Expert Weaning for Second Babies

I felt I should really share my wisdom on this topic, having been giving Emily solids for several weeks now and thus qualifying as an expert *ahem*.

Like so many parts of having a second baby, this is nothing like the first time you did it, and can be quite a shock to your system. So sit down with a large glass of wine, I mean fresh-pressed organic orange juice sorry, and prepare for the horror. Experience, I said, experience. No horror. No siree.

To make it clearer, I’ve compared each aspect with weaning a first-born.

  • First time – you set aside the same time each day to build weaning into a calm and settled routine.

Second time around – “Oh no, I forgot to feed the baby again!”

  • First time – you carefully select a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, invest in a selection of food processors and special ice-cube trays and lovingly cook and freeze purees for your angel.

Second time around – you scout around the kitchen and find an assortment of fruit and veg that are probably ok still, chuck them in a pan and mash them into ice cube trays, having tipped out the ice cubes you were saving for your night-caps.

  • First time – you religiously check food safety guidelines, developmental guidelines, health visitor guidelines, GP guidelines, old-lady-across-the-street guidelines to make sure the baby is getting the right food at the right time. Finger food is cut into exactly the right size pieces.

Second time around – “Will she choke on it?” “No.” “She can have it then.”

  • First time –  you sit for hours, coaxing every little mouthful, celebrating every time the food stays in the mouth, playing all the ridiculous aeroplane games you swore you’d never catch yourself dead playing.

Second time around – “You’ve got 20 minutes. Now eat.”

Fun and games, people, fun and games. Now, where’s that drink?

Are You Smarter Than A Four Month Old?

Emily began solids this week. Actually, her first taste of solids was nearly 2 weeks ago, but we put it on hold because there was a load of upheaval at home. Yes, she is young – she only turned 4 months old on Monday. And as the health visitor pointed out, “We do prefer them to wait until 6 months to start solids”. Oh, really? Not sure Emmy would agree with you. Without going into long and boring details, she is letting me know in no uncertain terms that her current level of intake is not quite doing it for her. I think if I suggested to Emily that she wait another 2 months before moving her on, she might take my arm off at the elbow. Daniel was the same.

In fact, pretty much every time we moved Daniel on, from weaning to sleeping in his own room to giving up a dummy to toilet training, he let us know that he was ready for it. When he was ready to move out of our room, his sleep worsened, improving once he was in his own space. Same again when it came to changing from a cot to a bed.

Take toilet training – I’m more than half convinced that it’s actually the child training us. We just established that Daniel was very good at using the potty and asking for it and fetching it. We were in a nice little comfort zone, and I thought I would introduce the concept of the toilet in a couple of weeks, no hurry. Daniel decided differently, and completely off his own back he started using the toilet instead of the potty.

Emily is so far following firmly in her brother’s footsteps, letting me know when it’s time to move on. I suspect most babies are the same. This is a pretty handy thing when you think about it. Most parents are completely clueless (including us by the way!), hence the market for parenting help books, the sheer abundance of forums on the net, the helpful blogs. We joke about needing an instruction manual when we bring our newborn home but inside we’re shouting “Please give us an instruction manual!” Sweating madly, convinced we’re going to end up causing untold damage to this tiny little being because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING. And we cling onto the moment that we were in 5 minutes ago because the thought of the future, of them growing up and not needing us any more, is too scary. But luckily, for them anyway, babies are smarter than us. They know what they need, and when, and they find ways of telling us. I’m not ready for Emmy to start weaning. I felt like telling the health visitor that. “Do you think I WANT to start solids? Do I want to spend hours cooking and pureeing veg and freezing it in little blocks and persuading her that peas are actually delicious? Do I want to start the process of moving my daughter away from the intense closeness that breastfeeding brings, knowing that I won’t get that again?”

But Emily, my four month old baby girl, is smarter than me, and smarter than the expert. She knows she is big and strong, and needing more. So I’ll listen to her, and not the experts, thank you so much for the advice.

Going Solo – ish.

Well, if anyone follows me on Twitter, they will know that Baby Girl Brown finally made an appearance on Friday 9 April, and is now Emily Grace Brown. I will be blogging more about the birth and first few days another time – no gory details though, the squeamish among you will be pleased to hear. This post, however, is about today specifically.

My husband’s paternity leave ended yesterday, so technically today is the first day where I had both children by myself. Now, I say technically because my husband does actually work from home with flexible hours, so it was cheating a little. Alright, a lot. But it has taught me one or two things.

The morning started off fairly badly – I was tired and stressed from a not-so-good night with Emily and found it a struggle to get going. This wasn’t helped by both children needing my undivided attention pretty much simultaneously, and my only thoughts ran along the lines of “Oh no, I am never going to manage this, please can we just all stay in bed?” That’s where Daddy comes back in and saves the day, taking care of Daniel so I could feed Emily. He also calmed me down and saved me from crawling back under the duvet. I just found the whole idea of taking care of two children and myself and doing household jobs and writing and a million other things (which this morning seemed both imperative and immediate) completely overwhelming. Why this should be so, I have little idea. I used to be a nursery nurse – I had responsibility for lots of small children at once as well as supervising two or three staff and keeping records. The difference, I guess, is that these are my children. However much I cared for the children at nursery, they could never be as infinitely precious to me as Daniel and Emily, and the pressure to look after the nursery children pales in comparison to the responsibility I have been given for these two. Also, I don’t get to hand Daniel and Emily back at the end of the day!

In summary then, I started the day with high expectations of myself on which I had failed before I even got out of bed. I foresaw days filled with screaming children, me dwindling away to nothing as I ran round after them, the house getting gradually more and more squalid, husband fading away from starvation because I couldn’t get near the kitchen to cook anything…you get the picture. By half ten, things were looking up. I had a shower, and by half eleven all three of us were dressed and had had some breakfast. And it was nearly time for lunch already…(cue start of hysteria returning – deep breaths, deep breaths).

This afternoon, I managed to gain some control over the house, the children were both happy, fed and comfortable and I had a more realistic perspective on what I could achieve and what my priorities were. I say again, this is mostly due to the safety net I had of my husband being in the house, just a shout away if need be. I already had a great deal of respect for anyone raising children on their own – this has increased tenfold and also encompasses anyone whose partner does not work from home – the majority of the population I imagine! I do realise, in between feeling frazzled, how lucky I am. I have friends who I can call on at any time, even if it’s just for a coffee out of the house. I have an unbelievably strong support network on Twitter – I can’t say enough how much it means to put a couple of tweets up and receive back (often within minutes) replies confirming that I am actually a normal human being feeling normal things. I have family – not exactly nearby but close enough that they would be here within the hour and send me back to bed with a cup of tea while taking over everything. And I have an amazing husband who I can only describe as my lifeline. So that’s one thing that my first day of going solo(ish) has taught me – to appreciate how lucky I am.

The other thing I’ve learned – which I will almost certainly need to re-learn and re-learn until the children are putting me in a retirement home – is that I need to get a grip and put things into perspective. I am not going to achieve superhuman standards, simply because I am not superhuman (I know, I find it hard to believe too). Today for me was about keeping the children safe and happy and getting some control over the house again. Once I realised that and put the other things aside, I achieved it and have a great big tick on my to-do list. Now, I’m sitting in a tidy house (well ok, the floors need hoovering. Give me a break eh?), having done two meals, with two happy children and a happy husband, and I’m even getting time to write a blog post. I think I will be going to bed (early!) a happy girl, and we’ll see what tomorrow’s going solo-ish brings.

And Now, The End Is Near…

And so I face, the final curtain… On pregnancy, anyway.

With ten days until Baby Girl Brown is due (won’t it be nice to have a real name for her!) and little signs, not to mention wishful thinking, that she could come any time, my thoughts have naturally been straying to the future.

It is likely that this will be my last pregnancy, for many reasons. Chief of which is that I don’t really do pregnancy well. I’m not a glowing Earth Mother, and although there are some aspects of pregnancy which I will miss, overall I am better off not trying it again. The thing is, it’s not quite how I expected it. For ten years I’ve had an image of myself and my husband with three children and it’s strange letting go of that image. The names, sexes, age gaps weren’t important, just that there were three of them. I don’t know why it was important, either. Probably because my husband is an only child, and although I have a brother it is unlikely in the extreme that he will ever marry or have children, so the idea of us having three brought lots of happy images of large family gatherings, lots of grandchildren, family squabbles, you get the picture. But, c’est la vie.

I know we are actually incredibly lucky. When we’ve wanted a baby we have been lucky enough to get pregnant straight away. We’ve had, God willing, two healthy children – I know we still have to get through the actual delivery but judging from the way I get kicked she’s a robust little thing. We’ve suffered the pain of a miscarriage, but only one – I know both my mother and mother in law had at least two each and some women many more. If it comes to that, some women cannot get pregnant at all, and I am (though it may not sound like it) appreciative of how easy we’ve had it.

It just seems very final. Even during my last pregnancy, which I didn’t enjoy much, I was thinking about ‘next time’ and the next baby. It seems weird to be thinking this could be the last time I am in this situation, and a little sad too. As I said earlier, I have had this image for ten years, and that’s a lot of dreams to let go of. Never say never, of course, but the truth is it’s probably better for the whole family. Both Daniel and my husband suffered a lot when I was in hospital so much at the beginning, and that won’t get any easier as I get older. And I can improve my fitness, but that won’t help the fact that I would be x years older, or cut down my chance of hyperemesis for example.

So, as this pregnancy draws to a close, I am trying to savour the feelings I have as much as possible. Predominantly, I grant you, they are mostly pain. Backache, fairly constant Braxton Hicks, to-the-bone tiredness, muscles pulling left, right and centre in my abdomen, feet jabbing up into ribs. But there is also the special feeling of amazement, which cannot be described, the really, really weird feeling of a little body moving inside your stomach, the reassurance when you first get to feel movement or see the scan picture. The guesses, picked more or less out of thin air, as to what she will look like, what we’ll end up calling her, how she’ll eventually arrive. Sharing details with Daniel – hearing him talk about his baby sister and sharing a secret smile with my husband over how he will really react when she comes. Thinking of my baby as a big brother, thinking of both my babies playing together, growing together, loving each other.

And, now that the end is near, I look forward to the future. This is us, this is our family, and (you can throw these words back at me later when I blog about how tired I am!) I want to make the most of it.

Baby Girl Brown Sweepstake

We’re coming towards the end, and much more quickly than I had been expecting to be honest. I remember the last few weeks with my son dragging on and on and on and…you get the picture. But in a couple of days I will be 33 weeks, and the weeks are ticking over faster than you can say Braxton Hicks.

We’re doing well. Hospital bags are packed, pram and car seat are scrubbed and gleaming, nappies are washed and f0lded. We have a couple of jobs to do (buying little things like a mattress so the poor thing has somewhere to sleep for instance. That should have read “we’re doing well…for us”) but if, say, the baby came this week we’d be fine.

So I thought I might have a little fun.

Having been inspired lately by a couple of Twittering friends who have run competitions on their blogs (@cathryanhoward and @alisonwells – follow them, do, they’re lovely) I fancy doing a little sweepstake. A little prize for the person who guesses the right weight of the baby and the name we choose (only first name, not middle, that would be cruel). Bonus prize for anyone who correctly predicts that the little monkey comes out a boy after all, the due date being April Fool’s Day and all. OK, I take that one back because now some smarty pants will hedge their bets and just say ‘boy’ anyway. A real bonus prize for anyone who says (in advance!) the actual date of birth.

For a little bit of help, I will update this post with any info I get from medical professionals with estimated weights etc – if that is helpful, I don’t know. They were way off with my son. Who, by the way, was 9lb 4oz. I know people often say the second one is bigger – please, unless you want to see a grown woman faint, keep guesses under this weight! I will also update in a couple of weeks a picture of myself (when I can bring myself to do it) so you can see The Bump.

I can give no help on names as we are still making a shortlist, so have fun with that one.

I have no idea as yet what the prize will be, you’ll have to be kept in suspense on that one. My husband suggested an iPad – I think he hopes no-one will get it right. It won’t be an iPad. A notepad, possibly.

Watch this space folks.

UPDATE, 1 MARCH 2010: Nothing scientific, not back for checkup until next week. But for your information, Baby Girl Brown has suddenly seemed to double in size. With a month to go (exactly, eek!) I no longer feel like I’m carrying a baby but a huge, wriggling lump of concrete. So anyone guessing on the big side would seem, at the minute, to be closer to the truth than I would like! I’ll try to be brave and post a photo soon.

UPDATE, 3 MARCH 2010: Ha, knickers to the pessimists who think this will be a big baby! She may feel like a lump of lead, but according to midwife who I saw today, I have a very reasonably-sized bump for how long I have left to go. By which, I mean small. Not too small, just not huge. So there.

UPDATE, 9 MARCH 2010: Ok, bit of stuff happening but also not. I shall explain, but it involves very slightly messy details, so if you’re squeamish or uninterested look away now. Sunday night: waters leaking. Not broken, I hasten to add, in the sense of floods everywhere, husband needing to put waders on to rescue me from deluge, just leaking, but very definitely so. Upon examination in hospital mucus plug has moved. (That was the messiest detail, it’s safe to look again now.) Last night (Monday) I went in with really bad pains (seriously, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being ‘agonising’, I was at least an 8) which were regular contractions that…DIED away. Meh. We stayed in hospital until 2 am as they kept building up but nothing was happening. The only thing that can be said is that upon examination I was found to be 2cm dilated. And the same 4 hours later. And I could be staying the same for the next 4 weeks. So things were happening, but also not. Does that help with the sweepstake?!

Oh, and I’ve decided. Prize for closest to date, weight and name will get £10 (or €10) Amazon.co.uk voucher. Sorry it’s not more artistic and inspired but at least it’s practical!

UPDATE, 5 APRIL 2010: So, yes, we’re currently 4 days overdue, and it turns out that this isn’t so much fun. It also means that as things currently stand, only Rachel can win on date unless people have another guess, which I’m not sure isn’t cheating a little…but also remember the original criteria were date, name and weight. I will accept name and weight. Anyway, there are two bits of news. Firstly, I am going for a membrane sweep tomorrow (6 April), and according to my lovely consultant this often gets things going once you’re past your due date. Let’s hope. Also tomorrow they will book me in for induction just in case, probably for the coming weekend. With this in mind, we have mentally adjusted our countdown so that we are now not expecting anything to happen before 12 April. This is to save our sanity and to field calls from well-meaning relatives and friends. Not sure how effective it’s been so far in that respect,  but it has helped me a great deal as I was close to breaking point. You see, none of this was in the plan. She was supposed to arrive before her due date. I did not count on spending Easter weekend still pregnant, or even considering induction again. So, gentle reader, please keep everything crossed that she stirs herself soon…

UPDATE 01 MAY 2010: Emily Grace was born on 9 April weighing 9lb 5 oz, at 8 days overdue. And of course she is absolutely beautiful! Apologies it’s taken so long to update the post with sweepstake results, but it’s been a little overwhelming!

Anyway, all things considered, we’ve come to a decision on the sweepstake winner. You were all shockingly out with your date predictions, so no-one wins on date. However, there was one person who not only got the name right but was scarily close to the birth weight. So, with a guess of Emily (correct) and 9lb 6oz (only 1oz out), the winner is…..(cue drum roll, and agonisngly long pause in the style of a TV talent show) Jane Travers! Congratulations, your Amazon voucher will be winging its way to you soon.

Thanks everyone for guessing!