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Archive for May 2012

All of the best conversations with children happen in the car. It’s a well-known fact.

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This has been a long time coming. It’s Neave’s birth story, continued on from here.

My lovely midwife Beth practically promised me that my baby would have a nice long ‘after birth’ sleep of approximately five hours. I felt confident that it would be so – I’d really earned a rest, and the baby had spent at least an hour latched on to my breast, sucking away, so she ought to be content. This was my first ‘real’ baby (as in ‘full term’), and I was looking forward to having her room-in with me and not merely borrowing her for feeds. Don’t get me wrong – I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep, but I was very hopeful for a short reprieve after the birth, before we began the chaotic, sleep-deprived mess that is having a newborn.

I kissed my little baby, wrapped snuggly and tucked into the plastic hospital bassinet, climbed gingerly into my own bed and closed my eyes for what I hoped would be at least three hours. But I couldn’t sleep. My mind was still racing from the events of the day. My baby was, at last, safe and sound and sleeping right next to me. Tomorrow I’d be taking her home. I was nervous, excited, sore. More sore than I remembered being after Molly and Tiernan (although this time there was no tearing, or even grazing). I thought about what to call my little one. We had four possible names for boys, but only one for girls. Isla. But it didn’t seem like the name for her. Even though it was the only one on our list, neither of us wanted to commit. It bothered me that I couldn’t call her by name.

Eventually, despite my inner turmoil, I did manage to drift off to sleep… only to be woken what seemed like a millisecond later by her tiny wails. She’d slept about 90 minutes. That was all the time she needed to recover from birth, and now she was ready to get stuck into being a newborn baby and doing newborn baby things like feeding all through the night and then crying for much of the rest of it. That first night, like her birth, has become a bit of a blur. At one point, I had finally got her settled back into her bassinet after feeding her and was just drifting off again when a midwife came in to check on us. To my horror, she unwrapped my baby, took her temperature and then promptly told me she was too cold and I’d need to do some skin-to-skin contact with her. The midwife stripped her off and tucked her down my shirt, then left. Now, I do love me a bit of kangaroo care with my babies. I did it at various points with both Tiernan and Molly, and loved every minute of it. But I’d never tried to do it and sleep at the same time. And sleep was of major concern to me. Not that my baby’s wellbeing wasn’t important to me, but in my dazed and confused state, I really was having a hard time getting past my desperate need for sleep. The good news was that my baby slept much better curled up against me (co-sleepers the world over will attest to this). But I didn’t! I was trying to sleep sitting up and it really wasn’t working out for me. After what I felt was sufficient time to raise her temperature, I decided to dress and wrap her again so I could lie down and try to sleep properly. But my midwife friend caught me in the act and, after checking her temperature again, advised me to continue with the skin-to-skin contact. I think some small measure of disgust must have registered on my face, so this time the midwife actually helped me to get into a comfortable position to sleep with her, and then it wasn’t so bad.

Once I got it into my head that the ‘reprieve’ wasn’t going to happen and I was just going to be this exhausted for the next twelve months or so, then I was able to just go with it. It’s funny how you forget what beyond tired feels like. You forget that it just goes on and on and on, until your body eventually accepts that three hours sleep is the new eight hours, and somehow you become semi-functional again. But the weeks until that happens are the hardest.

Things looked slightly better in the morning. They always do. We were visited by the kids and Tom, and his mate Daniel (who he had enlisted to help him with the kids!) I was keen to come home, but we had to wait until Neave was 24 hours old to make sure she didn’t develop a GBS infection (hence the temperature-checking). The subject of names came up between Tom and I again, but since we were both busy (toddlers and hospitals do not mix), we really couldn’t discuss it properly. So, after they went home, my baby still had no name. I was pretty disappointed.

When my Mum arrived, she and I sat and tossed names around while we waited for it to be time to go. Initially I said I thought she would be Isla because that was what I had been calling her in my head all night, but she didn’t really like it. She said she needed something smaller and cuter, to suit her smallness and cuteness, I suppose. I do remember looking at my baby and thinking she had such a round, pixie-like face, and wanting to give her a name that suited her. Isla wasn’t really it. During our discussion, the name Niamh came up. It’s an Irish name, meaning “Bright” or “Radiant”. I liked it, but when I mentioned it to Tom months previously, he had dismissed it straight away. He didn’t like the spelling.

Meanwhile, my baby slept soundly for most of the day, feeding every two or three hours. She even had some awake time after each feed, when she would look around, taking in her surroundings and listening to our voices. She was a real baby! Eventually 5pm came around and Tom picked us up from the hospital. On the ride home we discussed names again and I mentioned Niamh to him, but suggested changing the spelling. He didn’t reject it straight away, and I took that as a good sign. But he also didn’t seem to be nearly so worried as I was that our baby was 24 hours old and still had no name. I know that in many cultures babies aren’t named for weeks or even months. But it was a real sticking point for me. It just didn’t feel right. I wanted to give her a name and use it to bond with her more. Feel closer to her. Really, we were bonding just fine, but it still felt incomplete. It’s hard to get to know someone when you don’t know their name.

On her way home from hospital

Waiting for us at home were Tom’s parents, his brother, James, my Mum, my sister, Kate and her partner, Mitch. We had dinner together, the baby was passed around, as babies always are, and I got to have big cuddles with Tiernan and Molly. They seemed pleased with the baby, but not terribly fussed either way. They gave her lots of cuddles and kisses, but were just as happy when she was put down to sleep and they were the centre of attention again.

Big brother Tiernan

Neave was a placid, content baby during the day. She slept for hours at a time, didn’t stir at noises, and had awake periods but was easy to settle back to sleep again afterwards. But at night, she just cried and cried, unless she was in contact with me. In hindsight, I think we should have just done away with the bassinet altogether, because she spent way more time in bed with me, feeding away, than in it. We dabbled with co-sleeping when the others were little, but the third time around we got much closer to the real deal. Partly because we were less worried – babies are pretty tough, after all – but mostly because it was just so much easier to let her feed while I slept. And to let her continue to sleep next to me rather than wake her up by moving her to the bassinet afterwards. I even started leaving nappies and wipes right next to the bed so I could change her without getting up. So, exhaustion and laziness were major factors in our slow slide into co-sleeping. The hardest part was actually getting Tiernan to stop coming to our bed during this time, though. While I felt fine about having the baby in with us, I didn’t want Tiernan in there too. It was too squashy and I was more worried about her falling out when he was there. It seems unfair, because we had been allowing to come in to us during the night for a few weeks before Neave was born, but after a few nights of telling him ‘No’ and putting him back to his bed, he got used to it. (Here is where I admit that, these days, all three of them have full access to the parental bed during the night. Most mornings we wake up with at least two out of three in with us. We should have upgraded to a King instead of a Queen when Neave was born. Sigh.)

Feeding Neave, while much smoother and easier than the first two times, became quite horrible on the third day. This is baby blues day for me. Neave’s latch wasn’t perfect and it was causing some damage to my nipples, and it soon became excruciating while she attached and munched away. I used plenty of Lanolin, and also resorted to a nipple shield on the left side to give the nipple time to heal. Coupled with that, my milk was coming in (a good thing, but rather painful and emotional) and I was getting awful contractions with every feed. These contractions are triggered by breastfeeding and they help the uterus return to its normal size. I barely felt them after Tiernan, definitely noticed them and even took Panadol for the ones I had after Molly, but this time around it was so much worse. The midwife who came to visit me each day after Neave’s birth, actually told me her theory that every third baby is worse. She had no idea why, but she advised me to take the strongest pain medication I could get over the counter for the next few days because it was going to hurt! It actually felt like being in labour again, and my body would tense up automatically every time my poor baby tried to latch on. With all the different pains coming at me from different directions, I started to get rather overwhelmed. And she still didn’t have a name!

Between all the visitors people usually get in the days after a baby is born, lack of sleep and just being busy, we still hadn’t decided on a name. I was getting quite stroppy about it because it seemed to me that Tom was avoiding the issue or that he didn’t realise how much it meant to me. We discussed it over and over, but I couldn’t tie him down. He kept bringing in more names that weren’t previously on the list, so I would counter with mine: Beth, Erin, Sarah, Evie, Emily, Billy, Bob, Gertrude… Finally, finally, he gave me a choice between Isla Rose or Neave Elizabeth. I really thought Neave was the name for her. Small and pixie-ish, like she is. We chose to Anglicise the spelling because we were worried about her being called ‘Nee-am’ all her life. We chose Elizabeth mostly because it sounded nice with Neave, but also because it’s my Mum’s middle name, and it’s also the middle name of Neave’s cousin, whose birthday she was born on. So it all fits. I like having slightly unusual (but not ‘out there’) names for my children, and meaningful middle names that match.

Once the decision was finally made, I was very happy. A weight lifted and I was finally able to call my baby girl by her name. A name that she’s had for two years now, and that she is certainly living up to. I couldn’t imagine her being anything other than my bright and shiny little Neave!

Bright, shiny girl

Your brother and sister stuffed tennis balls into your pants. You helped.

Two!!

The loves:

1. You’re talking in (almost) full sentences! It happened so fast that I think I actually missed it at first. You were garbling something at me for a couple of days before I realised that there were lots of actual words in there. Now you say things like, “That bit’s broken,” “I read it,” “That car is Tiernan’s,” “I want my blanket,” (which often sounds more like “my mant more mankie”), and “I want my Mum!” (my favourite).

2. Your favourite game is ‘Are you?’, where you hide under the table and say “Are you?” until we say “Neave, where are you?” and then you jump out and say “Boo!”

3. When you’re pretending to sleep you scrunch up your little face and do this fake snore that sounds like you’re saying ‘shooo, shooo’.

4. When you’ve finished eating you empty your scraps into the bin and put your plate and cup on the sink. I don’t even have to ask you because you copy your brother and sister.

5. You have bonded so beautifully with your Nanny (as in grandmother, not an employee), who looks after you every second Friday while I’m working. It’s lovely to see you seeking her out for cuddles when she and Poppy visit us, because I know it means a lot to her. It also makes it easier for me to leave you on Fridays, knowing how happy you are. The other Fridays are alternated between your Dad and Poppy, whom you are also very comfortable with. But I think you and Nanny have something special going on.

6. Playing outside is one of your most favourite things to do, and I love watching you. You have this great ‘can do’ attitude. You watch your siblings do something once, and then off you go to try it yourself (although this can be a bad thing – like the time you ended up on the cubby house roof…) You are just so confident and competent – climbing on and off the trampoline, opening and shutting the zipper, getting on and off the swings, climbing on the monkey bars and swinging back down. For someone so very tiny, you can do a lot.

7. Timeout works with you!!! This is AMAZING, especially considering Tiernan and Molly still get up and wander around when they’re supposed to be sitting for, like, one minute. But, you do something naughty (like spit – guess where you learnt that one – or hit), we say ‘no’ and put you in the Timeout spot, walk away… AND YOU STAY THERE UNTIL WE COME BACK FOR YOU. Then you say sorry or give us a hug, and we all move on. Simple. Easy. Done. Meanwhile, one of your siblings will have done something and we’ll still be going on about it ten minutes later because they refuse to sit in Timeout for one minute. Go figure. As always, I’m anticipating you’ll learn from ‘The Tiernan and Molly School of Conduct’ any minute now, and pretty soon we’ll be chasing you around for Timeout, too. So I’ll just enjoy this while it lasts.

8. You’re still a bit shy with strangers or in large group situations, but I’m learning that if we stick around long enough you do eventually warm up enough to let go of my leg and go play or talk to people. It’s nice to see an improvement, and it makes waiting out the clinginess a bit easier. Although, a certain amount of clinginess is acceptable. You are my last baby, after all. Don’t go growing out of it too quickly, you hear?

9. You sing songs and read books to yourself. A-dor-a-ble.

10. You spend most of your free time following either Tiernan or Molly around the house, copying their every move. If they grab a book to read, so do you. If they want a drink, so do you. If they get a toy out, so do you (after you try to grab their one from their hands). If they jump on the beds, so do you. If they scribble on the furniture, so do you… no, wait… these should be going in the other list…

New stroller

The not-loves:

1. All that stuff I said about you being all brilliant and ‘can do’… well it has a down side, too. Sometimes you decide you can climb onto the bathroom vanity, sit in the sink and put toothpaste on everyone’s toothbrushes before shoving them all into your mouth. Sometimes you decide you can push a chair over to the kitchen bench, use it to climb up, open the cupboard and help yourself to biscuits and lollies. Sometimes you decide you can climb the linen cupboard shelves, take every item you find down and throw them all into a huge pile on floor.

2. I never thought I would meet someone more stubborn than your sister, but I think you’re it. You’ve got staying power, and a mighty set of lungs when it all dissolves into tantrum territory. You have a flair that even Molly can’t help stopping to admire.

3. Erm, have you forgotten how to sleep??? For about two weeks now, you have been getting up lots during the night and it is absolutely driving us crazy. We’re stuck – since you and Molly share a room, we can’t put you back into your own bed (kicking and screaming) without waking Molly up. But, if we try to put you in our bed, you just bounce around and talk to us all night instead of sleeping. Then you wake us all up at 5:30 (5:30!!!) Because that’s your new schedule, apparently. The worst part is that, after breakfast you’re so tired that you promptly fall asleep and I get so jealous that I can’t do the same. All of this throws out your routine, too, because you then sometimes refuse to have your afternoon sleep, or you do have your afternoon sleep but then won’t go down in the evening until 9.00. Then the whole vicious cycle starts again… However, I will say (touch wood), you seem to have turned a corner, and for the past two nights you have come quietly into our room in the very very early hours, climbed into our bed, and settled down reasonably quickly, and not waking again until 7.00. It’s definitely an improvement, but you’re still messing with my sleep, buddy! Not cool.

4. Typing on this laptop is now a painfully slow process thanks to you, Neave. You have developed a penchant for taking things apart, and your favourite thing to take apart is the keyboard. You have removed eleven keys from it over the four occasions in the last week when either your father or I have forgotten to stow the laptop out of your reach. That’ll learn us.

But despite that, Mummy loves you xxx

New baby