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.