Sunday, 12 February 2012
Today marks Junior's two month birthday, or the end of his first eight weeks. We spent most of January feeding him. I say 'we' because it became a team effort to help him regain and surpass his birth weight.
One of the best parts of giving birth in the UK has been having the support of the NHS (National Health Service). The midwives provide post-natal care for mums and babies for at least the first six weeks, both at home and at the hospital. One of the downsides of this (and perhaps it is only because we live in a well-populated area where care cannot be given one-on-one) was that I had nine different midwives trying to diagnose Junior's weight problem. At first, I was encouraged to breastfeed every two hours, but also confusingly told to allow the baby to lead feeding sessions. When he was eating for well over one hour at a time, how could I be expected to continue feeding him straight afterward again?
Next I was told to express my breastmilk and give him top-ups after every feed. I kept wondering when I was supposed to have time to express, if I was also supposed to be feeding him around the clock. If he was hungry, wasn't it better just to breastfeed him, rather than pumping and giving him a bottle? I understood that it should help increase my milk supply, but wouldn't regular breastfeeding accomplish the same thing?
At around four weeks, one of the midwives recommended that I start taking fenugreek and domperidone, a drug which had originally been designed to combat nausea but had been discovered to boost milk supply in breastfeeding mothers. As it turns out, it is available over the counter in the UK, but with a doctor's prescription I could have it for free. Too bad midwives are not able to prescribe medicine - I had to beg two GPs to give it to me.
At the same time, we started giving him formula to supplement the breastmilk. I happily stopped pumping and was able to share feeding duties with S and my parents. We also had his tongue clipped. My sore nipples began to heal and we began to settle into a more manageable routine, even getting out of the flat for a few hours at a time.
While this was happening, my parents were here until the end of January. S had gone back to work and it was immensely helpful to have two extra sets of hands while I figured out laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, showering, shopping, and getting Junior in and out of the flat. My parents generously replaced our washing machine with a washer dryer, which has made a huge difference (combined with the fact that Junior outgrew his cloth nappies quickly, so we're using disposables for the time being.) My mom cooked and ran around SW19 doing errands. My dad held Junior and had long discussions with him about nuclear physics. We took several short excursions to Clapham Common, central London and Wimbledon; it will be easier when he doesn't need to eat as often but at least I know I can do it now.
On the 1st of February, my parents flew back to California and I officially became a Stay at Home Mum. Since their departure, I have made an effort to get out everyday and meet as many people as I can. I have taken Junior to a breastfeeding clinic (useless, but I met a few nice people); Mummy/Baby yoga class (continuation from my pregnancy yoga class); showed him off to my co-workers; and we have started introducing him to our friends.
We are getting into a more predictable routine. Junior generally sleeps well at night, waking up around 3 AM to eat before falling asleep again. He has started sleeping in his cot and does not fight being swaddled anymore. He enjoys staring at his play yard toys, even if he has not figured out that he can touch and play with them yet. He has started outgrowing his newborn-size clothes and his face seems to change daily, although he's still quite a shrimp compared to some of the other babies. He has also started to smile and coo - it's very endearing. We web chat with our California relatives nearly everyday and with our Yorkshire family most weeks; eventually he will begin to recognize the faces in the computer better and start interacting back with them. He experienced his first snow and showed his extreme displeasure for cold bath water (sorry about that!)
This coming week, he has his first shots. What other excitement will the coming month hold?
Check out Junior's flickr set for new photos and videos: flickr.com/juniordarling
Posted by brandarling at 13:40
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
When I started maternity leave in November, the leaves had just changed colour and were still clinging onto the branches of the tree outside our living room window. At first I took the view for granted.
It was not until a few weeks later, when the tree was virtually naked (just before Junior was born in December), that it occurred to me that I should have taken pictures of it everyday to show the quiet passing of Autumn into Winter.
Never mind. I decided I'd take a few pictures each season and choose the best four to illustrate my view during Junior's first year, and my year of maternity leave.
Since there was not much urgency, I never got around to taking the Winter photo. I waited for a day with blue sky and maybe a bird or a squirrel - but mainly, I got a bit lazy. I looked at the tree everyday while breastfeeding Junior; I even showed it to him, although I'm not sure how far his eight-week-old eyes can see at this point.
This morning, I heard loud grinding noises outside, and by the time I came downstairs, this was all that was left of the tree. About half an hour after I took this picture, they had reduced it to a low stump (no longer visible from our window.)
Now I'm sad. There will be no Spring blossoms, no Summer shade. The squirrels will find a different tree, the birds will perch on the roof instead. My view has changed and I don't take it for granted anymore.