I have been fortunate. Throughout my adult life, I have held many jobs that have kept me up at all hours of the night, and my lifestyle outside of those jobs has often kept me up at all hours of all the other nights. Our little angel does have father's ability to sleep at the drop of a hat, but sometimes she takes a bit more convincing...
The main idea is forming a habit - just like going to the gym, I feel that sleeping patterns are something that can (to an extent) be trained. Train yourself to survive on less sleep and you will find that you don't need that much to function. Thanks to nature, Meg has also been getting fewer & fewer hours in the weeks leading up to the birth. She continues to thrive on some magical maternal hormones that mean she requires far less sleep than usual to function in her current capacity as a feeding machine; we're very thankful that she doesn't have to return to work just yet!
For men, though, it's a different beast. Sleeping on the job is often frowned upon by others, especially when your poor wife is doing all the hard work! I've gotten away relatively lightly, however. Given that I'm not the one working, I'm able to dedicate a lot more time in when Meg needs, which is a great little Brownie-points earner! Luckily, too, I can survive without regular meals for a while & can nod off fairly readily, almost anywhere.
I seem to develop two layers of sleep - there's the incredibly deep sleep, which is rare, where Meg usually has to lay the boot into me to wake me from, but there's also the super light level, in which I can jump up and about doing things like changing nappies & little outfits without a second thought. I still feel rested after all of this and can get back to sleep without a worry afterward, but usually have very little memory of actually having woken...
Now while this is working, I'm totally cool with it. I'd much rather be allowing Meg to rest during these first few weeks than having her get up & do everything - she's already producing milk, and I'm going to guess that that uses a lot of energy, so I'm pretty impressed with how she's going!
Another factor is the eating. Now I'm a guy who loves his three (or six) square meals each day, but having Ava has thrown me completely out of whack. Timings mean nothing to a three-week-old baby. Snacking is where it's at. Snacking constantly on things like trail mix (keep away from the junk, obviously) gets me through and keeps me level-headed in what is a pretty stressful time. Keeping the food up to Meg is a more difficult task, as she usually just wants something easy and fast (i.e. noodles or chocolate).
Another good idea is red wine - for her, a small glass after dinner means that she's asleep before 9 pm (beer and wine have reportedly helping with milk production for millennia - read more about it here
); for me the rest of the bottle means that I can sit up writing these quality posts or watching movies until Ava's had her last feed for the day (usually ending around 1 am).
Otherwise, the only other advice, which you'll hear everywhere, is to rest when the baby does. Even when it seems totally inappropriate by normal standards. Meg has been having a lot of 9 am naps lately, and I've been getting some good rack time just before dinner. It means that I can take the night shift, and she takes the mornings.
Of course, as a male, there's bugger all that I can do to help feed her in the wee hours, but just a little support goes a long way.
Well we've made it to week two and no one has died.... That might sound a little tactless, given the current situation in Manila...
With all the rain & flooding, we've been almost trapped in our building this week. Meg's father made a surprise appearance for a few days, which was great. He managed to shower little Ava with gifts before fighting his way trough the water to make his flight (on the second attempt). He was able to pick up a set of baby scales from a nearby medical supply store, which thankfully means we don't have to head to the hospital to check her feeding, etc. We had to make a trip in on Monday, when the rains were at their heaviest, when almost all of Manila had shut down, and when our car was coding... The result turned out fine - she's healthy & feeding well, but must be in the middle of a growth spurt, as she has gone a couple of days without pooping (I realise the irony of my last post now).
Bruce has taken a real shine to our new addition, acting very warily around her, and never overstepping his limit. He obviously knows the new little person is to be treated very delicately, and isn't reacting too badly to the change in focus of our attention. It's a bit soon to be letting them both play together, but I've got a good feeling that they'll be great mates!
We're about to lose our grandparents this weekend, so afterward will be on our own. It'll mean less sleep, but hopefully from now we can start to get into a bit more of a routine as Ava has got much better at sleeping at night between feeds. The days are getting better, and our swaddle wraps are getting a workout. I'm sure it's going to continue to be a struggle before it gets too much better... I'm looking forward to it though!
Sorry. It had to happen. One of the most consistent things I've been asked is about nappies...
So far, it really hasn't been so bad. Yeah they happen. And before having a child of my own, I never wanted to touch the mucky things. I'm not amazingly keen to touch them now, either, but they're much less scary when it's your own baby.
With feeding just starting to happen properly, a lot of focus is now on the contents of the nappies - is it wet? Is she hydrated? Is she passing anything? What colour is it? How much is there? What consistency is it? When Megan's out of the house, this means taking photos & sending them to her to ease her worry that feeding is going well. She also seems to think that I don't trust her when she changes a nappy, often leaving them out for me to discover, and then asking me what I thought of our baby's efforts... Silly me, before now I had just been throwing them out!
Fingers crossed that we'll have more colourful poop news for you in the coming weeks... I can't wait...
After our appointment with our OB/GYN on Monday morning, Megan started to get some odd pains. Initially we passed them off as more Braxton-Hicks, but as they kept up I grew a little more concerned. They were no more painful than the standard Braxton-Hicks contractions, but seemed to keep up for much longer than usual. We were still able to keep moving, so we busied ourselves and forgot about it for the moment.
Tuesday was much similar, but there was definitely a more noticeable scurry of activity - lots of bags being packed & final plans put into place about what would happen if it all finally happened... And of course, lots of reassuring Megan that everything would be ok (it was basically a whole day of repeating the phrases "are you ok, darling?" and "I'm sorry, darling"). The contractions started getting a little worse through the night, and she didn't get much sleep at all (neither did I, for that matter), and when Wednesday morning came around, we sorta knew what was happening.
As much as Meg didn't want to admit it at the time, I think she knew that the baby was on the way, whether we liked it or not. We waited it out as long as we could at home - it was approaching the afternoon rush hour and a storm was coming in... the 5 km, 40 minute drive to the hospital was about to turn into a 2-3 hour stagnation of bumper-to-bumper traffic, so we fed the dog, (re)packed Meg's bag(s) and got in the car.
After what was a relatively smooth check-in at Makati Med, we got into the swing of things. Contractions were now getting very painful and were right on schedule. Although our room was quite large, the hospital was very strict about their two-guest-only policy, which meant that one of the mothers was left outside... As soon as our OB/GYN arrived, though, she was able to talk some sense into the staff and we were all able to wait out the last few hours together.
We handed out copies of our birth plan, as well as copies of the pre-check in forms Dr Henson had given us... Still, though, the nurses required us to fill out the exact same forms on arrival, and clad in our weird hospital gowns, we waited... Those gowns & booties, by the way, are one-size-fits-all, so if you're any bigger than the standard Filipino, you're going to have a bad time...
Megan's contractions started to heat up a bit later in the night, but somehow she wasn't making any progress at all on the dilation front. After days of contracting and nothing to show for it, we made the decision to intervene. We had originally hoped to do everything naturally, so it wasn't an easy choice to make. She was scrubbed up by the anaesthesiologist and an epidural was inserted into her back and Dr Henson broke the amniotic sac. I should point out that although there are heaps of massive, scary looking needles, the procedure was all done very quickly and looked nowhere near as frightening as people imagine. Afterward, she went back to having no awareness of the contractions, and we tried to sneak in some rest.
Around 1 am, something happened, and pain shot through Megan's lower back. Some element of the epidural hadn't fully worked and now all of her pain seemed to be shooting through that small window. Doctors rushed in and we were stuck with another difficult decision. There was still no movement, although the baby was now getting impatient. She was determined to come out, but there was something blocking her path. We didn't know it at the time, but our baby was face-up; for some reason she wasn't able to turn properly into the birth canal. Frustrated, worried, scared, desperate and exhausted, we made the call to have the Caesar.
It was a very strange feeling, helping to wheel Meg into the OR, and knowing that she was about to have our baby sliced out of her. Some sort of paternal instinct kicked in and I began assessing everyone in the room, giving them little nicknames, like Mr & Mrs Superfluous (we'd specifically stated that no one who was not medically essential should be in the room, as watching a white woman give birth apparently draws a bit of a crowd). It turns out they were the paediatric team, ready to receive the baby - I was the only one there that was unnecessary. Anyway, I scrubbed in, taking lots of photos (of course my camera was also allowed in), and stayed by Megan's head as she was lashed onto the bed. Watching the team operate on her was at once brilliant, but also terrifying. There's no doubt that they were extremely good at their jobs, but to watch it happen was surreal.
When the time came and our child's head made its first appearance, I was absolutely stunned... Dr Henson casually plucked her from the open womb, and faced her toward me. I couldn't speak - it was incredible. It was also totally not what I was expecting. In a flash, she showed me our baby, covered in fluid, vernix, and blood. It was certainly not the prettiest of things to see at that time! The doctor was moving our new baby over so that Megan could see, and all I could do was stammer "it's a girl". Meg had tears running down her face, and I was handed a pair of medical scissors. I remember cutting the cord was a lot harder than I thought it'd be - it turns out that it's quite thick and I wasn't feeling very strong at that time! The paediatricians cleaned up our baby, Dr Henson sewed up Megan's belly, and I stood around, waiting to be told what to do.
Eventually I was able to wheel the baby back into our room, to the expectant new grandmothers, announcing the arrival of our new baby girl - and no one believed me. Everyone (me included) had been expecting a boy for so long, that the fact we had a girl was fairly inconceivable. Eventually, though, everyone agreed with me & we started trying to get accustomed to the idea of having a new daughter/granddaughter. Megan was son stitched up & brought back into our room, where we all cooed over our new addition.
It wasn't until about 8am that I got an hour's sleep, with little Ava sleeping on my chest. I had no idea but apparently they'd done all sorts of newborn exams on her while we'd slept. We were awoken so that we could change from the delivery room to a suite on a different floor. After a lot of confusing questions and nonsensical answers, I worked out where we were being transferred to & packed our things. The grandmothers had gone home to feed the dog & reorg. Our next few days were pretty chaotic as we battled an army of residents who seemed to come in every half hour to check either Megan's or Ava's temperature & heart rate; sleep was very scarce as we were doing our best to commence breastfeeding. We had to continually tell our 'visitors' that we were fine & not to continually harass us. And then there were the (very sub-par) food & newspaper deliveries, as well as everyone else who seemed want a look at the whitey & the baby. Our team of grandparents was soon back with us, making sure we had all we needed & running defence for us.
Filling out our draft birth certificate was a lot easier than expected. As we'd planned to make Megan's surname the middle name of our child, we avoided a lot of stress. Many friends have told us of how the administrative staff have bullied people in to using the mothers' maiden name as the middle name of their children, fitting with the Spanish style of naming (as part of the Spanish invasion, they renamed the population with Spanish names, which are continued today). There were only two copying errors in our finished certificate, so after they were emended, we were right to roll.
On Saturday afternoon, we were finally allowed to head home. With final checks from our Paediatrician and OB/GYN, and taking care of our tab, we headed out the door. Getting our little one home for the first time was an amazing relief. We still have to get a gift for our amazing doctors. The hospital experience was not one I'm eager to repeat, but there were a lot of pleasant surprises which in some ways made it better than what an Australian hospital might've been. I guess we'll never really know, but for a third-world country, it could've been so much worse.
Our first week is coming to an end - our little beauty is a week old! The days have flown; it seems like it's been one long, sleepless expanse of time, perforated by feeding sessions & nappy changes.
Ava has become so beautiful in that way that only newborns can. Her little face has turned amazingly feminine, as have the little noises she makes. She's losing a bit of her puppy fat as Meg's milk comes in, but she's still looking very healthy. She is a slight tinge of yellow, though, as we haven't been able to take her out into the sun much yet. There's a typhoon in town at the moment so there's very limited opportunity to get her out & about at the moment.
We're both currently getting minimal sleep - as amazing as our new baby is, she does have a demanding streak and a hefty set of lungs when she wants something... And it's taking a bit of a toll upon us... Of course having our helpers is still great, we wouldn't be getting any sleep at all if it weren't for them!
The good parts are though, that Meg has lost about 11kg so far, so she's very impressed with herself! She's feeding regularly, and although it could be better, she's producing a good number of nappies. She's got almost a full head of soft, blonde hair and a stunning pair of deep blue eyes. Her little muscles are still all there and despite her puppy fat, she's got a brilliant set of quads, delts & traps. Her little tummy is getting rounder and her chubby little cheeks are just so cute!!
She has a check-up with the doctor soon, on her one-week birthday. Hopefully we'll all score well on whatever tests she does & the TB shot won't hurt too mcuh We are also in the process of registering her as an Australian citizen, so fingers crossed about that one. She could be stateless for some time yet! It's quite a process, I'll let you know how it goes...
I'm incredibly proud to announce that our baby is here! At 3:00 am on Thursday 8 August, weighing 3.68 kg (8lb 1oz), measuring 51 cm, Ava Strid Anderson was born by emergency Caesar after 39 long weeks and a few sleepless nights of painful contractions.
Both mother and baby are doing great, and we couldn't have done it without our superstar team of Dr Maria Theresa G Henson, Dr Gerry de Jesus, Dr Vina Cabahug, and our legendary support staff of Grandma Strid & Grandma Anderson (and of course, late arrival Grandpa Anderson).
So far, Ava has been feeding well, and sleeping better. She is the most amazing little girl and will be out & about to make some public appearances very soon!
It's often been said that it's darkest before the dawn. That's what it seems like right now. With Megan nearing 39 of 40 weeks, and looking very, very large, we are both watching the clock & doing everything we can to try to convince our little guy/gal to say hello.
We've been doing our best lately - trying to walk as much as we can, bouncing on gym balls, taking evening primrose oil, all the rest to try to coax the baby out. Our doctor has told us that we're 'ripe', too, so now all that's left to do is wait...
Waiting would be fine if it wasn't so frustrating! And if you think I'm frustrated, you should talk to Megan... After all, she's got to carry all that extra weight around, feeding & nurturing it 24 hours a day. All I can do is sit by & try to help as much as possible, wherever I can. Thankfully, she's decided to work from home now, which eases a bit of pressure, and hopefully should make things easier should any 'accidents' happen. She's still working away, but is now able to treat herself to little naps when the need falls upon her. I'm left following her around, making sure she's eating properly, brushing up on breastfeeding books, researching postnatal depression, and trying to provide a calming influence in what has become a quite highly-strung household. Even the dog seems jittery now... Every bump in the night sends us all into an expectant flash of activity - What was that pain? Was it the baby? How are you feeling? Is it coming? I'll start the car... IS IT COMING???
Normally when we've got time to wait, we find ways to keep our minds busy - usually by going to the pub, or doing something else that is simply out of the question now. Now everything is centred around the child, making sure we're as ready as we can be, and all we can do is try not to get in each other's hair. To compound matters, we've got both grandmothers arriving this weekend - hopefully it'll mean that we have heaps of other stuff to talk about & they can provide the unique insight that only grandmothers seem to have. On the other side, it could mean that there are now two more sets of eyes bearing down on Meg's belly, with sinews stiffened & blood summoned, like greyhounds in the slips...
I'm certain that it won't be that bad at all, but lately I've had lots of time to think about it! And like our doctor warned, there could be another two weeks yet. And so with bated breath we try to stave off the anxiety of the inevitable wait.