Week Six

Turned six weeks old!

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This week, there were a few days where we just took it easy at home. It’s easier sometimes that way to keep her happy with feeding and naps on my lap. We did get out every day for at least a walk, and met with my NCT mum friends one day, and another friend another day.

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Thanks Uncle Kevin and Aunt Debbie for the hat; Elodie loves the Beatles!

I’m learning now what makes her happy and what her habits are. Some days we still had major crying, but it’s been punctuated by happy bouts of contented smiles, giggles and playing with her mobile.

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She has also begun to enjoy spending short amounts of time in her rocker.

At times I think her windiness and fussiness is getting a little better; I’ve cut out dairy which may or may not be helping, but she is able to burp more easily on her own and I think her digestion system is getting more mature. When she is fussy, we’ve done a combination of swaddles and pacifiers to help settler her in the evenings. I’ve felt very guilty about using the dummy, but when she is upset, but clearly not hungry, it does help to settle her. If she truly wants to eat, she’ll spit out the dummy until she gets the boob. I feel guilty because I know newborns need to feed not just for food, but also for comfort and bonding, and I don’t want to substitute that. But I think at this point, we have a really strong breastfeeding relationship and occasional dummy use shouldn’t impact that.

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The big event of the week was the arrival of Andy’s dad and his wife (G-pops/Mark and Becky)!

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It was really fun to see them and we spent the whole weekend touring all over London with Elodie. She was a trooper. We started off the first (rainy) night in our neighborhood with a walk and dinner, but the weather got progressively better throughout the weekend.  We brought Elodie everywhere in her carrier – it’s so much easier than the buggy.

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We went everywhere: over the three days we visited the City, Southbank, Tower Bridge, Borough Market, Broadway Market, Regents Canal, the Royal Parks, Westminster, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Oxford Street.

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Picnic in Green Park

We also interspersed this with some flat viewing in Dalston and Kentish Town and long walks around our neighborhood and some others. It was great to show the city to Mark and Becky, watch them get to know Elodie and have their help with holding and calming her as well!

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I fed her everywhere: park benches, restaurants, pubs, even a random street bench in Kentish Town in a crisis moment. This has all made me more confident and skilled at breastfeeding in public. It’s not always easy or comfortable, and depending on the setting sometimes I’m self-conscious about it, but I also feel that it is the most natural, healthy thing I can do for my baby and her needs are more important to me than anything. I also think it’s important to “normalise breastfeeding” in the public realm. Too often, mothers are discouraged from breastfeeding and since we don’t see it happening regularly, we are continuing to promote the view that it is not normal or should be hidden out of sight. That needs to change.

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We are more confident with Elodie now and know her needs and patterns better, which is making it easier to anticipate her needs rather than wait for a meltdown. She doesn’t like to sleep very much, and often gets so overtired.

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As for me, all the walking and touring the city was so much fun but did tire me out. It’s frustrating to not have the endurance and strength I used to have. It will come back but right now, I don’t like feeling weak or less capable of keeping up.

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The best parts of the week were seeing her big smiles, hearing her chatter away and having fun making noises and faces at each other. She is so cute and I can hardly stand it. Love truly continues to grow each day.

Five Weeks

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Five weeks old

This week’s milestones:

Elodie has been really alert since birth, and smiling since the second week, but this week marked some breakthroughs in being social and smiling and making eye contact much more consistently!

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She loves examining faces and imitating, so we spent a lot of time this week smiling at each other, talking and making noises, and sticking out our tongues. On Monday she was just starting to imitate me sticking out my tongue, and by Wednesday she was a pro. It is amazing to watch her change so fast.

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She has also started to enjoy lying under her mobile and watching the toys move, and even began to grab at them! This is a big improvement because a week ago, she could not lie down by herself without crying.

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I also discovered that she likes to look at pictures of herself (though not in the mirror).

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Still having lots of clingy moments and cluster feeding though, and windiness is still happening, although I think it is getting better. I decided to cut out dairy (again) to see if that makes a difference. We did lots of walks around the neighbourhood in the carrier, which help her sleep and keep me sane.

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IMG_2023.jpgI started to learn to pump breastmilk, to teach her to take a bottle so occasionally Andy can feed her. This is complicated to do, and hard to find the time when she feeds often and needs me holding her a lot. Andy gave her a bottle on Saturday and she sort of took it, but then gave up after a little while. I think it will take a few sessions for her to get used to it and learn. I didn’t want to start too soon but by one month of established breastfeeding, she shouldn’t have nipple confusion, but is still young enough to learn. I felt really conflicted watching Andy feed her; I know it will give me some freedom if he can feed her, and could make it easier to feed her when we are out. And it’s absolutely necessary for her to learn to take a bottle so I can go back to work. But I also know she needs breastfeeding for comfort and emotional needs beyond just getting milk, and I felt really strange being replaced by a bottle.

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Along those same lines, we also tried a pacifier (dummy as they are called here) for the first time. We actually tried a few times during the week when she was really fussy but she rejected it. Suddenly on Sunday she took it. Again, I was (and still am) conflicted about this. On the one hand, the pacifier is a substitute for the breast, and if she wants the comfort of the breast, it’s not fair to replace it. But on the other hand, some babies have a strong urge to suck for comfort, and since birth, she has sucked on her right fist. Once she has fed plenty, a pacifier can help to settle her, so why not allow her to do something that brings comfort? I still feel really guilty about it, but it’s been a few days now and she doesn’t always take it. If she’s truly hungry, she’ll reject it and I’m happy to feed her on demand. But to give her comfort and bring peace to the whole house, I think it’s okay on occasion.

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Relatedly, we have had some success with swaddling her at night to sleep. We’ve tried this off and on since birth and sometimes she really protests the swaddle. But lately it seems to comfort her more, as she has gotten stronger and more mobile and is constantly flailing her arms and legs about.

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In other news, I developed an infected fingernail this week. I’ll spare the details but at times it felt more painful than childbirth, and we ended up an urgent care clinic on Sunday so I could get antibiotics. Not how any of us wanted to spend Sunday morning, but it was worth it. Andy walked Elodie around the neighbourhood in her carrier while I waited to be seen and it was the longest and furthest I had ever been from her, and it made me heart hurt to be separated, even in such a small way. The doctor reminded me I need to take care of myself, too.

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Sunday was also Mother’s Day in the US! We celebrated since Elodie wasn’t born in time for the UK Mother’s Day this year. After the doctor, we went for brunch.

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Andy was absolutely amazing and spoilt me all weekend; he brought me flowers and cakes from Ottolenghi, he and Elodie surprised me with treats from Neal’s Yard and Aesop, and he made an incredible dinner.

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I felt so lucky, and so loved! It was very surreal to be on the mom side of Mother’s Day this year.

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One Month Old!

(week four/week of 1 May)

This was a big week for Elodie (aren’t they all at this age though?)

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Four weeks old as of Monday

On Tuesday we took her down to the US Embassy to register her birth abroad and apply for her Social Security number and passport. She was proclaimed the world’s newest US citizen, very exciting!

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We also took our first Underground ride which was exciting, and it was so lovely and refreshing to be in Mayfair on a beautiful morning. 

And Wednesday was her one month birthday! Exciting but also quite sad for me. Her “tiny” size baby clothes are getting tight.

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One month old on May 3

She is also losing her hair which makes me sad. But it is good to see her grow and thrive, and I’m proud that she is all fed via me.

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The scale isn’t exactly the same in these photos, but look how much she grew from two days old to one month!

Much of the week was quite stressful though, with lots of crying and windiness and colic. We’ve tried gripe water, the “Windi” device (scary) and Infacol, with varying results – the gripe water helped get some big burps out but I don’t like giving her anything besides breastmilk. She really only sleeps in the wrap during the day, or sitting up in my hand, which is adorable but exhausting for me because then I can’t sleep when she does.

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Later in the week I met a friend with a toddler for a coffee and a walk, and then met some of my NCT friends for coffee. Elodie was pretty relaxed for both of these events, sleeping well in her pram as we walked, which was a breakthrough. It is so nice to see and chat with other mums, and I think it’s important to keep that up.

On Saturday we had a reunion of all six of the NCT couples with babies, which was really fun and hilarious/surreal to reunite us all, with babies in tow. Otherwise we had a relatively quiet weekend, spending Saturday night at home but venturing out on Sunday for lunch and exploring Kentish Town. We are flat-hunting and considering other neighbourhoods in London, although we want to stay in our neighbourhood if we can.

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Elodie enjoys being in the carrier with daddy, and each week, we are getting a little more confident with taking her out and about, as we come to know her needs and patterns better and better.

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I can’t get over how adorable she is. I love watching her feed, watching her sleep, stroking her hair and her back. These days are so precious and will go so fast.

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Week Three with Elodie

Some highlights from this week (week of 24 April):

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Elodie was three weeks old on Monday

On Monday, Andy took the day off since his mom and sister were visiting and we rented a car and drove out to the Cotswolds for the day. Elodie’s first time outside of London!

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The day was a bit rainy but it was fun to be out and exploring all the adorable Cotswold villages.

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It was a long day but Elodie was a champ; she was fussy at times but the movement of the car helped, as did being in the wrap. It was tough when I couldn’t pick her up and hold her in the car, but massaging her tummy and holding her tiny hands seemed to help. Touch is so powerful.

The next day we had a relaxing day of walking around our neighbourhood and saying a sad goodbye to Aunt Laurie.

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Later in the week we had some episodes of cluster-feeding and fussiness, but dancing with her, holding her and breastfeeding all help. I had to remind myself that you cannot spoil a newborn by holding them too much, and you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby – it’s what they need.

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On Thursday I had a coffee date with some friends from my NCT class, and on Friday I went to a local La Leche League meeting which I loved! It is really important to get out and connect with other mums, and the LLL meeting was really empowering, reminding me of how important and valuable breastfeeding is and reassuring me that these early weeks are very tough for everyone.

Over the weekend we sadly said goodbye to Grandma Jill, but did get to see Aunt Lindsey more.

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We got Elodie’s birth certificate, very exciting! She also began to hold her head up on her own during tummy time!

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We rounded out the weekend with a trip to Dishoom in Shoreditch for breakfast, which was Elodie’s first trip on the Overground, a visit from friends in the afternoon and dinner with Lindsey at the Snooty Fox.

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By then Elodie was starting to lose it and we took our girl home after a very eventful week!

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Week Two with Elodie

On Easter Monday we took our first longer excursion from the house, walking over to Dalston to meet Andy’s sister Lindsey (visiting from York) and have lunch. I was excited to venture slightly further from home (just about a mile away) but it was a bit stressful when Elodie became fussy. Each time we venture out of the house it’s a good lesson for us and helps us gain more confidence. Our pub lunch was fun, I was able to feed her there, and even changed her in the pub bathroom (first time using a public changing table – don’t love that). It was fun to see Aunt Lindsey again!

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We struggled a bit that week with Elodie being quite windy, and there was one night of projectile spit-up which was quite scary. We started using Infacol to help with the gas but who knows if that is helping or not. I wasn’t happy about giving her something besides breastmilk but it’s supposed to be very safe.

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On the bright side, she also began to coo and giggle and smile and be really active this week. Elodie was really alert and bright-eyed from birth, and we know they say babies don’t smile this early but we are definitely getting reactions from her when we dance and sing and talk to her. She loves tummy time and we do it every morning and every night.

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On Wednesday Andy went back to work which I was really dreading. However we managed better than I expected. That afternoon we had a follow-up midwife appointment and it went really well; the community midwife was lovely and I was excited to learn that Elodie has gained weight and is now 6 pounds, 7 ounces! We took a nice walk through Highbury Fields and to Upper Street to buy Andy’s birthday presents. This ended up being kind of a tiring adventure for both of us, and I stopped to feed Elodie on a park bench, something I’ve come to use as my go-to public breastfeeding spot. I feel strongly that breastfeeding should not be something taboo or hidden; it is completely natural, and I need to feed my child whenever she needs it. But it’s still a bit stressful to get used to doing it in public in these early days.

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We had another outing the next day to meet up with the other new mums I know from the NCT class, which involved our first trip on the bus. We had a very exciting weekend with more visitors, Grandma Jill and Aunt Laurie (Andy’s mom and sister). Yay! We spend the weekend doing fun walks around Clissold Park, dinner out on Friday night and then a big day for Andy’s birthday on Saturday, with lunch at Smokehouse and then a big adventure down into central London, walking around St. Paul’s, over Millennium Bridge and around the Tate Modern and Southbank.

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This was really fun and I enjoyed being out, but it was also a bit stressful with the crowds at times. On Sunday night, we stayed in and cooked dinner at our flat, and spent the evening playing with Elodie and dancing her around to the Beatles, which was a really fun and cozy night in.

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We’re still learning every day!

One Week Old

Highlights of week two:

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Elodie cluster-fed all day on Monday, her one-week birthday, so we basically spent the day on the sofa feeding and bonding. I really felt like the mom of a newborn as I spent the whole day in pyjamas, barely moving from the sofa.

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Around 9pm that night, after about 24 hours of cluster feeding, Andy took charge of calming her and let me sleep for three hours solid. I think that was the longest stretch of sleep I had since the night before I went into labour, and it was one of the nicest things he has ever done for me. We all had a calmer night’s sleep.

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She is so young and this time will go so fast. We learned that movement and massaging helps her calm down.

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We took it easy most of that week, focusing on feeding and bonding, punctuated by walks around the neighborhood and her first visit to the Snooty Fox, our favourite neighborhood pub, for an afternoon drink, and lunch out on Friday at the Leconfield, our first meal out with her.

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I also ordered a wrap, since she was too small for her carrier, and learned that works really well for taking Elodie for walks and errands around the neighbourhood. She goes right to sleep in there! I love it because it feels like she is back in the belly, and she loves the closeness.

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We learned that music and dancing also help to calm Elodie down when she has her evening fussiness. By the end of the week, she began grabbing my face and hair and Andy’s beard! She changes so much every day and we also began to see little chubby cheeks and hands start to emerge by the end of the week. It’s hard to see that happen!

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On Sunday, her first Easter, she had her first bath which, surprisingly, she seemed to enjoy! And, her Aunt Lindsey came to visit! It has been so lovely to introduce Elodie to her family. As I tell Elodie everyday, there are people all over the world who love her. 🙂 It really has been lovely to hear so many well wishes from our friends and family all over the world, via email, text, and social media. This is really a special time and it has been so heartwarming to feel this outpouring of love.

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As far as my own adjustments, I was still quite sore this week and tried to give myself time to recover, but some short walks felt good both in my legs and for my mental health. Breastfeeding has gone well overall luckily, especially once the initial pain of the first week subsided. My chest pains and shortness of breath went away the day after she was born, and I was happily surprised to see most the weight drop off in the first week or two, although of course I haven’t bounced back to my pre-pregnancy shape. All in good time!

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I’ve also been quite exhausted and had another night where I began seeing shapes, which I think can be attributed to both sleep deprivation and hunger. I have been extremely hungry and thirsty all the time.

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It’s been hard to have a lifestyle change and adjust to spending so much time at home, just sitting. I was active up to the very end of pregnancy, so this new sedentary lifestyle, where I spend some days feeling like I’ve accomplished nothing, has been hard to be honest. But this is such a short, precious time with her. Everything is different, but having these days of just the three of us at home to bond is so precious and lovely. Andy is so good with Elodie and I love seeing them bond.

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Elodie is good for me because she forces me to slow down, breathe and do one thing at a time. To focus on what is truly important.

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Emotionally this entire experience has been completely overwhelming. I’ve cried every day, often feeling like I feel everything so strongly right now. I love her so much it scares me, and makes me feel so vulnerable. I want to give her everything and protect her from everything bad in the world, and these feelings are just overwhelming, like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

The First Week

I’m not sure what format I want to use going forward with this blog. For now I have some detailed posts about Elodie’s first few weeks that I want to capture, but I think eventually I’ll move to a different format focusing on the highlights of life as a family of three. It will be a work in progress, just as our real life is!

When I left off, we arrived at home on Tuesday, the 4th of April, and we spent the next few days in a blur of learning to feed and change Elodie and get our heads around this amazing, adorable, unbelievable new life.

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Feeding Elodie was a bit hard at first. I’m lucky that she latched on right away and that my milk came in with no problem by the end of Thursday (day three). That first night at home she wanted to feed all night, and we know now that this was both a hunger and comfort thing for our tiny newborn. At the time it was stressful though, and going on my third night with zero sleep was tough (and caused more hallucinations). We struggled to figure out how to sleep with her safely when she only wanted to be held, and how to make sure she was latching on correctly.

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I’m grateful there are good breastfeeding resources in the area; I called the Islington Breastfeeding Network on Wednesday morning and had a very helpful phone consultation which helped a lot with positioning and attachment, and on Friday we went to their drop-in clinic in the neighborhood which further helped affirm we were doing it right. So grateful to have these free resources nearby.

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I love looking at her little face, watching while she eats and sleeps. I love the wild animal faces she makes when she is rooting, and the sneaky little looks she gives me when she is hungry. I love the bond that breastfeeding brings, and knowing how valuable it is for her, both physically and emotionally. The entire experience of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding has left me in awe of the human body.

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She is so tiny and precious and perfect. I look at her and see a whole lifetime ahead, a whole world of possibilities, which both excites me and terrifies me. I want to give her everything and can’t wait to show her the world, but also want her to stay a tiny peanut. This love is intense and powerful and scary. Full of potential, optimisim, hope.

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On Wednesday we ventured outside for a few minutes just to see the sun, and then on Thursday we made it out for a short walk in the neighbourhood, using the buggy for the first time, and stopped for a coffee at the cafe down the road. It was incredibly nerve-wracking to be out with her! But it also felt really good, and really surreal, to be out in the world with our new addition.

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On Saturday we had our first visitors! My brother John, his wife Tina and their kids came to visit. They live outside London and I’m so grateful they made the drive in early Saturday morning just to meet Elodie. It meant the world to me, and I’ll be so sad when they leave the UK this summer.

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We also had an unexpected visitor on Saturday; the community midwife came by Saturday unannounced. The midwife is supposed to call and visit within the first few days of coming home, and I never heard anything so called the hospital on Friday afternoon. I got the run-around and never got confirmation she would be coming at all. I was rather annoyed that she showed up Saturday morning and cut into our time with family, but it wasn’t her fault and she was actually lovely. And most importantly, Elodie was very healthy and had gained back some of the weight she lost post-birth.

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Later that day we also FaceTimed with my mom and went for a walk in the afternoon, where we had our first public breastfeeding experience, sat on a bench in Abney Park Cemetery!

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The weather was absolutely beautiful that weekend so on Sunday, we packed a picnic and enjoyed some time in the sun.

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Being outside with Elodie for a picnic, rather than in a restaurant or pub, is definitely easier for our eating, feeding her and changing her and this worked out really well – until we realized just how hot it was and got worried that she was overheating. We headed home and spent the evening at home as she embarked on her first session of cluster feeding all night.

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We ended the first week completely overwhelmed with love, as all three of us slowly learned to navigate this new life together.