Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Baby and me: 5-month update


So after returning from London we settled back into life in Muscat just fine. Master A even slept better, once doing a nine-hour stretch and, of course, I woke up at about six hours in and then worried that he was okay the rest of the time. But, no sooner we settled, what I can only guess is a growth spurt began and his sleep was terrible again. He was waking up every 2.5 hours at night and taking short naps during the day. Other than ride it out, I'm not sure what I can do to get the good sleep back.

He's taken to sleeping on his right side, rolling and arching his back. He seems to have a preference for the right and I don't know if that's related to me sleeping on my right a lot when I was pregnant. Speaking of rolling, he now rolls nicely from back to belly, but not back again. Once he's had enough on his front he just gets annoyed and as much as I try and leave him to figure out how to roll back on his own eventually he gets upset enough that I pick him up.

We've had a couple of funny incidents where sounds surprised him. Foil being one, he screamed but how much of that was fear and how much was just a response to the sound I'm not sure. He reacts in a similar way to plastic bags. He does not like the sound of the blender though, that always makes him cry.

We have also started swimming lessons. I wanted to capitalize on how much he likes bath time - he's always been happy to have his head in the water and is even daring enough to turn his face into the water and try to roll over.

I thought by now we would have something of a routine, but we do work on a 1.5 hour awake schedule, in which time we would eat and play, and then he would sleep and the cycle would be repeated.  Me not working and not really having anything that has to be done most days means that we mostly work about his mood. I'm not sure at what point we'll work to mine.

Well the baby part of this post has been written for over a month, and the fact I haven't come back to finish off the me section should give you a clue as to how month six is going. I'll save a longer update for that post.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Baby and me: 4 month update

Well, I have done spectacularly badly at being on time with this post, but here we go my four-month baby and me update.


I think I jinxed myself being quite so happy about how well Master A was doing with sleep. This past four weeks our 7-hour stretches have been replaced with a lot more frequent wakings. I had heard about the four-month sleep regression, but I thought since I did all the hard work helping him settle himself to sleep that we might have bypassed that. That said, at the start of this month we had a lot of other changes. A trip to London for a start. He was very good on the flight, he didn't seem phased or irritated by the new surroundings and even managed a couple of good stretches of sleep. Since I use a dummy with him, we had no problems with his ears during takeoff and landing.

As for milestones, he continues to almost grab at things - reaching out more to try. He's excellent at pulling my hair and pinching the tiniest bit of skin on my neck. He's also mastered blowing raspberries, which he seems to do most when he is bored or had enough of an activity. He's also talking more, shrieking with excitement (or frustration) and even giggling. He seems to like the feeling of being surprised (so repeated "boos" usually get a giggle). Unexpected surprises scare him and usually make him cry (to the disappointment of granddad when he was actually trying to get a giggle). He now recognises his name, and he's also found his thumb, which my mum is hugely disappointed about (she's convinced he'll be sucking his thumb forever now). I still haven't figured out what sets him off into a giggling fit some days, the same thing doesn't work twice.

Being back in the U.K. has meant he's been introduced to a lot of family and spoilt with hugs, kisses, and gifts. At times, the number of people around has clearly overwhelmed him, and I've tried not to have too many active days just to keep him rested. I had a lot of fun taking him out, we managed journies on the tubes and buses, which he seemed to really enjoy "talking" the whole time.


Health-wise I'm fine. While back in the U.K. I took the opportunity to see the doctors here and check everything was fine. The follow-up care in Oman was non-existent, and I was just a bit paranoid that organs ended up settling in the wrong place (honestly, the things you imagine and worry about!) I think what dawned on me this month is how quickly that newborn phase passed. Seamlessly we entered infancy and those days of hours feeding and endless hugs are over. I'm so glad that I didn't listen to those people telling me that if I held him too much he'd be spoilt - not only is that not true, but he's now so curious about his surroundings that he doesn't stay still long enough for a cuddle....and he's not even mobile yet. Briefly, I mourned the passing of that phase, but I'm excited to see how he is changing and developing. That said, I'm consciously making sure to appreciate the phase we are in. I don't want to spend time wishing he was still smaller or looking forward to the next milestone that I miss where we are.

 I also want to add a thank you to the people who contacted me after the last post when I mentioned I was having trouble finding places to feed and wondering what to do. There is a "Mother's Room" in
Babyshop and, although I haven't tried, it is meant to be fine to also feed in the women's prayer rooms.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Life lately: Baby and me

It's been just over three months since I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I expect that this blog, at least for a little while, will become very baby focused while the exploring and adventures are on pause. The plan is to make this space a sort of diary for him, too. I heard another mum saying that she is actually doing just that, writing a line or two a day to look back on later so the smaller milestones don't get missed. But, I'm being realistic and know that with all the best intentions I won't find time to do that. So the plan is once a month to do an update here.


Baby A now weighs 6.4kg, double his birth weight, and is a long 61 cm. I mention his height because we bought the cutest little bed before he was born, and the idea was that he would sleep in that for 6 months (as advertised) while we found something that's nice and more permanent. But he grew too big for it almost immediately, and he is now in a travel cot while we continue the search. The first night we put him in there he spread his arms wide, making the most of his extra space, I guess.

Overall, he's a good baby - very chilled out, and he doesn't cry for no reason, although it did take me a while to understand what different cries and whinges meant. The first six weeks I had my mum here, which was a huge help. I could sneak away for naps while she watched him and actually fit in things like showering and eating. Once she left things were very different, and I was mentally high-fiving myself if I managed to do as much as wash my face. Naturally, by six weeks he was that much more alert during the day, and he started to demand all of my attention all the time. I do remember one occasion after a quick trip to the bathroom when I returned to a bright red, screaming face full of tears. I felt so guilty. It was and still is, difficult to walk away from him without hearing some sounds. Rather than babbles, he likes to practice the sounds he'll use when he is actually in distress, which was very confusing for me before I realised. I'd come over to find out what was wrong only to be greeted with a huge smile.

As for milestones, his head is pretty stable, he definitely recognises me, smiles a lot, babbles and coos, pulls himself forward when he is sitting on me and is unconsciously grabbing things. He does swipe for his toys in the jungle gym, and I'm sure any day now he'll finally grab them and then it will be time to watch where we place things and start saying "no" at lot. When he is on the changing table, he wants to practice his rolling (although I expect the freedom of no nappy helps). He did once roll from front to back, but he hasn't done it since. I started doing tummy time quite early on, but he tolerates it for different amounts of time depending on the day.

People seem to love to ask if he is sleeping through the night yet. He's not. But his night-time sleep is, generally, better than daytime. Only in the last two weeks have I managed to get him to sleep at all during the day. In the early days, I couldn't read when he was tired, but even when I realised he fought so much with me, and I would give up quite easily. He'd eventually fall asleep feeding, and we developed a bit of a bad cycle. We now have a system of patting and shushing and then placing him down in that key "drowsy but awake" state. In theory, when he reaches the end of a sleep cycle and does a "check" he will recognise that he is sleeping in the same place and go back to sleep - he doesn't, but I'm happy that he is at least getting some sleep now and understands that patting and shushing means sleepy-time. The bedtime routine we have of feed, bath, massage and pat works a treat. I've even started to be daring and skip the patting in favour of just placing him down and waiting for him to sleep. We then get a stretch anywhere between 4 and 7 hours (no idea how to consistently get the longer stretch) and then we feed and sleep again (usually, 3-hour stretches). Occasionally, everything goes pear-shaped, and he's up every hour-and-a-half, which I think is down to digestion issues. Late-night-googling suggests I should cut out dairy from my diet, but I may just reduce it for now and see if it helps.

In the last week or so he's also got much better at travelling in the car. Every trip would result in a lot of tears (mine and his), and I dreaded having to take him anywhere. Because he was feeding at least every two hours, too, all journey's had to be arranged around that. Now I can usually time our trips out when he is due for a nap, and he'll drift off in the car.


Where to start. I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'll never sleep deeply or for more than a few hours ever again, and the desire to smother my husband while he snores away at night is subsiding - which is good. Thankfully, I had a really good labour (full post to come), and within about two weeks I was physically over the birth. Naively, I didn't expect it to take that long - no one talks about the after effects of labour, and I had done so much reading about what to expect before the baby came, but nothing about after. As much I knew I would be tired and that it was going to be hard work, it was that much harder than I'd imagined. Breastfeeding was also a much bigger challenge than I expected. I always thought you would just pop the baby on, he would eat for a few minutes and be done. The pain and discomfort that came with it and the days when I had to feed for hours on end was a huge shock. I remember crying because it hurt so much, and really wanting to give up, but at the same time really not wanting to. The hospital was useless, they didn't help at all and were quick to try and discourage me. I'd already been to a birth prep and breastfeeding course at Nine (based in The Walk, Al Mouj) and the midwives there were on hand to help me. Had it not been for their help I know I would have given up.

It is funny reflecting now because I know there were lots of moments when I felt that that was it, life was just going to be like that forever. He'll never sleep, I'll never eat a meal hot again, etc, but slowly things have changed. I'm proud of myself just for getting this far, he's healthy and thriving, and I'm the reason for that.

Although I've lost the baby weight, I'm still coming to terms with the physical change in my body. I'm going to take the slow and steady approach to getting fit again. There's been a lot of reaching for junk food for comfort and because it's easy. I always ate pretty well, and this has been the period of my life when my diet has suffered when it's more important that I eat better.

A big decision I made after the birth was to give up work. Maternity leave in Oman is 50 days. As I was discharged from the hospital, I was given a sick note starting my leave on the day I was admitted. So I was already three days down by the time I got home. I'd always planned to just see how I felt about returning to work, and the sick note didn't start me off in the best frame of mind. I quickly realised that I wouldn't be ready to leave a 50-day-old baby anywhere. I did have to go back to work for two weeks to complete my notice, and I'm glad that I had that experience. I struggled being up at night with him and trying to focus on tasks during the day. I had been feeling irresponsible for giving up a job in a place where it's hard to find work, and for losing extra income, but those two weeks made me realise I had made the right choice for me.


I realise this post is getting long, but I wanted to also add a bit about my experience of Muscat now that I have an infant. Firstly, where are all the breastfeeding spaces? I've heard rumours of rooms to feed in Babyshop stores, but I was in Avenues Mall the other day and didn't find anywhere. So far I've managed to go unnoticed in the corners of coffee shops when it is feeding time. I have a cover, but I am concerned about potentially offending people. Secondly, what do I do now? Now he is a bit easier to go out with, and I want to get out of the house, but I'm stuck for places to go. There are only so many times you can pace up and down the same malls. Maybe this is just the in between phase and when he is more mobile we'll hit all the soft play areas.

Finally, I'm curious to know if any other mums here had comments when they had to take their baby out in the early days? I had staff in Carrefour telling me I should be at home, and a lot of tuts and disapproving looks mainly from older women. I'm not sure if I was ultra sensitive, though?

Well, if you reached the end of this, well done and thank you, I appreciate the patience in my absence. The next post will be the labour experience, and after that, there should be an update from me at least once a month. If you are a mum in Muscat (or anywhere really), I'd love to hear from you about your experiences and what you do to keep yourselves entertained.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Beyond Oman: Diving in the Red Sea

Leaving it so long to write up this post has worked out quite well. It's nice to reminisce about the last holiday and the last time I was able to dive before I found out I was expecting. We visited Egypt in February going primarily because of a friends wedding, but deciding to make a diving and a sight-seeing break out of it, too. This post will focus on the diving holiday.

The Red Sea is probably one of the best-known diving and snorkelling locations, and I can see why. That said, February isn't the best time of year to go, but more on that later.

We decided to stay away from the typical resort location of Sharm El Sheik and stay a little outside of Hurghada in Safaga. Although from Europe it is one flight straight to Hurghada, we had to take three. Oman to Amman, Amman to Cairo, and Cairo to Hurghada. On arrival, we were picked up by a very entertaining driver called Mahmood who spent the journey telling us all the problems with Egypt and the Middle East and what he would do to solve them. He also told us just how bad the tourism situation was. Ours was the first job he had had in a week. I expected the area to be quite (February isn't peak diving season), but not as quite as it was. Our resort had a total of five guests, and that was after we arrived. The other resorts in the area had similar numbers. So great for tourists looking for a cheap deal, but not so good for the locals trying to make a living.

We stayed at Orca Village, a hotel linked to the Orca Dive Resort. The general idea behind a diving holiday is that is all you do. Our routine was to rise early for breakfast, get on the boat at 8 am, and then spend the day at sea. The diving only takes up two hours, and you don't even travel that far out to get to the dive sites, but you spend a lot of time just relaxing and enjoying the ocean. We would arrive back at the dock/hotel at around 4 pm, shower and rest, then dinner at around 7 and bed by 9 pm, ready to repeat the whole thing the next day.

Before this trip, I'd only ever travelled by speed boat to dive sites, which isn't the most comfortable way of travelling. While the Orca Dive Club owns a few different boats, because of the locations we were visiting and the number of guests we spent all our days on the Alia 3, which is a nice big boat with a good area for kitting up and a sundeck to relax on in between dives. Lunch was freshly prepared on the boat every day and never failed to impress. Diving is one of those things that makes you very hungry and a lot of the time any food will do, but the guys on the boat did a great job, and every day was different. The dinner at the hotel was also fantastic, and catering for such a small number of people meant that we had what seemed more like home cooking than your typical hotel buffet.

Wow, all these words, and no mention of the diving yet. No surprises that it was amazing. The Red Sea is full of coral and lots of interesting sea life, and the visibility was always great. We mostly saw small things, and it was nice that a lot of them were things we hadn't seen before, but there is big stuff to be seen (sharks, dolphins, etc.) at the right time of year and site.

Rather than waffle on much more, I'll leave you to enjoy lots of pictures instead. We also fit in our advanced diving course out there, which worked out cheaper than Oman and were lucky to get an excellent instructor. If I had to pick a negative about the whole trip, it's that the water was freezing! As I mentioned before February is not diving season and even with a thermal rash guard, two thick wetsuits and a hood, I found it pretty cold. But, that just gives us an excuse to go back in the summer when the water is warm and you don't even need a wetsuit.