They were right. The first twelve weeks is the hardest. They call it the fourth trimester for a reason. It’s a massive adjustment for a squirmy worm that has lived in a warm cosy bubble until the trauma and terror of birth.
Xanthe really struggled with that adjustment. You recall how difficult our hospital experience was from my previous entry: She was classified as a miserable baby. If she was awake, she was howling, and she did not sleep much. While our roommate babies slept peacefully until they got hungry, we kept the whole ward awake through the night. I couldn’t wait to go home.
Being home was a relief because I no longer had to feel awful for disturbing so many people, or ashamed and inadequate following interactions with the midwives, but Xanthe didn’t settle. She needed to be in our arms constantly. If we were holding her and walking around she was often quiet. When we did get her to sleep, she had lovely long sleeps. But when she was awake, she was unhappy. She was the definition of a colicky baby.
I was expressing and we were both bottle feeding. Being able to do this saved me, but it was hard work. For a long time Xanthe would wake every two hours to be fed. Pumping, then feeding, then settling her to sleep took much longer than simply breastfeeding her to sleep, which is what works so well for us now. So for the first three months, if I got four hours of sleep, it was a good night. I think the hormones that flood through a mother following birth is the thing that made this doable. I would ordinarily never be able to function on four hours night after night, but I managed okay.
But I quickly started experiencing back pain and wrist pain from carrying her so much. Using a baby carrier and strapping her to my front helped for my arms and wrists, but not so much my back. I bought all kinds of products designed to hold your baby for you — bouncers and swings and jumpers and a high chair and an activity gym. Some worked (for ten minutes at a time), some didn’t work at all. Going to a physiotherapist helped, but a lot of it was just building the muscles. So that is a lot easier now too.
When she hit six weeks, she calmed down considerably. When she hit four months, she went through a major neurological leap of development. Suddenly she was sleeping through the night — often ten hours at a time. When she was awake she had times of being happy, chatty, even smiling and giggling. I realised I liked her, even though I’d always loved her. The relief was immense, but I didn’t want to take it for granted. I thought at any point she could experience another jump in development and everything could change again, so I kind of just kept waiting for things to go back to horrible.
She’s six months old now (as of yesterday). Just this week she has gone through another leap. I’ve noticed so many changes in her behaviour, just within the space of a few days.
Things that are different just as of this week:
She rolls onto her tummy, and doesn’t immediately hate being there! She reaches for toys around her, lifts her chest up and looks around, and has even tried getting up onto her knees (although her face stays on the ground, lol).
She woke up one day with a brand new vocabulary. She’s been babbling for ages, but mostly in single syllables and murmurings. She now puts strings of vowels and consonants together. Her favourite is “dada” (Brenton is filled with glee, but I maintain that if she doesn’t know what it means it doesn’t count as a first word! Her first word will almost certainly be “Jessica Malice mama extraordinairre”).
When pulled to a sitting position she stays there, looking around (before gradually tilting and eventually toppling to one side).
She plays with toys rather than sticking them straight into her gaping maw (although she still does that heaps).
If we’re eating or drinking, regardless of what it is, she reaches for it. When we give her some to try, she gobbles everything down and reaches for more.
She’s waking twice throughout the night (no more sleeping through). I feed her and she’s back to sleep after ten minutes or so. Totally manageable.
When she gets excited about something she hyperventilates through a full-faced smile or laughs through her nose and it’s adorable.
She is breastfeeding far less. For the past month or two I was feeding her every 1.5 hours for twelve minutes on each side. This week she’s seeming to get hungry every three hours average, and detaches herself after five minutes to look around or talk or smile at me. She just loses interest.
She’s taking a dummy. She’s never really taken it before (unless we literally held it in). My gosh, the peace! The quiet! The ability to put her down to sleep without needing to be attached at the nipple! It’s amazing.
She is so much more independent. I can put her on the play mat and she’ll be fine there, with no parental interaction, for up to an hour. Unheard of!
It’s been an exciting week! and I love her more than ever.