Scritch Scratch

Nursling 2 likes to hold her food now, whether it comes on a spoon, in rusk form, or from the breast. At the same time, her rate of fingernail growth seems to have doubled. No matter how much I cut the things they remain sharp and scratchy!

As she breastfeeds her little fingers grab fistfuls of skin and scratch!

They make nipple shields to protect that part but I need something to protect the rest. I wonder if such a thing exists.

The Transfer

Long gone are the days of transferring nursling 1 into her bed when she falls asleep in the car or the rocking chair. Evidently she has decided that she’s too big for this. Luckily she has also evidently decided she is too big to fall asleep in the car or rocking chair anyway, and happily talks herself to sleep in her cot.

Nursling 2, however, falls asleep in the car on almost a daily basis, and when the circumstances are right the transfer is successful. Achieving the right circumstances is a finely balanced thing with a toddler in the house! It goes something like this:

  • Arrive home.
  • Unload the toddler, the nappy bag and any shopping out of the car. Carefully avoid hitting the toddler with any of the bags as you open the front doors (she likes to be where the action is).
  • Explain that you’re just going back out to the car to retrieve “sister”. This should prevent any freaking out so long as the toddler isn’t too hungry or tired herself.
  • Gently, gently untangle the baby’s hands from her car toys.
  • Gently gently undo the straps and pop them over baby’s shoulders.
  • Carefully pick up the baby, avoiding snagging her legs on the tethering strap of the rearward facing capsule/travel system.
  • Tuck the baby’s face into your shoulder and pat them back to sleep if whinging occurs.
  • Juggle holding baby in cradle position and opening both doors. Even though you only shut one, the toddler is sure to have shut the second. Avoid hitting the toddler with the door, as she’s probably still standing behind it.
  • Sneak quietly down to the bedroom and carefully wrap the baby.
  • “Shhhhh” the toddler, tell her “sister is sleeping. Repeat this step as often as necessary. Hope she doesn’t decide to start shouting.
  • Lay baby down in her bed and shoo the toddler out of the room before she wakes up the baby.

Sound simple enough, right?

Just when you have all this mastered (and feel a bit like supermum) the toddler will throw you a curve ball. Cue the noisy toy.

Yesterday, I’d just finished wrapping up nursling 2, who successfully stayed asleep (hooray!), when nursling 2 picked up and started blowing on the tin whistle, that up until that point I had no idea was on the bedroom floor. Nursling 2’s eyes flew open wide, with a rather shocked expression on her face accompanying this rude return to the land of the awake.

Oh dear. Time for some quick thinking. I hurriedly confiscated the tin whistle from nursling 1. Handed her a shoe which was lying around to distract her from the confiscation and stop the inevitable crying. Luckily nursling 1 absolutely loves books, so I had very little trouble convincing her to go find a book for mummy to read her, and using the time she took to find a book, managed to pat nursling 2 back to sleep, lay her in her bed and dart out the door before nursling 1 could return.

We read the book of choice. Nursling 2 stayed asleep. Two happy girls and one happy mum. Hooray!

 

Almost Civilised

We haven’t done a together feed in a while. Nursling 2 is getting bigger and bigger and there is only so much room on my lap, and besides that, the girls have very rarely wanted to milk at the same time. But the other day they did. So we curled up together, the three of us, in the rocking chair for both girls to have milk at the same time, and I was surprised to find that the experience had become civilised. There was no kicking, no squirming, no poking or hair pulling. Nursling 1 looked lovingly at nursling 2, nursling 2 looked back at her and reached out her hand, and they held hands peacefully. Not needing to fend either child of off the other, I relaxed and enjoyed the moment.

Well, that is until nursling 2 finished. At which point, smiling happily she commenced poking, hair-pulling and kicking her sister, who admittedly took this pretty well and continued to feed undeterred.

Sigh.

I will revel in that small moment of peace and perfection.

This Is My Story

This week, 13-19 November, is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness week.

After experiencing mental illness after the births of both of my children, perinatal mental health is a subject close to my heart. Although much is changing, and campaigns such as Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness week are increasing awareness within the community and beginning to break down barriers, there is still much stigma, misinformation and lack of awareness that still needs addressing. It is very common for parents (yes, dads too!) to experience mental illness during pregnancy and after baby is born. Sadly, many mums and dads still find it hard to speak up about it. All new parents need support to stay mentally and emotionally healthy, and those that do experience mental illness need extra support on their road to recovery.

Like many women, I found it hard to speak up about my own experiences with mental illness after my first daughter was born, and chose to share my struggles with only a few people for quite some time. Closer to the birth of my second daughter I plucked up the courage to share with my church. As you may expect it became impossible to keep it under wraps any longer once I was admitted to Helen Mayo house with Puerperal Psychosis when my second daughter was almost 2 months.

Today I want to share with you my own experiences with perinatal mental illness. I hope that by doing so I can help to create awareness, reduce stigma, help anyone out there who might be struggling now to feel less alone, and help break down the barriers that are making it hard for parents to speak up.

My journey began with a healthy and happy pregnancy with my first daughter. Aside from the morning sickness that lasted until birth I was physically well. Aside from stress related to my mother being unwell in the last month of pregnancy I was also mentally well. After normal, straightforward labour my daughter was born healthy, took to breastfeeding like a duck to water and was also quite a settled baby.

Then day 3 came around and I warned my husband, “I might be a bit emotional today as my milk comes in”. Sure enough I was. I was amongst the 80% of women who experience the baby blues. I expected it to get better over the next few days, but the random bouts of tears and mood swings continued and over the next few weeks morphed into postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression (PND) sapped my energy and motivation, it took away my appetite, it made me feel incredibly guilty and think that my parenting was not good enough. It made me think that everyone was judging me, made me feel cold towards the child that I knew deep down I loved very much and it made me feel sure that she cried because she hated me. It took much of the joy out of parenting. But the worst part was the intrusive thoughts that would just pop into my head unbidden and were often about my baby getting hurt.

I was fortunate to be educated about PND and sought help from my GP and a psychologist and it wasn’t too long before things began to get better. When my first daughter was 8 months old I became pregnant with my second and by that time, although I hadn’t completely recovered, I was almost there. Unfortunately around this time, baby number one started to go through a really rough sleep phase. Lack of sleep was definitely a trigger and I began to struggle again and this time irritability hit the hardest and was what I had to work hard to tackle. Eventually baby number one started sleeping well again, and was even sleeping through the night in her own room by 14 months.

Then, sometime during second trimester the depression came back with a vengeance. Some days the intrusive thoughts were relentless. It made it hard for me prepare myself emotionally for a new child! And so I trundled off the my GP again and with the help of sertraline (Zoloft) and my psychologist things began to get better again (although the first few weeks of medication was unpleasant to say the least).

Then my second daughter was born. I fell in love with her straight away, she also took to breastfeeding well and I even sailed past day three without getting the baby blues. I started this blog to share some of the funnier moments of parenting two breastfeeding girls and everything was going well. Around the 6 week mark started to feel a bit flat so I made an appointment with my psychologist, but before I saw them, to coin a figure of speech, “all hell broke loose”. We were off to take nursling 1 too see the snow on Lofty (rare as hen’s teeth) when conspiracies started sprouting from every corner, the radio was transmitting secret messages about rainbows and the snow on Lofty was a result of cloud-seeding by an unknown terrorist group. My husband took me to the doctor, then to ED, who linked us in with the community mental health team and after about a week I had scored a bed at Helen Mayo house (a mother and baby psychiatric unit), where I’d stay for 6 weeks.

Puerperal Psychosis (PP) was like a roller coaster. There were the highs, when I had so much energy I was going to clean the house and save the world and run marathons whilst baby-wearing nursling 2, when I felt at one with the universe and a deep connection with both girls, when I thought I could come up with groundbreaking theories that would wow society. There were the lows, when I was inexplicably irritable and snappy, when I was convinced I was being spied on, that the world was going to end, or that there were agents of the devil all around. There was also the plain weird (and at times kind of amusing), when I seriously suggested that the zoo should get some Velociraptors to increase their revenue.  PP also made me incredibly forgetful, so that I could walk past the same whiteboard at Helen Mayo 10 times a day and each time have to re-read what was on it because I’d forgotten.

With the right medication, rest and time I began to get better. The crazy thoughts became less convincing and eventually disappeared entirely, and the mania went away. Nursling 2 is approaching 6 months of age, and it close to 3 months since I left Helen Mayo House. I am doing well, but will be on medication for a while, and am tackling side effects such as drowsiness and a tendency to gain weight. Support and self care are still really important, as is getting enough sleep to stay well. I know I still have a way to go before things are really back to normal.

If you got this far, thank you for letting me share my journey with you. If you’d like to learn more about perinatal mental illness, check out the links below:

https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents

http://www.panda.org.au/practical-information/about-postnatal-depression

http://www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/

 

 

 

Words, Words Everywhere!

Last night nursling 1 could be heard running around the lounge room announcing “I am NOT ticklish!”

In the last few months her vocabulary has expanded hugely and her love of books has grown just as much. Currently her favourites are anything Spot or Hairy Maclairy and friends. Most evenings I can be found with nursling 2 sitting on one knee trying to grab any book (or any other thing really) that I am holding and nursling 1 bringing me a book, snuggling into my lap to be read to before getting up to find another book. Aside from reading the several Spot and Hairy Maclairy books that we own over and over and over and over, we also borrow from the library, and you guessed it, the latest borrowing included a book about tickling.

It is really quite astounding how nursling 1 can remember and repeat so much from the books we read. Another new skill she has picked up is making the connection between things that are alike. If there is a  minuscule circle somewhere, she will find it. Milk is still quite important to her, and so the other day when I was occupied feeding nursling 2, she wandered over to daddy, pointed to daddy’s shirt and asked, “Daddy milk?”.

Sadly, “daddy milk” brings only disappointment. But the wait for “mummy milk” seems to still be worth it, and ends with a happy, satisfied toddler.

Missing Pieces

With a toddler in the house, objects turn up in the strangest of places. There are, for example, the multiple instances of pieces of food turning up days later all shriveled and dried up in toys that open and close or just have holes of appropriate sizes. I once found a plastic spoon in my mop water, and clothes pegs of course turn up just about everywhere you could think of.

Shoes seem to be a particular favourite of Nursling 1’s to stash stuff, whether it be nicely squishy food, or hard plastic toys; either way not so fun when you put the shoe on and aren’t expecting it! Recently she’s also taken to putting “fluff” (aka: anything I picked up off the floor including hair, actual fluff, small pieces of paper, sticker or other grot) in the bin which is quite sensible, except that other things end up there as well, like pegs and shoes.

We have a great toy library near us, so I’ve started borrowing the types of toys that we don’t have any of ourselves for Nursling 1 to develop different skills. Most recently we borrowed a set of big building blocks, which are awesome. At the end of the day I did my normal check to make sure all pieces were there. Shock, horror, one piece was missing. ‘No worries’, I thought, we’ve got 4 weeks for it to turn up, and after checking all the bins in the house, I was pretty confident it would turn up eventually.

Two days later it unexpectedly turned up in my ugg boot as I was putting it on. Ouch!

All pieces present and accounted for.

The Best Thing on Offer

We have officially reached toddler hood with Nursling 1. While this is a wonderful age full of discovery it definitely comes with its own challenges, especially when it comes to food. Foods that were favourites yesterday, and literally disappeared off the plate before you can say ‘Amen’ are left to go cold and eventually end up in the bin the next day. Foods that have been asked for are then rejected when offered, only to be asked for and rejected again. Yoghurt has to be interspersed with precisely the right amount of Weet-Bix. One day the whole bowl full of food is downed and then some, and another day hardly any is eaten at all. Food is also often used as a toy and shoved into the crevices of any actual toys that it will fit in, leaving a trail of crumbs in its wake.

And yet, despite all the fussy, messy changes of mind there is one food that is never rejected.

Yes, you guessed it… breast milk!

Chatter Box

Nursling 2 and I are now home from Helen Mayo House (thanks again wonderful staff!) and back at home with Nursling 1 and daddy. For the last few days before we came home though, we thought it would be a good idea for daddy and Nursling 1 to join us overnight to ease everyone back into the normal routine.

When we’re at home, Nursling 1 sleeps in her own room, and Nursling 2 sleeps with daddy and I. Due to to the set up at Helen Mayo we needed to fit all four of us in my luckily fairly roomy for a hospital room room. Still with an extra cot added to the double bed, single bed and pram that were normally in there for Nursling 2 and I things were getting a bit tight. And how would Nursling 1 sleep, we wondered, being in with the rest of us? She’d probably get distracted and wake for any little noise, we thought. Cue some creative thinking from daddy.

Fortunately the cot was on wheels, and even more fortunately it fit in the bathroom. So Nursling 1 slept in the bathroom while daddy and I trundled down to the visitors toilet overnight if needed. This all went brilliantly well the first night, and everyone slept well.

The second night daddy and I took Nursling 2 back out to the lounge with us while Nursling 1 settled herself to sleep, and when Nursling 2 was down and sleeping in her pram we wandered on back to quietly get into bed ourselves. We’re just settling in as we hear, clear as a bell (bathroom acoustics are rather good after all), “good girl, good girl!” coming from the bathroom. Is she awake? No, it turns out she’s just such a chatterbox that she talks away rather clearly in her sleep. And it seems we’re also raising a confident and self assured little girl.

A Shower’s a Shower…

Not all bathrooms are created equal.

My bathroom at Helen Mayo is certainly not equal to my bathroom at home.

Before I go on I must explain a few things: I seem to have won the perinatal mental health lottery and have been diagnosed with postnatal psychosis (Puerperal Psychosis for all you old school peeps out there). And so nursling 2 and I have been staying at Helen Mayo house (a mother-baby mental health unit) for the last few weeks.

Thank you to all the wonderful staff at Helen Mayo who are helping me to to plant my feet firmly on the road to recovery. Any apparent criticism is meant in a completely jocular way. In fact I am very grateful for the unit and all the staff!

Now, back to bathrooms…

In the bathroom stakes there are some things that definitely help a bathroom rank higher than others. An actual bath is very high up on the list of desirable characteristics, for example. But in the absence of an actual bath, a shower screen, or even just a shower curtains is pretty high up there too. This is something that Helen Mayo House’s bathrooms lack. The ability to shower in privacy is also quite high up there, but in here nurses can swipe themselves in to the room at any time if they have too (although a shut bathroom door and shower noises seems to be pretty well respected…) and there is an intercom so nurses can hear baby cries from their office and come running.

This is a typical shower here:

  1. Prior to shower make very sure that everything you need is in fact in the bathroom (especially a towel and clothes!!)
  2. Shut the door
  3. Turn shower on. Try to adjust pressure but finally grudgingly accept fire-hose grade pressure because it’s either that or none.
  4. Step into the not quite warm enough stream of water.
  5. Watch the puddle of water spread most the way along the bathroom floor (no curtains or screen remember!)
  6. Listen carefully for baby squeaks and door clicks whilst soaping and shampooing considerably faster than normal pace. Hopefully you’ll hear neither. If baby does happen to squeak finish off quickly and attend to baby to prevent the nurse from coming in before you’re dressed.
  7. Make sure to open the bathroom door before using any spray deodorant or hair driers or you might score a visit from the fire-fighters.
  8. Breathe a sigh of relief that you managed a shower without anyone inadvertently seeing you naked.

That being said, there are 2 big advantages to showering here:

  1. Not running out of hot water…ever!
  2. Only having to work showers around 1 nursling, not 2.

I do miss my shower at home!!

However, a shower is a shower, and oh how nice it is to be clean!

 

Ode to My Rocking Chair

Oh, how I love to glide,
As I sit here in your seat,
Just a little force applied,
Then forward, back, repeat, repeat!
Nursling one and nursling two,
Both girls snuggly in my lap,
Both girls here enjoying milk,
Oh, these times are far too few!
One foot going tap, tap, tap,
Here we glide as smooth as silk.

I love to hear the odd little squeak,
As back and forth we go,
And the repeated moaning creak,
As we rock here to and fro.
Rocking chair, o rocking chair,
Many a cosy moment spent in your thrall,
Sunggled up in your embrace,
Morning or night you care,
Not at all, no not at all
As we rock at your easy pace.

Dear rocking chair your gentle touch,
Has two little girls now off to sleep.
Deep, steady breaths revealing much,
Two little girls sleeping, not a peep.
But tell me this, o rocking chair,
Now that they sleep soundly so,
Now that they are quiet, warm and fed.
How o sweet rocking chair,
Now that I must up and go,
Will I get them still sleeping into bed?