Mar 26, 2011

A week with the little one

This week, baby-boy and I were on our own. Hubby needed to travel to Paris on business, and so we were left to our own devices from Monday night till Friday afternoon. I had been panicking about this scenario for weeks ... how on earth was I going to manage an entire day, several times in a row, with baby-boy and his needs? It seemed like an insurmountable task and I was therefore none too happy when Monday rolled along and hubby had to say goodbye.

I had initially asked my mom to come out and help this week, but she declined to do so preferring to see baby-boy in his early days rather than now. In my desperation to battle loneliness, baby-fatigue and general exhaustion, I did something I rarely ever do: I enlisted the help of my friends.

It occurs to me now how lucky I am. We've only been in Montreal a little over 18 months, and yet I knew enough people to call on in this time of need. I arranged for several friends to share the burden of helping me out. Some came in the morning; others came during the evening. I kept the afternoon's "free" for baby-boy's and my naps. 

Asking friends for help turned out to be great. Not only did I have an extra set of hands in the house to take care of various tasks such as cooking, refilling the humidifiers, clearing out the dishwasher, etc, but it also allowed me to pass on baby-boy to their arms when I wanted to shower or check a few emails. What's more, we had a lot of time for conversation - a luxury that often passes us by due to the hectic pace of life. Baby-boy's need to be held and cuddled forced us to sit down and listen to each other. In all, the week turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Well, except for a few hiccups created by the bureaucracy of Quebec. Unfortunately, I could not escape various headaches and painful phone calls with the bureau that is supposed to be paying me my maternity leave. We've now had several letters and conversations back-and-forth, not to mention several trips outside the house to get all the paperwork sorted. And it never seems to be what they want. I finally got someone competent (I hope) on the phone who explained the proper procedure to me. Why they can't write that in the letter, I'll never know. It seems like they want to make it as difficult and vague as possible. Not only that, but I also found out that the english translation of the instructions are incorrect -- wonderful. It made for one hellish day on Thursday. And I missed most of my afternoon naps this week as a result. But I overcame it with only a tear or two escaping my eyes. I am determined not to cry over some damned red tape that has resulted in a nearly two-month delay in income.

Needless to say, baby-boy and I are thrilled that hubby is now back. I had planned a balloon-themed "Welcome home daddy"-signed airport pickup, but it wasn't to be -- too much traffic at 3pm on a Friday to make it to the airport before hubby was through. 

So here's to great friends; the ones who come through when you ask them for a huge favor, and do so with a smile on their face!

Mar 22, 2011

$20 for a backache

Hubby has taken off to Paris this week, so I'm on my own with baby-management duties. So far, it's not too bad. The most challenging times are the crying periods in early morning and early evening. Part of the challenge is that I'm trying to get baby-boy to stretch his feeding times somewhat, because he should be able to manage 3-hour stretches by now, with occasional shorter periods (per my book). Of course, I still feed on demand, but this new trial tends to give my nipples a much needed break. The cost is that my breasts tend to feel more engorged between feedings. You win some, you lose some.

Luckily, I have some very good friends here in Montreal willing to help me out. The wife of a work colleague is coming around every morning staying until our nap time. Another friend will come round the last two evenings. This way, time will pass quickly and it'll be Friday before you know it. Let's just hope hubby returns safe and sound, free of winter storms and famous French strikes.

I'm also kick-starting my exercise routine again. Next week will be mommy-and-strollers, outdoor exercise. I'm already kinda freaking out about baby-boy being warm enough for an hour of outdoor sleeping, and I'm planning on wrapping him up well. Today, I tried a mommy-and-baby yoga class which I could "drop into" for a mere $20. This seems expensive to me, but I thought I'd give it a try. Generally, I'm not a fan of yoga, but when babies are involved it would seem that the yoga has a lower emphasis.

The class was so-so on the success scale. Baby-boy seemed to appreciate the massage he got and was fascinated by me moving around, hovered above him, doing some very basic stuff that hardly seems like the kind of kick-ass yoga I'm familiar with (and detest). Of course, he decided he wanted feeding mid-class, and promptly spewed all of it up on the polished wooden floor. Mostly, the class seemed to consist of walking around while holding your baby. This part seems a large waste of time and money as far as I'm concerned. Walking around holding the baby is what I do at home when baby-boy is fussy. And if I do it for more than 3 minutes, my back and wrists give out. Which is exactly what happened today. 

So in the end, I paid $20 to get a backache. No thanks. I think I'll spend that $20 elsewhere to baby-boy's benefit. And when it comes to the baby massage he seemed to love, I can always do it at home.

Mar 20, 2011

Maternity leave

Baby-boy is now a month old already. Time has flown by. He's bigger, yet still tiny in many ways. But he's definitely different. He's starting to look around him, taking in his surroundings. And he's beginning to interact, though it's still early. He has reached out to grasp my hand, but I think it's largely accidental that he connects as his muscle movements seem to be mostly random. He has a new habit of grabbing the neckline of my t-shirt whenever I hold him, so clearly that is at least partly intentional. He is doing better and better lifting his head during tummy time, showing his increased strength. And he does a great job of kicking me in the gut or punching my breast - all of which are unintentional (I think). 

More impressively, he seems to have gained efficiency in breast feeding, often nursing for merely five minutes before pulling away and promptly falling into a post-feeding frenzy coma. With the aggressive feeding comes lots of burping and spitting up (hubby calls him "little piranha"). All of this is normal, per the net. I've also learned today that at this point he should be feeding about 7-9 times a day and I'm still clocking 12-13 feedings daily. This would perhaps explain the short bouts of feeding. Maybe I'm doing it too soon and too often. I'm going to try a new routine with him and instead find ways to entertain him when he fusses, which per the net could be reasons for crying (rather than the need to feed).

So I've uncovered the Snugli that someone gave us (which smells of another woman's perfume and therefore will need to go through a wash cycle soon since I can't abide perfumes of any kind). He's happily snuggled against my chest. This trend probably won't last long since my back doesn't hold out with this kind of thing at all. But it is an amazing trick to keep him very content.

Amidst all this, I've been in the process of applying for maternity leave with the Quebec government. Supposedly, this was to be a "simple" process of signing on online and hey-presto, you'd get your cheque. Instead, it has turned out to be a major bureaucratic hassle like most things here, except that instead of standing physically in line this time I'm phoning and mailing lots of information back and forth. Nothing is ever easy: first, the online sign-in program isn't Mac compatible, so I had to do it by phone (therefore slower). Second, my company had given me mat leave a week too early, thus giving me a half-pay for the last week, which was totally unexpected and quite annoying. That meant that after my phone sign-in with the government, I had to phone them back to change the information. It also meant that I was close to running past the 3-week deadline you have to sign up for this stuff and I had to pay 32 dollars for an overnight guarantee letter delivery. Third, since I'm not (yet) a permanent resident, the government (of course) needs to see all kinds of proof of residency and work permits, etc. I sent them photocopies of everything, but promptly got a blue sheet back on which the box "only original documents are accepted" was duly ticked. Highly annoying, but understandable. This requires me making a trip to a notary or similar tomorrow in order to get certified copies of all my documents.

So much for the "easy" online system. I'm really going to have to give some proper feedback to the HR person at work who told me about this. At the very least, people in a similar position as me could aim to prepare all the necessary documentation upfront and be prepared to "sign up" before the baby was actually born. It's certainly much easier to get stuff done when the baby is still in the womb, rather than on a 1.5 hour feeding schedule.

The end result: it's been well over a month since I got a pay cheque, and I doubt anything will come through in the next week or two. So money is running out. To the point where I'm having to decide to buy only essential items during grocery shopping, and leave everything else. Not something I thought I would need to be doing shortly after giving birth...

Mar 16, 2011


A quick update on baby-boy's growth. We had a follow up visit with the doctor yesterday and he now weighs an impressive 4.4 kg (or 9.2lbs). Still growing at a massive rate of 42g per day. Clearly, no issue with breast milk, but the doctor says it's no wonder my nipples have been torn apart. The solution: basically none until he feeds less often per day. We're working on it. 

The longer feeding gaps seem to be working at night anyhow. Last night I "only" had to wake up at midnight, 4am and 7am. All in all, not such a bad deal. Even so, I still feel the need for my early afternoon nap!

The reggae touch

We made a discovery: baby-boy loves Bob Marley. We'd read online that babies like the sound of reggae and similar music that has a consistent beat mixed with laid-back vocals. So I wasn't surprised that baby-boy appreciated 50 Cent, played from my laptop's iTunes. This spurred me to dig up my (very old) CD case holder and look for my Bob Marley album. I don't think I've listened to any of the CDs in this case for at least 10 years. But habit made me keep them, since they don't take up much space.

And baby-boy is all over it. I sing and dance with him through the first two songs, while my back, wrists and voice still hold out. When I get tired, I sit down with him and jiggle him to the beat. By the fourth song in the album, he's dozing off - the perfect opportunity to lay him in his crib.

Of course, the crib is totally useless when he gets the hiccups, which is often. Like now. Coming, baby-boy!

Mar 12, 2011

Snorts, gurgles and cries

Baby boy is now three weeks old. Time seems to have gone by fast. And yet slow. Days can be long, especially if he's particularly fussy or feed-demanding which can sometimes happen on an hourly basis. Still, we're starting to get used to each other.

He seems to be awake a bit longer during the day. Hubby and I have been trying to find good ways to keep him entertained, rather than just lying awake in his crib. Sometimes he seems happy to stare at the ceiling fan or some other intrigue unbeknownst to us. Other times, he gurgle-cries and does his rapid-breathing technique to indicate he is stressed/bored or some other emotion not yet clear to us.

But we're finding a routine. Slowly. Not an exact science, to be sure. However, I know that he has longer waking periods during the morning hours. He tends to nap a lot during the afternoon - enough so that I have to wake him for regular feeding. He has another wakeful period late afternoon/early evening. These can be "bad" crying periods. And two nights out of three, he seems to understand that nighttime is largely for sleeping, barring a few feeding frenzies. When that is the case, I actually feel fairly well rested during the day. Still, I typically nap at least once a day to keep my energy levels up. And hubby typically takes over at about 9pm when I sleep till midnight or so, before a night of sleeping/feeding cycle.

I haven't yet managed to find a way to do some work in between time. Most of my hours are taken up by feeding, changing, washing the baby, washing the dishes, doing laundry, etc. Yesterday, hubby was away most of the day, and we went to the market place together. I carried baby-boy in my chimparoo-sling thing; it worked great for him, but nearly killed my back (and it's only 4 blocks to the market). So I don't think that'll work out for very much longer. I'm considering returning the sling to the store and using the credit/money for other baby stuff. It seems like a waste otherwise.

It's fun to see baby-boy grow so much already. In fact, two outfits were never worn because he was too big from day one, and he's starting to outgrow a few others. He's feeding well and growing strong. My nipples are suffering and we had a frustrating day with a breast feeding expert this week who told me to try a new position. The first day of this "football hold" was a disaster for all concerned, but we seem to have found the trick to making it work. Although I'm not able to sit upright yet to do it, so it's another back killer. The expert also told me to use some special cream to heal the wounds that have formed on the sides of my nipples ... not sure if it's really working as the gaps remain but I'll try it for the recommended 7 days and see. In any case, I see my own doctor again next week.

Baby boy weighed 4080 grams as of Tuesday, a slight reduction in growth rate from 52g a day to 39g a day. But still well above the average which is good. 

And now, time for a nap, methinks.

Mar 6, 2011

Nap disruptions

So all the guides tell you to nap while the baby sleeps - as if this would make up for all the lost sleep at night time feedings. It's a nice idea, in theory. But in practice, here are things that happen during the daytime, inevitably the moment my head hits the pillow:

- the building fire alarm goes off (for the first time ever); after some panic and trying to get the baby dressed for freezing temps, we realize it's a false alarm and the neighbors turn it off

- the gigantic snow plow that usually comes at 4am, decides to come at 3pm and clear the parking lot outside our bedroom

- the neighbours decide that now is the time to boogy to "forget you" and similar boom-bangy-stomp music (nothing wrong with their sound system and amplifier)

- other neighbours think it's the right moment to clear their storage area (right above our bedroom, and no insulation in the wood floors)

- and then, of course, is the sleep-talking by baby-boy himself, but at least I can forgive him that for it is a sign he's alive and well

So much for that then.

Mar 5, 2011

Bleary-eyed morning

Probably not the best time or day for me to be updating on week 2, given that last night baby-boy decided to be awake for three hours and demand entertainment. None of which, either from dad or mom, was good enough to keep the boy from practicing his lung power. Not all nights are like these, but I'd say he has a similar episode on a daily basis, usually when I'm at an all-time energy low and really need some sleep. We push through, dad and I. But it's not always easy. Hence, even though it's nearly 10.30am and I supposedly caught up on some of that lack of sleep this morning, I'm still rather bleary eyed and fuzzy brained.

This week baby-boy's oma is here. My mom's been a great help for holding the baby long enough so that I can shower, eat, tidy the house some and even attempt to cook once in a while. Although oma's food shopping skills leave something to be desired - she returned with a $60 piece of roast beef when all we needed was some organic chicken for a stir fry. Live and learn. We blame the combo of Quebecois french and oma's inexperience with the market place butcher. As a friend of mine put it, "well, it's still cheaper than eating out". I guess so. But it's the first time in my life I spent so much money on meat.

Baby boy already seems to be growing and changing. We had another two hospital visits this week. The first was a follow up with our regular family doctor, who calculated he's grown 52 grams a day since last week. She was so surprised (since this is more than double the minimum growth desired), that she had to calculate it twice to make sure it was correct. So he's growing, and growing fast. 

I'm less surprised by this than the doctor. After all, I'm the one with the bruised nipples from avid feeding behavior that has nothing to do with "bad latching", and everything to do with "greedy suckling". So much so that baby-boy himself developed a blister on his upper lip from sucking too hard ... this usually only happens with bottle-fed babies, per the internet. Well, he likes his food apparently. I can't complain at all, even with the nipple soreness, because as long as he's growing and healthy, he's doing well.

The second hospital visit was with the cardiology specialist - a follow up for his heart arrhythmia and tiny hole. There was a lot of confusion about this visit when we were being discharged from the birthing centre, and it seems like the pediatrician failed to listen to me when I said the visit aught to be 4-6 weeks after his birth. Instead, the pediatrician recommended 1-2 weeks after his birth, and so on Friday we rocked up at the other hospital. We were 20 minutes early, but no one was at reception. Half an hour later when this situation didn't change, I decided to investigate. Apparently, the doctor decided to move her clinic to a floor upstairs. Without telling us. Or leaving a note on the door.

So half an hour wasted, and we reach the other cardiology area (where we had the first tests). Here we find out that several emergencies had taken priority that morning and so "things were delayed". They weren't kidding. Three hours later, we had finally seen the doctor and gotten our ultrasound. Baby-boy behaved himself like a star, even though he got the hiccups during the ultrasound. But the doctors kept asking us why we were there so "soon" after the birth ... one thing about the hospital systems here is that it seems hampered by severe communication problems; even within the same hospital between nurses and doctors ... 

Anyhow, the doctor reinforced what we already knew. Not to worry about the hole. It'll likely close within 1-2 years. Meanwhile, we're to come back in 6 months' time. 

As for me, by and large I feel better this week than last. I'm more able to cope with the changes, although it can be difficult at times to remember to enjoy these moments when baby-boy is still really tiny. Mostly, it's just one thing after another and making it through the day, day by day. Hubby is planning a 4-day business trip later in the month, which is already making me somewhat nervous; I have no idea how all the single moms do it!