Up to Date

And here we are; up until now I had been catching up on the last 12 months trying to bring you events that had already passed.
I am now writing as it happens.
It is amazing to me now to think that a year ago my wife Willy and I were trying for a baby. We had experienced 2 months with no luck, but as of next month (12 months before), we knew we were starting on a journey. It blows my mind to think this time last November our son Theo did not exist.
I remember thinking as a non-father when parents decribed their miracle child, that there is nothing in procreation, it is just a biological occurrence that happens all the time. How having a baby changes your world view! He is a miracle, and every smile and gurgle reminds me how lucky we are.
I have also noticed how my stomach churns and heart aches when I read of children hurt or killed in the news. Before I would just think it was a shame, now I can almost feel the pain of the distraught parent. I also am grateful that their fate is not mine and hope that no such horror is in our future.
Yes, the future. Before it was just something you stumbled ever onward into. Now it is still a mystery, but full of wonder and potential.
I can’t wait, but also want to treasure every second.


Grunting Baby Syndrome

You know that with a new baby there will be sleepness nights. You accept that and then later understand what that actually means and feels like. When the baby is 10 weeks old, he sleeps for a longer period and you can get a few more hours sleep during the night. Bonus. You think better days are ahead. Then, without reason, strange, loud noises emanate from the crib. It is unbelievable that a baby could sound like a bear growling, but these things happen; and they usually do about 4am when everything sounds louder and worse than they do in the light of day when you are fully alert.
Initially, you do the normal thing of running to the crib and making sure your baby is ok, because he sounds in a really bad way. Then you realise he is absolutely fine and you go back to your bed. Then, ‘GGRRRRRR’, there it is again… night after night. Next morning, bleary eyed, you drive to work and try and concentrate, but it is hard.
The name for this is Grunting Baby Syndrome and judging by the www it is not an uncommon occurrence. Not that this helps. Knowing there are others not sleeping does not ease your mind at 4am. There were answers on the www though, all of which started with ‘put baby in his own room’. My wife, Willy, did not want to do this. She did not want him sleeping on his own. A compromise was reached which was that she would sleep on the bed settee in his room.
This meant that I was alone in our room. I am not ashamed to say that this took all of 2 seconds to get used to. The joy of uninterrupted sleep and a whole double bed to myself was unbridled. Even things like making a noise coughing or sneezing was now not a major issue. My only problem was the silence – the utter quiet. As I suffer from tinnitus, in the soundless room, the buzzing and high-pitched whooshing in my brain was clearer than ever. From one extreme to the other, but I can at least sleep with my tinnitus; when Theo is growling or crying I cannot.
The knock on effect of this sleeping arrangement was that Willy did not sleep well, and when she suffers, we all suffer. Willy did four nights of this and I did one (the Friday night into Saturday morning): it was not ideal. The bed in Theo’s room is not comfortable and not being able to sleep is just crazy.
Eventually, we agreed that Willy should come back to our room and we would leave the doors between our rooms open and the baby monitor on, so we could hear anything wrong, but the growling may be dulled enough to ignore.
This we did as well as two other things, which just coincidentally happened at this time: we changed Theo’s milk formula from Aptamil to Cow and Gate (this was due to Theo’s problems passing the Aptamil: see the earlier blog); we put books under one end of his cot to raise it and give a slight incline.
Whether these three things came together as a cure; whether Theo grew out of the growl; or whether we were making him growl by being with him, I do not know. But no sooner had we made separate sleeping arrangements, Theo stopped making his odd growling sounds in the middle of the night. Certainly this also coincided with him sleeping longer through the night, so maybe he did just grow out of it.
Whatever it was, we are now getting adequate sleep now, thank you very much. The only problem now is Willy is missing the boy and wants him back in the room. I think this would be a backwards step and as we have to go in his own room at some stage in the next few months, there is no need to move him back to ours, and then back to his again. The fact is, he likes his room; he likes the animal pictures on the wall and his mobile. He is happy there and I am happy here; mum should accept this and relax a little! The trouble is, because Theo is in the next room, Willy wakes often to make sure she can still hear him breathing through the monitor, so her sleep is still interrupted. But I guess this would be the same wherever Theo slept and it is something Willy needs to let go of. The thing is, if she doesn’t and continues to be sleep deprived, she will be no good to anyone. I try and tell her this sympathetically and she seems to agree; she just needs to do it now.

The Mysterious Colic

Young baby digestive systems take time to develop. During the period of development our 9 week old baby Theo, treated mealtimes as if it was a time of torture. He would drink his milk formula with no trouble, but for an hour after would grunt and whine while he battled with trapped wind and general discomfort. Sometimes, with various different positions, he would burp and often spit up a little (usually in the one place the cloth protecting your clothes wasn’t).
He would kick out his legs and his little face would turn red and he would be inconsolable for what seemed like an age. Eventually he would just wear himself out and fall asleep. With a little research we put this down to the dreaded colic.
Colic is not a scientifically proven condition, but the term is used often. Nothing seems to sooth the discomfort and it is just a case of living through it while the little one grows up and develops naturally. As concerned parents of course we tried to find the cure and used Infacol and Dentinox at different periods of time, both treatments recommended to us. There were days when it seemed to make an improvement, but then other days when there wasn’t any. Still, we kept on it thinking, like anti-biotics you have to take the whole course. Eventually we stopped using all medicines and Theo grew a little more and just grew out of it.
We will never really know whether the colic relief medicines did anything. But the thing is, as a parent you feel the need to be doing something, because to do nothing feels neglectful. Pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money out of that.

The First Two Months Over

To celebrate our son being on earth for 8 weeks, poor young Theo is spiked twice, once in each thigh, by a nurse. Ouch. I was not there at the time he had his first inoculations, as I was at work, but Willy emailed me later to say how brave he had been (and her as well) and not cried for more than a moment. I was a basket case at work, worrying about both of them, picturing horrific images of needles and blood and screaming.
It is a big milestone this one: we can safely say as parents that we have succeeded in keeping our baby alive and well, and the first month wasn’t just luck. Theo did not starve; was not dropped or in any way damaged by an accident; did not contract any deadly or nasty diseases; was not neglected in any way, shape or form. A round of applause I think is necessary at this point. I know what you are thinking: big deal; and I suppose you are right, but not being naturally maternal or paternal people, we have tried harder at this than anything we did in the past… and we did not fail.
Also during this time we did our first big supermarket shop. Since Theo was born we had using online shopping for our weekly food shop, but in order to get back to some sort of normality, we attempted a Sunday morning big shop. Before Theo, this was not a thing to worry about, but now it took on the shape of an expedition.
The first issue is getting all three of us ready to go out. I have touched on this before, but in a nutshell you need to ensure baby is clean and fed. If he isn’t then within the next 30 minutes he will tell you and everyone else in the shop about it. You also need your bag of baby paraphernalia, containing things for every possible eventuality: nappies, changes of clothing, wipes, bottles, milk, cartons, change mats, muslin clothes, terry clothes etc.
Driving is no longer a problem. Theo doesn’t mind being confined into a carseat and likes to look out the window or be rocked to sleep. Willy now even sits in the front seat, rather than in the backseat next to Theo. Proof that she isn’t worrying quite as much as she used to.
Parking is the next hurdle. Not normally a problem as there are dozens and dozens of spaces, however, there are only perhaps twenty parent and child spaces, and these are usually full. Sometimes by bona fide parents and children, but generally by transit vans, business men and people so full of self-importance that they believe the world owes them a big space near the door… not thinking that the reason the big spaces are there is so people with babies can get the pushchair or carseat out and get a trolley with an appropriate anchoring system or babyseat with a bit more ease. I wish sometimes I could pour paint all over these cars as a badge of their utter inconsiderate ignorance. Another point is even if you park in a normal space, that is away from everyone else and has a space either side, when you get back to your car, some sod will be right next to you, blocking the door you need space to get in. This is sod’s law.
Trollies. If supermarkets have a heart, then it is in the right place. They have learned that families with babies still need to shop and have now provided trollies with a babyseat, or a shelf on which you can place your carseat. Thank you. However, all is not always well. Often you find these trollies are broken, or the strap is missing, or the wheel is twisted, or there are just not enough of them. I wish they took more notice of broken trollies, so you don’t have to sort the good from the bad while your baby waits, on the verge of hysteria (or this is what you think they are doing, which leads me on to the last hurdle…)
Getting around the shop before he goes mad. As you shop, you have one eye on the food and household stuff you are buying and the other on your baby. You think that at any moment he will get sick of being strapped to a trolley and will cry and scream and generally make a scene. Being a sensible English man, this is my worst fear; not just that my baby is upset, but that I am the centre of unwanted attention and everyone is looking at me, shaking their heads and questioning my parenting skills.
As it turns out Theo is relaxed and content the whole way round. The only attention we get is focused on his amazing giraffe slippers.

Wind, Colic and Poosunamis

Feeding babies is a much more difficult operation than one may first believe. As a family of bottle-feeders you have to consider the initial steps, which is bottle and formula preparation. All bottles must be sterilised and all formula solutions must be made up from freshly boiler water. This is the easiest bit. Washing up is my forte. Mixing powdered milk with hot water is also not rocket science, although you must concentrate when added the required number of spoonfuls of powder… it is so easy after counting 3 or 4 to forget whether you were putting in number 4 or about to count 4 for the scoop that is coming next.
Anyway, let us imagine that you have your baby crying for some milk. If you are a superman or woman you will have predicted this happening 15 to 30 minutes prior to it happening and made a fresh bottle. If you are a normal person, you will get the readymade bottle from the fridge and warm the milk to a slightly warm, just above room temperature temperature. This can take 5 minutes or so. During this time your baby will be a little unsettled… to put it mildly. If he has awoken after a few hours sleep, he may be very hungry and cry as if his throat is being slit. The cry is heartbreaking and especially so when he brings in the big guns: these include occasional high-pitched yelps; tears; and worst of all the quivering bottom lip and cry combo. You will try and sooth him and may resort to dummies, if not, holding and rocking may help. It just depends on how far gone he is.
Now the bottle is at the right temperature, sit yourself down in a comfortable chair and get his bib on. It really will help from getting drips all over his clothes. Also a cloth by your side is good in case he spits up. I like to have a big pillow under my arm as it will ache if tensed up for a while. When you bring the bottle to his mouth he will grab it between his lips like a great white shark on a seal.
Here is where the fun begins. With every gulp of milk, your little man is swallowing air and as his digestive system is immature, he can’t bring that gas back up without help. If it stays in his belly he will tell you about its entire passage through his intestines and bowel until he expels it at the other end; he does this by whining and crying, kicking out his legs and arching his back. Not good for either of you. So the art of burping is a valuable tool in your ever growing box of tricks. You will surprise yourself how at every burp you will cheer as if you have exorcised your child from a demon… this is actually not too far from the truth.
There are many positions to rub the wind out of your boy and we generally try them all at each feed, as our boy (like his father) has a wind problem. The best position for you is the one in which he is not in discomfort while you rub his back. If he is not comfortable he will writhe around and cry more, and in so doing take in more air. Over the shoulder is generally the best, although this brings the risk of him spitting up over your shoulder without you knowing – get used to changing your clothes a lot.
On that subject I move on to Poo.
When Theo was having breast-milk he would literally fire poo across the room. He would fill his nappy and while you are changing the dirty nappy, he would continue his motions. The poo, not now contained by a nappy, and as his bum was in the air while you wiped, would fly out and describe a perfect arc in the air before landing on you, or the carpet, or both.
Changing to formula milk stopped this problem, but increased the amount. It was a case of going from a couple of times a day, to once every two days, but with the same physical amount… something that no nappy could contain. We christened these poos ‘Poosunamis’ as in tsunami. Pronounced poo-narmi. The stuff would be everywhere and generally spill out from the legs and back of his nappy. Trying to get a poo-soaked vest over your baby’s head without getting poo on him is very difficult.
Colic is a mysterious thing. No one knows what it is or where it comes from, or even if it actually exists at all, but pharmaceutical companies will sell you a product that gets rid of it. Genius. And the thing is, as a concerned parent you will buy the product if you think it will help. Sometimes there appears to be an improvement, but you will really never know whether the product worked its magic, or it just stopped causing your baby discomfort naturally. Our Theo had all the symptoms of colic… especially evening colic. After his early evening feed he would be unsettleable. Arching his back, kicking out and lifting his legs, face as red as beetroot, crying and whining. Eventually he would just get tired and fall asleep, much to our relief.
At first we tried Infacol, which only benefit seemed to be, orange flavoured burps. Well that is not true, Theo did seem to have less colic attacks on it to begin with. However, it did seem to slow down his digestive system after being on it a few weeks. It seemed to be a major effort to pass anything at all some days and then he would be in discomfort for hours up to the point the Poonarmi flooded in. Then the relief on his little face was clear for everyone to see.
So we ditched the Infacol and he was product free for a week, during which time he seemed ok for a few days and then ‘colic-y’ after that. As we had Dentinox in the house already, we have started him on that now… we shall wait and see what happens next with that. The mysterious colic is supposed to be gone by 3 months old, but Theo is developing at his own rate and no matter what anyone else wants, he will do as he pleases.

Outside and Tongue Tied

On the morning of the appointment to see the tongue-tie specialist we were in two minds about seeing her. We had all but decided to bottle feed with expressed milk and didn’t see any reason to change our minds on this. However, we thought that if Theo’s tongue-tie caused him any trouble in later life and we could have done something about now and didn’t, we would regret it. So with this in mind we attempted to leave the house and meet an appointment.
Anyone with children will know leaving the house at a specific time is no easy task. We had tried to go outside to Willy’s mum’s on the Sunday before, and that is just a 10 minute walk away (it was a stressful time of poo; nappy and clothes changes, before arriving late). So making a car journey and having to arrive at an exact time seemed almost impossible. However, knowing the pitfalls we made sure everything was in hand before putting Theo in his carseat and making the nervous journey back to the hospital. Somehow we managed to get there a little early and waited nervously to be called.

I have to say that the tongue-tie specialist and her assistant were fantastic people and fully aware of the journey already described to you. They also knew how stressful the week had been and were gentle with us, explaining everything to us and advising of the advantages should we go ahead with it. They also were happy that we would probably be bottle-feeding afterwards whatever the outcome.
So it was with a heavy heart that we agreed for Theo to be examined with the knowledge that if anything was found, they would cut the tie there and then. We signed the consent form and were asked would we want to hold him while they carried out the procedure. As we pictured spurting blood and baby’s tears we let the professionals continue. They were very careful with Theo and immediately recognised the tie and showed us. Seconds later a baby’s cry filled the room and Willy bursts in to tears. The specialist quickly stopped the flow of blood from Theo’s tongue and he is passed to Willy who settles our boy. We are then advised to try him on the breast and this he does successfully before falling asleep. We left the room with a weight lifted from our shoulders, if only for a short while.

The thing was, a dilemma was brought up: do we continue with bottle feeding, or go back to trying breast feeding now he is ‘fixed’? Bear in mind that there was still a lot of bad feeling in the air and stressful associations with breastfeeding. Willy did try later that day with the ‘rugby ball’ hold and did not feel comfortable physically or mentally with it. She had been used to seeing Theo’s face when he was feeding and loved the eye contact that went with it: with breast feeding, Theo’s face was hidden and she could never tell whether he was feeding or was happy.

Due to the additional stress connected with breast feeding, we moved to bottle and are still satisfied with the decision. I have to state here that Willy still wishes she could have breastfed, but the distance from the desire to the physical act, was never going to be met… not without days or weeks more of worry with possible latching problems.

At this point, Theo was still having expressed milk from a bottle. Willy was still spending hours a day hand-pumping into a container and then transferring the milk to a bottle. Luckily I was still on annual leave, so while she expressed, I could get on with the household chores. After a few days of this, it was obvious she could not continue doing it. This brings us to the next big decision in our baby’s short life: do we move to formula milk? To many pro-breasters, feeding a baby formula/powdered milk is like giving them poison, but after hours of soul-searching and weighing up the options, we came to the conclusion that it was good enough for us when we were babies and everyone else is doing it, so how can it be wrong. I am not actually sure this is how we expressed our feelings then, but I know that going to formula was a way of freeing Willy from being chained to that handpump (the squeaking sound it made is still clearly playing in my head, and brings back painful memories).
Some of you reading this will think ‘What’s the big deal?’ others will be shaking their heads as if we have betrayed our baby and given him a poor start in life. I guess in the greater scheme of things it is not a big deal, because after all, our baby is being fed and he is growing by the day. But my wife wanted to be Theo’s provider; she enjoyed the closeness of breast-feeding and wanted to do it more than anything… going to bottle-fed formula felt like she had failed as a woman and mother. I still tell her to this day she did not fail anyone, and the way she coped and still copes with raising Theo fills my chest with the utmost love and pride.