I’m in love…

He’s short, bald, toothless, and well under half my age but I’m blissfully, happily in love. He’s my 7 week old grandson and he’s an absolute doll.

I watched him last night while my daughter and her boyfriend went out for the evening and got to spend hours snuggling him and watching him sleep, while taking short cat naps of my own. He was wired and ready to party at 1am and his Mommy and I didn’t get to bed until 4:30am but it was still wonderful.

I forgot how magical those first gummy smiles are. How they stretch with their whole body. How they belly breathe… their little tummies expanding to Buddha belly size. How absolutely tiny their little toes and fingers are. Their dimpled knuckles. That first faint scatter of new hair.

He’s perfect, like all babies are, perfection in miniature, and I can see glimpses in him of the toddler and child he’s going to be. Soon he’ll be eager to go. To crawl and walk and explore. But for now he’s content to be snuggled and I am more than content to do the snuggling.

Breastfeeding…

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about breastfeeding these past few days. It’s not a subject I’ve thought about much in a while but definitely one I have experience with seeing as I’ve nursed for five and a half years total, albeit many years ago.

One of the very first things I learned when I started breastfeeding was to stroke the baby’s cheek. One gentle stroke from cheekbone to the side of the lip and baby will turned toward that side and open their mouth. This is the time to squish your nipple and shove the whole thing, areola included, right toward the back of the baby’s mouth… aiming for the throat. They won’t choke, they’re expecting it. That lets the baby put pressure on the milk ducts and squeeze milk or colostrum out.

The second thing I learned was how to remove the baby. This is more important when baby has teeth but is still good to know just in case baby doesn’t latch on correctly. Stick one finger into the back jaw, just about where the wisdom teeth will eventually come in, and twist very gently. The baby will open their mouth.

If the labour was rough for you then it was rough for the baby too. Expect some exhaustion and disinterest in things like nursing. Don’t worry too much (the nurses will worry for you) the baby has extra fat for a reason. Just keep plugging away. Try a different position. They might nurse better while lying down, goodness knows Kait did. If you want to try this position, lie on your side then put the baby in front of you and on their side. Put your bottom arm above the baby’s head then use your top hand to guide your bottom nipple into the baby’s mouth. It sounds more complicated than it is. Your partner can help if needed.

The milk comes in around the third day. You will not sleep through this. Your breasts will become hard enough to chisel concrete and your nipples will be flatter than pancakes, which makes nursing interesting but still doable. Grab a nipple, just below the areola and squeeze, it’ll squish enough to push into the baby’s mouth and will immediately start leaking milk. This tends to perk up the “I’m not that hungry” baby. If you can’t squeeze it into shape enough, just hand express a bit. You don’t need to know how, your breasts are so full you could probably just poke one and it would be like, “You want milk… okay”. They’ll be dripping all on their own. But rubbing in gentle circles just below the areola will help.

The milk coming in is the part that actively hurts. If you want a break, step into a nice warm shower and let the water run across your breasts. You’ll let down enough for some relief. Expressing milk helps too but is a bit of a vicious cycle because you’re telling your breasts that you need more milk when you really want them to make just enough for the baby and not the whole neighbourhood too. It’s a good idea to sleep with a towel under you because you can (and will) leak through your breast pads. Your body will eventually adjust.

Early breastfeeding feels like you’re nursing with two left hands while riding a unicycle. And the unicycle’s on fire. Neither you or the baby know what you’re doing and you’re going to feel like you got half an instruction book and the baby got completely different instructions. Just give yourself time. You will be a pro at it by the 4th week and, by a year, you can nurse a baby who’s standing upside down and half behind your back… with a finger in your ear. And you will. But, for now, enjoy your relatively immobile wee one.

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Kait as a newborn

It’s a boy! It’s a girl!

I got asked a question on Twitter yesterday…

“Why do pple get excited learning the sex of their baby? Would they not be as happy if results were different?”

I tried my best to answer the question on Twitter but 140 characters just wasn’t enough space (even 280 didn’t cut it) so I’m writing my answer here.

I remember being pregnant; that sense of unreality when two little lines appeared on a white plastic stick. I didn’t look any different or feel any different, it was hard to believe I would be a mother in less than a year. Well, unless I miscarried (which I did twice). The weeks crept on, I got a bit queasy and the waist of my pants grew a bit snug but that was it.

You often can’t feel the baby kick until almost halfway through the pregnancy and even then, it feels like a bit of gas or a twitchy muscle for several weeks after that. Around that time came the ultrasound; it was a window to the other side of my normal looking, albeit rounder, stomach. A chance to finally get a glimpse of the stranger everyone assured me that I’d love more than life itself.

Being pregnant was like being told I’d soon have a roommate… for the next 18+ years. Except there would be no interviews, no background checks, and no references. I had no idea what this person was going to be like (other than messy and very dependent). No one could tell me what the baby would look like other than having four limbs, all their digits, eyes, a nose, and a heart that looked fine. They couldn’t tell me if the baby would enjoy music, be quiet or outgoing, be fascinated with bugs or books, or serve a mean invisible tea from plastic cups. They could, however, tell me the sex… possibly… if the baby’s legs weren’t crossed. I took it, at least that was something tangible in a vast sea of nothing. Plus it would let me know if we needed to keep arguing over boy’s names (both sides of the family have horrible names for boys). Emma had her legs crossed. Jeremy didn’t.

And then there’s the more practical issues. I went to buy a newborn outfit three years ago. The parents thought the baby might be a girl but the ultrasound wasn’t clear so I figured I’d get something fairly neutral. There wasn’t anything. Every single piece of clothing in the baby’s department was either pink with flowers and butterflies or blue with sports and nautical themes. I ended up picking the least frilly pink clothes in the department and added a receipt. The baby was a girl (well so far at least) so luckily the outfit was fine. Babies need clothes desperately. They vomit copious amounts of milk all over themselves and everyone around them. They’ll crap so hard it ends up between their toes and through the back of their hair (and I really wish I was exaggerating). The sooner you know what’s between their legs, the sooner you can amass a supply of clothes.

And every. single. person asks, “so, do you know what you’re having?” as soon as it’s obvious you’re having a baby and not just consuming lots of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The answer “a baby” does not satisfy the nosy, although I did find “a baby with blue eyes” confused a fair number of them. Likely the ones who slept through high school science classes.

I guess whether they’re disappointed depends on what each parent was looking for. I was looking for a baby, preferably healthy. Having a boy worried me a little because I’d grown up around girls and didn’t know what to expect, but hearing “it’s a boy” from the ultrasound technician wasn’t a disappointment. Looking down while I was delivering Emma and announcing, “It’s a girl” wasn’t a disappointment either.

I’m sure there are people who are disappointed for various reasons. Maybe they wanted a second boy or girl so their oldest would have a friend. Maybe they wanted one of each. Maybe they had bad experiences with their own sibling and were worried about raising a similar child. Or, more seriously, maybe there’s sex linked health issues in the family and they’re worried about bringing a child into the world who’ll face pain and suffering. But I have a feeling most parents are like me, simply happy to finally have something to know about their baby, something tangible to share with others and plan around.

I’ll wait until tomorrow to talk about stereotypes.