. He eats at 10:30 p.m. or 11, then we're up at about 2:00 a.m. and about 5:00 a.m. Breakfast then starts at 8:00 a.m. The time goes quickly - though nights seem to pass slower than weeks. It is hard to believe how quickly he is growing. Almost three months already!

Today, he was intent on doing something with his toes. It might have been because the feet of his sleepers had striped fabric, and he loves to look at stripes. (I still have all the striped shirts I got to stimulate Anna when she was first born, and Sam loves them, too.) Any time he was sitting up, he tried to fold himself in half to reach his toes, throwing himself forward and grunting. He followed the cat with his eyes for a while today, too, but wasn't quite sure what to make of her.

He enjoys time on a playmat on the floor, doing his baby pushups with his strong, flexible back, or lying on his back and kicking. He is almost always in motion, even when he is eating. He is curious and a close observer of his surroundings. He loves to watch his sister's non-stop activities and is an appreciative audience for her performances of dance and song. He can get hold of her mane of wild blonde hair now and play with it in his fingers. He tries to sing along when people sing to him, too, and shows how much he loves music with big smiles and generous laughs.

People who meet Sam most often comment on how handsome he is - with those big, full lips, that have never lost their milk blisters - and how content he is. He has an easy way about him. He doesn't cry or fuss much, but when he does, his messages aren't very ambiguous. May he always be so blest.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


No news these past many months has been good news. Anna is now 3 1/4 and has a new sibling, Sam, who is now six weeks old. I'll use this space to tell stories about his early months, just as I did for Anna before him.

Before Sam was born, he was so active I thought I would have a baby who would never sleep. When he was finally born, a healthy nine pounds and three ounces, I found out that he just squirmed in his sleep. This slowed down after about a week, but the first night of his life, I was so excited to meet him and so delighted at the prospect of feeding him, I couldn't sleep a wink. Every time I would begin to doze off, his squirming would convince me he was about to wake up at any moment, and my eyes would flip wide open just to admire him until he might wake.

A gorgeous baby with prominent nose and broad cheeks and gigantic, soft lips, he looked like a tiny little old man - an impression only enhanced by his furrowed brow and constant worry (mostly about milk supply). Sweet-tempered and more likely to yell vigorously than to cry, he was only deeply infuriated by hiccups in those first days. He was a good eater from the first, though sometimes he would yell for half an hour with his mouth at my breast before finally just closing his mouth and eating.

The hospital where he was born had moved to maternity-centred care in the years since Anna's birth, so it was delightful to be able to share a room with Sam and have a nurse to share between us. Visitor restrictions because of the H1N1 flu pandemic meant that Anna couldn't come to meet him and only his Dad and our doula, Sylvie, could come and go from the hospital. We missed having a chance to show him off to others in those first few days, but it was blessedly restful to have limits on the visitation, too, and it meant I could go home with him in record time.

It could be the sleep-deprivation talking, or the little computer chip they put in new mothers that deletes negative memories, but it's hard to imagine more peaceful and joyful six weeks than we've had so far. We are grateful to family and friends for all their help and support and spirit of celebration. More news to come from these special days.