Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Out on the town

This is my current favourite picture of Oliver, taken last weekend when we went out with friends for lunch at a local cafe.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

He smiled!

Oliver is always happiest early in the day and this morning while Hayley changed his nappy he definitely seemed to be smiling (see above).

Ironically he spent most of this evening whinging until he was finally picked up so he could fall asleep on Hayley's chest. He's been doing that a lot over the last day or so and it is not something we are happy with. He already fights falling asleep, but at least when he does go to sleep we can get some sleep ourselves. Obviously if he is lying on one of us we have to stay awake, so we don't want him to get into the habit of doing this. It's hard to know what to do about it. Tonight he whinged and cried (not too badly) and refused to fall asleep regardless of what we did with him. He is probably too young to use "controlled crying" techniques: I don't really know.

Anyway, must go: he's crying again, this time for his bottle.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hold your head up

Today I saw for the first time that Oliver is starting to hold his head up without support. Hayley spotted it yesterday and tonight it was clear to see. It looks quite odd actually. He suddenly looks so grown up when he does it, not like a little newborn any more.

He is six weeks old today and Hayley commented how sad she feels sometimes when the time seems to be flying by. The breast milk, that she expressed to last 6 weeks, runs out on Saturday. Another little milestone. I just keep telling myself: Carpe Diem!

Back to the Table

This week is Back to the Table week which encourages families to eat together at the table instead of grabbing ready meals and heading off to their rooms or slumping in fron of the TV.

I think this is a great idea. I was brought up on meals where we all ate together at the table and we all ate the same thing. Nowadays, thanks to microwaves and to ready meals that are becoming as edible as they are ubiquitous, many people eat different meals, often at different times and all too often in different rooms.

Of course, moving back to the table and holding conversations without the opiate of TV is not easily re-learned when you have spent years watching while you munch. We eat at the table but all too often Eastenders (our only soap opera vice, unless you count The Archers) is on and our conversation ebbs and flows with the comings and goings of Alfie Moon and Dot Cotton.

So we are going to try to increase the number of times we forego the TV in favour of background music and conversation.... just as soon as we have had Sky+ installed next week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Toys really are Us

When I came home tonight I found Hayley had made some toys for Oliver. One was a shaker made from a Gravy Granules tin filled with a few, erm, well probably Gravy Granules. The other was simply the inside of a packet of Special K which crnkled and crackled in the hands. He was fascinated by the new sounds.

It brought home the fact that for all the fancy playmats and electronic swinging/vibrating chairs you can buy, a child will find lots of everyday things fascinating.

Hayley had a list of household objects for play that she had brought home from a 'new mothers' group. It included things like loofas, balls of wool, large pebbles and tennis balls. As I read it I felt a memory of my own childhood fascination with these objects start to surface.

And there i was thinking no further than an excuse to buy myself a playstation when my son arrived. Anyone with any sense would prefer a nice bath and a loofa.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Life and death, near and far

This week Hayley recounted a tale to me about her late brother Paul. One day when arguing with his mother he grew tired of being told how grateful he should be for the privations she underwent to bring him up. "I didn't ask to be born!" he snapped. This earned him a thick ear (though he was about 21 at the time)!

It set me to thinking about the mixed blessing of being born into this world without a choice. I remember a friend many years ago telling me how devastated he was when he discovered at the age of 5 that one day he would die. It's a delicate question to handle. As I lay in the bath this morning I found myself wondering how I am going to tell Oliver about it.

But of course he is very lucky to be born into a society that is affluent and benevolent by global standards and into a family who love him. Watching the TV this week, the colossal devastation caused by the earthquake in Pakistan is a stark reminder that many children grow up in less hospitable surroundings and in greater danger from natural disasters. The scale of the tragedy is almost too much to take in and has come at a time when starvation in Malawi should be making the news pages but has been pushed into the background (or more accurately completely off the pages) of the newspapers and media websites.

Then as I lay in the bath listening to the radio my thoughts turned to the danger from human sources. "From Our Own Correspondent" on Radio 4 this morning told how a man drove up into the hills in the aftermath of the earthquake and set up food kitchens and tents for 1200 people. He simply felt it was the right thing to do: his Islamic duty. But a local Mullah had different ideas. It was Ramadan and by preparing the food and the fires to cook it in daylight he incurred the wrath of the Mullah who threatened to burn down all his tents!

The programme also told of the forgotten Iranian villages who suffered chemical attacks at the hands of Saddam Hussein. I could hardly imagine the horror of the women and children dying together from chemical attack in the shrine where they were worshipping. But that was the reality back in 1988, while today the survivors are so ill that they think of the dead as the lucky ones.

So I feel blessed to live in a country and time where my son can have great opportunities to live a long, rich and rewarding life.

And yet even here life comes with no guarantees. On Monday I went to work quite upbeat. I went to see a colleague but found that he wasn’t in. I thought no more of it until later in the day I was told that he was absent because his daughter had died.

She suffered from fits and earlier this year he ran the London Marathon to raise money for the David Lewis Centre who support sufferers of complex epilepsy. As well being a much respected colleague he is also a fellow cyclist who I enjoyed introducing to the delights of the Peak District trails around Castleton last year. I still find it hard to comprehend the scale of the grief he must be feeling or what he must be going through. It's hard even to find words for how I felt when I heard the news. To put it bluntly, no parent should have to bury their child. The void left behind must be immense.

So all these sombre thoughts have made me feel grateful beyond words for all that I have right now. It's easy to focus on sleepless nights and the ups and downs of the daily grind, but it shouldn't distract me from the fact that right now I am blessed beyond words to have the family I always wanted. Every day is a blessing, so no matter how bleary eyed I get I plan to seize it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All aboard the sleep deprivation roller coaster

Oliver has been sleeping a little erratically. One night this week when we tried to go to bed after his feed, he cried loudly every time he was put down and then was fine as soon as he was picked up. While we wanted to comfort him, we didn't want to establish the connection in his mind that all he has to do is cry and he will get picked up instantly over and over again. So after we had picked him up and settled him a couple of times (only for him to realise he was back in his Moses Basket and start crying) we left him to cry for a minute before picking him up and consoling him again (which took about 10 seconds as he just wanted to be held). Then we left him for two minutes before consoling him. Then three. Before the four minute gap was up he stopped crying of his own accord and went to sleep.

This may sound harsh - and to be honest I think I'd just wait one minute each time if we did it again - but we want him to learn to comfort himself to sleep. He seems to hate going to sleep. His grouchiness very often seems to be down to fighting sleep. The he gets overtired and even more grouchy. If we get to a state where he has to lie with us or be held and fall asleep in our arms then I'd say we are on a one-way ticket to exhaustion and a future of long drawn out bedtimes.

Thankfully he has only had one episode like this. Every other night he has been fairly quiet. He does sometimes grumble and refuse to go back to sleep and need consoling, but there has only been the one incident of prolonged and repeated crying.

As for the length of time he sleeps we really can't complain. He is going 3-4 hours between (the start of) feeds. He tends to have a bottle around 10.00pm then wake for a feed around 2.00am. Hayley gets up and does this one. Then I get up around 6am and give him a feed before shooting off to work.

I love that 6am feed. (Well, 5.30am this morning - his times seem to be slipping backwards a little.) Everything is quiet and he just sits happily in my arms sucking away. At first he sucks noisily and enthusiastically. After a while he sits more quietly and even looks up at me sideways as he drinks. He's so gorgeous when he is like that. Then I sit him up and wind him, holding his chubby cheeks in my hand.

We were half-heartedly trying to get him to go an average of 4 hours between feeds, because that seemed to be the way with formula. But we have realised that he is still too young for that (convenient as it would be for us) so we are letting him dictate the feed times in the hope he will settle into a pattern of his own accord.

He certainly seems to be piling on the weight. I haven't weighed him since last week but he feels heavier again to me.

And he is losing his hair. Apparently this is quite normal. He's really quite bald on top now with plenty at the sides, like an old man. A friend of ours told us that her child lost her hair and it grew back a different colour!

Overall we really can't complain. He's still finding his way and so are we. And so shall it be for about the next two decades!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

One month old today!

We celebrated Oliver reaching the grand old age of one month by goiong out for the afternoon. We took him to Room 311, a trendy little new cafe in Heaton Moor. Of course, as it was October in Manchester it was raining, so the pavement tables were passed up in favour of a comfortable leather sofa inside. While we enjoyed warm drinks and a scone, he slept comfortably in his car seat. When he awoke he joined us by dining on finest Aptimel baby milk.

We then took a trip over to the local deli, keeping his majesty dry in his car seat (below).

Finally we popped up to Leisure Lakes to look at some bikes. These nice little red and green machines caught Oliver's eye.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things that go grump in the night

Last night Oliver had a mixed night. On one hand he went to sleep fairly easily after his feed and then went 5 hours to the next feed: fantastic! But then after his "middle of the night" feed he wouldn't go back to sleep for a while and grumbled without ever getting too upset. But it meant Hayley was pacifying him (by putting her hand onto his head in the Moses Basket) for about an hour. Then he went another two hours before wanting his next feed.

Now all this detail may sound trivial (to those who weren't kept awake by it at least), but it matters to me for two reasons. Firstly, I am wondering what effect (if any) the use of a dummy is having on his ability to go to sleep without one. Secondly, I was so sleepy when it was time for his "before breakfast" feed (which I normally give him before going to work), that I slept on and Hayley got up to give it to him even though she had already been up at 3am.

The current arrangement is that Hayley tends to do the "middle of the night" feeds during the week when I am at work and then cat nap during the day, whereas I do them at the weekend to give her a rest. But mother nature seems to have programmed Hayley with the need to nurture more than the need to sleep so far and she often gets up for a few minutes when I start to feed him. Perhaps this is Mother Nature's way of ensuring that Dad can't mess things up too much. At the weekend, even my own liberally minded Mum sympathetically uttered the phrase to Hayley "you can't trust them can you" about men handling babies!

Each day is a new experience and there is no counting of chickens when it comes to expecting the good nights to continue as they have done (mostly) to date.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Comedian Ronnie Barker dies

One of the sad things about the generation gap is that the parent can never fully convey to the child the atmosphere and culture of their own childhood and life generally before the child was born. It will always have an air of unreality to the child. My own image of my Mum's youth, including her stories of hearing Elvis for the first time, is a vague picture of 50s Britain and its clothing fashions. Much beyond that I find hard to grasp. Despite knowing factually what life was like, it will never have the corporeal quality of the times I have lived through myself.

And so, perhaps, it will be when one day I try to tell my son just how much I loved the comedy of Ronnie Barker. I can only hope that he will get the chance to see the "Four Candles" and "Opticians" sketches and they won't seem too dusty and antique for him to enjoy them as I did as a child (and as an adult).

Ronnie Barker's obituary on the BBC website is here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Little Buddha

Sometimes when I am sitting feeding Oliver at night, holding his chubby cheeks while I wind him, he reminds me of a little Buddha. That's become his new nickname: Little Buddha. Tonight as I fed him I started to sing the Buddhist music from the CD that we had played throughout Hayley's labour. We joked that perhaps that music had influenced his character in some way. I suggested buying him some orange robes. I'm sure it doesn't seem funny in writing but this scene had us laughing uncontrollably as he sat serenely drinking in my lap, bouncing up and down with my laughter.

After feeding him I had a blissful few minutes with him, lying in my arms looking up into my face from a distance of about 6 inches. I love it when he makes those little cooing noises that have started to appear.

Tonight he has been amazingly contented. He threatened to get grouchy a couple of times but we managed to placate him with the swing, then a dummy and later his bouncy (vibrating!) chair. In between all that he had a bath which he loved (though he hates getting out - don't we all). Four hours after his last feed he started to demand some milk. I added breast milk to this feed and for some reason (maybe the taste? maybe just wind?) he became very unsettled. Thankfully Hayley has calmed him and now he is just finishing the last drips from the bottle which had nearly 6oz in.

Hayley spoke to the health visitor today and got some Infacol to help with possible colic. Contrary to what we had previously been told, colic can vary greatly in severity and it's possible that's the cause of his distress (though it still seems odd to me that sometimes he can be placated for several minutes).

We've noticed that the breast milk doesn't fill him so much so it will be interesting to see how long he sleeps for after this feed.... assuming he does choose to sleep! He was grumpy this morning when he is usually happy. Then relatively content tonight when he is normally grouchy. Who knows what fun the night holds!

Grouchy again

We visited my Mum and Grandmother on Saturday. Oliver was on his best behaviour all afternoon. Later, in the evening, my Mum offered to babysit allowing Hayley and I to grab an hour alone in a local pub to eat dinner together: our first time alone and away from Oliver since his birth. We are acutely aware of how easy it could be to nurture and cherish Oliver but neglect our own relationship, so we jumped at the chance to have a bit of time together.

The next day (yesterday), Oliver was grouchy pretty much all day. It was exhausting and demoralising. It has got to the stage where Hayley is today monitoring how much time he spends asleep/feeding/content/grouchy/crying etc. I spoke to her a few minutes ago and she said he has been very grouchy all morning.... and that's usually his happiest time.

We find ourselves asking what is wrong with him and what have we done wrong to make him like this! I feel bad that I am at work and Hayley is left with him all day. She works so hard with him and it breaks my heart that she is left alone to deal with him when he gets like this.

We are also wondering whether it is the oral thrush that is bothering him. Or maybe the medicine, which seems to be having no effect anyway!

At least at the moment he is sleeping reasonably in the night. Apart from getting us up for his feed he is sleeping through... I pray this continues!

Well, I'm tired (but Hayley must be more so) and I need to work so I'll sign off. We are trying hard to enjoy our little son who will soon be a month old already. But it's hard to enjoy him when he seems so unhappy himself.

BBC NEWS | UK | Mother's care 'best' for children

Mother's care 'best' for children

I'm a touch sceptical about this research. I can't help wondering whether their findings are true simply because the sort of families where the mother can afford to stay at home are the ones where there is probably the most money and the least stress. A wealthy middle class Mum who can afford to stay at home all day (and maybe hire dometic assistance) is self-evidently likely to give her child the most time and attention.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Four Generations

From left to right: Jesse (Great Grandmother), Oliver, Elaine (Grandmother), Steven (Father).

Today we visited my Mum's house where Oliver met several of his relatives including his Nan and Great Grandmother (pictured). He also met his Aunty Julia and cousin Tom.

Babies for Dummies, Dummies for Babies

Dummies (or pacifiers) are a point of great contention, or at least they seem to have been down the years. Nowadays the stories of teeth being pushed out of shape seem to have been discounted, but they are still frowned on by many in a quite judgmental way.

We have been trying to avoid giving Oliver a dummy, mostly because we might be storing up trouble for later when we have to take it off him and because we don't want him to need it at night when his losing it is likely to result in crying for him and yet more broken sleep for us.

I don't have experience of many babies against whom to compare Oliver, but even Hayley who has nannied several babies thinks he's perhaps on the grouchy side. Sadly, this seems to manifest itself more in the evenings.... just when Daddy comes home!

It's Saturday today and he has been quite content all morning. But last night he exercised his right to whinge at length. He wasn't wailing for ages (unlike a few nights ago) but was generally grouchy, veering between grumbly and crying. We tried all the usual options. Hungry? Windy? Nappy dirty? Needs attention? Needs to be left alone? Wants to play? Wants his swing? Wants to sleep.....? Nothing seemed to work. He was sucking his hands like he does when he's hungry, but he didn't want food.

So finally we thought we'd try it. We got out a dummy, sterilised it, then offered it to him. He took it and was content. What's more, we could converse for a few minutes at a normal volume. I can see why they are so popular!

We don't want to get into the habit of using it and we took it off him before he went to sleep. But it's another tool in the armory as we try to find the happy medium between the ideal "text book" handling of our baby and a way that will give him happy attentive parents who can do more for him than simply try to console.