I absolutely cannot believe how a whole month has passed already. Actually, at the time I’m writing this, we’re closer to six weeks, but I’ll try to accurately distinguish between the first month and now. My sense of time, however, is not what it has been. Because I am finding that now more than ever, my recollections of past events are colored by more recent past events, I haven’t organized the post by week, but by topic, in the hope of giving a somewhat accurate picture of what these first weeks have been like as a whole.
But before I get there, let me just say that it has been an interesting exercise to think about about the fact that Storm is now in our lives as a being separate from me. I still cannot understand that this amazing little person was gestated in me. Paulus and I sometimes congratulate ourselves on our performance in this matter. Which I suspect makes us like all other parents out there. But, really, people, our son is quite amazing. We’re still adjusting to being parents, and indeed, we still find it difficult to think of ourselves as ‘parents’. We’re still just us, and now there’s also Storm. That’s not to say that our lives has not been turned upside down, because they have. We’re operating in baby-time now, and that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s at the same time wonderful and pretty tiring. I have newfound respect for everyone who is a parent. And especially for anyone who is raising a child on their own, or whose partner is unable to take parental leave. In our case, we are both currently on leave and have been since Storm was born (and in my case even a bit before that). And we haven’t even driven each other crazy yet, despite being home together, all day, every day. There have been some changes, though. Although I’m a homebody, and consequently wouldn’t have felt much need to go outside in other circumstances either, Paulus definitely isn’t. So him being at home this much has resulted in some interesting little shifts. Like, for example, we both used to dislike doing the groceries. So much so that we would carefully plan so we’d only have to do them every two weeks or so. But now, Paulus is happy to do the groceries on his own every few days, just to get to go somewhere else. So that works out perfectly for both of us.
The little things
I can’t remember if I ever mentioned this here on the blog, but during the pregnancy, it used to annoy me to no end when the baby had the hick-ups. Which he did every day. And still does. But now I don’t mind (and it doesn’t seem to bother Storm), because it’s perhaps the only thing that I solidly recognize in present day Storm from Storm the womb baby. As for Storm’s other activities, I imagine they are quite similar to those of most other newborns. But still, it’s so interesting to discover the little things that our newborn does – how he moves, what he sounds like, how he eats, and all that good stuff.
For example – he loves the changing table. For some reason, hanging out on the changing table makes him calm, even when he’s in the middle of a post-carseat travel screaming seance. In the beginning, he would just lie there calm as can be, often with his eyes closed. But now, he always watches the black-and-white Sneakers Starfish that I have hung in the middle of the mobile above the changing table. This was the first object that I noticed him tracking with his eyes. So, changing table, favorite place.
Apart from every single one of his sleeping positions being unbearably cute, and all of his awake antics being just plain amazing, some of most precious things about Storm at this stage are his stretching face and his sounds. When he stretches, not always, but sometimes after unlatching or waking up, he stretches his neck while jutting out his chin, raising his eyebrows, and somehow tensing all the muscles in his face. He does this both with his eyes open and closed, and the whole ensemble makes him look like a little old man, and it’s the dearest thing I have ever seen. I haven’t been able to capture it on camera, probably because these stretches are unpredictable in their occurrence, and because I’m too busy enjoying them live when they do happen.
Another favorite thing is a little ‘hehe-hehe’ sound that initially accompanied almost everything he did. It sounded like he had his own little secret that he kept thinking about. It seems to be slowly fading away, getting replaced by a wider repertoire of sounds, but I’ve got it stored away in my memory. Finally, there’s the sigh. Sometimes, after a particularly satisfying nursing session, or a nice, cozy nap, he will let out a sigh of contentment that makes you feel like the world is alright.
It’s pretty wondrous how much love you can feel for such a tiny person that you’ve know for all of two seconds. I’ve always heard that parents have this overwhelming love for their children, but I never knew that that meant a love that is so undefinable and uncontainable that it fills you up and just spills over. And you can’t even put words to what you’re experiencing. So you might cry a bit instead.
While at the hospital and probably for a few days after, it seemed like Storm just fell asleep on his own when he was tired (that’s not the case anymore, ha). After we came home, it somehow wasn’t very convenient to have him sleep in his crib very often, despite all the thought and care I had invested in getting the crib just right.
I wanted to have a side-car crib, that was perfectly aligned with our bed, so that we could co-sleep safely and I wouldn’t have to get out of bed to nurse (more about this later). During the day, though, we would usually not be in the bedroom, and it would be more convenient to have Storm in the living room with us. So we co-opted the bassinet from our stroller for daytime naps.
It wasn’t long before Storm became entirely unwilling to sleep in the crib, so we also experimented with putting the bassinet in the crib to keep him close at night. Without much success, however.In fact, we soon found that although Storm would reliably fall asleep while nursing, any attempt to move him from the nursing pillow resulted in him waking up again, unable to get back to sleep on his own. After a number of frustrating nights like this, coupled with getting a bad crick in my neck from falling asleep in a sitting position and accidentally dropping my head, I began experimenting with the side-lying nursing position, so I could at least rest during night feeds. I couldn’t make it work with Storm in the crib and myself in the bed, and again, trying to move him from our bed to his own after he fell asleep didn’t work either. And to be honest, I would often fall asleep after Storm was latched on, and he would then nurse and fall asleep as well. So it wasn’t long before we unexpectedly found ourselves to be bed-sharers. Now, bed-sharing is a bit of a controversial topic, but there is in fact research showing that it can be perfectly safe. So here we are, bed-sharing, and we’re all sleeping much better for it. Storm still doesn’t fall asleep by himself. He either needs about 15-45 minutes of rocking or swaying in someone’s arms (possibly repeated if he wakes up while being transferred elsewhere), or he needs to be in the sling wrap, in the stroller on a bumpy road, or on someone’s chest (these only work under the right conditions), or he needs to be nursed to sleep. The goal is still to figure out how to nurse with Storm in the crib and me in the bed. We’ll see if we get there.
We initially kept Storm swaddled at night, as they had done this in the hospital, and it seemed helpful. We had purchased swaddleme pods, which are these thin sleep suits that you just zip the baby into. But he really doesn’t like to have his arms constrained, so after a couple of weeks, we had to abandon these (He might have outgrown them by now anyway). Now we do a loose swaddle with a blanket that leaves his hands free.
But all in all, the sleep situation isn’t bad. Initially, it was clear that Storm didn’t differentiate day and night. He took long day naps, and would often sleep longer stretches during the day than at night. From around 2 or 3 weeks of age, he began sleeping well during the night. Generally, he sleeps in 2-4 hour blocks. In between there is nursing and diaper changes. We begin his night sleep some time between 7-10pm, and this usually lasts until between 7 and 9am. As I’m getting better at learning his cues, I am increasingly able to feed him before he starts crying, and that means he doesn’t fully wake up, and consequently goes back to sleep very easily. At this point, the sleep situation for me is not much different from during the final months of the pregnancy, when I would get up to pee three times or more during the night. In that respect, I’m well prepared for life with a newborn. The transition was harder on Paulus, I think. He usually does the diaper changes in the night, and initially, this was pretty disruptive to his sleep. But now we’re all sleeping pretty well. I don’t even think Paulus takes naps anymore, although I sometimes do.
As for day naps, we’ve yet to figure out what works. Some days, Storm will nap as if on a regular schedule, every 3-4 hours. Other days, he’ll do back-to-back naps in the morning, and none in the evening. And sometimes he will mix and match. We’re starting to recognize his ‘tired cues’, but many of them overlap with hungry cues, so we don’t always get it right (which coincidentally is no big deal as nursing will put him to sleep if he’s tired anyway). Sometimes he will sleep in the stroller, and he will generally tolerate it and rest, even if he doesn’t fully sleep. When the sling works, it’s awesome. One day, I did a bunch of work, standing at our standing desk with Storm sleeping in the sling wrap. On another occasion, I vacuumed the entire apartment while he slept in it, and he didn’t even flinch. But it’s hit and miss whether he will accept the wrap. If he’s a little bit hungry, he will fuss and squirm and cry, and frantically attempt to work his way out of it in search of the milk that he smells. Usually I have no choice but to unwrap him when that happens. The next step is to figure out how to let him nurse while in the wrap. Youtube seems to think it’s possible, and we’ve had a halfway successful attempt at it, but it was definitely not effortless, and certainly not hands free either.
We exclusively breastfeed. I’m getting used to the fact that my breasts are producing nourishment for a baby, but it was kind of hard to wrap my mind around at first. But seeing Storm gaining weight did a lot to help bring home the message. Although we began breastfeeding shortly after Storm was born, it took a while to really get the hang of it, and we were lucky to have some good support to help us when it was difficult. I was visited by a lactation consultant while still in the hospital, and after we were discharged, we had another consultant come visit us at home. This was very helpful, because as they say, breastfeeding might be natural, but not instinctual. We initially struggled to get the latch right on one side (why can’t breasts be more symmetrical?), which caused me a bruised, somewhat misshapen nipple for about a fortnight, which made nursing on that side rather unpleasant. I managed to get through with the help of a nipple shield, which we now no longer need. Storm is a rather aggressive eater. The usual sequence of events begins with him waking up (sometimes not even fully). If food has not been provided in the five seconds interval following his first waking up sound, he starts crying like he hasn’t eaten for days. Co-incidentally, this inevitably triggers my letdown, so it benefits everyone to get the food to him fast. Then when he gets close to the milk, he starts his little ‘hehe-hehe’, for about 5 more seconds, after which he will again let out a piercing cry if he hasn’t found the nipple. He when he finds it, he starts to latch as if it was going to run away from him. My theory is that he thinks he is a predator that has to catch and keep a hold of the food in order to eat. Probably a baby predator. And a super cute one at that.
Right from the moment he was born, he performed what we called ‘the head dance’. This consists of him bobbing his head around in search for the breasts. But as all newborns, he doesn’t yet have control over his neck muscles, so this tends to be something of a sight. The thing is that this is probably the least effective strategy for getting food that I have ever observed. I had heard that immediately after birth newborns could be allowed to crawl towards the breast themselves and latch on unassisted. If we had attempted this with Storm, we’d still be in the hospital. While his head bobbing covers a lot of ground (as his lack of muscle control means that his head is bouncing all over), it fails miserable in recognizing its target. Even when he accidentally bobs one of my breasts in his mouth, he never notices and instead intensifies the frantic search. So that approach was abandoned after very few tries. He still head dances when he’s hungry and is being held upright on someone’s chest, and we’ve learned to recognize this as a (mostly) solid clue about what he wants. We have yet to capture him on video in his full head dancing glory, but the video below should give you an idea.
About two weeks after Storm was born, I started pumping out some milk every day, so that I’d have the chance to be away from him every once in a while. We were recommended in our breastfeeding class to introduce a bottle at about three weeks of age to ensure that he would be able to do so down the road. So that’s what we did, and it went off without a hitch. We’re planning on feeding him a bottle once a week going forward.
Growth, health and development
Storm had doctor’s visits a few days, a week and a month after his birth. After a week, he had regained his birth weight and then some. This was great to hear, because it let us know that the breastfeeding was working as it should. After a month, he had gained some 1300 grams and added several centimeters to his height. That explained why some of his newborn clothes were getting tight. At this rate, he’ll be in 3 month clothes in a few weeks.
When the stump on the umbilical fell off and the belly button was healed, we were given the go-ahead to give Storm his first bath. I had this idea that he would really enjoy being in water again, but to be honest, I don’t think he noticed what was happening. But hey, at least he didn’t hate it?
We’ve been getting some playtime and tummy time in daily on his cobbled-together activity mat. Storm has made great progress on lifting his head and developing all those muscles that will allow him to do so much cool stuff in the future. I’m trying to live in the present, but I can’t wait for all the good stuff yet to come!
Looking for milk on papa might be a futile exercise, but it surely counts as exercise nonetheless?