Mother Teresa once said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” I like that image, that the whole ocean in all its vastness is still essentially composed of drops.
I’m also reminded of a line or two in a song from the musical Into The Woods which says “Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one! But if life were only moments, then you’d never know you had one.” I like that too.
And with those two notions at the forefront of my mind, I thought it would be good to write a quick summary of how Samuel has progressed since his birth, charting some of the highlights and milestones of the past 12 weeks. I guess this is for posterity. Or reference. Or guidance. Or amusement. Or indeed just to pass the time.
Our son is now twelve and a half weeks old, which equates to almost three months. He sports a head full of hair, big blue eyes, weighs in at 10lbs 9oz, and is solely breast-fed so far. And we love him to bits.
Samuel was a relatively big baby when he was born, coming in at a healthy 8lbs 7oz. He was long, too. The first week he lost a fair amount of weight though, on account of Ellie’s milk not coming in very well, but after causing a little concern he started putting on the ounces again. We had him weighed today, as it happens, at the antenatal class we’ve been going to each Tuesday lunchtime. 10lbs 9oz puts him on the 2nd percentile, which is a significant drop from the 25th which is where he started. Some might be worried by that. But looking at his progression he’s clearly charting his own line through the statistics rather than following a particular trend. He’s certainly happy enough, and while he does look a little skinny sometimes he more than makes up for that with length – he grew out of the newborn size clothes fairly early on and moved on to 0-3 months sizes instead, for the length rather than the girth. We’ll keep an eye on it, but he seems content so far and none the worse for his apparent lack of bulk. I put it down to him using the energy for growing and development rather than letting it all collect as fat.
Ellie has already noticed him being longer than he used to be. When he’s laid across her lap to feed, his legs now have to be wrapper around her otherwise he pushes against the side of the sofa and gets himself in the wrong position to feed. And he’s nearly too big for the pram crib too – it’s a basket type attachment that fits onto the pram frame, and while at first it was used solely as his bed it’s now been demoted to a temporary travel cot. He’s now sleeping in a large wicker basket, which is around 40 years old and still going strong, and which is significantly longer than most cribs on the market today. He should be able to stay in that for a good 6 months before we need to move him out into his cot. Still, we’ve certainly noticed that while he seemed lost in the wicker basket when he was born, he now seems quite at home there.
Those first few days were a nightmare. He wasn’t getting enough milk, and was quite insistent on letting us know all about it. As a result, very little sleep was had by any of us. We did try giving him some formula in a bottle, one night when we were almost at the end of our tether, but he wasn’t interested. Once Ellie’s milk started flowing more freely he lapped it up, and hasn’t needed supplementary bottle feeding at all. Ellie has been expressing some here and there, so that we can get Samuel used to drinking from a bottle, if only so that we can leave him with someone else for a few hours and know that he won’t go hungry. I’ve fed him with a bottle once, and it was indescribably satisfying; it’s not something that felt at all natural, and so the privilege to be able to fulfil this role was incredible.
Something I’ve found interesting is noting how naturally and skilfully Samuel feeds. It wasn’t something we had to teach him to do, and he even has techniques for encouraging more milk to be produced which, again, are not techniques we’ve told him about. Aside from the natural perfect seal his mouth makes, his jaw quivers every now and then, which apparently helps too, and his hand rubs the top of the breast to encourage the milk to come down. How does he know to do that? It’s certainly not something I remember doing, so it’s not something conscious that we’ve taught him or passed on to him. I’m blown away by just how clever he is, if only because I would never have thought to try those techniques myself, but clearly every baby does!
Ellie feeds on demand, and at the moment that’s around 6-7 times a day for about half an hour each time. It’s not an exact science, of course, and sometimes he’ll feed more or less depending on what else is going on in the day and how tired he is. And somehow we know which cry means he’s hungry and which means he’s tired. I’d never have thought I’d be able to tell the difference.
Samuel got the hang of sleeping fairly early on, thanks to a good awareness of the difference between night and day. During the day he gets attention, at night he doesn’t. Sure, we get up to feed him and walk him off to sleep (see my previous post about how I get our baby to sleep), but we don’t talk to him or play with him, and by having that approach right from the start I think that’s helped him learn to sleep differently at night. From the second or third week he was already sleeping happily with just two feeds in the night, even if he was up and wanting attention by 6am in the morning. We got used to that routine, and then a few weeks ago he dropped himself down to just one feed in the night, sleeping for longer into the morning, and giving us far more satisfying nights of rest.
The last week hasn’t been quite as good as that, unfortunately, but we don’t think that’s his fault exactly. He got himself a cold, which made him quite snuffly and coughed a bit, and despite raising his head with blankets and propping the cot up with a couple of big music books (ssh, don’t tell the health visitor), he reverted back to having two feeds in the night, and didn’t like going off to sleep. I did a lot more walking around the nursery as a consequence of his restlessness, though I am yet to see my muscle tone develop. Then, when he was just about over the cold, he started another growth spurt, so he slept less and fed more, and generally drained us both (Ellie in particular, in more ways than one) for several nights. Thankfully he appears to be over that now, and our usual blissful night time routine is being restored.
When Samuel was born, he didn’t seem quite like a newborn baby. He wasn’t like we had expected. He wasn’t like newborn babies are shown on the television. He was fascinated by everything, and his eyes were wide and focused right from the start, and was intent on looking at us both for a good three hours before he finally relented and went to sleep. That trend has continued as he’s grown. Every midwife, health visitor and old lady has commented on how alert he is, how he notices what’s going on, how clearly he sees and recognises people, how much interest he takes in his surroundings. He’s a clever little boy, our Samuel.
This inquisitiveness is reflected in his play time. He sits for some considerable time in his bouncy chair, or laid on his play mat, looking at the hanging toys, hitting them, trying to grab hold of them. Just recently he’s started putting a lot of effort into his hand-eye co-ordination, an effort which is clearly visible in his face. His eyes are fixed and wide, his mouth pursed and pouted, and you can see his little mind working it all out. His large sweeping movements are being refined into smaller corrections, lining his hand up with the target object and bringing them just a little closer with each movement until he can touch it. He hasn’t quite got the hang of the timing yet so that his hand closes around the object at the same time as the moment of impact, but he’s getting there, and he clearly knows what he’s trying to achieve.
He also has a bit of a fascination with lights, whether they’re on or off. He’s a bit like a fly in that respect. Now, I personally wouldn’t advise looking directly at a lightbulb, on account of the discomfort it could cause and the resulting spots before the eyes, but apparently none of that bothers him.
Smiling is another of Samuel’s more recent achievements, which he’s now thoroughly enjoying the use of. At first he smiled more with his eyes than his mouth, which made it quite hard to notice, but soon his mouth followed suit and started twitching in a grin-like fashion. Then came the wide open mouth version, which lasted for a second or so at most and was therefore almost impossible to capture on camera. Now, though, he’s mastered the technique a little better, and seems to crave any excuse for a beaming smile. Quite often his whole body joins in, with his whole face lighting up and even his arms and legs wiggling with delight. Quite often these smiles come when he’s looking at us. He’ll usually give us a lovely smile first thing in the morning, as if to say “oooh, it’s you! I haven’t seen you since last night!” Then there are other times when he seems to be laughing at us, like when we sing to him or pull funny faces; funny faces less so, admittedly, but he loves being sung to, which fills me with much joy to know that my son is already developing a good sense of musicality. And what is now very slowly being added to the smile is the beginnings of a laugh. So far they’ve been pretty much silent, but he’s started to experiment with coupling the smile with a cute little noise, and we fully expect that to develop into a proper laugh in the next few weeks, and we’ll be sure to have the camcorder ready for that.
Yes, this needs writing down too, I’m afraid. Nappy changing was one of the few aspects of childcare that I wasn’t looking forward to, partly I suppose because I had little experience of it. Yes I have two younger brothers, and yes my Mum used to be a childminder, but I never once changed a nappy. During the first week I watched Ellie change Samuel (which she did very naturally, on account of having done it before when she used to work at a nursery). And only after having watched the process several times did I tentatively offer to have a go. With supervision. And actually it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought, and before too long I was happy to change Samuel unsupervised, confident in my own ability.
There have been a couple of notable highlights, of course. A few times the nappies have been extraordinarily smelly, to the extent that I was on the verge of throwing up on account of it. That’s not a reaction I’ve ever had to a smell before, so it came as a bit of a surprise. Then there are the times when all the poo finds its way to the front of the nappy instead of the back, or even worse works its way out the side and soils the clothes as well. The challenge now is keeping Samuel’s limbs out of the line of fire; without the restriction of the nappy, his legs flail wildly about in the ecstasy of freedom, so I have to hold on tightly to both his feet to stop them getting messy. And just recently he’s discovered that he can reach his hands down there too, at which point I sacrifice my hold on his feet to take control of his hands instead, so although his feet do get a bit messy it tends to be the lesser of two evils.
We have a little plastic beige baby bath in which to wash our son, a task that has become a mainstay of his bedtime routine. Every evening after dinner we give him a bath, get him into his PJs, and then Ellie feeds him off to sleep before putting him down in the basket. Bath time is a game of two halves, and can be somewhat unpredictable in its success.
First of all we strip him down to his nappy, and then Ellie holds him over the bath while I wipe his face with a flannel and wash the front of his hair. He doesn’t often like that bit, I think it’s an uncomfortable or insecure position, and he usually complains a bit. Then Ellie takes his nappy off and he sits in the bath properly. He isn’t sitting up on his own yet, so Ellie supports him while I do the washing. First I wash his back with the flannel, which tends to calm him down nicely, and then I wash the hair on the back of his head. Sometimes we use Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, but usually it’s just water. Then I get out the Johnson’s Baby Bedtime Wash, which I rub onto his back until it lathers up into bubbles, and rinse. Then Ellie leans him backwards so I can do his tummy in the same way. He’s not quite so comfortable with that position either, so we don’t leave him like that for too long. Once that’s done, he’s free to play until he either gets bored or the water gets cold. We usually have three or four toys in the bath, and at the moment he spends most of his time trying to either kick them or catch them between his feet. Apparently that’s easier than trying to grab them with his hands. Go figure.
So far so good
I’m sure there must be loads I’ve missed, but that’s a good chunk of documented progress. Suffice to say, he’s come on in leaps and bounds, surprised us with how quickly he’s changed and developed, and brought us immeasurable mountains of joy. We love him lots and lots and jellytots.