Sunday, 25 May 2008

Grace - 5 months old

This time 5 months ago I was in labour. Some people hate giving birth, I was lucky (after my epidural kicked in), I loved it. The birth went nothing like the plan I wrote in my little medical book (Water birth, no painkillers), the closest I got to a water birth was when I asked to have a bath at about 10pm. At first I was too shy to even remove my t-shirt in front of the midwife. That all changed when I was suddenly overcome by the biggest contraction of my life. I ripped my top off, clambered out the bath (NOT easy when the size of hippo and having a seizure) then staggered naked and dripping wet down the hall screaming "James get me an epidural NOW" Suddenly being seen in the noddy was not such a big deal after all. Poor old James was under strict instruction to talk me out of any painkilling options if I started to weaken... "Come on Princess, you are doing great, give it another half an hour"... "I swear to God James, go and get me an epidural now or I will bite your fingers off"- he soon scarpered to find the anesthetist. What a wonderful woman she was. As soon as the needle went in I felt better, within half an hour I was asking the midwife her life history whilst James had a nap!

It's amazing to think it was only 5 months ago that Grace was born. How far she has come from the fat little bundle I delivered. At first all she did was sleep and feed, and poo. Now she rolls over and reaches for toys, scrunches up newspapers,plays peek-a-boo, finds her dummy and puts it in her mouth, recognises songs and phrases, bounces up and down in her jungle thing (best £70 we ever spent, when all else fails the jungle bouncer never does. It's a constant source of untold joy for Grace), more than that though - she soaks up life. At first she just slept as it passed her by but now she is into every noise, face, view, texture and taste, her little fat legs pumping in excitement as she learns about the world she has been born into. (She still poos alot too)

Her swimming is going really well. James and her went without me last week. I was feeling a bit under the weather (more on that later) so James got her up and dressed. I have long given up on trying to teach James which of her clothes go well together (I think he puts her in the most mis-matched outfits he can find on purpose) so off they went with Grace wearing blue and orange pyjama bottoms and a bright pink tshirt, no socks or coat or hat or change bag "She does not need all that crap" - and returned an hour and half later in a different brand of nappy to our normal kind (Grace, not James - he does not wear nappies), looking suspiciously neater than when she left. Turns out that when James (the only chap at little dippers (unless you count Phil, which I don't) mentioned to the gaggle of mummies that I was not well and he had "forgotten" her bag - they were all tripping over themselves to help him out. I can just picture James in 'helpless mode', I know it well - he slips into it each time I ask him to wash up or sterilise her feeding bowls "What do I do Newts? Put the Milton fluid in the kettle and then pour cold water in the sink and ..." "No James, you fill the kettle with cold water and - oh forget it, I will do it myself!"
Anyway, they had a great time without me, going under water together and reaching for toys. I was too ill to go, it's ridiculous. I have prayed for Grace to sleep through the night, and now she is I feel worse than when she had us up every hour! It's very normal my health care visitor tells me. Your body gets so used to running on empty that when you actually start to get some rest it does not know what to do, all the tiredness and exhaustion just seems to come out. It will pass though,it's just a phase - I hope the all-night sleeping is not just a phase. It was a long and weary road to get there. In the end we decided to leave her to cry for a bit and see what happened (When I say we, I actually mean me - coincidentally James had to go to Birmingham overnight for a show)
I fed her and put her to bed, and when she woke up two hours later I just left her. I peeked at her to make sure she was ok but then I sat back down and ignored her. It was not easy, but she gradually quietened down and when I went back in she had found her dummy and her monkey (George) and was fast asleep. Success! She woke momentarily at about 3am but I ignored her again and she soon drifted back off.
I am not sure if it was the leaving her to cry that did it or the fact that she now has 3 meals a day. When she turned 20 weeks the health care visitor said that she could start having Petit Filous. What marvellous pots of magic they are. She loves them and all you have to do is take the lid off and away you go, no peeling or mashing or pureeing or freezing or defrosting. Grace loves them, you can't shovel it into her quick enough. She also has apples, pears, bananas, parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and turnips all lovingly cooked and blended by us. It makes such a difference, she is happier, goes longer between breastfeeds and sleeps so much more. I have weaned her early, it was the right thing to do. Whoever made the rule that babies should be exclusively breast-fed for 6 months has never had a baby. My little monkey is hungry. All the kicking and rolling and dribbling and bouncing gives her an appetite!

So it's all going well into the 5th month, I am trying to make the most of these last few weeks before I have to go back to work. We have a holiday in France booked to go and see my parents. James is very excited as he can practise Grace's swimming techniques in their pool. I am excited because I can expose my poor crepe paper tummy to the sun without scaring anyone other than my immediate family!

Latest photos here:


Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Grace growing up

It's been so long since I've had time to sit down and update this. Suddenly there are not enough hours in the day even though I am up for most of them! I have gone back to work one day a week. It's going really well but initially I was so worried about leaving Grace and her feeling abandoned. I had visions of her looking around for me and not finding me. I set up a practise day with her childminder the week before I was due back to ease my mind. Grace was fine but I was rubbish. I spent the whole day looking at baby photos and sniffing her things. I sat counting the hours till I could go and pick her up and when the time finally came she was fast asleep anyway! To have her back in my arms after being apart for all those hours was magical.

I am really enjoying work but I permanently feel like I have forgotten something. You know when you go off on holiday and suddenly get in a panic that you have left some electrical appliance on? That is how I feel the whole time I am not with Grace (not saying she is an electrical appliance but you see what I mean). It is nice to be able to pop out for a coffee without packing bags and dummies and setting up buggies though, and to know my outfit won't get baby spit and mashed banana down it for a while! Sneaking into the loo with my breast pump is not so much fun. I worry people wonder what I am up to, locked in the loo with a whirring machine for hours at a time... Then there is the problem of where to store it, I am not sure my fellow workmates want my milk nestled alongside their sandwiches and (out of date) yogurts in the company fridge!!

James and Grace went to Little Dippers together last week...and it was hilarious.
I had told him that loads of men would be doing it with their kids, so he was a bit surprised when he burst out the changing room and saw a pool full of women and babies. He was excellent, although he did pretend to forget the words when they sang "Row row row your boat" and was slightly over-competitive when playing the 'reaching for toys in the water' game. No-one actually said it was a race. Grace also did some quite energetic headers with the help of her dad when they were playing ball games at the end! They both had a lovely time though. I was so proud of the pair of them as I sat watching at the side. I remember my mum watching me learn to swim, I was awful. I had to practise doing the strokes on the tiles by the side of the pool whilst all the other kids splashed about in the water. Lets hope these early classes will save Grace (and me) that embarrassment!

James took Grace to get her third set of jabs today, all the women were cooing over her (and him no doubt) in the surgery. She cried real tears after he tells me, but is fine now. She is in her jungle bouncer as I type this, jumping up and down and cooing alot.
Every day seems to bring something new. She is making a wide range of (monkey) noises, which to help encourage speech we are supposed to repeat back to her, so we all spend alot of time ga ga gooing. She is almost sitting up alone, sort of rolling over, and loves food. She watches in fascination when James and I eat dinner, it's a bit off-putting at times. The other day we were out at a restaurant and she got so hungry watching us she started lunging for James' thumb! She has the odd bit of sweet potato, as well as banana and rice. I have also just introduced a raspberry porridge type thing which she seems to love (lord knows why, it tastes awful!). She clamps her mouth down on the spoon in delight though and howls when it's all gone!

She is still waking quite frequently at night. James seems to be much better at coping with lack of sleep than me and has taken over the night feeds. What a man eh? I am actually managing to get 7 hours sleep in at last. It's a slow and painful process but Grace is gradually learning if she wakes up before 7am all she gets is a silent and grumpy daddy offering her formula, when what she wants is mummy and boob and to sleep in the bed. Last night she only woke twice so it's getting better. One night last week she had us up every 50 minutes!

The help and support from family and friends these last few weeks has been tremendous. We went to stay with James' family over the bank holiday and they were amazing. It was like being on holiday. I can never truly relax when I am at home, especially as the flat is still on the market so I constantly try to keep it spotless (impossible when you live with a monkey and a clumsy oaf!) but while I was with away I actually switched off for a while, did some crosswords, went shopping, had a nap whilst they entertained Grace and cooked and made endless cups of tea for us. Since having Grace, I have really seen the depth of human kindness. James has also been incredible, as well as doing night feeds and babysitting , he took me shopping for a whole new wardrobe, hovering outside busy shops with the buggy whilst I tried on a million different outfits and even pretended to be interested when I did a fashion show for him and Grace when we got home.

So all in all it's going really well. The summer is finally on it's way and I can't wait for picnics on the beach and trips along the seafront.

Photos here: