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I’ve fallen so far behind on these monthly updates it’s not even funny. This will be my last! I’m not sure how often I’ll do them going forward. But I do have a couple I depth posts on specific issues coming up.

Anyway. This month Spud started solids, kinda by accident. MIL had him for the afternoon, she’s been encouraging us to start solids for ages (all her kids started early etc etc) and assumed we’d done so. I wasn’t all that upset about missing that milestone, more so worried that eating an entire can of purée having not had solids before might seriously stuff him up inside. Especially given his recent constipation dramas. Luckily he seemed fine that night, and all was well on that front.

(I’d been planning to wait till 6 months for solids, which would be closer to 5 months adjusted given his early birth. Also, seeing how sensitive his stomach is … I wasn’t in any rush! This was just a few weeks ahead of schedule is all.)

We went to the paediatric gastro specialist, who prescribed stool softener and Pepti Jnr formula. This is still cows milk based but the proteins are more broken down for easier digestion. Sadly, Spud reacted just like he does to regular formula, but even worse in some ways, I think. Probably getting more sensitised?! I felt we didn’t get taken as seriously as I’d hoped, as Spud is growing well, generally seems happy when out and about, and isn’t developmentally delayed (since reaching for toys seems to be the main benchmark right now doctors care about). But his deafening screech during the physical exam may have helped our case. He was extremely unhappy about being touched around the belly/groin. If not for that, I don’t know what the outcome would have been!

He had an enormous appetite for a week or two. I started dreamfeeding him, which maybe helped a little bit?

There may not be a 6 month sleep regression but his sleep definitely went a bit wonky and there was a lot of babble and chatter during some of these middle of the night/early morning wakes.

We also had our first ever 3-hour wake time during the day. Holy exhaustion…

Finally, he started to love his reflection at last! I was starting to think he was the only baby ever to not like mirrors. He did seem to enjoy or at least be intrigued by his reflection back when he was maybe a month old and I laid him on the dresser, but that was the one and only time up till now.

As for movement, he still doesn’t like tummy time and shows no signs of crawling, or sitting up. He first rolled over at about a month and then didn’t do it again for a few months. Rolling is very sporadic with him, and I’ve noticed that when he’s having digestive upset he doesn’t roll at all. He’ll just lie on his back and not move when put down, for days (dairy reactions last for days, and his constipation has been prolonged). When he’s feeling okay he seems to roll all the time. After the specialist appointment, when the doctor did some prodding around his belly, it was like it loosened something up in him. When we got home he seemed more relaxed and was rolling over every which way on his playmat.

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Q: What do you get when two pregnant, breadwinning coworkers are on the train home together?

A: Slightly snarky (okay, envious) conversation about another colleague who’s living an Insta-perfect life on maternity leave with her baby, a husband who makes all the money AND does the cooking (score!).

But look, we all have our own problems (like a fairly horrendous pregnancy in that person’s case and I’m sure there are others) – it was just nice to vent honestly to each other knowing we’re in the same boat and not going to judge each other for our feelings. That it would be nice to have the option to stay home for however long we wanted. To not be the one responsible for incubating our children AND bearing the financial load to boot. Options, I’m all about options.

And I know we’re not alone. Just check out Google’s suggested related searches for the phrase ‘female breadwinner’:

Searches related to female breadwinner

All of that, I think, gets exacerbated in pregnancy. I had a fairly easy one. And I was still SO DONE by 8 months. Even taking it a day at a time was slightly torturous. No, pregnancy is not a disability … but I was definitely nowhere near 100%. And thanks to my extra lame immune system, I just kept getting sick what seemed like every month.

Don’t get me wrong; I was thankful to have made it that far and that healthy. I mean, nobody wants to experience pregnancy complications, but when your income is what keeps the household afloat, being put on early rest is going to be a huge financial blow (unless perhaps you shorten your maternity leave by the same amount of time, and get less time with the baby post-birth. Yay.)

I had to book in my leave plans at the 6 month mark, which was a bit tough. On the one hand, I had no idea how I would physically feel in those final weeks.  People kept telling me how hard it was going to get and how I wouldn’t want to work up to 38 or 39 weeks, to which I clenched my teeth and smiled and nodded.

Because on the other hand, I didn’t want to fritter away my leave days. Simply put, every week I’m off pre-delivery means a week less post-birth to spend with baby. It’s a gamble – baby might come early, robbing you of that precious downtime at the end. But then again, baby might be late and leave you sitting around waiting! There’s just no telling. I’d rather err on the side of not wasting too much precious leave beforehand.

So in the end, I was planning to work up until 38 weeks and hoping to get a couple of lazy weeks in at home. (I was counting on the fact that first-time mothers are usually late … but then I read that Asian women often give birth early?!) And that seems to be quite late by usual standards around here, it seems more common to finish up a month before you’re due or sometimes even earlier. And I totally get it, pregnancy gets so more uncomfortable in the third trimester! The fatigue, the fogginess, and holy shit the reflux.

Of course, that was all a moot point when I went into labour at 36 weeks. September was always meant to be our month to get things properly ready ahead of Spud’s arrival, but that did not happen at all. His arrival in early (instead of late) October meant a mad scramble to take care of stuff – thank goodness for family chipping in to help a little bit, bringing food, helping clean up the house, going out to look for baby clothes in preemie sizes. I had no time off at all to myself and never got to wrap things up at work in the way I’d planned.

I’m over halfway through my maternity leave now, which is crazy. Financially, it’s been way more stressful than expected (a long story for another post, another time). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t battling a lot of resentment, given I’d done my part with planning and budgeting and carried all that out. It’s definitely put a bit of a damper on things.

That said, I’ve enjoyed being able to stay home and watch Spud grow. It’s also really fucking hard work sometimes, and I’m looking forward to sending him to daycare – I think he’s going to thrive on the stimulation. While, as I’ve said before, it’d be really nice to have the option to take a year off … personally, I don’t think I’d be cut out for it anyway. Lucky, that!

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Things kicked up a notch this month!

I learned to start trusting my instincts and Spud got both harder and more rewarding to deal with.

Formula to the rescue

We started doing more formula top ups, more regularly. I remember one afternoon when he wouldn’t stop crying even after feeding for hours. I decided to try making up a bottle and offered it to him – magic! Most nights we do a last bottle before bed (though it doesn’t always get finished or sometimes is barely touched) and sometimes when he gets hungry later in the day and I seem to have dried up, we’ll top him up.

The sleep struggle

Speaking of trying things, another time along with the fussing he was showing early signs of tiredness so I popped him into the pram, fully prepared to rock him for awhile. He went to sleep in minutes though and I felt like a rockstar! Naps now take work, sadly. They don’t just happen automatically anymore…

We set new nighttime sleep records almost every weekend. I suspect our Thursday osteo appointments may have helped. On his two month anniversary I woke up amazed that he’d slept through – over 7 hours! A feat yet to be repeated, sadly.

The osteo showed me how to get him to take a dummy by tapping it while in his mouth. But that was a onetime thing; I could never get it to work again after that…

D-MER no more

I had sometimes been feeling a weird wave of emotion at the start of each feeding. Like an overwhelming sense of frustration. That went away this month, and I think it was a bout of dysphoric milk ejection. The things you learn when endlessly scrolling FB and Reddit…

Our escape artist (thank god for structured industrial strength swaddles)

People say he’s the wriggliest baby ever. I have nothing else to compare him to but I do feel validated…he never stays still! Head butts while holding him upright for burps or fun – just a daily hazard of the job. And muslins weren’t cutting it as swaddles anymore as he’d break free right away. I bought a few straightjacket-like swaddles and they were a godsend.

Interactivity

Smiles! Real smiles. So many! And he started to spend more time awake after feeding, making playtime A Thing at last.

Excretions

I have poo envy. Seriously. Between this kid’s explosive poops (sounds like a drain emptying ferociously) and T spending forever in the toilet, it seems just silly that I’m more clogged up than I was while pregnant.

That said, this poop machine dialed it back a bit especially overnight, until most nights he would only have wet (not dirty) diapers. Although he outgrew size one in Huggies he didn’t fit the next size up. Thank goodness for Japanese brands! A subject for another post… While he still isn’t big enough for my OSFM reusables, we have two newborn cloth nappies that are getting some use. But I’m baffled as to how we’re supposed to get a good fit with domes/snaps; Velcro seems like the only way to go. Still can’t quite get them sitting right, as in not too loose or too tight.

I accepted that spews and spills were just going to be our new normal and that he was going to be a refluxy baby. Stuff coming out both ends while up on the change table? Just another day in our lives…

Getting out of the house

I became a baby wearing fan. The first time I had him in the front pack snuggled up to me, it felt so much like being pregnant again. His squirming around was just like the movements he used to make in utero.

We went out on our first solo walk. It. Felt. Amazing! We ventured down the local cycleway to the pony farm and back. Sadly I can’t wrangle both a pram and a dog, let alone two. Any dog walks are done one at a time and only while I’m babywearing.

Other bits and bobs

I came across the Dunstan baby cries theory and at first it was a game changer, then not so much. He basically has only two cries I can discern and hungry/tired are the same.

We survived our first vaccinations! He was fussier in the following days and came up with a new sad whimpering cry, and also had a bit of diarrhoea, I think. But overall, could have been worse.

Time truly is flying, and balancing today with tomorrow is still tough as ever…

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Beyond the core basics (a car seat, a crib, some clothes and nappies) it’s damn near impossible to get a grip on what you need for a baby. Some people swear they couldn’t live without Thing A, B or C, while others find the same item to be a total waste of money. All the more reason IMO to buy secondhand gear – no point shelling out for something new that may never get used!

We’ve been so ridiculously fortunate to have almost everything gifted or lent to us. From former coworkers to random friends of my mum, we’ve been overwhelmed by generosity.

Beyond the usual essentials, here are a few things I’ve found invaluable so far…

Haakaa pump

Pumping at the hospital (with their double electric) was uber depressing – and I swore off pumping after that. But my midwife brought me over a manual Haakaa pump and it’s been a lifesaver for expressing extra when needed. It’s annoying to sometimes be overflowing and sometimes running dry, but this helps even that out.

Mum2Mum swaddles

I cannot wrap to save my life, and this wriggly worm is impossible to contain anyway. So far two other types of sleep sack haven’t worked, but these Mum2Mum Dream swaddles are doing the trick at the moment to contain his arms. We also got given a couple of Miracle Blankets, which are pretty similar and also get a fair bit of use, particularly when it’s hot, as they’re quite lightweight.

Witch hazel

I didn’t go as far as freezing padsicles but I did get witch hazel to help with calming matters down there. Particularly when I got a delightful butt rash (FML) the cooling effect of witch hazel was the only comfort I could get.

Baby bath support

Even if we didn’t have a massive baby bath tub, supporting Spud in the water is a killer. I gave him a quick clean in the sink solo once and that was a mission! We were rushing through bath time because T would get a sore back/arm. The plastic support seat thing that we prop him up with now is still quite awkward but it’s a big improvement. One pro to rescheduling our baby shower to post-birth was being able to request stuff we genuinely knew we needed; this was one of the best gifts!

Change table

Again, this is so much better for our poor backs, not to mention streamlining the process! Now there is a place for everything – storage for nappies and cream/sanitiser/flannels etc – and a laundry bag plus rubbish bag. It’s just much more organised and pleasant all round especially now we’re using reusable wipes. Also eliminates the drama of trying to avoid picking up dog hair accidentally off the bed/couch. Our change table, which I got for free on Facebook, actually also has a built-tub, but we don’t use it.

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I barely had time to prep for labour, let alone baby’s first few weeks. And so it’s been a learning curve!

The first couple of weeks were easy. He slept a lot and only fed for 10 mins at a time, going straight back to snoozing after. Cries were easily soothed by a feed or a nappy change! I managed to get in a bit of freelance work and house cleaning along with the daily dishes and laundry.

Then he grew bigger, and more alert, and the trouble started. Right around his original due date in fact. We went from 3-4 hour sleeps to maybe 1-2 tops, constant crying, extended feeds and terrible gas! He spits up, burps and farts but none of it seems to come easy, so that’s what we spend ages trying to coax out of his tiny body. Routine has been totally thrown out the window … just as I was thinking I’d like to try to stick to more of a schedule going forward.

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The first week at home, with T
Oh, you’re exhausted? Oh, you’re sick of loading the dishwasher? I’m the one who just gave birth and spent nearly a week in hospital!

The second week at home, solo
Oh, this is when you have to start to change their outfits constantly! Oh, this is what it’s like to get peed on, and watch him pee on his own face!

The third week at home
Oh, that’s what people mean when they say their baby is noisy at night! The sounds he makes in his sleep now are crazy.

The fourth week at home
Oh wow, how much wind is in this child? Each cycle is so much longer now that I have to try and get the gas out of him.

Things that have surprised me so far

No period for nine months = awesome. More than making up for that in the weeks post partum = ugh.

The fact you can collect colostrum off your nips (and then syringe it into baby’s mouth). Not something I ever ever ever could have fathomed doing.

How long it takes Spud to latch on sometimes. Watching him play with my nips is equal parts hilarious and frustrating.

The first time I started leaking milk when I heard him cry. WTF.

How long adrenaline keeps you going. The hormones got me through those long nights the first couple of weeks (though during pregnancy I surprised myself with how well I managed on reduced sleep even then).

So thirsty. All the time. Feeding another human is seriously draining!

Time is flying. We just hit six weeks and took him for his first shots … Christmas ain’t far off and I feel like May (when I go back to work) is going to be here in no time…

Confessions from the trenches

I sometimes fall asleep during night feedings – I know, it’s terrible.

Related: when he won’t settle after a night feed, I used to bring him into bed (I’ve stopped now).

They say you’ll know… but I honestly couldn’t tell if I was in real labour. My contractions started 5 mins apart and stayed that way for over 12 hours. Up till the morning I was wondering if I should suck it up and go to work. Then I thought okay, I’ll stay home but T should go to work and I’ll call him if anything progresses. (Thankfully he decided to stay put in the end!)

I was set on equal parenting and splitting duties evenly. The reality, especially to start, was nowhere near. The first couple nights I did all the night wake ups; he wasn’t managing the sleep deprivation well at all despite talking a big game. Not looking after himself while we were in hospital meant he was in worse shape than I was (thanks hormones) on the first night we finally came home.

With him working and me breastfeeding (along with some expressing and the odd bottle of formula) the scales are still tipped pretty far towards moi. Throw in the fact Spud is feeding so often now (my friend with an even more prem baby finds the same) and for so much longer, and I’m spending literally hours and hours of the day attached to him.

That said, when I’m at wits end or totally drained – usually at 3am – I’ll hand off once in awhile. And if T’s having an insomniac night, he’ll take the wheel – he’s given me a handful of full or part nights off, which have been glorious. I may have the milk, but he’s got the burping and swaddling magic.

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