Monday, August 30, 2010

On Technology and Mortality, oh, and In-Laws

Yes, a scattering of totally unrelated subjects.  At least, I think they're unrelated.

I'll begin at the end of the list, which is to say that the in-laws are here, and so I can dedicate an uninterrupted slot of time to posting. Which hopefully means that I'll make a little more sense than normal.  So, while it's nice that they're here, and very timely too - since both Hubs and I have lots of work on this week - it's very difficult for me to relinquish The Frog to their care. It's not that I don't like them. It's not that I'm concerned about their ability to care for him.  I can't really say it's anything but sheer possessiveness on my part.  But the weird thing is, they are the only people I've felt this with.  I've not had any issue passing The Frog off to my parents, or in small doses, handing him over to relative strangers.  I was trying to work out why giving him over to the in-laws rubs me the wrong way.  I think it might be their own possessiveness of him.  For quite some time, the M-I-L has laid claim to The Frog as "her grandson" - even before he was evicted from his cosy vat.  So perhaps it's just that I feel like snatching him back and asserting that no, actually, he's my son!  Either way, Hubs had absolutely no issue with my family having as much Frog-time as they wanted, so it's very ungenerous of me to deny his parents their fair share.  So I won't.

I'll do mortality bit now, as I'd hate to end on a low note.  The interesting thing here, is that I thought somehow that having a baby would kind of buy me a sense of immortality (at least genetically).  I've cast my DNA forward another generation, hurrah!  Fact is, since having The Frog, I've become much more keenly aware of my own mortality.  I think that when you're childless, you're at the end of this long chain of ancestors.  YOU are the shining end result of all those couplings.  Once you have a child though, you just become another link in the chain, destined to fade into the branches of the family tree.  I do feel a lot more expendable now - I think my 'duty' is to take The Frog safely through to the point where he can be independent, and then my job as a human is done.  I do worry a bit that The Frog will get caught up in existential dilemmas and resent me for bringing him into this world - though I manage to have a few myself and so far haven't got around to blaming my parents for my existence (well, except for those teenage moments, but they don't count - if I had a penny for every time a teenager petulantly shouted "I wish I'd never been born!", I'd be VERY unpopular at the supermarket).

And technology?  Well, Hubs bought himself the latest Jobs gadget - the iPad. And yes, it's a sweet little toy. BUT it's also - interestingly - already a bit of a toy for The Frog.  One of the little apps we downloaded is simply flying coloured pixels which change their speed and direction and clustering behaviours when one or more fingers is placed on or stroked across the screen.  Since The Frog likes watching glowing lights, we set the pad up in front of him, while Hubs played with it.  He watched pretty serenely, and then we moved the pad right up close so he could touch it with his own hands.  I won't say that he totally got the connection - but he hyperventilated in an excited way, as he wiped his hands across the screen and made the little dots zoom about after them.   There's also a small drawing app that we have as well, so The Frog has been able to create his first sketch, without needing to go so far as to be able to grasp a pen.  Like his poetry, it's a little abstract for my tastes, but I'm sure it shows promise.   But, well .. It's things like this that do make me feel that I'm living in The Future.  Cryogenic stasis booths, ahoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Emerging Poet

The Frog has been dictating a few sonnets (or perhaps limericks?) , and he requested that I put at least one out to a wider audience for some constructive criticism.  It's a little avant garde, but please bear with me.

Aggle gghuuurrr
Aggle gghuuurrr
A-bmmmm aaoooo

I'm not a master of interpreting abstract poetry, but I suspect that somewhere close to the mid-point there was a 'howling at the moon' theme.  Which would fit with his hairy ears - and come to think of it, it was full-moon last night.

Yup, we're past nine weeks now, and he does like to vocalise - but in very definite little spurts.  His Dad is certain that he's attempting to imitate us as we say "Hullo! Hullo there!" with the 'haaaoouuuu' sounds he makes.  And perhaps those sounds are a little bi-syllabic. And maybe they start with a glottal fricative. But at nine weeks, he'd be precocious indeed to even consider such an imitation, I feel!

Milestones?  Lots of eye-contact, and more smiling (although I'm not a big smiler - I'll smile at him, if he's smiling, but otherwise I'm fairly straight-faced, and I wonder if this is the reason we haven't had a huge amount from him).  Also, he really does seem to be deliberately reaching for things that interest him.  He has a colourful little plush dog that rattles and scrunches and tinkles which he seems to quite like.  It also pants and yips when you press its nose, so we do that quite a bit.  He was watching the procedure avidly, then reached out, and batted the dog on the nose.  I couldn't say if that was because he had drawn a connection between the nose-press and the sound, or the nose as a big blue circle stands out against the rest of the yellow muzzle and so attracts his attention, but we'd make it yip every time he touched it, just in case.

Head bobbling is slowly getting better - I'm trying to not support him as much as I can (without being heartless), but really - if a 5-week old baby has better neck control than the Frog at 9 weeks, then he really does need to get on track with those neck work-outs. Resistance is Futile.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Bobble-Headed Monstrosity

The Frog has just passed his 8-week milestone.  Currently he's sleeping in his basket at my feet.  To get him in that state has taken about 1.5 hours of soothing speech, humming the Gilligan's Island and A-Team theme songs, giving up and picking up and rocking while playing ABBA's greatest hits.  I'm currently listening to 'Super Trooper' for the 3rd time, but each time I try to turn the music off, little grunts and twitches start up.  Am I raising a boy who'll be keen for sequins and feather boas when he grows up?

Moving on, I thought I'd review where we're up to with developmental milestones at this point.

Physically, the Frog is slowly gaining strength in his neck.  I have made it my policy - after seeing so many much younger babies with far superior neck control - to be a little less anxious about supporting the Frog's head at all times.  I pick him up under his arms when I get him out of his cot or basket, and apart from curling up like a pill-bug, he doesn't appear to object to this treatment. I still fail when it comes to giving him enough tummy time - I should be turning him over much more, but I just seem to run out of time between feeding, and cleaning, and preparing the next round of bottles, and doing general housework, and going for walks just to get some sanity time etc.  So, he's still a bit of a bobble-head when I sit him upright in my arms.  He does try to keep his head upright - but it's like watching a top start to wobble at the end of its spin: starts with some small dips front, back, around and around .. which become more and more exaggerated as his neck muscles decide to call it quits for the day.  I tend to take pity on him before he looks like he's going to give himself whiplash.

One of his favourite tricks is to wait until I'm gripping him single-handed while I fumble with the other hand for a door handle (or whatever), and then try to throw his head back. It has to be quick work on my part to catch him when he decides on one of these manoeuvres.  In fact, it's much safer - though less comfortable for all involved - to just tuck the blighter under my arm during these moments.  Would at least save me a few cardiac arrhythmias.

Arms and legs are still jerking about a bit spastically.  I assume that he's gradually gaining some control over them, but it's hard to tell.  We stick him in his little jungle-gym from time to time, and while it seems like he's actually batting at some of the toys hanging above him, I'm inclined to feel that much of this is just down to how he's been placed under them at the time. He also has a tendency to straighten his arms and swing them up and down vigorously.  The problem with this is that on the far end of the upswing is his face, which he clobbers with a fair degree of force.  He must wonder what he's done to earn such a walloping.  When he gets tired, the arm-swinging gets more frequent, which makes it very hard for him to get to sleep: "I'm trying! But these pink things keep thumping me in the eyeballs!".  So we resort to wrapping quite a bit.

The Frog is able to track people across a room.  He likes to fixate on one person, and it's often hard to distract his attention.  For example, during bathtime, while Daddy is the one holding the Frog when he's in the water, and I'm the one armed with the wash-cloth, the Frog tends to fixate on me, and go for continuous eye-contact during the whole process.  I'm not sure why.  Is he begging me for release?  He seems to quite enjoy his baths, so I don't think that's it.  His Daddy tried him on a game of peekaboo, and apparently elicited a smile.  I also tried this a little bit today, and got a sort of smile the first time, but I don't think he's got a sense of permanence yet - so when I hide behind something, he's quick to look away - because obviously I've just disappeared - he doesn't much care where to.

It's hard to tell much about the Frog's personality at this point.  He seems to like being around people - it's easier to get him to go to sleep in his basket in company than it is to get him sleeping in his quiet room.   I don't know if he doesn't like his room because he's lonely there, or because of some deep-seated biological concern about the beasts that could be lurking in the long savannah grass, ready to eat him up.  I've checked under his cot, and while there *is* a lion there, it has a tag on it that says 'machine washable', so I think he's probably safe from predators for the moment.

Anyway, I could write more, but from the whimpers and splutters coming from the basket, the Kraken appears to be stirring.  Till next time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rant Time

Alright, this will be brief. Because I know I really shouldn't give credence to bimbettes without two brain cells to rub together, but I have a spleen to vent, and vent I shall.

I have had it up to here with the militant breast-feeding groups.  Frankly, I think the way you choose to feed your child should be a personal choice, and you shouldn't have one method or another forced on you just because of catchy marching slogans like "Breast is Best!".

Now before I really begin - I agree.  I think that breast milk is the best option (for me) on so many levels - it's convenient (no sterilising or purchasing of all the equipment that goes with formula feeds), it's cheap, it's totally nutritious for the baby, and it provides an unparalleled bonding experience for mum and baby.  But despite ALL the sites out there (and yes, there are a lot) which are extraordinarily breast-feeding focussed, and tell you that EVERYONE can breast feed .. well, not everyone can.  And that's the sad fact.

I'm one of these bastards who hate their child who have gone the formula route - I would have loved to have been able to feed The Frog myself, but I just can't produce the milk.  We don't know why exactly, though there are possibly genetic factors (I myself needed formula top-ups in my early life), combined with the fact that The Frog just doesn't produce much in the way of suction, and if he doesn't draw the milk out, the body assumes that milk production isn't really required - and only makes what it thinks is necessary, which isn't enough to keep him from becoming dehydrated.  I know, I've tried.  I have spoken to midwives, lactation consultants, looked online, and pretty much done everything recommended in an attempt to increase my yield.  But alas, I never really produced anything.  The Frog is still given the boob before each formula feed, in the hope that he'll get some benefit, however small, and that my brain will keep sending the signal that yes, milk is required, please!

And THEN, you get complete no-brain idiots like this woman who is using whatever clout she has to campaign for a cause she must have given two minutes thought to. Outlaw bottle-feeding?  So she'd happily watch thousands of babies starve for her ideologies?  So she's anti-chemical, is she?  Well I wonder if she's considered the fact that one of the ways that women can TRY to up their milk supply is by using a chemical: Domperidone, which is now banned for breast-feeding women by the FDA in the United States because there is simply not enough evidence to state that it's safe for infant consumption via the copious breast milk it may (or in my case, may NOT) produce (there's no evidence that it's unsafe either, but I guess these big administrations need to cover their butts, and better safe than sorry).

So the end of my rant is thus:  I would love to be able to give The Frog my milk, and he does get the small amount I have.  But I am fed up of being made to feel like an uncaring mother because I've gone to formula.  So to all you breast-feeding mums for whom it worked:  Congratulations! I salute you! And I envy you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


The Frog is at 6 weeks now, and while he hardly has even rudimentary control over his limbs things are starting to change.

Eye contact has been improving over the last couple of weeks.  He can track motion and faces, albeit a little jerkily - his eyes are a little more dexterous than his head, which is dragged reluctantly along after the eyeballs.

He's also begun smiling in the last week or two.  Sometimes his facial expression is a little divided: the bottom half will be a tentative grin, while above it his eyebrows will be drawn together in a distinctly worried expression. I have, however, had a couple of ear-to-ear beams, usually lovingly directed at my hairline, but - eh - you take what you can!

He's also started vocalising a little more - and by that, I mean apart from the constant stream of noise he usually produces.  These new sounds seem to be really for the purpose of the noise itself, rather than a by-product of some other process (usually something to do with digestion).  For reference, I'll catalogue some of his current repertoire:

The Grunt: This is probably one of the most common sounds, made on breathing out.  He's typically awake, fidgety, and very often over-tired.  It's a continual "uh-uh-uh" sound, and as far as I know has absolutely no significance at all, besides indicating some glottal restriction during breathing.

The Moan: This could equally be called the 'Sigh', as that's also what it sort of sounds like sometimes.  Again, made on breathing out, the Frog emits these sounds when he's on the cusp of sleep (either going in or coming out).  It's either the sound that typically keeps hubby awake at night via the baby-intercom, or the sound that reassures me that he's not choking when I'm carrying him in the front pack - Although when he's in the front-pack, he's probably trying to use it to signal to me that I shouldn't bump him about quite so much!

The Roar: Typically found mid-feed.  Easy enough to elicit - just remove him from food-source (boob or bottle), when he's got up a good head of steam.  It's pretty much always accompanied by a bodily motion where he tries to curl up like a pill-bug.  If food is not soon forthcoming, he'll briefly settle before deciding that crying would be a more effective means of re-establishing the Frog-Food connection.

The Hyperventilate:  Often a pre-cursor to crying, but it seems to accompany any sort of agitation, like excitement/anticipation/worry etc.  When it's generated by a negative emotion, it can quickly turn into The Whimper (which is really just the Hyperventilate plus vocalising).  This is the noise which I can't ignore - whereas for hubby, it's the full on crying that's the big tug.  But there's something so desperate about his little high-pitched whimper that I can't just let it go.  Yes, probably bad parenting, but there it is.

The Whoop: Another feeding sound, normally made during bottle feeding when we've mistakenly given him a bottle with a two-hole teat, rather than the single-holed variety.  This is really just him gasping after nearly gargling in formula.

The Proto-Babble: And these are the new sounds - as yet, I haven't noticed too many patterns within the proto-babbles.  He coo-gurgles, I suppose, for want of a better word.  There are no recognisable sounds, but perhaps some of the intonation would be familiar - I'm just not convinced that the intonation is copied from anything he's heard at this point, rather than just being coincidental.  The pattern I'm thinking of is where he gurgles something from a high pitch to a lower pitch - in the way someone might say (in care-giverese) "There it is.. "

I'm not going to mention crying, as, well, all babies do it to a greater or lesser extent, right?  The main thing with the Frog is that he typically has a reason for crying at this point which is easy to fix - he's ravenously hungry, he's lonely, or he's having a difficult bowel motion (well, the last one, we just have to wait it out - but it's good warning that a nasty nappy change is imminent!).

As to me?  Well, motherhood is still surreal.  As in, I still look at this completely vulnerable little critter with amazement... When did my life start totally revolving around the well-being of this new person?  Yes, I know, June 20 - I was being RHETORICAL.

My body is taking its sweet time in getting back to normal.  I haven't stepped on the scales recently, but just looking in the mirror is enough.  My stomach resembles some sad, semi-deflated post-party balloon.  My rear-end is also balloon-like, in an entirely different way.  All in all, I think 9 months to lose the weight is looking unlikely.  I am trying, though.  Doing everything with a (now) 4.7kg lump strapped to your front has GOT to be good for calorie burning, right?  Even if just typing?
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be one of those women who can use milk-production to burn calories - that's the one part of this process that hasn't gone text-book smoothly.  The Frog doesn't care to put much effort into milk extraction, hence supplies are fairly low.  I only really worked this out when the midwife pointed out at the end of his first week how dehydrated he was getting.  So we went on to formula top-ups.  We started with 50ml at each feed, then 100, and now I tend to make up 150ml bottles, and see how much he'll take.  He WAS regularly taking about 120-130ml of the formula after time on the boob, but in the last couple of days his feeding pattern has rather frustratingly changed - from roughly 4-hourly feeds, he seems to feed almost 2-hourly, and takes around 50ml each time.  This is close to driving me barmy, as with feeds 2 hours apart which take at LEAST one hour each, it doesn't actually leave much time to get anything done.  I can't find any way to force more into him, because he tends to clamp his lips together tightly, and if you try to get clever and slip the bottle in during a yawn, he gives you an extremely disappointed look and starts gagging.  So much for that.  The only benefit I can see is that he has the good sense to let me sleep at night.  We might have a final feed finishing around 10pm, and then I'm not usually woken by him till 6 or 7 the next morning.  Be thankful for medium-sized mercies, I guess?