Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear Gwen: Month One

Dear Gwen,

Did you know that on the first night of your life, neither your dad nor I got a single wink of sleep? It's true. Every time you made a noise, I was sure you were choking. Every time you were quiet, I was convinced you had stopped breathing. Eventually, we turned on the video monitor your grandpa Keith had bought us for Christmas - the video monitor I had totally mocked - and then we were able to watch you from our bed without sitting up and leaning over to check on you. Because, yeah, you were in the cradle RIGHT NEXT TO OUR BED. And we still had a monitor on you so that we could look at you every 30 seconds without sitting up.

We've gotten a little more relaxed since then. Nowadays, you make a noise and your dad and I look at each other and wait to see how serious you are. Then we play rock-paper-scissors to see who's going to deal with it.

From day one, you have had some interesting habits. You snort like a pig when you're hungry - I am hoping this is not because you have a deviated septum or something, but if you do, I'll totally nag your dad into getting you a nose job, because whatever other weird and geeky habits you may have inherited from us, you don't need to go through life with an unconscious snort. You sometimes have trouble latching on for breastfeeding, and when you do, you whimper like a beaten orphan. This should probably break my heart, but in fact it kind of makes me laugh, because you just sound so pathetic, and meanwhile I can see that the object of your desire is just millimetres away if you would just turn your silly head in the right direction.

Speaking of breastfeeding, we had some troubles with that in your second week of life. You got a very mild case of the Norwalk virus (a gift from the hospital where you were born) and it made you just lethargic enough not to be very interested in eating. In response, my milk supply dwindled. Your dad and I were congratulating each other on our wonderful sleepy baby who let us get two four-hour stretches a night, but meanwhile you were losing weight and becoming even less able to wake yourself up to eat. Once our midwife figured out what was going on, she put us on a strict schedule of feeding you every 2-3 hours, with only one 4-hour break. That was the most hellish week of motherhood so far (yes, worse even than my own bout with the Norwalk virus) - trying to wake you up at 3:30am to eat, when I was barely awake myself. We ended up having to supplement with formula for a while as well, but were lucky enough to score a Supplemental Nursing System so we could fingerfeed you instead of risking nipple confusion by giving you a bottle.

As of today, though, we are finished the formula as you have gained 4 ounces in 6 days and are now a whopping 9 pounds 2 ounces. The elimination of that crutch meant I was free to introduce the next one - a soother. So far, you are into it, though you do require a little assistance to keep it in your mouth.

As of yet, you have stalwartly refused to get into any kind of routine. I haven't tried very hard to encourage one, except for certain things I do to try and teach you that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for being asleep. Other than that, you're in charge. I figure you'll settle into a routine when you're good and ready, though I kind of hope it's soon, because the unpredictability can be a little wearying.

Your dad would want me to write down that he really does think you're surprisingly advanced for your age. He began saying that on your second day of life, because you were in his arms and began rooting (your neck muscles are really strong) and then you turned your head towards me where I was sitting beside the two of you. I don't know if you heard my voice, or smelled my familiar scent, or maybe you just got lucky. But in any case, your dad thinks you are a genius child, and also really strong.

The two things in life you hate, so far, are baths and diaper changes. I can see what these two things have in common - you're naked, perhaps cold, you're not in someone's arms which is clearly your preferred position, and people are mucking about with you. I'm sorry to tell you that both of these things are necessary. I've learned that if I change your diaper after a feeding, instead of before, sometimes you are mellow enough not to scream at me. I haven't figured out what to do about baths yet.

I will say, though, that for a person who spends most of her time soiling herself with poop, pee, and spit-up, and takes a 45-second bath only once a week, you still smell surprisingly delicious. I would certainly not smell that good were I to follow your hygiene regimen.

Even bigger than the hygiene issue is, of course, the sleep issue. We are getting it figured out, slowly. Every evening we look at you, then exchange looks and wonder, what will tonight be like? We have good nights and bad nights - bad nights being the ones where your first night feeding lasts two hours, and then you decide to wake up every hour from then on. But somehow every morning is a fresh start, an opportunity to get it right, so we keep at it. I have recently discovered the joy of co-sleeping; the joy being that when you start snuffling to be fed, I just roll over and pop my nipple into your mouth and go back to sleep. Much nicer than getting up, picking you up out of your cradle, walking to the nursery, feeding you, and then putting the two of us back to bed. With co-sleeping feeds, neither you nor I really wake up all the way, so the interruptions are less jarring. The downside is that I don't feel comfortable sharing the bed with you and your dad, so he's been relegated to a cot nearby.

Another thing I should tell you, is that I'm not 100% sure I think of you as a separate person, just yet. For the first week or so of your life, I hardly ever referred to you by name. You were always "she" or "her" as in, "I just put her to sleep," or "She's going to be hungry soon". It wasn't conscious, but I think I didn't quite realize you were on the outside of me. I call you by your name often now, but I'm still not completely separated from you. That is bound to be a slow process.

I am completely and utterly in love with you, by the way, despite your tantrums and your frustrating behaviour (your latest habit is keeping your strong little arms as rigid as iron while you cry to be fed, so I can't manoeuver your face close enough for you to latch on). You make me smile and even laugh far more often than you make me sigh or roll my eyes. And even after the worst night, the morning dawns and it feels like a fresh start, a whole new chance to get to know one another and figure out how to be a family.


This month's firsts:
- First time meeting Grandpa Keith and Grandma Karen (April 26)
- First time meeting Grandpa Ron and Grannie Maureen (April 27)
- First time outside (April 30)
- First trip to the mall (May 2)
- First time alone with a sitter (May 9)
- First time out of the house with the baby for more than an hour (May 11)
- First time nursing in public (May 15)
- First ferry ride (May 18)
- First time meeting Auntie Sara and cousins Andrew and Scott (May 18)
- First time meeting Great Grandma and Great Grandpa (May 18)
- First night away from home (May 18)
- First baby shower (May 20)
- First time co-sleeping (May 20)
- First time at a restaurant (May 22)


Amanda said...

you don't know me. i have read your posts (almost) obsesively over the last few months and even talk about your little family to my family. (i googled 20 weeks and found your blog). i have started my own blog (sooo late at 32 weeks) and just wanted to say congratulations, gwen is beautiful and i have learned a lot from you!

Amberism said...

I'm so jealous you can nurse lying down! I STILL can't do it!

Loved reading the birth story! What an adventure, eh?!

Anonymous said...

This is such a cute post!

Co-sleeping keeps us sane too. And the hatred of the diaper changes and bath *will* go away eventually: Rowan was the same way for a while, screaming bloody murder any time he was disrobed, and now he smiles and giggles (and pees! be thankful that with a girl you don't have to deal with urinary fountains of unpredictable trajectory!) any time his pants are off, and has discovered the joy of kicking in the water.

They just get more and more fun as they get older (though I suspect that trend comes to an abrupt halt sometime in the pre-teen years...)



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