Monday, July 07, 2008

A retrospective: 6 months of Beth (Plan B)

Grant has been hassling me to do a proper blog entry, and I'm having quite the galloping writer's block, having written nothing other than shopping lists and legal advice since September last year. But our daughter, she is fabulous, and deserving of written acknowledgement on the momentous occasion of her six-month-aversary. So.

1. The advent of Beth

Beth didn't have quite the introduction to the world outside that we had hoped. Instead of being born in a nice birth centre and being caught by her daddy with Auntie Sue helping, followed by a lovely long snooze at home in bed with us to get to know each other, we spent most of a pretty gruelling 30 hour labour in a hospital ward with me chained to a bed with drips and foetal monitors, and when she was finally born she was whisked away to the NICU for 2.5 days. Not much fun for anyone, particularly as Grant and I had been awake for the aforementioned 30 hours and then got no more than 1.5 hours' sleep at a stretch so that I could do three hourly (and then two hourly, yuk!) feeds in the NICU.

So our "getting to know each other" stage had rather more cables, monitors, and doctors and nurses in attendance than anticipated, as well as a lot more being forced to leave Beth behind in a ward with strangers, and everyone was fairly shell-shocked for weeks afterwards. I think we both found it quite hard to put her down for a while there, and even after she was out of the NICU but in the maternity ward with us, we used to steal "secret cuddles" with her when she was supposed to be in her light bed for jaundice.

Beth was born tall but desperately skinny, likely because of the tummy bug from hell that landed me in hospital at 34 weeks. She didn't actually have a butt, just kind of a flat sheet of skin with a little starfish in the middle; I wish we had documentary evidence of this, because it was freaky, and if people could see it they would understand why watching Beth grow a butt still stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the first week or so of her life and one of which I am immensely proud, since *I* provided the butt fuel, after all.

2. Monkey stage

I remember really clearly Grant worrying when we had been home at Mum's for a couple of days that Beth was "all floppy." It took her that long to relax, I suppose, and I can't really blame her, because I think it took me longer!

Somewhat ironically given the NICU's paranoia about blood sugar and reasonably constant attempts to make us put her on formula, Beth lost all of 23gm of her 3068gm birthweight in the first 4 days of life and by the end of her first week had put on 300gm. For the uninitiated, 10% weight loss in the first week is normal; Beth gained that much, purely through the power of the boob. Normal weight gain is 140-250gm/wk; until she was 12 weeks old, Beth never gained less than 300gm/wk. She went from the 25th percentile for weight at birth to the top by 12 weeks, and now is hovering at the top of the charts for weight, height, and giant skull! So she grew that butt pretty quickly.

Beth spent a lot of her newborn "monkey stage" snoozing on chests (preferably daddy's chest) or in slings while we resumed our busy cafe lifestyle.

And lots and lots of time nursing and cuddling, and not a great deal of time alone in bed - well, she had done plenty of that in the NICU. I barely remember most of this stage to be honest. I was too busy clutching Beth, nursing all the live long day, and being a hormonal wreck. Looking back over the photos, she was a whole different creature. It was really quite a challenge getting to know someone who doesn't do much other than tell you when you're not acting up to spec, and since we were falling over ourselves to satisfy her every need and since (shockingly) she is a pretty easy going kiddo, she was barely even crying.

And then she started smiling and it was a whole new ball game, otherwise known as mummy and daddy three-ring-circus of "oh go on, SMILE!" (later repeated to this day to make her laugh, because we are suckers for her laugh).

3. Oh God, real baby time

While I was a wreck, the newborn monkey stage wasn't really that difficult. She used to only wake up once a night, and at 9 weeks old I scoffed at a speaker at my mother's group talking about sleep deprivation, because *I* used to sleep from 11 to 8 or so with only one waking, and clearly all these sleep deprived people were just incompetent parents. HAH.

The next day, I caught the train to Sydney with her for the second time. The first time had been a breeze really; the second time she puked all over me, blew out a nappy on a crowded train so I had to change her ON THE SEAT, cried and cried and refused to feed, and then when we arrived at Vron's, screamed her head off for half an hour until Grant put her in the sling to knock her out. And then the dreaded breast refusal stage started. She went from feeding for an hour at a time, thus consuming my entire day, to refusing to feed other than in short snatches and LYING DOWN IN THE BEDROOM, thus consuming my entire day and breaking my spirit into itty bitty pieces, for SIX WEEKS. This also meant that she went from waking once a night to waking every 2 hours to catch up on missed feeds, thus turning me into Zombie Mummy. It was rather hard to get any medical professionals to pay attention, though, as despite plummeting weight gains she was still cruising at the top of the weight charts.

Did I mention we also moved house at this time? Yeah, we did. Because we are just that kind of crazy.

But in between all of these shenanigans she was a smiling, lovely baby; it's just that for everything from 9 weeks to about 5 months I was too sleep-deprived and worried about her feeding to appreciate too much of it. You may notice there aren't so many photos of this particular stage.

Her favourite toy from about 8 weeks to 4 months was the Ladybird Nightmare floormat/playgym.

It took her a while to coordinate the grabbing and bashing thereof, but she pretty soon got the hang of it and by 3 months Mr Froggy was being beaten up at regular intervals. At 3.5 months Beth repeatedly rolled from her front to her back, but after doing three sets of rolls on two separate occasions, apparently she forgot how for another month or so, or maybe just didn't see the need, because she is very much a tummy baby and why on earth would one want to roll onto one's back when the REAL action is in rolling to one's tummy?

The harder, ab-requiring back to tummy roll was accomplished at 4.5 months. I credit our chiro for this, as until we started going to her when Beth was about four months old, Beth really didn't move her legs much at all - she was apparently pretty locked up in the lumbar spine, probably as a result of her not-so-easy entrance into the world. It's a funny thing to see a chiro adjusting a baby, as most of it involves what looks like modified cuddles and swings. Until very recently, Beth loved this, but lately there has been Neck Work which she has not been too fond of. In any case, since she managed this feat, Beth has happily stayed on her belly in a yogaesque cobra pose for ages and ages at a time, and how it isn't destroying her neck I do not know, because mine gets sort of achy just watching her.

At 5 months she remembered how to roll tummy-to-back and now she does it kind of like a synchronised swimmer, putting her arm back and over quite gracefully. She likes rolling forward and back, but only does it in opposite directions, so rolls on the spot. LUCKY FOR MUMMY AND DADDY, because if she works out how to string two rolls together and cross the floor, the game is up, as we are very much not yet childproofed in these parts. She's also very cleverly worked out how to use a front and back roll to spin around on the spot. Now she has modified her technique to a less wasteful roll-only-to-side approach, and has started walking her hands around a bit. It's amazing how much she can figure out even in only a few days

New favourite toys are her books (esp. "That's Not My Teddy" - mmm, furry, and hilarious, especially when Grant reads it as "That's Not My Daddy - HIS EARS ARE NOT FURRY ENOUGH!"), her Selecta wooden rattle and teething ring, and the best toy of all, her Chime Garden, which I bought on a whim at the DJs sale and which has since amused not only Beth 24/7 but also a friend's five year old! And according to said friend, it plays Schumann, so it's educational, too!

4. In which Mummy finally cracks and some sleep is had

The fact is, though, that sleepwise we had a pretty hard slog from when Beth was about 3 months old on. She rarely napped for longer than 45 minutes, required me to feed her to sleep or one of us to carry her in a sling to sleep, and would often not sleep for much longer than it took to get her to sleep to begin with. She was waking at least 3 times a night for feeds, usually didn't go longer than two hours between feeds, and Grant had to take her in the mornings so that I could sleep in just to survive.

We finally admitted that WE NEEDED HELP and hired the local sleep guru, I was sure this would lead to nonstop screaming and even less sleep, but in fact within a few hours of Natalie's visit, and without much pain at all, Beth was self-settling, sleeping for minimum three-four hour stretches at night (and often 6 or 7 hours, woohoo!), wakes twice a night on a BAD night, and would let Grant put her down to bed. Considering that before this it had routinely taken 40mins-2 hours to get Beth to sleep, this was freaking incredible, and made all the better by the fact that I had had such low expectations to start with.

Now we have a lot more energy to play with Beth, and she has a lot more fun, and seems to be rocketing through her milestones much faster than when she spent most of her time tired or with me trying to put her to sleep. While she was always a pretty cheerful chicken, she's now a lot calmer, to the point where we went from blaming everything on teething a month ago to not actually noticing when she cut her first tooth, even though in hindsight that did explain two mysterious short screaming fits and some rather unusual (for now - used to be standard) short night sleeps. I really enjoy her so much more now, and I think she's sort of reflecting that.

I also get to do really exciting things like GO RIDING ON MY BIKE! I haven't been riding since April last year, but it turns out that riding a bike is like riding a bike.

So I can say as Beth reaches her mighty milestone of six months: this parenthood caper is all kinds of cool. Our daughter is glorious, and every day more and more her own person, but more importantly, she cracks me up.

5. Summary

Amelie-style, things Beth likes: daddy jungle gym; mummy jungle gym; boob if on her terms; Chime Garden; watching the trees in the wind; rolling around, particularly now we have some end-of-roll lino for her to skid around on (super high quality, apparently); sit-ups; nappy-off time (aka "vejayjay time"); bathtime; daddy's silly songs; chewing things, esp if wooden or a spoon; attacking catalogues.

Things Beth isn't so sure about, but thinks she could grow to like: pureed sweet potato.

Dislikes: not so keen on ointment applied to the face, the five minutes before bed, or people other than mummy or daddy cuddling her, although usually prepared to relax about it after a while. Other than that, she's good with just about everything.

We adore, adore, adore our baby girl. It seems impossible that it has only been six months, and equally impossible that she has not always been here.

So that's where we're at. How have you guys been?

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