Monday, April 28, 2014

Here's a baby, do something with it. - My Mother's Group

Yesterday, I went to a big 1 year old's birthday bash for my mother's group and our babies. I guess I'm writing this a couple months early considering my little guy is only 10 months; he's one of the younger babies in this group though, and it is larger than pictured. Well everyone, meet some of the ladies who have helped me through this new and scary motherhood business. Yikes and Yee-ha! I met them through the Early Education Centre. The Centre sends nurses out to your home when you just have a baby, and they do all the routine baby check-ups and immunisations at the Centre. They also run a support group for new mum's once a week.

I found it extremely hard to get out of the house in the first few weeks of my baby's life. The days seemed endless and I felt like I never left the couch from which I breastfed. Charlie had difficulty gaining weight (HA! I know, right, he's so chunky now), and we struggled so much with breastfeeding. We also learned as we went that Charlie had silent reflux, which is why he would only sleep in our arms and upright,  and why I was glued to the couch after feeding! As my title to this blog suggests, I did feel like every day was just figuring out how to keep this baby and myself alive. "Just make it through the day, Jess."
So if I'm breastfeeding and holding a sleeping child all day long how do I get myself ready and go out the front door? Well, one time I went out for Charlie's check up and was wearing maroon pants and maroon crocs. Disaster. [There is a very good reason we have a "No CROC's outside this house" rule!]      
                                                          Look how tired I was ( and of course glued to the couch!)

I knew I had to get to that support group, it was only a two block walk from me, yet it seemed impossible. Sure, I was worried I'd end up getting there and all the mother's would be hungry wolves, who would eat me up with their judgement and out-doing me comments. BUT what I feared more was that I would never again leave my lounge room and have the support I craved!
Finally, after a couple of weeks of terrible attempts to get out the door to group, I did it. I almost talked myself out of it. "I look terrible and I just know this baby is going to have a screaming fit when I get there." I worked long hours before hand to make sure I was dressed, my baby was dressed  and I had everything in the nappy bag packed. You laugh at me, maybe, but it can really be that hard for a new mum to get out when she's glued to the couch! 

Pictured: Charlie chases his mate Alex
AND you know what, they weren't hungry judgemental wolves, waiting to pounce. They were kind women, understanding, and tired - just like me. I remember crying (no,  it was sobbing) when it came to my turn in the circle. I grew up being a big sister to 4 newborns, and had even been a nanny, but there was so much I didn't know, and all of a sudden my great confidence that I could do this job was wavering. These women offered assurance that they too were having one heck of a time figuring out this new baby stuff. I also found I was offered many great ideas and solutions by hearing what other mum's were going through. 
Today the dynamic of this group has changed as our babies have grown and become demanding in other ways. I think we are a little less emotional, and not AS exhausted.  We stay in regular contact on our Facebook group page, still supporting each other and offering help to one another. We still try and meet up somewhere once a week to hang out. 
I look back on the last 10 months and am so grateful for these beautiful, open, caring, genuine and loving mums who opened their hearts to me and Charlie. You ladies have had such an impact on me in one of the hardest times of my life (and, it's been a mega- rewarding time too). Thank you!
Sorry, it's a Fuzzy Picture - This is Amy (who organises a lot for us) and her beautiful Chloe

Monday, April 14, 2014

From Swaddling to Sleepy Wings

Swaddling  my little guy was an absolute must for us. I've tried a few different ways of swaddling Charlie. I thought when he was a newborn that he hated being swaddled with his arms at his sides. It wasn't until after a sleep deprived, and desperate phone call to my friend Helen for sleep help that I learned any different. She came over, and took charge, and got us going on a sleep routine when Charlie was 7 weeks old. The combination of the tighter swaddling and routine really saved us, and allowed us to get enjoyment out of our trip to Canada with an 8 week old.We came back from Canada to Australia and my son struggled so badly with jet lag. I was so sleep deprived that we ended up at Tressilian (Sleep-help school) for a week in Sydney at his 4 month mark.
The paediatrician there, who saw Charlie, told me he was on the "busy" end of the spectrum, always watching and doing.  I also found out from another "sleep expert" here in Newcastle that when babies are physically secure they feel mentally secure. That would explain why he was waking himself up unless tightly swaddled. [Charlie pictured here at 9 Months]

So what do you do when your baby starts to grow out of their swaddle?

My son is so far off the charts that they would need to add an extra page to put him back on it. He quickly grew out of his crib-sheet swaddle so I started talking to the mum's in my mother's group about where to go from there. Most of them had their babies out of swaddles, something I could not have imagined doing with my busy bear. One of them said she had heard of Sleepy Wings. I bought 2 sets of Organic - Sleepy Wings online and started transitioning Charlie into using them for his day sleeps, and gradually his night sleeps too. It took us a couple of weeks and he was swaddle free, but now he was in Sleepy Wings and tucked into bed in a very tight sheet - (I made a video for the amazing sheet trick tip).

I know there will be plenty of mums who like the Sleepy Wings because they have these cool little dummy (pacifier) pockets on both hands; the idea is to slip the dummy handle into the pocket and then your baby can easily retrieve the dummy from the pocket using their mouth. Such a cool invention
by an Aussie Mum, right?

But my busy boy thought this was just a game of get the dummy out of the pocket, spit it out, then go to the next hand and repeat. Maybe my next kid will be calm enough use the pockets.

My husband and myself were also concerned about the safety of a swaddled baby in a car seat.
We don't have one of those babies who easily sleeps in a car. Again, he's too busy! His arms needed restraining of some kind. Once again the Sleepy Wings proved a winner for us. We could strap Charlie into his car seat or pram and he would go off to sleep with out his arms waking him up. (You can choose to put the sleepy wings on with arms up or down). Another  safety issue these overcome is SIDS risk. If your baby does flip onto their tummy in bed they will still have their arms out and be able to push up to move their head.
I was talking to my sister just now online and I was showing her the Sleepy Wings. She lives in the States and was telling me that her friend would have loved a set of these for when her baby was struggling with eczema, instead of having the baby wear horrible itchy sock like things on their arms.

I also like that Charlie can just move his hands enough to be able to grip the dummy and put it back in his mouth if it falls out near his face. Charlie's arms and hands stay warm while he's in his sleep-bag too.

I didn't get to try these wings on newborn Charlie but I think they would have really assisted with his startle reflex. I wish I had known about them sooner.

I think I've only covered a few of the uses, but there's heaps more on the Sleepy Wings website.
You can purchase transitional Sleepy Wings when your baby is ready for the next level - Click here to see what I mean. Hopefully I can do a review on the Grow Wings soon.

I noticed the website is advertising FREE SHIPPING Australia wide at the moment.
*I love supporting an Aussie mum-preneur like Shae Tye. All opinions shared are my own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tomorrow there will be Apricots

Do you ever just walk into a book store or library and just pick out a book to read at random? It can be thrilling. I don't usually enjoy the risk of buying something I have never heard of only to be disappointed later.  This time I chose the library for this thrilling act of randomness …

The result was that I ended up thoroughly enjoying a book I'd never heard of:
 Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots - by Jessica Soffer.

For the second time in my life I chose a book at random with my first name on it. The first time was at the Vancouver Library when I was 19, and it was called Jessica - by Bryce Courtenay. Side note: That's when my love affair with Bryce began, as did my love of Australia and Australian fiction.  He is still my most favourite author to-date.
So two for two, based on random pickings with my name on them isn't bad, eh?

Meet teenage girl Lorca. She is lonely, creative, responsible, an old soul. But she aches to be enough for her self-obsessed mother. To have her mother's love and acceptance would be everything. I loved this girl from the beginning. We've all been there; wanted to be someone to somebody. The author puts you right in the character's shoes, which is where I want to be when I am reading a story. She had me aching for Lorca to be loved. My teen years are a poignant reminder of this so for me it was very easy to identify with this character. I wanted to be enough for my own mother and father; I thought there was a void only their love could fill. You just want to tell this girl she's already everything she needs to be and more. A truth I now know.

The book follows Lorca on her search to find Masgouf, a recipe her Chef mother says is her favorite.
If she can just find out how to make this meal for her mother she will finally be loved; however, deep down she knows the truth, she won't ever get it.
Along her journey she meets Blot. Every teen girl needs a crush, right? And more importantly a true friend. Together they track down an elderly woman, named Victoria, who widens the story line and the door to Iraqi food. Jessica Soffer describes a meal in a way that makes each morsel jump off the page into your mouth. WHAT? My love of books and food combined, yay. Mmmmm.
Lorca finds in Victoria what she's craved so much from her own mother, and the possibility of more than that ( but I won't spoil it). By the end of this book Lorca does realise that she can survive with out her mother's love by making family out of friends. Hey, I did that too. Dysfunction forces you to make your own family. Out of grief can spring great joy.

I loved how this book brings total strangers together in moments that will change them forever. There is such a warmth to these pages. You can really feel the sense of loss, and desire for acceptance. I had a hard time putting this book down because the images and characters Jessica Soffer painted came to life.