Me and My Girls…We’re Back! (And Living with ADHP)

It’s 10.20pm and Maggie is still not sleeping. She has been chatting, singing, screeching and kicking her cot for the past hour or so trying to get our attention. She has already pulled all the bed clothes off and thrown the dummy out of the cot but we hadn’t relented in ages. But the latest one was to shout that she had a dirty nappy. In fairness, I’m all for her screaming away and I’ll even tolerate kicking the cot for a good 10 minutes at a time but even I won’t let them stew in their own poo. It worked. The room smelled vaguely of a dirty nappy when I walked in, but then she had already had three bad nappies today so there was bound to be a lingering smell so I thought she was telling the truth. She had conned me of course; she was as dry as a bone but had succeeded in getting out of the cot for a few minutes, thereby cleverly and cunningly postponing bedtime.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a household with two babies still in nappies will smell vaguely of poo at any given time. On a good day it smells of talc powder, which anyone will admit is a yummy smell. But still the faint whiff of dirty nappies linger, so a good day will be talc and nappy. On a bad day it’s just dirty nappies. When you’re in the house, of course, you don’t notice it so much. It’s only when you come back in after being outside and step back a little when you open the door. ‘Phew. What the…?’ At worst it’s a bad nappy fermenting in the bin despite being wrapped in four beautifully perfumed nappy sacks, but even when the bins are emptied the smell still…lingers. It’s either that or spilled milk, and there’s plenty of that in our house, too.

Funnily enough when I was younger I hated the word; I couldn’t even bring myself to say it. Poo. Eugh, such vulgarity. The explosive ‘Peh’. The dirty diphthong ‘oooo’, often elongated for effect. I found it disgusting. Gross. Oh, how times have changed. After two years I have to admit that it’s very much part of my life.

So there you have it. I haven’t written a blog post since Elsie was three weeks old and she’s over four months now, and when I do it’s about poo. But that’s my life. Not exclusively, you understand. (Jesus that WOULD be grim. I once said that I have a thing about smells and it still stands. There are some seriously minging smells in the world and this is still one of them). The last four months have been the most hectic, frantic, bursting-at-the-seams action-packed, exhausting, crazy months ever. I’ll tell you about it sometime, whenever I get a minute. Ironically, it’s been ever more nuts since leaving London and coming back home where our family members are close-by, but that’s a lot to do with the fact that Maggie no longer goes to childcare and Johnny is commuting to London every week. Oh, and that Maggie has firmly hit the Terrible Twos.

But I wouldn’t change a single thing. Elsie Murray is an absolute joy to behold and warms my heart every time I look at her. She is probably the best baby in the world; she’s certainly the smiliest, most patient and most relaxed one. She cut her first tooth last week which wouldn’t have been easy or pleasant for her, but she managed it so well without much fuss at all. And Maggie Murray? Well, she’s still the funniest little toddler I’ve ever met and makes me belly-laugh every day. She’s not an easy child to look after as she’s got Toddler ADHP. (This is my own diagnosis, you understand, and is similar to its close neighbour ADHD but less a psychiatric disorder and more an appreciation for her fun, full-on nature: Ants Down Her Pants). It basically means that she can’t sit still for more than five minutes. That’s right, she doesn’t watch DVDs, doesn’t read stories or build train sets or draw pictures for hours at a time. One lovely friend, on observing Maggie’s ADHP at work said, ‘Well, at least you know she’s not stupid’. That’s for sure, but I just hope she will soon learn how to content herself and relaxxxxx because it is exhausting looking after her. Until then we just have to join her in her Tasmanian whirlwind adventures.

Oh, listen….silence. Happy days – it’s after 11pm and Maggie has finally gone to sleep. Elsie the dote has been asleep for hours but is due to waken in the next hour or so for her last feed and will be up before six for her first. Eight hours sleep? Poo! Who needs ‘em.

P.S. It’s good to be back :)

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Welcome to the world, Elsie

Today little Elsie Catherine Bee is coming home.

She is almost three days old and is the picture of her big sister, Maggie. She has a shock of black hair and gorgeous pink skin and unfortunately a big fat bruise over her right cheek where she was pulled out with big fat forceps.

But that will fade very soon we are told, presumably along with the memory of being hauled out of the womb against your will. Then things will settle down and we will all be together – Mummy, Daddy, Maggie and Elsie, our family of four.

My God, how on earth did that happen??
:)

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Sibling Rivalry

Maggie is about to become a big sister.

She has no idea what that means just yet. Even though her little friend Martha has recently become a big sister to baby Woody I can only imagine that they haven’t had many serious conversations about how that has worked out for her, seeing as they are both under 2. But..it’s as if she does know or at least suspect that there is something pretty big afoot and she’s not sure if she’s particularly happy about it. Recently she has becoming very clingy to her mummy and while she will willingly pull up my top and kiss The Bump, she very quickly pulls it back down again saying ‘Bye bye baby’.

I must say that I am extremely nervous about her reaction to the impending arrival of her little brother or sister. Like most first-borns I imagine, she is completely indulged, spoilt with love and attention, adored and admired by her doting parents and the apple of our eye. Imagine the shock of being ousted off her only-child pedestal by a little nipper who doesn’t even play with her and demands her mummy’s undivided attention for at least the first few months. Maggie completely rules the roost in our house and has no idea how to share her time or her possessions. She has no real meaning of the word ‘share’, even though she has obviously heard it being bandied about and often uses it when she’s trying to take a toy off someone else. ‘Share’, ‘Share’, she insists but really only means ‘Give it to me!’

One parenting expert Eileen Hayes wrote in 2004 that the age gap between children is thought to have an effect on the strength of sibling rivalry. It’s been found a gap of between two and four years often produces the worst jealousy, while there seems to be less of a problem if the gap’s larger (more than five years) or smaller (less than 18 months).
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There will be almost 21 months difference between Maggie and Baby, so according to the theory books things might work out just fine. We plan to do all the recommended things like buying a present for Maggie from the new baby and making sure we give her plenty of encouragement and attention, even when she is being too ‘helpful’. But nature has its own way of working and hopefully it will simply be in Maggie’s nature to look after and love her little brother or sister. After all, aren’t siblings the best thing ever???

I wrote in an earlier post 25 Things that I would love to have four children, mostly because I am from a family of four and couldn’t imagine life without my siblings. And it’s true! I’m sure we had our fair share of sibling issues and tissues over the years but I can honestly say that my life is enriched in so many ways by my gorgeous siblings. They are by far my best friends.

When I was expecting Maggie I secretly hoped she was a girl, despite everyone I met insisting that I was having a boy. Now I’m completely open to whatever is in store, although some day I definitely would love her to have a sister. They pull your hair and kick you right in the chin with their new roller-boots and sometimes are just downright mean, but then they’ll write you a letter saying they love you and offer to plait your hair and tickle your arm as you fall asleep and you’ll forgive them everything.

Sibling Rivalry? Let’s hope it’s more like Sibling Devotion.

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Me and my gorgeous siblings

The Crying Game

For most of us, the first six weeks with our new little bean is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experiences of our lives. Just before Maggie was born my sister and mum-of-three warned me about those 6 weeks when the ‘fog’ would descend; a time that was likely to be quite hellish. For this reason I was more prepared than perhaps I should have been for the challenge that was to come. I expected to feel wretched, to not leave the house, not to be ready to see visitors, to not shower for days, and probably be in pain. I was in awe of the first-time mums I met during antenatal classes who told us how the birthing experience was difficult, sure, but they had still been out for dinner on Day 4. Day 4? I didn’t think the tears would have dried by then, and dinner would be frozen pizza for at least another fortnight yet. But as it turned out, it wasn’t quite as hellish as I had thought. The rush of hormones; the overwhelming sensation that this little being was YOURS, she was your responsibility, she was finally here; the absolute and all-encompassing exhaustion that hits you like a brick on the third or fourth day; the constant demands on you and your body and your brain; the sense of detachment you feel to your own body: this floppy, alien thing you can hardly bear to touch; the pain, the pain – all these still happened and tears were duly shed. But…I had half expected this (as much as you can, anyway) so I could cry and move on.

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That’s not to say that those first 6 weeks weren’t foggy, distracted and difficult. You are landed slap bang in a cyclone of nappies, feeding, nappies, tears, feeding, more nappies, feeding, (not much time devoted to cleaning or cooking then) while you function significantly below par on lack of sleep, cracked nipples and ‘baby brain’. I can’t even imagine doing all that with an unsettled little baby who cries constantly.

My friend Kelley’s wee girl had a really tough first 6 weeks; for her first fifty days on earth she was either crying or sleeping, after crying herself to sleep. Persistent criers have a hard time dealing with the world around them. And it is often a vicious circle – once they are upset, it can be hard for them to calm down. Coping with this at any stage in your life is tough, but try doing it when your body has just been through the most intense physical workout it is likely to face. Kelley was beside herself. The constant crying meant that her baba couldn’t really keep down her food, so also suffered from reflux. What was even more frustrating and alienating was that her doctor didn’t really take her anxiety seriously and she was left to get advice from pharmacists and other mummies. A constantly crying baby is a very real situation, whether it is diagnosed by a doctor or not.

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‘Colic’ is a term used to describe uncontrollable crying in a healthy baby. It is generally accepted that this is caused by abdominal pain, but we still don’t know what exactly causes colic; scientists have been trying to figure it out for more than 50 years. One theory suggests that half of all babies suffering from colic is caused by lactose intolerance. This is when babies, particularly premature ones, don’t produce enough enzymes in their guts to break down lactose into the more absorbable sugars, glucose and galactose, and so suffer from colic conditions such as wind and bloating, abdominal discomfort and crying. Because of the ambiguity around its cause, there is no real cure for colic and so it can be easy for doctors to be dismissive.

Kelley tried lots of remedies without success – from the Dr Brown’s ‘anti-colic’ bottles to ranitidine to help control the reflux. Her situation only improved around six weeks after another mum heard of her plight and suggested Carobel powder (carob seeds) to add to her baby’s bottles to thicken the milk. This helped to control her reflux and almost immediately her baba calmed down and smiled for the first time.

The first thing all new parents get used to is that crying is the only means a baby has to communicate, so it’s not a bad thing in itself. But it can be very overwhelming if you are recovering from a traumatic experience of childbirth. Crying usually only means that she is hungry, she is tired, she’s too hot or too cold, she has a dirty nappy or trapped wind. If it is none of these check to see if she is ill. Invest in a good digital thermometer and act straight away if she has a high temperature or if it just feels like something is amiss. Remember, your instincts are usually right so if it feels wrong, get it checked out straight away. Try every colic ‘cure’ you hear of or read about, and you hopefully will hit on the right one. One friend whose baby suffered terribly from abdominal pain went to a woman who had ‘healing hands’ and claimed to have the cure for colic. It worked for her little boy, whose knees visibly lowered and the pain in his belly seemed to dispel right in front of her eyes.

But if you have done all this and she’s still crying you just might have to ride it out with her. She might just be a ‘touchy’ baby or a ‘grumpy’ one, as Tracy Hogg the Baby Whisperer suggests, and you’ll soon learn what she likes and doesn’t. Those first foggy (and difficult) weeks don’t tend to last forever, but it is usually impossible to believe that things will improve when you are in the middle of your storm. For most babies, after six to eight weeks they settle into the world and become much happier little souls.

In the meantime here are some bits of advice I have been given or have since learnt to help you get through those first mad weeks:

1. Some babies are just über-sensitive little souls, and balk at loud noises, harsh lights, or strong smells. You will soon learn what elements annoy them, so try to avoid them if you can until your baba is a little older.

2. For some sensitive babes, low stimulation (soft lights and quiet) is best; for others, lots of repetitive stimulation like noise or a walk outside works well. The Sleep Sheep I recommended in my first post ‘Top 10 Things’ plays lots of white noise, or you can stick on the hoover or hairdryer, which lots of babies love. All Maggie needed in those first months was to get outdoors to calm her straight away. Even now just opening the front door is usually enough to do it. You’ll learn very quickly what level of stimulation keeps your baby happy.

3. Help your baby find ways of self-soothing, like sucking on her hands or snuggling with a soft muslin or toy. Controversial as it may be, sometimes nothing beats a good old suck on the dummy.

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4. Cranky o’clock in our house starts around 5.30 and lasts until bedtime. Many babies have a fussy time between 4 and 6 pm which is apparently caused by an overload of sights and sounds of the day as the babas try to unwind. This is the time to have a relaxing wind down to the day, put their jammies on and have a bath or chilled out playing.

5. Lots of babies react well to baby massage, which can be a calming way to chill out for both of you!

6. I have read that once your baba gets upset, don’t try ten things to calm them, stick with one thing for several minutes before you try something else. But often, stopping shaking the rattle or bouncing them up and down altogether is all that’s needed. I do think that over-stimulation can cause many babies to get annoyed when all they want is to be left alone.

7. I made the mistake of changing Maggie’s nappy at night every time she woke up as I just couldn’t imagine how she could go back to sleep with a wet bum. But now that she sleeps all night, it’s quite amazing to see how much liquid those nappies can hold. After all they are designed to keep baby’s bum dry. So, from the very beginning keep night feedings as sleepy and brief as possible. When baby bean cries, go to him immediately so he has no time to get into a wakeful misery. Don’t play or talk while you feed him. And do try to settle them as quickly as you can so they don’t have time to make themselves wide awake.

8. A very wise, wonderful, Irish mammy once said that what every child needs is a good sleep. Gosh, such wisdom in such few words. Maggie is only ever cranky and upset when she’s tired, and my older nieces are the same. Hell, you know yourself how good you feel after a decent sleep and how wrrretched you feel when you are wrrrecked. This is why I do agree with the mantra of never waking a sleeping baby.

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9. Don’t forget to take care of yourself so you don’t start crying too! Remember, as my friend Suzy says, happy mummy = happy baby.
Having a crying baby while you are recovering from childbirth is horribly stressful. Ask friends, family or good neighbours to help you out, do your laundry, or babysit for a little while. Taking time out will help keep things in perspective. Don’t worry about home cooking for a while; honestly, frozen pizzas are really very tasty nowadays. (Just don’t forget to stick it in the oven first). Do as much prep as possible before bambino arrives – enrol in antenatal classes, either through the NHS or NCT (or both!) so you know what to expect during those first weeks. After all, you won’t have the time, energy or inclination to look up information when you are right in the middle of the storm.

10. The good news is, the madness will end and your precious bean will grow into a bubbly little person who isn’t as needy or emotional as they had been during those first few weeks and months. That, or you’ll just get used to living on 6 hours sleep a night with a baby who is a bit grumpy most of the time. That’s when the coffee and wine come in handy.

Good luck, and remember – even in the dark moments, in the middle of the night when you and baby bean are both crying – you’re not alone!