Tonight I made this for dinner and it was so good that I found myself doing that thing where I’m cleaning up and putting the leftovers away in the fridge and I think ‘oh i’ll just have one more bite’ and before long I’ve basically eaten another entire serving. #breastfeeding (or just #life)
Teo is 4 months old now. His thighs are little bit chubbier – he weighed 11.7 pounds(!!) at his 4 month checkup. His hair is still crazy long and falling out extremely slowly. When he isn’t hungry or tired, he is the smiliest baby I’ve ever met. He smiles with his whole face and sometimes he’ll even laugh. It is so crazy cute. He looks around with these big brown eyes that make you certain he knows it all already.
Mika is nearly 4 years old. And with so much going on right now (sleepless nights! new baby brother! nearly 4!) it’s very hard to pinpoint the source of our roller-coaster weeks, but it’s most likely the mix of everything anyway. The hardest days are when I’ve had less than 3 hours sleep and when Teo is having a rough time day-sleeping too and then M wants (read: demands) me to be her (very proactive) playmate for her make-believe games and then so I sort of half-ass it a bit to make her happy and then I serve her the dinner that I miraculously managed to make and she looks at it and says ‘nooooo i want toast with honey’ and the only way to stop myself throwing her out of the house is to put on my crazy high-pitched mika-mocking voice and say to her ‘noooo i want toast with honey’ until we are both sort of crying and sort of laughing and then i wonder if i am really fucking this/her all up.
But then she puts her little hand under my chin (yes UNDER MY CHIN) and says ‘mama, are you happy?’ and i think YES i am so unbelievably happy. Sure I wish i could sleep more and I wish she would eat more but most of the time i am really truly so stupidly happy. And she says ’cause if you’re sad then I’m sad too’ and i squeeze her and tell her I love her so much and she says ‘mama, is it cause i have a unicorn on my drink bottle?’ Ohh you got me Mika, yes, that is why I love you. Because of your unicorn on your drink bottle. And all the other silly reasons that are impossible to explain. (including how you choose a tutu to play in the dirt)
4 months in and she still loves her baby brother in a way that floors me. Early days still, obviously, but I’ll take it and marvel at it all the same. I wish I could film every little interaction she has with him, because so much of the sweetness is so subtle that it’s hard to explain. Sure she hugs him, gives him his pacifier when he’s crying, reminds us to take him out of the car (true story) and is extra gentle with him. But she also notices little things that he does, talks to him, coos over how cute his tiny clothes are, calls me to ‘come quickly! baby is doing something really cute!’ and will usually sit herself up and sleep with her head on my shoulder while i’m night-nursing.
So we don’t sleep very much. And each day has its challenges. But as stupid and cheesy as it sounds, I generally just feel thankful for it all. I just was speaking with a friend who is in a kinda stressful situation right now but she sounded totally great and she was like ‘yeah, I guess it’s maybe cause I want to be here right now and so I sort of embrace the hardness of it all.’ Which totally feels like where I am right now. Tired, exhausted, brain-dead…but happy. (Or maybe just riding the breast-feeding high, but i’ll take it).
Today you are 31 days old.
I can’t believe we’ve been staring at your beautiful face for an entire month. (Read: I can’t believe I haven’t had more than 3 hours sleep in a row for an entire month.) Ha, but no – also I can’t believe how much bigger you feel in my arms already, and how tiny you still look when I see people holding you.
But here we are, back to ‘normal’ life cause your papa has now gone back to work and so it is just you and me and your amazing big sister. (Quite honestly it blows my mind how much this girl loves you. You’re a lucky boy.) And what does normal life look like? It is a midnight, a 230am, a 530am and a 7am wake up with you. It is lying in bed trying to catch one extra hour sleep between 730 and 830am while your papa makes oatmeal for your sister. It is Mika suddenly taking full charge of herself and running in to wake me up at 830am to proudly show me her choice of clothing for the day. Sometimes it is kissing your sister and papa goodbye as they go off to school and work respectively. And then we hang out at home and I watch your gorgeous face when you’re awake and I try to do other things when you’re asleep (if you let me put you down). And sometimes it is the three of us heading out to paint playground or a dance studio or the open gymnastics. And somehow everything just keeps going.
I had one of my favourite ‘duh’ moment realisations the other day. One of those ‘this is IT’ moments. One of those ‘life happens while you’re busy making plans’ sort of moments. One of the best things about first time parenthood is the complete naivety. When Mika was about 6 weeks old I wrote that she was now sleeping like 5-8 hours at night! I remember thinking ‘woohoo! this is it! we’ve made it!’ and then it wasn’t until after many many more sleepless and sleep-full nights I realised that the only thing we can be sure of it that things will change. For better or for worse or just different – things will change.
This makes second-time parenthood a little bit easier and also a little bit sadder. But what it sort of makes me think about is that I don’t want to be living in my head waiting for it to ‘get easier’. Cause it sort of won’t. It will just get different. And so instead of trying hard to make it easier, or waiting for it to get easier, I find myself accepting it for what it is and enjoying these moments that will not last: the sleepless nights, your erratic newborn breathing, the sweet smell of your breath, soothing you with breastmilk, feeling like i’m covered in breastmilk all.the.time, how you sleep on me all day long, the quiet moments when you’re awake and we stare at each other for the longest time, your jerky baby movements…all of these things will pass.
But every day I feel like I am getting to know you a little bit more and I love every second of it. Your papa and I can’t quite believe how lucky we are.
Looking after a 1 year old is not as easy as I’ve been under the impression it is.
Well as you’ll know if you follow this blog, Ivan and I have spent the majority of the last 16 months chasing our families around the globe. We’ve been lucky enough to have lived with my mum and dad and close to many of our closest friends for the first 8 months of Mika’s life and then for the last 4 months we’ve been living minutes away from Ivan’s entire family in Mexico with Ivan’s mum coming to help care for Mika every single day. It has been amazing.
And now, all of a sudden it’s just me and Mika from 8 til late in a city where I know less than a handful of people and I can actually start to appreciate how much work it all is. It’s not bad work, it’s just a logistical thing rather – like I have to think strategically about when and how I’m going to take my shower, cook lunch, go toilet (?!), head out for a run, shower after our run (or not?), visit a coffee shop etc. It’s cool, we’re on like day 4 and we’ve totally got it down. But until the other day when I was busting to go toilet and Mika was all like ‘hey mum look i’m climbing the stairs!’ and I was all like ‘woah, can you hold on like two minutes?’ I had never really even considered it could be an issue. And the other day we went running together. Mika chilling out in our awesome extreme rental jogging stroller (long story) and me getting my sweat on and then we get home and she’s all buzzing and awake and I realise that there is no way I’m getting a shower in now until Ivan gets home. No big deal, but just…something I never thought about before as there has always been someone nearby who could watch her for me!
So now I can join the mums who actually care for their babies on their own club rather than the ‘I get so much support that I somehow still have time to go running on my own, cook gourmet lunches, shower and style my hair each day’ club. Does that make me more legit?
Working out and using our lonely self-timer on the camera makes us pretty much awesome.
Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been a legitimate mama until now. How can I compare with women who are alone with their babies from 7 til 7 each day from birth? They’re like the epitome of strong and amazing. I dunno – surely I would have adapted and managed just fine if I’d needed to – but I feel like we had the option to take the help and it’s honestly made things so enjoyable and easy for us, I can’t imagine it any other way. At first I was skeptical about it all. When I was pregnant, the last thing I wanted was to be around extended family and have them all up in our space. But now? There’s plenty of time for us to have our own space. We’ll end up settling down somewhere eventually and chances are it won’t be NZ or Mexico and we won’t have the support that we’ve had for the last year. So the time that Mika has had with both my parents and Ivan’s is really important to us and we’re so glad that it was possible.
I feel like I’m trying to justify my decisions here! I know I don’t need to justify anything to anyone and I know that everyone has different experiences and situations. I just want to share my positive experience of having our family and friends really close to us during the first year of Mika’s life incase there’s anyone out there who is wondering ‘do I want to be close to my family or my in-laws while I’m pregnant/our baby is little?’ because we could have easily decided the other way but I’m so glad we didn’t!
If anyone else has a positive experience of receiving great support (from family or friends) during their child’s first year I’d love to hear about it!!
Today is a new day. I’ve spent the last 30 hours with my eyes glued shut, in bed with an sore body and a terrible stomach ache. It’s such a brutal reminder that we are so fragile. From one day to the next we can become bedridden and completely reliant on other people. And thankfully I have someone who treats me like a queen when I’m sick.
This morning I felt like I hadn’t seen Mika in forever. Ivan had only brought her to me every 4-5 hours for breastfeeding. And this morning I thought about how that would feel if I was no longer breastfeeding and Ivan had given her a bottle – I wouldn’t have seen her at all for 30 hours and the thought made me sad. There are so many reasons that I am excited to stop breastfeeding (I get my body back!) but at the same time there are so many reasons that I am terrified to stop. It’s my time with just her. Our time where we sit in silence together for a short while 4 times a day. It’s peaceful and close and gentle and I don’t want to lose that. Of course I know that there will be other ways we can spend time together and it will be special. But I can’t help but be a little sad to lose this time.
No-one told me it would be like this. Or perhaps they did, but they just didn’t stress it enough. But now I understand: When someone tells me they’re pregnant the last thing I want to do is go all crazy eyed on them and say that they will not know what a good night’s sleep feels like for an incomprehensibly long time. That they should savor the long lazy morning sleep-in, because what they’re really giving birth to is an alarm clock without a snooze button that is permanently set to 5am, or 6am or maybe if you’re very lucky, 7am. I do not want to be the party-pooper who tells them this, and so instead I smile and congratulate them and assure them that it’s all worth it. I’m not lying, it is worth it, but dammit that doesn’t make it any easier.
Mika was a very easy newborn. She would fall asleep without fuss and would often do 5-6 hour stretches through the night. I can only remember a handful of very unsettled nights.
But now things are different. We put her down around 7 or 8. She’s usually asleep already because I give her the boob after her bath and she passes out. If she doesn’t fall asleep on my boob, we still try to put her down but instead we will endure deafening screams and breath-stealing sobs, and our little girl will throw herself around her little cot as though in a fighting cage.
If we sit with her long enough she’ll eventually fall asleep. We take turns with this, and neither of us can ever believe the other when we emerge from the bedroom only to be told ‘oh, it was only 20 minutes!’ Twenty minutes in that dark room can feel like hours.
At 11pm she wakes, I feed her the boob and she sleeps, in her own bed, until the wee hours of the morning.
At 2am she’s awake and Ivan brings her to our bed. What would happen if we didn’t bring her to our bed? We are yet to discover this as by this stage Ivan and I are actually still half asleep and have no desire to stand in her bedroom hovering over her until she calms down. So she’s plopped between us, she rolls towards me and frantically searches for my boob. I feed her lying down so I don’t need to wake up, and this repeats throughout the night. I have no idea how often she wakes up, I just lie there like an all-night boob buffet for her to snack on as she pleases. Usually it’s about 4 times a night. Yeah, four times.
At 6am she’s ready to face the day. Ivan and I are not. So we take turns, two mornings in a row each. That little sleep in every couple of days is bliss and is probably what is keeping us alive right now.
If someone had told me I would soon consider a 5 hour sleep to be luxurious, I would never have believed them. I really didn’t want to write a cliche post about being sleep deprived parents (because now that I AM a parent, I hear about this all the time. Why couldn’t I hear it before?) but if this blog is a document of our lives, then it would be wrong to not talk about this.
I often wonder why I’ve been struggling to find the right words. Why I think in cliches and why speaking Spanish has been a lot harder to pick up than I remembered. I’ve been wondering why it’s so easy to keep exercising but so hard to say no to unnecessary carbs. I’ve been wondering why every week I get an uncontrollable twitch in my right eye that lasts for a couple days. Why why why? The answer, my friends, is sleep deprivation.
Like a chronic disease, we are living with this deprivation daily and trying to manage it the best we can. We often think of our friends who have been here before us and suddenly their cranky moods, erratic behaviour, unhealthy diets and lack of humour and imagination all makes sense. Thankfully they’re all still alive, so suggestions that sleep deprivation leads to death aren’t entirely terrifying.
When we talk of ‘the day we’ll get some sleep’ we can’t imagine it. We have truly forgotten what it feels like. Similar to the person sitting on the couch, 20 kilos overweight and eating donuts who has forgotten what it feels like to be healthy, we, with twitching eyes and foggy heads have forgotten what it feels like to be awake.
We go about our day and we love and we enjoy and we remember little moments, but sometimes it feels like everything is just out of reach. Are we awake? Are we dreaming? We just don’t know. Maybe that’s why I write. The words won’t be imaginative, the plot might be lost, but at least it’s proof that we’ve been here, that we lived and that we weren’t just waiting for the storm to pass. We have learned how to laugh, how to cherish, how to smile and how to dance through it all. If this is how much we can achieve and how much we can enjoy life now, I can’t help but feel a teeny bit giddy at the thought of what we’ll achieve when we might finally get some sleep.