Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

 

Not a lot of new moms publicly use the word “dark” to describe their first months with a new baby and I certainly didn’t expect that I would be one of them, but our time getting to know Hennie James has been dark and discouraging in more ways than one. Even though we have an amazing ‘village’ of supporters I often felt isolated from friends and family who were enjoying the Fourth Trimester with their newborns. I felt guilty for not feeling the same way and anxious about Hennie’s health problems. I haven’t felt comfortable leaving the house with her and despite knowing deep down that it wasn’t the case, I felt like my screaming child hated me or at least hated being alive – what else could you assume about someone who wailed during every waking moment? Even in a literal sense that time was dark; Hen was born in early November on the very day that the clocks turned back and we lost an hour of sunlight each day. She came into our lives with the winter, and not one of our usual mild Vancouver winters but a record long, cold winter, the first in decades.

Anyone who knows us knows how tough it’s been. Close friends and cousins have endured my miserable midnight texts and my exasperated questions and responded with sympathy, understanding, and best of all: no judgment. I can never thank those people enough (you know who you are, I’m sure), and those same people will share our jubilant relief that the long, dark winter has broken!

Lately our girl is a different baby. She wakes up smiling and lights up when she sees us. She allows us to hold her and cuddle her and behaves the way I expected a baby to behave before I knew this one. The list of things she dislikes is still a long one but she doesn’t scream for no reason anymore, and she doesn’t hate life or her parents. In fact, she really seems to love us. And it is a love this mama has been waiting four long months for.

The snow finally cleared as the clocks changed again last week. Since then our home has been filled with sunshine in every sense of the word. Hopefully Hurricane Hennie is behind us. The first day of Spring is tomorrow and we are so ready for the fun seasons ahead with Happy Hennie!

Hennie James: Four Months

Hen is such a fun age right now – it seems like every few days she is learning a new skill and showing it off! She is rolling over from her tummy to her back, is laughing and holding her head up more easily, and loves to stand. She likes sitting in her high chair at the dinner table while we play cards and also likes straightening her legs when we’re changing her so we can’t get her pants on. She loves to use her voice and just discovered how to squeal and screech! So cute… so high pitched. She is also finally gaining some control over her hands and can grasp things very well, a fact that I found out the hard way when I dared to wear dangly earrings last weekend. Our current struggles include convincing her to take a bottle and attempting to troubleshoot that dreaded four month sleep regression. Her naps have become much shorter and it takes a lot longer to get her to sleep in the evenings, but we’re getting enough sleep to get by so we’re thankful for that (and for coffee). We just got the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit to ease the transition from being tightly swaddled while she sleeps.

Nicknames: Little Turd, Hennie Bugaloo, Smiley Cyrus, Droolia Roberts, Lil’ Bum, and her daddy also loving calls her Gobbers.

Hennie Likes: sitting up and standing (with help, of course), looking at faces, mirrors, playing airplane, chatting after a big feed, the swing at the park, testing her voice, and testing our patience. 

Hennie Dislikes: having clothes pulled over her head, being held by someone other than mum or dad, falling asleep without being bounced, sleeping in, and missing out (aka she needs her parents to be within her view at all times or else). 

Happy four months, Hennie Bugaloo! 

Dear Hennie

You’re 3 months old today! I feel like this milestone marks the end of our bodies being shared. We operated as one for three trimesters while you came to life inside my belly and when you finally arrived earth-side I was surprised to find that we continued to feel like one unit. You are still carried by my body and fed by my body, and our emotions have been more co-dependent than I would like. But the fourth trimester is over now and my body is starting to feel like my own again after a whole year of sharing it with you. The time for you to be truly independent from me is years in the future, and I long for and dread that time all at once.

For now we are still adjusting to the changes you’ve wrought upon our quiet lives. Motherhood has been nothing like I expected it would be, it has been infinitely more difficult. What has been the most exasperating is the voice you brought with you when you came into our world. I feel so hopeless sometimes when I can’t figure out what it is that you need from me, and not all of the time we have spent together has been as fulfilling as I expected it would be. Since the day we took you home I’ve been waiting for you to become a more manageable baby, but as usual I suspect that what needs to be managed are my expectations; they are robbing me of my ability to appreciate and enjoy my time with you while you are still little.

I’m going to let go of my own expectations now and accept you just the way you are. I’m so glad that you’re mine! I may get less smiles than other mamas but my life is just as bright. You have an indefatigable voice that commands attention and begs to be heard. You were born into a crazy world that is beautiful and lost and in desperate need of powerful, determined voices like yours. I promise that I will never encourage you to be silent and I hope that you will use your big voice to be a hurricane of good in this world. Raise hell, little one.

Love, your mama

Hennie James: Three Months


The Fourth Trimester is over and little miss Hen is a newborn no more! During these first few months there have been so many connections being forged in her little body and it’s so much fun to watch her learn a new skill or make a new discovery. But the milestone we’re most looking forward to has to do with the fact that colic tends to improve significantly between 3 and 4 months. Ummm, bring on the improvement, please!! We are desperate for our evening hours to get better and more manageable. Sometimes we are able to eke out a quick card game or watch the first half of a movie, but our evenings are (still) spent passing a very fussy baby back and forth until bedtime. We are looking forward to the day when she calms down and we’re able to leave her with a relative or friend for even two hours so we can have dinner together out of the house, but for now we’re spending our weekend evenings hibernating at home with some good takeout and a few nice ciders. Probably best during flu season anyway.

Hennie Likes: morning time, being spoken too in silly voices, her pacifier, kicking her feet, making “grumpy cat” faces before screaming, looking out the window, hanging out on the kitchen counter when mama cooks, being held by daddy.

Hennie Dislikes: evening time, getting immunizations, sitting still, having clothes pulled over her big head, being cooperative during feedings, cuddling, having people in her personal space.

Nicknames: Little Miss Custard Pants, Little Red Hen,

Development: Hen has begun to talk a lot more and it’s pretty cute. After she feeds she is (usually) pretty happy, and we have some intriguing conversations with her. She is a decent sleeper at night time if she’s swaddled tight so her loose arms don’t flail wildly and wake her up. She has become a very distracted eater and frequently stops feeding to gaze up at mama with a coy attitude and a wide grin – obviously we love that, but it makes it difficult to keep her well-fed! She still doesn’t laugh very often but makes up for it with frequent smiles. She is does push-ups when placed on her tummy and drools constantly while voraciously sucking her little fists.

Ode to the First Month

This is the story of a Little Red Hen

who was born to a mama and dad

who took her home from the hospital

and the Little Red Hen went mad.

 

First they bounced their Little Red Hen

and walked her ‘round the town,

but still she screamed and cried all day

and never let them put her down.

 

Then they shushed their Little Red Hen

’til both their throats were dry,

they shushed and sang and bounced ’til morn

but the Little Red Hen still cried.

 

Next they drove their Little Red Hen

with her carseat buckled tight,

she almost slept but would wake each time

they paused at a red stoplight.

 

Last they bathed their Little Red Hen,

swaddled up like in the womb,

but the Little Red Hen didn’t like that much

and her cries filled the little bathroom.

 

“You cannot fix this Little Red Hen,”

said the doctor, “it’s just colic!”

So the Little Red Hen just screamed and cried

and her mom became an alcoholic.

Hennie James: Two Months


We have a two-month-old! So hard to believe. When I was pregnant I spent so much time daydreaming about what this newborn phase would be like. I imagined long naps together, hours spent cuddling, and sweet moments as a family. The reality has been very different and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wishing this phase away. Everyone keeps telling us to appreciate every second but we feel pretty confident that we won’t miss these days later, no matter how cute and little she may be. That said, she is starting to show signs of change that lead us to hope she will not be a “high needs” baby forever.

Hennie Likes: holding hands, crying, constantly moving, being on the changing table, being next to mama in the Solly wrap, white noise, her green bouncy chair, waking up at 8am, the right boob.

Hennie Dislikes: having clothes put on, drinking from a bottle, being still, being quiet, being in the family heirloom bassinet, being left anywhere without company, being startled, the left boob.

Development: Hen has started to pay a lot of attention to lights, is holding her head up (quite a feat w a noggin this size!), kicking a lot, and looking around (preferably over the shoulder of someone who is bouncing her around the kitchen). She smiles easily but her smiles often morph into cries very quickly. She’s starting to figure out that the sounds she hears are actually coming from her own mouth! She is becoming much more alert and quickly growing out of her NB and 0-3 month clothes and into 3-6 month stuff! We are hoping she will learn to be awake without screaming a little more often, and are looking very much forward to the day when she lets us cuddle her 🙂

Six Weeks Old

Hennie James is six weeks old, which means we’re halfway to a major milestone – the end of the fourth trimester and (hopefully) the end of these colicky days. Having a baby has been a crazy, emotional ride so far but we love seeing Hen become more alert and interactive already.

While Tom was away in Whistler for a work conference, Hen and I stayed at Omie (grandma)’s house for extra help and snuggles. During that week Hennie’s second cousin was born! Hennie and Baby Greyson will be almost exactly a month apart in age and we can’t wait to watch them grow and play together. It has been snowy and cold in Vancouver these past couple weeks (the first time in a long time!) and we are enjoying staying home and staying warm.

Three Weeks with Hen

Little miss Hennie James is three weeks old! Thankfully, the last week was much better than the second – we are sloooowly getting a handle on this kid’s likes and dislikes and feeling a bit more confident in our own abilities to calm her, assess her needs, and basically just survive. Our midwife and paediatrician were happy to see that she continued to gain weight like crazy this week. Hallelujah!

We have been able to get out of the house a little more often, which is nice. I take the baby in the wrap carrier for little walks to coffeeshops, nearby parks and our midwife appointments. We have also ventured further afield to our niece Amelia’s 2nd birthday and to spend a weekend at my moms house. Offers to help us have been coming from all over – friends, family, our lovely doulas – and even though I mostly refuse (I want to get a handle on this on our own first), I have appreciated every single offer. It’s so nice to have a network of people who care enough about you to offer to take your colicky baby for a few hours, even if I suspect that they have no idea what they’re getting into.

November is drawing to a close and the whirlwind of the holiday season (and flu season) is upon us. We will try to stay sane by laying low at home, not making too many social plans, and continuing to attempt to understand this tiny human of ours. Feliz Navidad!

The First Two Weeks

Thought I’d take a moment to write an update on the first two weeks of life with Hennie James – probably a brief update as she is stirring from her short slumber beside me and doesn’t like to give her mama and papa much time to do anything these days 🙂

Our little HenBaby has her daddy’s long limbs and insatiable appetite. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have her daddy’s easy disposition but her mama’s sassy attitude and big voice; Hennie has so far been a difficult, colicky baby. She isn’t soothed easily or for long, she needs to be held almost all the time, and she cries bloody murder from about 11pm to 7am (srsly kid?), as well as sometimes during daytime hours as well. We are experimenting with some gas-relieving tactics, some bouncy chairs and rockers, attempting to get her to come around to a pacifier, and basically trying anything we can think of to see if she likes it. Every day it seems she likes or dislikes something new that used to work and is really keeping us on our toes. Some nights Tom does laps around our kitchen island for 6 hours bouncing and shushing her because she won’t be put down – at least we are meeting the daily step goals on our FitBits!

That said, we know that this crazy newborn phase won’t last forever and are doing our best to adjust and readjust our expectations of parenthood daily while appreciating her short stints of sleepiness. We are staying positive and approaching every day as a team, and trying to give her the coziest, safest environment possible.

Tom is now back to work, some days at home and some days in the downtown office. My goal right now is to get outside at least once every day, whether by myself or with Hennie. We have enjoyed some walks to nearby parks in East Van as well as lots of visits to the corner coffee shop! Thanks, JJBean, for fuelling this mama’s mornings!