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.