Saturday, 13 August 2016

Ten weeks as a family

We haven't really written a diary style post since we registered Oskar at 6 weeks old. So we thought being in double figures as a family deserves an update!

We seem to have had quite a few milestones in the past month, one of which being Oskar's first set of injections!
We were quite apprehensive about this after being told they make babies cry 'like you've never heard them cry before, like they're in true pain' and that the medication made them quite poorly afterwards. We both went along to the appointment, and luckily had a really lovely nurse who talked us through all of the different vaccinations and really put us all at ease. Despite crying when he had the three injections and one oral medication, our boy didn't really cry any more than when he does when he has his nappy changed! 

We had bought baby calpol which we gave him straight after, and he had a breastfeed immediately which seemed to solve any sadness, and then he was perfectly happy, giggling away on the car ride home! We gave him calpol two more times throughout the day and evening, and were happy that he didn't seem poorly at all.

We also had Oskar's 6 week developmental check with the health visitor and then at the doctors (although he was almost 9wks!). The health visitor is a bit useless, it has to be said, seemed surprised he is still exclusively breastfed, asked if he was smiling at us yet and if we had any concerns, weighed him and went on her way. At 8 weeks and 6 days our little dude weighed 12lb2oz and continues to follow his own curve sitting happily between the 25th and 50th centiles.
The doctor check seemed a lot more thorough though; she chatted to us about how Lauren was physically following her c section, about how we were finding motherhood, and the support we had. Lauren said was surprised about how well she felt so quickly following the section, and although she had  feared being suseptible to post natal depression due to boughts of depression when she was younger, she is so happy, as we both are. We are definitely lucky with support, what with having our family nearby and some really lovely friends. 

The doctor then checked Oskar physically in addition to his responses to things. She commented on how alert and interested he seemed in things, and said it showed intelligence - we are now hoping for a baby genius! She also commented on how advanced his responses were and how strong he is - we know this from when he has kicked us before, but it was great to hear! We are extremely proud mummies. 

I am back to work full time, so Lauren has had to adapt to being at home with Oskar by herself during the week. At first it was a big change, but she's getting in to the swing of things now, and easily fills her days either at home or seeing family and friends. She has attended the local NCT bumps and babies breakfast club, regularly attends the breastfeeding clinic for support and advice and to chat with other mums, and has started to explore some of the baby "classes" available for the upcoming term. 

Her sister has two daughters aged 4months and 3yrs and they spend a lot of time altogether. This week they decided to take the babies for a family outing to their first swim class! Oskar is a real water baby, he loves the warmth of the water and the ability to stretch out and kick his little legs, we often use a bath to calm him if he is having a difficult day, and so I was not surprised to hear that he loved swimming too. He loved gliding around in the water, splashing his hands and kicking his legs, and only got upset when it was time to get out! We want our little one to be confident in the water from an early age, and to learn to swim as soon as he is able, so taking him swimming regularly from now on will be important to us. And a great day out with his cousins!

Lauren also took Oskar along to a baby massage class at a local children's centre. We weren't exactly sure if it would be a success but they both really enjoyed  it. Oskar was by far the noisiest baby in the class - squealing and chatting through the whole experience, and telling all of the other babies just how much he was enjoying it! Massage is a great bonding experience between baby and parent, as well as being relaxing for both, and a good way to relieve minor ailments such as colic and constipation! We're sure he can't wait for next weeks class!

The weeks fly by. It is official that having a child speeds up time, the days till in to nights and then back to days and then all of a sudden it's the weekend again and he has turned a week older. We will continue to take a picture of him each Saturday, at least until he is one, to see how he has grown each week. It's wonderful to look at his pictures and see the differences in him that we don't see each day as we are constantly with him.

In the past few weeks he has met so many family and friends we've lost count, and accompanied us on quite a few meals out - he's quite the social butterfly!

He's also becoming much more a little 'person' with a personality. He looks directly at people, his eyes follow us around the room, he shows likes and dislikes for things.

One of his favourite things is bath time! We have a baby bath that allows him to sit up, and he loves relaxing in the warm water. We add a bit of oil, wash him with baby wash, and then dry him using a Cuddle dry towel. We have to say, getting out of the bath isn't always a happy time!

Another thing that has increased over the weeks is smiles! Oskar is such a smiley baby, and the best ones are when he sees us and his face lights up with a gorgeous big smile! He has also started to find his voice. The mornings are his happiest time (for his mummies - not so much!), and he will often wake up at 6am and wake us up by squealing with delight. He chatters, cooes and giggles a lot - it's magical and adorable and we just spend ages watching him.

His alertness and curiosity in the world around him mean he is a lot more interested in things. If we take him for a walk around the park he wants to be up and looking around - his carriers are great for this and allow him to stare at the trees and the sky. He is also starting to notice Willow (although this a work in progress, they mainly ignore each other!)

He has also started to take great delight in lying on his play mat. It makes us a bit sad to see newborns plonked on the floor on mats just so their parents don't have to hold them, Oskar was rarely out of our arms for the first 6 weeks, but Oskar is now beginning to appreciate his, looking at the toys above him and looking at bits of the mat we are crinkling or jingling! "Playing" with him has now become far more exciting for all of us, and will only continue to get better as he develops!

He also loves sitting in his bouncy chair - apparently the owl toy tells some pretty funny jokes! The noises that come out of him are utterly adorable. 

As well as baths and his owl, he loves being cuddled close and patted, his mummies talking/singing to him, his sling, ALL of the milk, and his cloud mobile. Since he was a newborn he has been fascinated by it, and now happily chatters and giggles and squeals at it until we feel that we've been watching him lie on his changing mat for long enough! 

We also took Oskar on his first proper trip to the park, where we spent the day exploring, walking with Willow, and stopping for regular food breaks (for the boob monster!). I carried him in his ergo most of the time, he loved staring up at the trees, and was fast asleep by the time we were back to the car!

And just like that, we have a ten week old! People say you can't imagine life without them and it's true, we can't. We love being his mummies more than we ever dreamt we would, it has brought us closer as a couple and shed a whole new light on our lives. He really is a special little boy and we are very very lucky that we get to watch him grow everyday. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Why our baby is in a cardboard box!

As a parent, sleep is pretty much the holy grail. Pre-baby, knowing parents would smugly warn us how tired we'd be. They were right! Newborn babies wake every couple of hours, so you never get more than that in one go.
They say that when your baby sleeps, you should sleep, so the key it seems, is getting your baby to sleep! 
Oskar currently has four 'beds'. He has a Mothercare cot, a PoddlePod, a Sleepyhead, and a Bed Nest, probably costing around £650 altogether. And his favourite bed of all? His newest, fifth bed.
A cardboard box.

The Baby Box Company follows a tradition from Finland. For 75 years the Finnish government have given a box to expectant mothers that serves as a 'baby starter kit'. Containing items such as clothing, blankets, and newborn essentials, the box itself, which is lined with a mattress, is then used as the babys bed. 
Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, and it is believed the baby boxes have contributed to this. The boxes are seen as a tradition of motherhood, uniting generations of women and contributing towards Finlands ranking as one of the best countries in the world for mothers to live.

The Baby Box Company is the first company to offer traditional baby boxes to customers outside of Finland. 
They come in beautiful prints with patterns such as owls, foxes, or our beautiful hedgehog one! (Oskar seems to have a acquired a lot of hedgehog featuring clothing, so we were thrilled with this!).

The boxes are extremely strong and sturdy, and much larger than we expected - the boxes can be used up until baby is eight months old. They have a matching lid so that when your baby has outgrown the box, it can be used as a pretty storage box. 

You can buy the box on its own, but the filled boxes have such beautiful items - we loved how they were rolled and tied with string, as it gave the box a very traditional, personal touch. 

The box is quite deep, and comes complete with a good quality mattress.

The mattress has a waterproof cover, and a fitted 100% cotton sheet - we found this much easier that the flat sheets we wrap around the mattress for our Bed Nest! 

The items inside a 'Classic' box include vests, a hat, mitts, socks, a thermometer, a burp cloth, a wash cloth, a bib, a sleep sack, a gift card, and membership to The Baby Box University. The Baby Box University is an online resource created by the Baby Box Company to help new parents learn about pregnancy and parenting. It focuses on maternal health and early child development, from antenatal women to early toddlerhood.

We loved the items included - they all seemed eco friendly, traditional, and excellent quality. 

One of our favourite items was the Halo sleep sack. Described as a 'wearable blanket', it's super soft, lightweight, and features a reversible zip, so you don't have to remove the baby from it to change them (after witnessing Oskar cry after being disturbed and unswaddled to be changed, this is definitely a great idea!) 

We also really loved the wash cloth and burp cloth as they are so, so soft! 

The socks and mitts are adorably tiny, and probably won't fit Oskar for long (the vest however is 0-3 months, so will be grown into!), but are very good quality, and are essential newborn items. 

And how cute does Oskar look in the hat with its little ears?! We love it, and it's useful that it's very lightweight, as the warm weather has meant Oskar has outgrown a lot of his thicker hats before he can wear them. 

The Baby Box company very kindly included some extra items for us - some eco friendly nappies and wipes, and this gorgeous, soft hooded towel. As Oskar has a tendency to pee on his bath towels after his bath, we can never have too many, and we loved the little crocodile design! 

But the big question - does the box work as a bed? We have to say, it's a resounding 'yes' from Oskar! 

We aren't sure what it is about the box, maybe the deep sides promote a sensation of safety, but he seems extremely calm and peaceful when placed in the box. Even when he wakes up, or if he is awake when we put him down, he is happy and content. He seems extremely entertained by the hedgehog print, and loves touching the sides of the box with his hands and feet, prompting lots of excited coos and giggles!

The box also gave us Oskar's longest ever sleep - over 5 hours! (Which is approximately two weeks in new parent time!)

We love coming across eco friendly or innovative products for Oskar and this ticked both boxes. The Baby Box is a brilliant concept that is entirely stemmed from simple tradition, and combines two factors that parents love - its cute, and it works! Thank you to The Baby Box company for our beautiful box, and introducing us to such a lovely concept.
The Baby Box is available here, with the bed only packages starting at approx £53/$70, and filled boxes starting at approx £75/$100. They also sell lots of the beautiful items in the boxes seperately.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

World Breastfeeding Week - We're Still Going!

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. It is also the week that our little cutie turns two months old. That means that we have been breastfeeding for two whole months! It has gone in a blur, passed in a second, one feed merging in to the next. But in honour of WBW I thought I would update our 'breastfeeding diaries'. We have seen a lot recently on social media about how weeks like this are designed to make women feel guilty. We don't agree. Each parent makes the decision about how best to raise their child. That includes what they are fed, but what their child is fed does not define them as parents. We agree that we want our son to be exclusively on breastmilk for as long as it is feasible for all of us, or until he weans. This does not mean by any means that we are judging anyone else for not making this choice, or for making the choice to give their child formula, it is simply a decision that we have made for our family, and for our son. It is no-ones business whether we breast or bottle feed, so why can't we just get on with feeding our own children, and offering advice, not judgement or defensiveness?  Everyone's set of circumstances is unique to them, and we don't need to tear each other down to validate our own decisions.

I am really, really proud that we are still going. The reason for this is simple - breastfeeding is really hard work, it is still hard, and I still often want to give up. But we have chosen that breastfeeding is the best thing for our son, so no matter how hard it gets, I keep going. And I'm proud of that. Sometimes it is not the best thing for me, but it is still the best thing for him, and that spurs me on, that keeps me going until the sun rises again, or until his mammoth cluster feed session ends, or until we get him weighed again and see he has gained weight solely from my milk. Knowing it is the best thing for him is the thing that makes me want to continue without a doubt.

Back at the one month mark I posted that we were still using nipple shields, and that we were waiting for an appointment for his tongue tie division. The appointment finally came when he was six weeks old. At the appointment the midwife assessed the way he used his tongue, and watched him feed. She diagnosed a sub-mucousal posterior tongue tie, which was restricting his ability to stick out his tongue and thus achieve a deep enough latch. Thus we were relying on nipple shields, as he was unable to grasp the breast fully. The procedure was simple and quick. He hated being held in a certain position, but didn't seem to mind the procedure at all. He was handed to me for a feed, nipple shield free, and the midwife asked if it felt better. I wasn't too sure but said that I thought so. She suggested we try 48 hours without the shields and see if I felt able to carry on without them.

Forty eight hours later and I was very sore again, but wondered if my boobs now needed to get used to the sensation of feeding a baby without the protection of the silicone of the nipple shield against the movement of his tongue, so I persevered. Four days later and the pain was still ever present. No amount of adjusting his position / trying different techniques to deepen his latch / latching, re-latching and latching again helped, it was just painful. So we went back to shields. The stupid thing is, even though I am breastfeeding my baby - he latches on to MY breast, he gulps away at MY milk, and he falls asleep full up because of it, when using shields I don't feel like I really am breastfeeding.

So a couple of days later I tried again. Again, at first the pain wasn't too bad, but within 3 days of no shields it was excruciating again, so on they went again. And this is how we have continued. No amount of googling is providing me with answers, no amount of trying different ways of latching him on provides relief, so I am slowly coming to the conclusion that we either breastfeed with nipple shields, or we don't breastfeed at all. One more appointment with a lactation consultant on Friday is my final shot at providing an 'answer' before I fully commit myself to long-term feeding with nipple shields.

I have learnt a lot over the two months. Not only about myself, my resilience and my determination to achieve something I want so much and have always wanted, but also about the art of breastfeeding itself. Through various support groups, both online and in person (Facebook has some amazing groups!), I have learnt that very, very rarely is someone's breastfeeding journey straight forward. I have also learnt that many breastfeeding 'problems' are fixable, with a bit of determination and a lot of hard work. I have met people with low supply, oversupply, tongue tie, cleft palate, weight loss issues, slow weight gain, and many many people who have been through sore and painful nipples, but who have gone on to feed their babies successfully long term. It is these people who give me the inspiration and drive to continue, in the hope that one day I can feed my baby without pain.

It also makes me realise how little people actually talk about the issues they face. People with babies slightly older than Oskar, who are breastfeeding, now come to me and tell me the issues they faced while establishing feeding, but I often wonder why they didn't tell me this beforehand, so I was more prepared when I faced problems. Why don't we share the difficulties we had, and how we got over them? Perhaps then more people would be equipped with the knowledge to deal with these issues when they themselves face them. Perhaps then there would be more than 24% of UK mothers still exclusively breastfeeding at six weeks, and 17% at three months. A lot of formula feeding mothers speak of being guilt tripped by health professionals for not breast feeding, but we found it quite the opposite. Our health visitor asked how we were planning to feed, and when we replied 'breastfeeding' her response was one of doubt, dismissively telling us that we probably wouldn't manage it, as it was very difficult. In hospital, not one member of staff offered advice or help, when they saw me expressing they did not enquire if I needed help to breastfeed or why I was expressing. When Oskar was slow to put on weight, I was told by a charming midwife that my milk 'wasn't good enough', who then unceremoniously plonked a bottle of formula in front of me. I didn't use it.

When I look back at our early days, I was so full of hope for this journey, I was so excited to get our breastfeeding started and looked forward to the time it became easy. Whilst it is definitely a lot, lot easier, it is still not easy, and I wonder if it ever will be. But I'm OK with that, because I am proud of the fact that regardless of the difficulties along the way, we are still going. I am proud that in the heatwave my body made my milk more watery to keep my little boy hydrated as he drank day and night. I am glad that when I got a cold my milk provided him with the antibodies that meant he didn't get it. I am proud that after his 8 week injections yesterday I could instantly soothe him just putting him to my breast. And I am proud of the fact that he is growing, changing every day, nourished and sustained solely by something I made, especially for him.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Second Parent - Thoughts of a non bio Mum

started writing this post in hospital following the birth of our son, Oskar. It started out as an insight into the struggles of being a non bio parent, the things people said that although deep in the back of my mind I half expected to hear, that still hurt, or invoked indignation. 
However, since then this post has gone through many incarnations, and ended up surprising me at how it turned out. 

Whilst we were in hospital following Oskar's birth, and then during his jaundice treatment, 'Second parent' was the nicest way I had seen my relationship to my son described on documents. It was this at best, worst was a tie between 'father' and a neon, obvious, omission. I suppose this won't change until his birth certificate arrives, but back then, it bothered me. A nurse said to my wife that she needed to check her c section scar, and asked if she want her sister to wait outside? I realised she meant me, confused at how they thought 5'1, blonde, dark eyed, petite me, would be the sister of a 5'6, curvy, blue eyed, auburn haired woman, and inwardly resented her for insinuating that my part in all of this was that small. 

My wife's parents, full of excitement at their first grandchild, repeatedly pointed out my son's physical similarities to their family. They brought photos of relatives to demonstrate this likeness, "he's definitely a *their family name*" they kept saying.
I was a little helpless in these conversations, awkwardly unsure. I know he can never have my mouth, or my Dad's nose, or be definitely a *my family name*.  In the emotional tiredness from us having to set 2 hourly alarms through the night to feed him to clear his jaundice while staying in hospital, these things bothered me more than they should have. 

Weeks later, at a family party, Oskar cried as a relative held him. The relative passed him to me, saying 'go and have a cuddle from Aunty Sarah'. I was so stunned, so hurt, so confused, even embarrassed by that comment, I stayed silent. It was a relative of Lauren's, and in my baffled loss for words, and apparently unrelenting politeness, I said nothing. I regretted that moments later, a hundred things I should have said popping into my head.

People have commented that I 'did so well' to have 6 weeks off work with Oskar. I may not be recovering from a c section or birth (people ask if I am jealous of not carrying, and this confuses me. I have no desire to ever be pregnant and see no importance in a biological link, maybe if I did I'd feel differently, but being jealous of my wife carrying our baby isn't something I can comprehend), but I am his mum - six weeks is nothing compared to the months that a lot of mums are lucky enough to spend with their babies. I watch women complain about going back to work after a year with their babies, and envy them the luxury of that time. Going back to work for me was hard - it signalled me saying goodbye to probably the longest time I would ever have of just being at home with my son. I had to grieve for that and it was difficult for all of us.

To me, he is my blood. He was made from my love, from our love. We planned him together, we have had his name picked out for nine years - before most couples we know had even met. We chose his donor together, went hopefully hand in hand to our fertility appointments, we cried together when things went wrong and laughed tears of joy at every milestone. I gave my wife the IVF injections, every single one bringing our baby closer to the world. I watched on scans as her follicles grew, willing them on, and I sat holding her hand, fighting back tears as I watched our precious embryo put back safely in her womb. I loved him fiercely and completely, from before he was born. I watched him grow from a speck to a wriggling, hiccuping baby on scans, cried as we first heard his heartbeat, picked out his clothes and his nursery, dreamt a whole, beautiful, bright future for him.

I had listened to fellow lesbian non bio parents, who gave me honest admissions that when their baby was born, they did not feel a rush of instantaneous maternal love. I understood this, and I was prepared for it. But during the calm of our necessary c-section, with our wedding music the only thing breaking the peaceful silence, I held my wife's hand, feeling in a cocoon behind the surgical sheets, and at Lauren's request, I was first to hold our baby, skin to skin. 

And in that second, a powerful connection was made. He was my beautiful, perfect son, I would give the world for him. I have only ever felt this kind of love for one person, my wife, built up over nearly twelve years. But to feel that intensity of love for someone in seconds is mind blowing. It's pure and intense all at the same time.
Oskar, I will never be able to say I gave you my nose, or your lips, or your funny ears.  But I promise, I will give you so much more. I will give you strength, and adventure, and laughter, and knowledge, and kindness, and spirit. I will give you more love than you or I ever, ever thought possible. 

I do, and will continue to find joy in seeing my wife's similarities reflected in your beautiful face, a tribute of the strength and courage she showed to create you, grow you, and bring you in to the world. I'm sure along the years you will inherit my mannerisms, that old ladies will stop me in the park to coo over you and tell me you look just like me. 
Already people have commented that we have similar profiles, and that you look 'strangely just like' me. We oddly have very similar birthmarks, in the same place.

There is also the truth that there is no reasoning behind people assuming I'm not Oskar's mum. There are many times I would have the same issues if I was biologically his mum. Although biology never mattered to us - I never wanted to be pregnant or give birth, and we have seen fellow lesbian mums, or laurens sister who has two adopted daughters, show just how insignificant biology is - it is undetectable, wholly irrelevant. In fact, we have often guessed wrong at which mum in a two mum family was the bio mum.

Whoever is with the baby, people assume is the mum. As Lauren had a c section, I pushed Oskar in his pram when we want out. People would stop me to look at Oskar, ask me questions about how old he was, how he was sleeping. 

A waitress in a coffee shop, who was showing me where the baby changing facilities were commented - 'you look amazing, I can't believe you have a four week old baby!' But as Lauren's breastfeeding, she will often get the congratulations and compliments from strangers too. Whatever your family looks like, whether you have a biological  part in making your baby, or only the part that is much stronger than that, being a parent is the hardest thing most people do. But everyone finds their way - I never expected to love motherhood so much, or just how completely Oskar would feel like part of me and Lauren. 
And alongside Lauren adjusting to motherhood, I have found my place as Oskar's mum, and it's wonderful..
Whilst pregnancy and birth are beautiful, magical, incredible things, watching the one you love do those things is equally as amazing. But those things last nine months, and being a mother?
That lasts a lifetime.