Friday, 30 December 2011

Help me, she's teething!

I am presently so sleep deprived that I am surprised I have the energy to type. Wait, go back - I'm so sleep deprived I'm even surprised I have managed to find the laptop's ON button in the first place!

My 3month old is teething. Yes, teething. My mother-in-law managed to diagnose it over Skype (gotta love Skype), but I told her that it couldn't possibly be the case. Three month olds do not teethe! Do they?

Frankie was showing all the classic teething signs; drooling like a Pavlovian dog at supper time, more grumpy than a Snow White dwarf, biting down on anything (and everything!), and so irritable at night that she won't sleep for more than an hour at a time.

At first I worried about my milk supply. Maybe I wasn't producing enough? Was she simply going through the infamous three month growth spurt? The constant feeding would point to that. But growth spurts are supposed to last only a few days and Frankie's mood swing was worse than a hormonal teenager's, and it had lasted well over a week. What to do?

After the Mother-In-Law-Knows-Best Skype call, I decided not to rule out teething simply because of my wee-one's age, but to have a feel around and see what I could find.

Frankie was more than happy to let me go all 'Indiana Jones Explorer' in her mouth, because every few seconds she'd get to heartily chomp on my finger which seemed to provide some comfort. Eventually I found it - her tooth had already cut! It wasn't in the standard spot for first teeth - it was on the left and quite far back. But there it was, none the less. My little girl's first tooth!

The next day the doctor confirmed my diagnosis and suggested some Nurofen or Paracetamol for bubs. But so far, there's been no relief. I'm still getting up more times in the night than a pensioner with a bladder problem. Feeding seems to be the only thing to soothe her, but I physically don't know if I can keep it up.

And herewith goes my first call-out to all the parents out there.... can anyone suggest how I can help get my bub to sleep during this painful teething process? I'm literally at my wits end and hate to admit I'm not coping well, but just when I thought Frankie had managed to sleep through the night this has happened and I'm beginning to worry I'll never know a full night's rest again...


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Forgive me, Santa, for I have sinned

This year my daughter will not hear the rich baritone of Santa's Ho Ho Ho. She won't feel the tickle of his synthetic beard upon her chin, or be bounced on his knee with the assurances that she is a good girl.  You see, I've committed a cardinal Christmas sin and I have not taken my daughter to meet Santa Claus.

It's Frankie's first Christmas and I must admit that I failed to see the point of introducing her to Santa. At the ripe old age of 3 months, what exactly was in it for her? I had foresaw hours of waiting in line with Frankie, who would be huffing with impatience and unpleasantly surprised when the time came for her to sit on a complete stranger's lap. Frankie would then pass through the irritability phase, landing firmly into the realm of pissed-off-ness, and for the next twelve months I would be forced to look at the photo on the fridge of my daughter screaming bloody murder into Santa's ear.

As you can clearly tell, I was less than happy about participating in this Western rite of passage. But as piece by piece of the advent calendar chocolate started to disappear and the Big Day loomed, I began to question my vehement rejection of this festive custom. Literally every other mother that I know had taken their newborn to visit Santa Claus - it would seem that I was the solitary Scrooge who refused to let my daughter wade in the merry pool of Christmas.

On Christmas Eve I decided I would hope for the best, brave the crowds, and make the voyage to Chatswood shops to introduce Frankie to that jolly red lump of a man named Santa. 

But, despite my last-minute best intentions, fate did not play ball. Three buses passed me, all of which could not cater for prams on board. Now I won't spend a long time whinging about how pathetically archaic the Sydney Transport System is. Instead, I shall just make the point that we never made it to Chatswood. We returned home - dejected and photoless.

When Christmas arrived, I attempted to wash away my guilt with a glass of Champagne and a toast to my daughter's first forced-rejection of community spirit. Let's hope Santa's the forgiving type and gives her a nice present next year, hey?!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ain't no dummy

My little baby is a genius. No, seriously, you don't understand. She's really clever. At least that's what I keep getting told, time after time after time, when I announce that she flat out refuses to take a dummy or the bottle.

The Tresillian nurses, bless them, tell me that Frankie is smart enough to reject cheap imitation nipples. Why would she want a poor substitute when the real thing is just so soft and delicious? Well, I guess there goes the 21st birthday present to Thailand to pick up a fake Mulberry bag. And I'd better not buy her any homebrand biscuits when she's in primary school or I might just get them thrown back in my face. And let's not even think about what she might do to me if I suggest we make a cup of instant coffee instead of venturing down to the local cafe for an organic, fair trade, Caffea Arabia blended espresso.

You see, I differ with the opinion of my doctors, nurses, and well-meaning friends and family because I don't see Frankie as demonstrating cleverness, but rather pickiness.  Would a clever baby not seek comfort from any object possible? Would a clever baby choose to limit her options to just one thing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Frankie's refusal of all-things-artificial stems from bad parenting. Maybe I didn't try the best type of dummy? Maybe the conditions weren't perfect when I introduced the bottle? Maybe I just gave up too soon?

No, no and no again. I'm doing everything humanly possible (and within legal and reasonable limits I might add) to get this child well-aquainted with teats of all shapes and sizes. If Frankie would only give in a little she might just gain a lot. Wouldn't it be lovely to be fed by her dad or her grandma for a change? Wouldn't it be lovely if mummy could have a few hours to herself so that she could return a happier mummy? Oh, and wouldn't it be terrific to fall asleep in the pram or crib without a battle of wills with all those game enough to take on the challenge?

Each day brings with it a hilarious (and tedious) fighting match:
Frankie vs. Bottle, Round 1: the breastmilk is warmed to perfection, sugary and silky it lies waiting inside its plastic pool. The nozzle of the bottle is silicone (as predecessors of other types have failed miserably in the past). Frankie is cradled in the crook of her grandmother's arm; there is no temptation of a mother's swollen breasts to lure her away from the bottle in front of her. Grandma smiles and speaks with a voice as smooth as honey, enticing the child to drink. The bottle enters the baby's mouth, slowly and patiently. It teases her lips, and the baby looks up with confusion. What is this? Why is this happening? She opens her mouth wider - keen to explore. And suddenly, it dawns on the child. This is not a breast! What foreign beast dares to touch her sacred mouth, where only the true nipple should be? Frankie's body stiffens like an ironing board and she begins to thrash her head about. Puddles of spit fall into grandma's lap, as the child tries to flick the bottle out of her mouth, partly choking on her own wails in the meantime. Ding, ding, Round 1: Frankie. 
I won't even bother going into the next few rounds of the match. But guess who wins?

Come on, Frankie baby - a dummy and the bottle could actually be your new best friends. You just have to give it a chance! Any clever clogs knows that....

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Missing the Moro

It was my daughter's 3-month-anniversary yesterday and with it brought the dawn of a new developmental milestone. Frankie is no longer a newborn. She is now just a plain old regular baby. This has its good points I must admit, but already I miss some of the joys known only to the newborn bub. And the most enjoyable of all - for me - was the distinctive Moro reflex.

When Frankie was born I remember the nurses explaining to me that newborn babies will often accidentally startle themselves when placed on their backs. Once startled, they'd fling their arms out to their sides and fan their fingers out in hope of clasping onto something to halt their descent into an imaginary vacuous pit.

This startled behaviour, called the Moro reflex (after the Austrian bloke who identified it) used to serve a good purpose. Once upon a time when we were hairy primates 'nomadding it up' in Africa, we'd carry our infants on our backs. As we travelled vast distances these bundles of joy would cling on to our fur for dear life - much like chimps do today. And as you can see, the Moro reflex, just like the swallow reflex, was a sophisticated evolutionary tool for survival.  

So really, I shouldn't have laughed when I first witnessed my terrified infant startle herself. It happened at her inaugral nappy change in hospital and for some reason quite beyond my understanding, she felt as though her whole world was slipping away.

Like some kind of jumbo Jack in the Box, Frankie's wee body literally bounced in fright. Her arms went out, waved a couple of times for good measure, and were then pulled forcefully back into her ribs. There they stayed, bound so tightly you'd need to pry them open with industrial equipment. It looked like an audition gone wrong for Glee club; Frankie's co-ordination was severely lacking, but I had to rate her A+ for effort. She really, really, meant business.

From that very first Moro, I was in stitches. My partner and I would giggle and chant with big wide smiles "Good Moro to you" at our crying baby.

Now, you may rightly question what kind of perverse satisfaction I drew from my daughter's primative instinct for survival? It's a tough one to answer, but upon reflection I think I relish the redundancy of the reflex. What purpose, exactly, does it serve in today's day and age? We no longer carry our children on our hairy backs. And (with a few exceptions) our backs are not actually hairy enough that a falling child could save themselves by clutching to our thick manes thereby avoiding a long, lonely plummet to the hard earth below.

There is a lot to look forward to as my bub enters babydom, but it is a sad occasion to have to wave goodbye to the newborn Moro as Frankie matures enough to realise that, quite frankly, it really is pointless.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Sneak-peek saboteurs

Lately I have been on the receiving end of a faux pas from the well-intentioned.

As they peel away the curtain of my pram, they loudly administer admirations upon precious my infant reassuring me that my child is, in fact, a cute one. They coo "what beautiful eyelashes", and "ohh, look at her teeny tiny toes!" to make my chest swell with pride. It's all very kind and I shouldn't feel fury - but I do. And here's why.

When my bub is asleep, it would be great if she could stay that way. Usually, it's taken me a fair bit of time to get her into that perfect state of slumber. And the reason she looks like a sleeping angel is because she is (and here's the interesting bit) sleeping. It's when she's awake that she descends into devilry and I do all that I can within my power to avoid that outcome.

My humble request is that the muslin sheet curtain is left tightly tied around my pram. Think of it as a "Keep Out" sign if you will. My dear friends, resist your urges to have that solitary sneak-peek which might just stir my child awake. Tell me instead that you can imagine how beautiful Frankie is, especially if she takes after me. (Because, after all, there's no point in totally wasting your flattery....)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Fuhrer of the NAG party

At some point over the last two months I have managed to win a secret election and am now officially the Fuhrer of Nagsville.

Where once I operated under a liberal idea of equal partnership in all matters of the home, I am now a power hungry dictator. And I can't help myself; lately it's my way or the highway, baby.

I have started to perform self-righteous speeches from atop my living room soapbox. I preach about cleanliness, order, and the superiority of my "people" - clean people. With an eagle eye I watch my fiance dare to put objects even slightly askew from their rightful place. "Does that belong there?" I question, eyebrow raised and finger pointed. Immediately, said-object is placed in its correct location, with a quivering look of subservience and a pleading request for forgiveness.

I can only presume that I have become this housework nightmare on account of my general tiredness. I used to be willing to clean up after others without too much of an after-thought. I had the time and energy to invest in maintaining a comfortable degree of tidiness to placate my house-pride. That time and energy abandoned me the very moment my little Poppet popped into the world. I started to prioritise sleeping over sweeping, and suddenly, things got bad. As it turned out, without me doing the cleaning, the cleaning didn't get done. Who knew?

Whilst I greatly dislike that I've become a ball-breaker of epic proportions, I must admit I am disappointed that I have been forced into this role. I am happy to do the washing, put the dishes away, make the bed, and vaccuum. As a SAHM (Stay At Home Mum) I feel that it is (to a degree) my responsibility. But there is a point when a relationship morphs from a partnership into a dictatorship and that point, dear friends, comes right about the time that your partner doesn't bother to pair his own socks.

I question: should we SAHM's have to do all the general cleaning and tidying up after our adult partners too? Sure, they are sweating hard to bring home the bacon but one would argue that as mature adults they should be responsible for keeping their own possessions in neat, working order.

Or am I just being demanding?

Personally, I think a happy balance must be struck. I must acknowledge that men - in general - aren't as house proud as their women folk. But lads, LISTEN UP, a little bit of laundry will get you a loooooong way. It might just be your ticket out of Nagsville!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Frank about motherhood: The expressway

Frank about motherhood: The expressway: What exactly, may I ask, is so 'express' about expressing milk? When I take the express lane on a motor way, I arrive at my destination m...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The expressway

What exactly, may I ask, is so 'express' about expressing milk?

When I take the express lane on a motor way, I arrive at my destination more quickly.

When I go to the express line in the supermarket, I'm back in the carpark sooner, unloading all of my groceries.

So, if one follows this line of thinking, then one would expect that expressing milk would be a quicker and more convenient way to give my bub some grub.

But here, logic fails us. I am writing this blog with the steady hum of the Medela Swing Pump rythmically churning away in the background. It breaks my heart to see one measly drop following another measly drop without any sense of urgency or purpose. Desparingly, I read the measurements on the bottle. Its been 20minutes already and I've collected a sorry 5ml of milk. And how much does a baby need per feed?  100-150ml you say? Dear God, give me strength. And more importantly, give me patience.

Even if we ignore the amount of time it takes to actually withdraw the milk and concentrate on the time it takes to set up the whole process, it is still a lengthy ordeal. I have to wash and sterilise the bottles. I have to plug in all the cords and make sure the contraption is functioning. And I must ensure that I position myself just so in order to get the optimal flow out of my boobs.

If I had countless hours in the day, I wouldn't be fretting but it's not as though I can happily squeeze this milky goodness from myself at any old time. In order to punch in at the milk production factory I must sacrifice my sleep, or the housework, or (gross, but true) having a shower.  As a result, I now look forward to expressing my breastmilk about as much as I look forward to Big Brother making a return to prime time TV.

So it turns out I have neither the time, the energy nor the patience to express my breastmilk. There is one lonely bag of milk sitting in my freezer, eagerly awaiting the day that my baby might actually stop refusing to take a bottle so that it can see the light of day again. But bottle refusal is another story, for another time........

All I ask is that we change the descriptor of "expressing" milk when it is so far from actuality.

Instead, I propose we call it: "Slowly-and-laboriously-withdrawing-milk-from-a-Mother's-aching-breast". Far more appropriate, no?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ahhh, shudduppayourface

When I was pregnant I swore I would punch the very next parent who advised me to catch up on sleep, "while you can".

They'd look at me and shake their heads from side to side, muttering that I had no idea what was in store for me, making it sound as though my life was suddenly about to turn into a Stanley Kubric film. I used to hate their smug know-it-allness.

Then today, as I walked up to my local shopping centre, I ran into an old friend who I haven't seen in years. Upon learning that he was expecting his first bub, I heard those dreaded pearls of wisdom escape my lips: Make sure you get your sleep in NOW. He politely nodded and somehow managed not to flick me on the forehead in annoyance, replying simply: "Yeah - so I've been told". (And probably a million times at that).

Upon reflection, I realise my mate Jeff had caught me on a bad day. Frankie had been up all night in pain, and I'd managed about 2hours rest sporadically throughout the evening. When I went for my walk to the shops I had baby spew on my T-shirt. I couldn't be bothered to brush my hair and I can't even recall whether I'd managed to shower this morning. I wasn't even wearing a bra because I've come to the conclusion that they're far too bothersome to worry about nowadays. Somewhere along the line I seem to have forgotten that people should make an effort when they go out in public! And that is what led to the excuses.... and the "make sure you sleep NOW" advice.

The truth is, I've seen enough films and had enough friends and aquaintances with children to know that sleep was always going to be sacrificed in the early years. Therefore, the lack of shut-eye wasn't ever a surprise to me. What was a surprise, however, was the sheer exhaustion that comes with week upon week (and dear god, I presume I have months of this to look forward to?) of interrupted slumber.

I believe now that Vampires have it lucky. Sure, they're awake all night, but they get a good old kip during the light of day. I'd settle for whatever time I could get right now. Bill Compton, you need to quit your "Woe is me, I don't have a heartbeat" whinging and enjoy that beauty sleep while you've got it! At the moment I feel like I'm facing an eternity of 4am Quantum Leap re-runs.

As of this day I'm going to make a solemn vow to myself to never, ever, bring up the S-word when I hear about friends' pregnancies. And I lobby my fellow parents to do the same. Let us live out our lives in a secret club, and keep the joys and difficulties to ourselves. These crazy kids who are about to embark on a voyage into the world of parenthood will discover soon enough the feelings for themselves... our advice isn't necessarily priceless to them, and I think we'd do well to remember that.

And let's face it. The sleepless nights are tough to describe until you've been through it yourself. But so too is the joy of seeing your own flesh and blood smiling up at you, loving you unconditionally and completely oblivious to the dark circles under your eyes.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Baby got Black

I would very much like to know why children's wardrobes are so monochrome. For girls, it's pink. For boys, it's orange.

Ha - got you there. As you are well aware, for boys, it's blue.

Why - when we have seemingly evolved every baby product imaginable (I mean, there are even baby monitors with video cameras nowadays!) - can we not venture past the colour-classification for genders?

I got thinking about this question when I realised that I have never, ever, seen a baby dressed in black. In fact, come to think of it, I have not seen any black outfits stocked in the children's wear department.

One might argue that black is associated with mourning. One may even go so far as to suggest that black is the colour of evil. Certainly not something that should adorn the innocent skin of a precious, God-given child, right?

WRONG! Black is fashionable. It's slimming. It's sleek. Black is - and always has been,  cool. So if I want to dress my baby daughter in skinny black leggings, what's the problem? She won't become a toddler goth. I doubt she'd go out behind my back at the ripe old age of 8 weeks and get herself inked with I HEART MUM tattoos. Almost certainly she won't break out singing Johnny Cash's greatest hits. Granted, if I deck her out in black some people might puzzle whether she's a boy or a girl - but who cares? 

I say to all those pink-preachers, RELAX! Live a little. We have limitless colourways to choose from in our own wardrobes, why subject our children to sensory deprivation with theirs?

In the not too distant future I want to hear myself uttering the words, "Black is back, baby." Who's with me?

Monday, 7 November 2011

My trucker-man child

I swear, Frankie farts so loudly she could shake a budgie from its perch.

Think of cannonfire. Think of the growl of a leopard. Think of Burns Night fireworks. You get the drift.

I am not exactly 'quick' when it comes to understanding bodily functions. This was never more evident than my 'ignorance-is-bliss' approach to pregnancy. I failed to realise there was a wee one growing inside of me like damp in a Manchester apartment for 17 weeks. This ignorance has continued into parenthood. Frankie's farts, it turns out, are no laughing matter. My gut instinct should have been more in tune with her gut activities.

We still don't know what's causing the poppet such discomfort, but I'm having a heck of a time trying to remain calm while she writhes about in pain. With every kick of distress she dents my soul as though it were flimsy metal.

Never in my life have I been so conscious of fecal matter, but I find myself examining Frankie's poo with a Dulux colour chart. Is it Yellow Ochre, or Pugin Yellow? Is it the consistency of toothpaste? Does it bubble and froth?

Lactose Intolerance was the first diagnoses handed to me by my GP. Subsequently, all chocolate, butter, milk and other such goodies have been banned from my diet (ahh, the sacrifices we make for our children). I was told to expect an improvement in roughly a week. Well, things have gone from bad to worse. She's in so much pain she's literally ripping apart her swaddles so she can try to kick out whatever is trapped inside of her.

Frankie's showing no sign of improvement and I'm left wondering whether it might just be that "catch-all" colic. Who knows? All I can say for sure is that my perfectly lovely child turns into a Tasmanian Devil every time she needs to do a #2, and that just doesn't seem normal.

For now, I'll hope for the best and let my little one go for gold in the fart-olympics she seems to be training for.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The pram parade

Ahead of my first Mothers' Group meeting I knew I needed to be on my best behaviour. I have a tendency to be overly competitive, and was foreseeing a morning of enough comparisons to leave my head spinning.

So whilst I was expecting a healthy degree of competitiveness regarding babies' sleep patterns, weight and crying, nothing had prepared me for the pram parade I was about to experience.

I live in an affluent part of Sydney and I was aware that many of the women there would be well-to-do. As the mothers strolled in, however, I witnessed a flagrant display of wealth that left me reeling. There were Stokkes and Bugaboo's galore. It was a catwalk of buggie high couture. The prams were ultra light, ultra flexible, ultra compact, and ... well.... beautiful.

I had pram shame.

As soon as the group was over I legged it out of there as fast as my 1999 second-hand Steelcraft Strider wheels could carry me. I was mortified as I tried to manouvre around a mother when my wider-than-Kirstie Alley's-arse pram got stuck between the doorway and her own stroller. I felt like I was steering a broken supermarket trolley - the front left wheel was acting like an uncoordinated limb, letting the entire body down.

I finally escaped, feeling destitute. Not only was I the only mother there with an e-bay purchased pram, but I was the only woman there to have given birth in a public hospital. There were 33 mothers in this Community Centre class, and I was the sole person there to have laboured without being able to afford the expense of the private healthcare system.

Instead of comparing babies, I had ended up comparing myself... and coming up remarkably under-par.

On my walk back home I tried to console myself that money did not a good parent make. And besides, Frankie was one of the most attractive children in the room (Well, I would say that, wouldn't I?) and as I silently rejoiced in this one small victory, I felt something give way on the pram.

I was hit with a sinking feeling in my gut as I realised what had happened. My pram wheel had fallen off. The very one I'd earlier been cursing for its wayward behaviour.

I guess I'll be carrying Frankie in a Baby Bjorn carier next week.

Even if it is second-hand.