The Cost of a Nap

Remember in the ‘good old days’ when you used to just go for a drive aimlessly? Quite often my first boyfriend and I would just get in his car and drive around of an evening, even though we were absolutely skint. Now you need a ridiculous amount of money to be able to indulge in such luxury and I feel like suggesting going for a drive without a destination is akin to asking if you fancy an impromptu holiday! Myself and Dylan hardly ever get in the car unless we have somewhere to go.

There is a point to this, I promise.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about switching the kids around so that Alexandra was in the bigger room in a single bed (here) which all went very well. However, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how you get a toddler to willingly get into their bed and nap. Alex has once, ONCE, got into bed and said ‘I tired mommy’ but by the time I’d closed the curtains she was back up again and couldn’t be persuaded to go to sleep. Once in desperation, I put her back into the cot in the nursery for a nap. But this just isn’t sustainable – I need the cot for Max’s nap and also if she really wanted to Alex could get out of the sleeping bag and out of the cot which clearly isn’t super safe.

So I’ve resorted to going out in the car and just driving around until I think she’s asleep, and then attempting to transfer her into the bed when we get home. This has varying levels of success:

About 20 per cent of the time, she falls asleep and stays asleep when I put her in the bed.

About 20 per cent of the time, nobody falls asleep and I just get two very confused faces when I stop the car like ‘why did we just drive round in a massive circle?!’

Around 40 per cent of the time, the wrong child falls asleep.

And the other 20 per cent of the time, Alex falls asleep and then wakes up when I try and take her out of the car.

So essentially, my new ‘desperation drive nap attempt’ technique is a little bit rubbish. However, as my success rate of getting her to fall asleep in her own bed is currently 0 per cent, it’s better than that right?

If Alexandra was ready to give up her nap then I wouldn’t be too bothered (although now Max has a regular nap schedule it would be lovely to have an hour child-free to work or do something productive in!) but she’s clearly very tired and her behaviour hasn’t been the best since the New Year when we swapped the bedrooms. It could be that she was going to take the Terrible Twos up at notch at this point anyway, but I’m sure tiredness plays a part in the silly behaviour we’re experiencing.

Alex is very much (and has always been) of the mindset that if she doesn’t want to do something, she won’t do it. And you could say well you’re the parent, just make her. But how do I persuade a child to sleep when, short of installing a lock on the outside of her door and barricading her in to her room (where let’s be honest she’d just throw everything out and scream the place down), I have no way of physically keeping her in her bed. When she was still in the cot, she’d protest about nap time then realise she might as well just lie down and go to sleep as that was the only option open to her. Now, just leaving the room and coming downstairs is her preferred option.

So a couple of times a week you’ll find me just aimlessly driving around trying to get my child to sleep while pretending I’m not paying through the nose for the pleasure!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

The Baby Forgot How To Sleep

From fairly near the beginning with both of our children, we have been blessed with good sleepers. Alexandra slept through from a few months old and has never, aside from the odd night of teething, looked back. When Max followed suit we were pretty pleased and, although I’d still been getting up to express and we had the eternal ‘putting the dummy back in the baby’s mouth’ momentary stirring regularly, things seemed like they’d all gone the right way again.

Then about two months ago, Max started getting up in the night. And by getting up in the night, I mean sometimes being unsettled for an hour or two at 10pm, sometimes being awake for three hours from 1am and sometimes never really settling for the majority of the night. He had a bout of bronchiolitis, we knew teething was starting and he was also rapidly outgrowing his Moses basket so we thought it was a combination of all of those. Knowing what to do wasn’t easy: you try the usual teething gel, more blankets, fewer blankets, rocking, shushing, patting. He spent a fair amount of time in our bed. It then came time to put him into the nursery his sister had just vacated – we wondered whether it might make things worse because he does like the comfort of being near to someone, or whether not having the disturbance of us coming to bed or getting up for the loo would make things easier for him.

Well the result wasn’t great. He had a few of his worst nights when we put him in his own room (he also had another cold, about his fifth of the winter, which wasn’t great timing but he was about to burst out of the ends of his Moses basket and if we waited until Max wasn’t snotty he’d have been in with us for years). I read an article one morning at 4am about the timings of naps and concluded that his afternoon nap needed moving backwards so he was waking around 4pm and that we needed to ensure he was in bed by 7.30pm at the latest. The first few nights of this new routine were much better, we were only up to him a couple of times in the night and that was just to replace his dummy rather than spending an hour or two trying to calm him with every and any baby soothing method we can think of.

Then two nights ago (Sunday), he didn’t have a great night. Last night was pants too – he was up for a while around the time we went to bed and then again in the early hours then there were about three hours where I never got the chance to get fully back to sleep in between getting up and down to him.

I’ve read articles saying if you can get them to self soothe then they’ll sleep better. Not so – Max now goes down sleepy but awake and gets himself to sleep almost immediately. But if he wakes up in the night then he needs us to come and settle him back down. I wonder whether weaning him off the dummy would help but I think it might make things worse at this point – and I really can’t face the few days of awful, awful crying that we know it’s likely to take to break the habit.

I wonder whether it’s related to the fact he has a lot of colds so his nose is blocked a fair amount (although we use Snufflebabe, nasal spray and have his cot at an angle in an attempt to help), whether it’s reflux (which is fairly under control on his meds although we tried to reduce them last week on the doctor’s advice and have gone back up to three doses as he’d started being sick more), whether it’s teething (two have popped through and he’s potentially showing signs number three is on its way), whether it’s separation anxiety (although he’ll sleep for the first few hours of the night absolutely fine on his own) or whether it’s his allergies (in which case we’re doomed until he grows out of them!).

Of course, the alternative is he read the article I wrote for the Motherload about baby sleep and decided to make me look a fool.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

A Big Girl Bed

For so, so, so, so long we’ve been talking to Alexandra about her big girl bed in her new big girl room and we finally made the transition over the Christmas holidays.

We knew as soon as we found out we were expecting baby 2 that we would move baby 1 into the bigger bedroom (she had been in the nursery ie the box room since leaving our room at six months) and then I think had we had another girl, they would have shared and we’d have used the third room for storage and/or a study. Anyway, Max is very much a boy so it was decided unfortunately as he was the second child he’d have the smaller room.

What with work, two children, various other commitments and a multiple of problems along the way, it took until a couple of days post Christmas for the room to be ready. We’re really pleased with it – we decided to use the light green and pink accessories already up in the nursery so picked green walls, white furniture and pink curtains (as an aside I’m SO glad we didn’t pick pink paint as I think it would have just been too girly and saccharine sweet). During the day, Alex really enjoyed playing in there (lots of her toys and books are now in there alongside her new dolls’ house).

And then it came to bedtime.

She was truly reluctant to get into bed at first, wanting me to lie down instead and then running off. Eventually Dylan and I swapped places and he went in to get her sorted. There were some tears (from her) but around an hour later she’d finally settled and that was the last we heard of her until 8.30am the next day when she burst into our room (she can now open the doors in our house even though they’re the twisty knob type handles that I struggle with!) shouting TAA DAA. The entrance was hilarious, cute and I feel well deserved given the fact I fully expected to be in and out with her all night.

The next day it took even less time and now she’s fairly happy with trotting off into bed, although she demands an extra story in her room. The first couple of nights there were a few times when she escaped onto the landing but that’s stopped now and so far, touch wood, she hasn’t got up in the middle of the night. In the morning, she’s either been coming into our room (but at a decent time so that’s fine!) or playing quietly.

Our one issue is I have no idea how to get her to stay in bed and go for a nap? As a result she hasn’t had her eyes shut during daylight hours (except once when she fell asleep on her trike the other day). Do I pop her back in the cot in the nursery? What if Max needs to nap at the same time? Do I just accept she doesn’t nap anymore? Do I have to drive round and round for two hours each afternoon so she can sleep in the car?

Of course, our other issue is now Max is in the nursery and he has completely malfunctioned and decided to sleep like a newborn – except he was a regular ‘up every three hours’ newborn so this is even worse. I shall save the sorry tale for my next post!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Nine Months Old

Three quarters of a year! Max is now nine months old which means it’s time for another monthly update about what he’s been doing and the new skills he’s learned. I’m finding it really interesting to go back and read what I was writing about Alexandra at this point in her development (her nine month update is here) – not because I want to pit them against each other but just because you forget so much, even in the space of 18 months, and it’s hard to remember that she didn’t pop out as this walking, talking, sassy toddler. Anyway, I digress. Onwards with the update:

Teeth: I’m starting here because there’s actually something to report! Max has one tooth now and potentially the corner of the second – although he won’t let me near to check properly. His sister didn’t pop one through til nearly 11 months so it was a surprise to me when his came through a couple of weeks ago. However, also in contrast to Alexandra who never seemed overly bothered with teething aside from a few restless nights, Max is really struggling. If all of them are like this then we’re in for a long and tiring ride!

Sitting/crawling: He’s been practising lots and can now sit for a few seconds unaided but he’s definitely not at the point where he can be left to it. Max’s crawling is also coming along and he’s able to get around really quickly with his commando type crawl on his belly. He does now get on to his hands and knees occasionally for a few seconds so he’s making progress in the right direction.

Playing: Max loves playing with his sister’s Lego and cars, some pom poms (I think I spoke about them in his eight month update but he still loves them) and still spends time in his jumparoo and bouncer. Among his Christmas presents were a Nuby police car with lights and sounds which he loves, and some little sea creature themed soft building blocks which he’s also enjoying.

Eating: We had some really good progress with that this month and have passed three new food trials bringing him up to a total of 13 foods I believe. New on the menu since the last update are lamb (which we thought he might have reacted to previously), salmon and pineapple and we’re now trialling white potato which is slightly higher risk but we think would be a good addition to his diet. So everything was going as smoothly as it can with an FPIES baby until he had an accidental exposure to dairy on Boxing Day. Unfortunately half a teaspoon’s worth was enough to send him to A&E as he was as white as a sheet, very lethargic and vomiting like nothing you’ve ever seen. Luckily after a while there must have been nothing left in his stomach at all and after a sleep he woke up looking much brighter so they let us go home. We obviously didn’t record any of it as we were focused on him but I almost wish we had so we could show people who are likely to be around him and food how ill he can get from just the tiniest bit of cow’s milk.

Sleeping: You know when you write a blog about people’s reactions when you say your kids are good sleepers – and then karma turns round and bites you in the bum? Max’s sleep has been awful since he had a bout of bronchiolitis a month or so ago. We made the transition yesterday from our room to the nursery (as his sister has now vacated it for her big girl room) and he lasted until half 10 before I brought him back in with me after getting up six times in the preceding half an hour. He seems to want different things each night: sometimes it’s clearly his teeth bothering him, sometimes he wants a cuddle, most the time he will settle a bit more if he’s in the bed with us but sometimes nothing works at all. Dylan wants to just leave him in the nursery to cry it out but I’m concerned firstly that he just wouldn’t settle and the long-term effect of that, and secondly that if he wakes Alexandra we then have two crying children to deal with (third reason would be we’re not exactly getting any more sleep than we would be if he was crying in the same room as us.

So that’s the round up of his nine month update. Let’s see what this month brings!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

No Two Are The Same

I read a really interesting Instagram post from Poppy Dinsey the other day – she’s got newborn twin boys (who are ADORABLE) and she wrote about how fascinating it was that they were so different when they’re being raised exactly the same way, at exactly the same time. I think it’s very easy to place a massive focus on what we as parents are doing when it comes to raising the children, and to almost forget that the child also has a say in how they’ll turn out. Some of it has got to be nature rather than nurture, right?
So many of us are obsessed with whether our baby will be a fussy eater, whether they’ll sleep through the night, whether they’ll have colic or reflux or any number of other common tiny person ailments. We read baby books and consult others who are further along in their parenting journey, and worry and fret constantly about how we’re bringing them up. And yet from day one they have their own little personality, very quickly they have likes and dislikes. And I guess part of the joy of parenting is discovering their little quirks? (Unless their quirks are just enjoying crying ALL the time).
Certainly for me, it’s very true that you can have two children who can be really different. And while no doubt there are some things we’ve probably changed in terms of our approach this time round, like maybe being more relaxed or caring less about whether it’s ‘okay’ to rock the baby to sleep, some of it is definitely influenced by them.
Cuddles is the area that springs to mind when I talk about this subject. Now, you could say my babies had very different experiences when it comes to cuddling. Alexandra had hardly any with me in the first few months of her life, although clearly had plenty with other people, and as a result whenever I tried to get her to lie on my chest or snuggle up with me later on down the line, she normally tried to head-butt me and squirm away as fast as possible. Max was in an incubator for a lot of the first two weeks of his life, so whenever we had the chance he was out and having cuddles. Now at nearly nine months old, I still spend a lot of time cuddling him. He likes to be rocked to sleep if he’s overtired or teething or just because. We are making progress with Alex though and she now asks for cuddles before bed! And sometimes she runs up to us and throws her arms around our knees or gives us kisses. Very cute.
Our teething experience has also been different. Alexandra didn’t pop a tooth out until she was nearly 11 months old and hasn’t ever really struggled so aside from a couple of sleepless nights there hasn’t really been any issue. Max has had a really hard time with his – the first one popped through this week and the second is nearly there. You can tell they’re really bothering him.
Max will be on first name terms with the doctors as soon as he can talk. Alex on the other hand has been to see the GP once (for a rash that I was pretty sure was viral but wanted a second opinion on). I hope I’m not jinxing that!
And Max definitely started babbling earlier than his sister and is much more vocal. Only time will tell if that means he’ll start talking sooner!
Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Paid To Breastfeed

This child would not have earned me £200.

Have you seen the most recent news about the results of a pilot scheme which sees mothers given up to £200 to breastfeed? The five-year trial saw moms in certain parts of the country given £120 in vouchers for certain shops if they said they were breastfeeding when their baby was six weeks old, and a further £80 if they were six months on

The experts are now recommending this be rolled out in a bid to up our breastfeed rates which are, when compared to the rest of the world, pretty shocking. Now let me start by saying I’m absolutely in favour of boob milk. If you can feed your baby and they’re happy and you’re happy then great! But this idea of paying people to do it makes me absolutely fuming! Seriously. My husband mentioned this story to me a couple of hours ago and I’ve been seething about it ever since. I think it’s disgraceful to essentially punish people (by not giving them the same financial opportunities as others) for something that could be entirely out of their control.

What about the mother who desperately wants to breastfeed and has spent days, weeks or even months trying to get their baby to latch on but they just won’t? (I had a baby who had six days of INTENSIVE breastfeeding support in hospital. Every single person who worked in the hospital she was born in had a go at trying to get her to latch, and she was just useless at it bless her. She was losing weight, she was in danger of becoming jaundice again and both she and I were pretty unhappy. Should I have stuck at it and potentially endangered her health?)

What about mothers who have conditions which mean they can’t breastfeed, or who are on medication that prevents them from doing so safely? Shall we just encourage people to delay their chemo for six months so they can get an Argos voucher? Or come off their antidepressants at the most vulnerable time of their life so they can pick up something nice from Debenhams?

What about those for whom breastfeeding, or the thought of doing so, has a completely negative effect on their mental health? I am absolutely all for breastfeeding where possible, but if it’s going to make you poorly doing it (or trying to do it) then you have to think about the long term health of yourself and your baby because clearly if you’re unwell that’s going to have an impact on them.

What about those who have to return to work really quickly after having their baby to support their family, perhaps if they’re not eligible for maternity pay or can’t afford to live on it, if dad isn’t around or is unable to work? Yes ideally you’d work somewhere where it would be possible to continue to breastfeed or express but we all know that’s not always feasible.

What about those who are simply too physical unwell to breastfeed? ‘Sorry you were in a coma six weeks after your baby was born but you REALLY should have tried harder to keep feeding her. No voucher for you!’ Yes, it’s extreme, but it does happen. I have heard SO many stories in the last two years about women who have been pushed to the brink physically by carrying and birthing their child so for them, whilst a lovely year-long breastfeeding journey that came to a end naturally when baby decided to wean would have been ideal, it’s just not possible to do it.

I can think of so many more examples where mom may really want to breastfeed but not be able to get to that six month, or even six week, mark. It may be easy to look at it as a simple choice of ‘I want to breastfeed’ or ‘I want to formula feed’ but I think in the majority of cases it’s much more complicated than that.

I also slightly object to the thought that we may need to give financial incentives to people. We’ve all seen the facts, breastfeeding has many benefits. If it works then it’s great (and let’s face it, you’re already getting the financial benefit of not buying formula or bottles or sterilising equipment), but you should want to do it because you’re aware of the advantages not because you’ve seen a new coat you’d like to buy with the vouchers.

Why aren’t we putting that money towards educating people about the benefits of breastfeeding?

Why aren’t we putting that money towards having more support for people who desperately want to breastfeed but can’t?

My other questions are: what about combi feeding? We seem to concentrate so much on the whole BF/FF debate but do you still get the money if you’re combi feeding like we are? Do you get a percentage of the money depending how much breast milk your baby has?

And who’s checking whether these people actually are breastfeeding? Have we got spies sitting in the local Starbucks checking who’s got a boob out? Or hiding in people’s wheelie bins peeking through their window to check if they’re sneakily making up a bottle of formula?

What a truly sad state of affairs if the only way to drive up breastfeeding statistics is to throw a bit of cash at people!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

All I Want For Christmas Is…

Having an under-table party. I wasn’t invited.

We’ve all got something we’d like the big bearded man from the North to bring us on the 25th, right? This year my Christmas list is depressingly short. I don’t want clothes because the fanciest place I go to is baby group. I don’t want books cause the last time I read a book was during my first pregnancy. Alcohol and chocolates are both out of the equation. And I have far too many socks already.

So I got to thinking, what would I REALLY like as a mother this year? Aside from all that guff about cheer and happiness and world peace. What would make my life about a zillion times better? Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive-at-all-I-just-wrote-this-while-they-napped-SIMULTANEOUSLY-for-once-HURRAH list:

The ability to go for a shower and not have to stop the water at least five times because I can hear imaginary baby cries. Or just to learn that they’re never crying and it IS just my imagination.

To go to the shops without coming back with some sweets that I had to bribe the toddler with and a new outfit for the baby even though he has more clothes than the Kardashians.

To go out and come back with all the baby socks, dummies and sippy cups I left the house with.

A Sunday morning where you look at the clock and say ‘nah, it’s only half nine, I won’t get up just yet’.

Naps to continue until both children go to school.

Delivery drivers to never arrive when either child is sleeping.

The toddler to decide she wants the first thing I suggest for lunch, not the 47th.

A washing up fairy.

Never to have that awful feeling when you lose sight of your kid at soft play, frantically search for them for a minute and then they suddenly appear in a place you’ve already looked five times.

For them to finally make the episode of Bing where Flop finally flips and tells him what an ungrateful, whiny little nause he is.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a week.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a day.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Eight Months Old

Smiley boy!

I almost forgot to do this update! Max has been eight months old since Sunday. Just look at his smiley face!

Movement: Still commando crawling and rolling around everywhere.

Sitting: Making good progress here and he’s sometimes now able to sit unaided for a couple of seconds.

Teeth: None but potentially some signs that he’s starting to teethe.

Brain: His MRI results came back and they’re confident it’s just a blood vessel anomaly and absolutely nothing to worry about which is reassuring.

Cough: Max is just getting over a bout of bronchiolitis which has been tough for him – lots of coughing, disturbed sleep, coughing so hard he’s sick, he’s been off his food, just not a good week at all.

Bottles: He’s only really having three now and it’s been a real struggle to get any milk into him, that may be the illness so I haven’t cut down expressing yet just in case he goes back up to four once he’s fully better.

Food: Potentially there was a reaction to lamb or turnip so we took both of those out of his diet and were due to re-try lamb on the dietician’s advice, but then he got ill so we haven’t added anything as it’d be difficult to tell if he was reacting or just poorly. He’s now having Neocate Spoon supplements to add some more calories into his diet. We’ve really struggled getting much food into him recently but hopefully his appetite will come back. We’re now down to: cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, peach, plum, Nutribrex cereal and coconut milk/yoghurt.

Toys: He absolutely loves some pom poms Alex won in a game of Halloween pass the parcel. Also liking his Nuby teething toy that goes in the fridge, his inflatable ring he can sit in (kindly donated by his cousin), jumparoo and anything that Alex plays with too, so he spends a lot of time ‘helping’ her build towers with her Lego!

Weight: He weighs 16lb 12 which puts him just above the 9th centile which is great news! We go back to his consultant in January who will be thrilled if he’s still following the same curve. Max is wearing mostly 6-9m clothes now and although most of his tops and t-shirts are fairly roomy, I think he’ll move up to the next size trousers roughly when he turns nine months if he carries on growing at the same rate.

Naps: Normally, Max has a nap in the morning from around 9.30am (slightly later sometimes) til approx. 11am. Then in the afternoon he’s most happy if we can get him to sleep from about 1.30pm to 3pm. This all varies of course depending on what we’re doing that day.

Babbling: He’s much more talkative than I remember his sister being at this age. He babbles constantly and it sounds like he says ‘okay’, ‘yeah’ and ‘hiya’ quite a lot although clearly he has absolutely no idea he’s doing it. He’s very expressive and one of those babies who ends up making friends in the queue at the supermarket as he’s normally very smiley.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Balance? Where Are You?

If I stopped going to Asda, I reckon I’d have about 89 extra free hours a week.
Kids are not dressed as it was pyjama week at baby class, not because I’ve given up.

Among the many glib cliché phrases used around/to/about mothers is this idea of ‘finding the balance’.

When you’re younger, finding the balance maybe means not getting completely off your face every weekend so that occasionally you can spend a Sunday doing something other than watching Netflix and crying cause your face feels like it’s going to fall off. Or sometimes not working late and coming home to actually cook something in your own kitchen.

Then you have a baby, and you’re encouraged to spend all your time gazing at this little tiny newborn because you’ll NEVER have this time back again and who cares about having clean pants anyway? But in reality did any of us heed this advice and stop doing the housework completely?

And then you get to a point in life where you have two children who basically take up 100 per cent of your brain space and most of your time, energy (and patience of course). And you find yourself wondering whether you’ve got the balance right?

I mean sure, on the face of it, we’re swimming along kind of okay and nothing has sunk yet and we all normally get fed and washed during the course of any one day. Some days the baby naps on me and I get to watch mindless television for two hours while also looking at Instagram because there’s nothing else you can do when squashed beneath a quietly snoring infant. Some days I cook something vaguely presentable for dinner that isn’t beige and has more than one vegetable in it. Some days I wear make up. I’ve had a shower every day since I got home from hospital with Alexandra, my firstborn, because I decided not showering dipped below my ‘lowest acceptable standard’.

But the thought of all the things I didn’t do again – well I try not to go there else I’d never switch off and go to sleep at the end of each day.

Between feeding (a lovely mixture of bottles, weaning and food for the toddler too, as well as eating ourselves), expressing, changing bums, getting dressed, going out and actually doing something with the kids, nursery drop off, nursery pick up, baby class, endless shopping trips for avocado and parsnips (because the baby can actually eat them), rocking to sleep for naps, baths, washing up (I have no idea how we manage to use the entire contents of our kitchen cupboards approximately 46 times every single day), I feel like there are so many things which get pushed to the bottom of the list.

I agreed to write a press release for someone weeks ago and only just did it today, I have more ironing than I’d like hanging on the back of the bedroom door, the house is vacuumed fairly regularly but jobs like wiping down the skirting boards and cleaning the oven get left or just half arsed very occasionally, there are all sorts of other things languishing at the bottom of my to do list which may just never get done.

And yet, I do have spare time. Maybe if I used the time while I’m expressing more effectively, or didn’t watch as much Netflix in the evening, or maybe got up a bit earlier, then I could achieve so much more with my day. I’ve joked before that when Dylan comes home and asks me what I’ve done, my stock answer is: ‘kept the children alive’. Sometimes, I’m actually deadly serious and I couldn’t tell you anything else I’ve managed.

Have any of us really got the balance right?

Does anyone go to bed thinking: yep done everything without burning myself out? Does it matter that some days I look like I got dressed in the dark? That I’ve been to the gym three times I think since Max was born back in March? That I have utterly no idea how I’m going to squeeze any work into this scenario once I finish my maternity leave at the end of the year?

I would put ‘try and find a balance’ on my to do list, but we all know it’d end up right at the bottom somewhere between ‘learn how to make soup’ and ‘pluck your eyebrows – they’re a state’.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

World Prematurity Day

Our super baby

I debated whether to write this blog as Max was only a little bit premature and it feels a bit like telling people you’re a trained mathematician just because you passed your maths GCSE. But the fact is he was born before ‘term’ and we did see inside the walls of an NICU unit, thankfully only for a short time. So it’s World Prematurity Day and I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing our journey – although I have talked about it in various different blog posts since Max was born this March.

When I was pregnant, we were warned repeatedly about the potential need to deliver baby well before he was ready to arrive. The goal was always 37 weeks which is classed as term, and we had an induction date set months before (April 8 was the date we were aiming for). At times during the pregnancy, reaching viability at 24 weeks seemed like an impossible task – but as it was we reached 32 before there was any sign of trouble. I was admitted for ten days and prepped for a potential induction with two steroid injections to help strength baby’s lungs.

At 34 weeks, we went for yet another growth scan which revealed baby had stopped growing and there were concerns over the blood flow from the placenta. I knew as soon as the sonographer said she needed to talk to the consultant that there was a problem and I’d probably be induced that night.

Two days later on March 26, I held my baby in my arms for the first time. We’d had no idea before birth whether he would be poorly, require oxygen or be absolutely fine. He came out breathing on his own and spent a happy 15 minutes lay on my chest before being taken up to transitional care by the team as I needed to spend six hours on the labour ward being monitored before they were happy to move me. By the time those hours were over, he had been transferred to the NICU with breathing difficulties.

The next few days were a whirlwind of antibiotics, different theories on what was actually wrong with him, tubes, wires, jaundice masks, doctors, nurses. Weirdly, given I’d just given birth and my baby was poorly, I don’t think I crumbled. Except when they told me Max needed to go on a ventilator as he was struggling. That was like someone had punched me square in the stomach. We went back up to my room on postnatal and listened to the healthy cries of healthy babies while mine was having a tube inserted down his windpipe. That got to me.

A whirlwind of emotions. Every day we just prayed for a stable day – not for anything good to happen, that was too hopeful, just a stable day. I expressed every three hours because it was something useful to do, even though he wasn’t drinking yet. I only went back to my ward to eat occasionally, express and take tablets. Then after a few days they let me transfer to the parent accommodation which was bliss as I had a bit of peace and quiet and most of all, I couldn’t hear other babies crying.

At 4lb 13, he was the biggest baby on the NICU but he still looked tiny to us! He showed us his character, tugging at his tubes whenever his breathing got stronger as if he was telling us he didn’t need them anymore, and no matter how often the nurses tucked him in, he insisted on having one foot resting on the little cosy rolls of sheets wrapped around him to make him feel safe in his roomy incubator.

By the time we got him home (one hospital transfer, one operation, one feeding routine established, one hell of a ride later), he just looked like Max to us. Yet when I look back at photos, he’s incredibly thin and still quite ill looking. Now, you’d never know. We chose not to share pictures of him on the ventilator, so any pictures on social media or here are either when he just has his feeding tube in or when he’s completely tube free. I don’t know whether we will in the future, but for now they’re just for us to look at and marvel how far he came in such a short period of time.

Before we had Max, I’d never really thought that much about premature babies although I’ve known a few people who’ve had them. But now I know, they are among the strongest beings out there. In the morning, things can be touch and go and by the afternoon they can be fighting again. They are so tiny but so fierce, and they are looked after by some amazing people who go above and beyond to keep them safe but also to look after you too.

Watching my prem baby go through everything he’s faced so far has truly humbled me. I will never stop telling him how proud I am that he has smashed every obstacle in his way to become a baby who no one would ever guess has had such a hard ride. I take my hat off to all prem babies fighting their incredible fight, but I especially take my hat off to my Maxi.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x