Thursday, January 31, 2008


It is offsite season at work, when the various teams all go somewhere nice and discuss strategy. The market strategy team, of which I am a part, has its team leader offsite this week.

At 2am this morning, as I was on my knees with my head at the same height as the change mat, blowing on my daughter's naked bottom to dry it and help prevent nappy rash I realised that this time last year I was at the offsite in Bangkok, downing tequila and dancing in my favourite nightclub in Bangkok with some colleagues.

A bit different then!

Midnight dash

Further to my previous posts about the woeful state of post natal care in Hong Kong last night I found myself urgently needing to access it.

Eve has been a bit poo-ey (babies mean you start to create lots of new adjectives) since the green poo incident. Last night she was unsettled all evening, not all that unusual at the end of the day, but after her 11pm feed she started to scream. This was not a "Mum, I'm hungry" scream, or a tired scream but a "blue murder I want to kill someone" scream. I took her off the Boy and started wandering around the flat. H, the fountain of all baby wisdom, came out of her room to tell me that Eve was ill. It being 11pm, and me being very tired, at first didn't think she was - after all she had just fed really well. However, H showed me the depression on the top of her head (a sign of both dehydration and that something isn't very well) and it was like a hollow hole. I showed the Boy and, quick as a flash, we were off to the hospital.

We have a choice of two hospitals. The public hospital is brilliant, one of the best in HK and has an expertise in obstetrics and children. However, going there would have meant a long wait and we were both worried and tired. The hospital where she was born, although private, has a very good emergency unit, the added advantage of having her notes and we would probably be seen immediately. We drove there.

She was seen straight away (there was no line at all - prompting us to repeat over and over "it's not like this at the NHS") and they had all her notes with the doctor within a few minutes and we were out within 15 minutes of our arrival. It transpires that she has, perhaps as predicted, some sort of gastric bug. It is unusual in breast fed babies, but perhaps not ones who already stick their hands in their mouth all the time or whose father is a bit ill with a poorly tummy too.

She has been given some drugs to take and we are keeping an eye on her. She seems to be OK, feeding well, although she has lots of wind. The Boy, H and I are now obsessing about the state of her poo and her feeding habits.

The whole experience was nerve racking, tiring, and expensive (the whole lot came to HKD 1,000 including being charged for parking at the hospital). However, I finally realise that with my own baby no issue is too small and no cost too high to make sure she is OK. It also helps that I have very good health insurance from my company!

The final note to all of this is how brilliant H is. Not only is she excellent with Eve on a daily basis, but she recognised the difference in her cry when the Boy and I were too tired and fraught to react to it, and knew what symptoms to look for and worry about. I feel very lucky to have been blessed with such a great nanny.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's in a name?

Yesterday saw me at my mother and baby group again. In HK, where child birth is doctor-focused and most expats go private, all the care given is up until, and through, the birth with very little aftercare. I was discharged with no follow up required nor in place other than the business card of a pediatrician and, when I asked, instructions to have Eve's next jabs at six weeks. No health visitors, no advice to have baby weighed or checked on. When one considers the support you get in the UK, this is quite shocking.

Therefore, the type of women who make the effort to find and then join a mother and baby group tend to be a bit more feisty than the norm, and a bit more outgoing, Most are expats or overseas born Chinese (without a family support network we find our own) and if they do not intend to go back to work, all are well educated and previously had good jobs.

This social microcosm of HK life is nowhere better seen than in the names of the babies at the group, which are a sign of the current fashion amongst middle class expats in HK. Boys ' names are all unusual and include Oscar, Nathaniel, Orlando and Byron. The girls' names are very traditional, with Margaret and, of course, Eve. The seems very consistent and I am not sure where this fashion for unusual boys names has sprung from, and why girls are not similarly named.

Another friend of mine has a son called Jett, and today Eve and I are visiting my friend P and her newborn son, Bart.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Doctor Who?

Little Eve continues to change day by day and now her nappy rash seems to be passing (entailing two sessions of what we now call "roam free" each day when we take off her nappy and let her air a bit - being a modest lady she hates having her bits exposed but it does the trick on the nappy rash). She is back to a rough 3 hour feed cycle, with a bit more sleep during the day and a bit less at night, typically, and I am managing to get 5-6 hours sleep a day. An improvement on two weeks ago. We have figured out how to get her to sleep in her cot at each nap, and generally are getting a bit better at this parenting lark.

It was all looking peachy until about 12.30 last night.

Eve tends to start muttering and whining about an hour after she goes down to sleep. She isn't awake, just making noises, so I usually ignore these until she actually wakes up. Apparently lots of parents have a habit of going to the child as soon as she makes a noise, thus instilling bad habits in the child. No such luck in our house on a cold night. I will remain under the duvet until I am certain she wants feeding. So when, at midnight last night Eve starts making little noises I check her eyes are still closed (they are) and head back to bed. By 12.30 she is making a bit more noise and so I get up to feed her. As I take her out of her baby sleeping bag I realise she has wet through to the bag itself. And she stinks.

I wake up the Boy to help, something is clearly not right as she had only been changed 2 hours previously. Upon closer inspection, we find that our delightful daughter has deposited a vast amount of nasty green, watery, smelly goo in her nappy. This is not normal. Breast fed babies do not get this. We turn to old British faithful, Miriam Stoppard's book on children's ailments, to find that for small babies such symptoms mean you should immediately call your doctor. To a new Mum, even one as laid back as me, this is tantamount to shouting PANIC and setting off fireworks.

Which is when we hit a snag. We don't really have a GP in Hong Kong, Eve sees her pediatrician and then only during office hours. We scurry around to find the card and call the emergency number on it. It is a pager service and the person at the other end speaks no English and simply keeps repeating "patient pager" at me in a strong Chinese accent. After the tourist trick of speaking loudly and slowly doesn't work (with hindsight I might have shouted) I hang up and start to get frantic. We call the surgery where my doctor is based, hoping there will be an out of hours number on the answer machine. All we get is a message (also in Chinese) telling us the opening hours. By this point I am suggesting we go to the hospital. If Miriam says it is serious then we should be worried.

The Boy now realises that his "sick" daughter is currently latched onto my boob and showing no signs of ill health - in fact is guzzling rather loudly. So he tries the emergency pager number again and this time the operator speaks English and offers to page the doctor. We decide to go to bed, wait for the call back, check on Eve at her next feed and if the problem is still there then take her to the hospital.

Of course we don't get a call back, and Eve is absolutely fine at the next feed and thereafter. In fact as I type this she is asleep next to me having thrown up some of her breakfast that she hungrily guzzled too fast and too much an hour ago.

My mission for the day is to find out what number we should have called in an emergency for the inevitable next time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Shallow Al

As I continue to get a grip on both my sanity and this whole motherhood thing, I find that little bits of my former non-mummy self are making a welcome return into my life. It was, therefore, with some joy laced with fear that this morning I left Eve for the first time since she was born. For the past 3 weeks, Eve and I have been together 24/7 and now that her physical umbilical cord has fallen off I thought I should make an effort to break the emotional one that has seen me with her all the time.

I had to go to the doctors this morning, and then Eve had an appointment afterwards. I arranged for the Boy to look after Eve for the 90 minutes I would be out of the house at my own appointment. I don't quite know what horror I thought would befall my daughter in this time. She was fed just before I left (and I had left gallons of expressed milk anyway in case she woke up), and with the Boy and H at home she would be perfectly well looked after.

However, it was really hard to leave. I took the bus, which I always enjoy doing, stuck the ipod on really loud to drown out my own fears and apprehensions, and tried to forget that I had left my darling daughter behind.

It was actually rather nice as I experienced the real world just as I used to and got some time not to think about the next feed or what every gurgle meant or when she would wake up and need a cuddle. Of course I called home as soon as I got to the doctor's - to find predictably that Eve had been fast asleep since I left.

Of course having her back in my arms was the nicest feeling, but I confess to rather enjoying my "me" time on my own.

The whole experience was made even more lovely by the fact that I can now get into my favourite pre-pregnancy jeans and tight tops and not look like a moose. There is still a bit of excess skin and my muscle tone is shot, but for someone who gave birth less than 3 weeks ago I am looking pretty good! And I got to wear my lovely black high heel boots too and tottered rather than waddled for the first time in 3 months.

Small things make me happy, whether dressed in pink or otherwise.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finding her lungs

Firstly, thanks for all the supportive comments and emails, and sorry for worrying everyone with the last couple of posts. I had a classic case of the "baby blues" and it was nasty. I even went to the point of finding an online test for postnatal depression. According to my score I should have been committed! It has lifted almost as fast as it descended and I am feeling much better now. I have learnt to let go, not be such a perfectionist and realised that my best is good enough even if my daughter is not conforming to any particular programme or routine yet.

We have also got to the bottom (quite literally) of the trouble. Darling Eve has the dual combination of nappy rash and bad wind. This means that she wakes up in pain whenever she poos, wees or finishes digesting. This means that the poor petal is in pain a lot of the time and screaming as a result. Then she wakes herself up, and wants feeding. As a result gone are the nice two or three hourly feeds of 3 days ago, and in are hourly feeds and lots of nappy changing and cuddling. A week ago I would be throwing myself off the balcony by now, but it is testimony to how far I have come from the baby blues that I now pick her up, feed her, walk her around the flat and just get on with it. She will get over the nappy rash in time, she will grow out of the wind, and then start eating and sleeping properly. Until then, this is just how things are.

It is such a relief to be back to normal again.

In other news, there are slope works just behind the flat so I have a pneumatic drill competing against Eve's screaming for the most irritating noise all day. You couldn't make it up.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New day

Last night involved feeding every 2 hours, but rather than trying to settle her in her cot, I put Eve in a rocking thing by the bed for ease of sending back to sleep. As a result I have developed the ability to both pat and rock her in my sleep! The Boy thinks she shouldn't sleep in the rocking thing all the time, and he is probably right as it is a bit too soft. However, in my new path of least resistance approach to this phase, it's not going to kill her to be in there for a few nights and it means I get some sleep overnight rather than trying for an hour each time to get her to sleep in the cot.

Then this morning, I forced myself to give Eve to Helen for 3 hours so I could sleep. It was hard to give her to someone else and I admit I cried a bit as I shut the bedroom door and felt horribly guilty. Of course she is fine, and Eve still loves her mummy even though I feel like I deserted her. And I got another 3 hours sleep.

I feel almost human today.


Eve is 17 days old today, I know this because at my first mother and baby group today people kept on asking and I realised that I was so tired and fraught that I wasn't entirely sure what day it was, let alone how old Eve was.

There is a great conspiracy of silence about motherhood, a myth perpetuated by every "routine led" baby book in the market. The book I have been following suggests that babies should only need feeding every 3 hours and be woken up again and again until they are "full". The dreaded Gina Ford suggests that babies should be able to sleep through the night by week 10. Even the most innocuous of baby books is laden with norms outside of which any normal mother feels guilty.

After another horrible night with Eve, when she screamed and cried and would either not fall asleep or sleep only for half an hour I was at the end of my tether. This isn't supposed to be what she is doing. I have been so good about following the routine prescribed, why is it not working? I felt frustration, guilt, and fear that I can't cope with this. It was all compounded by me only getting a couple of hours sleep myself. That way post natal depression lies so I need to get a grip.

So I headed off to a mother and baby group organised by a local midwife service. The moment I walked in I burst into tears and it all flooded out. The worry about Eve not feeding properly, or sleeping, the two hourly feeds, the crying, my lack of sleep. The instant response of the first midwife was simply, "Of course, that is normal. You have a two week old baby!". The relief I felt was incredible. This is normal? Feeding every 90 minutes is OK? Her not going to sleep and needing to be held is alright?

As more and more mothers of older babies turned up this was repeated time and time again. The tale of an entire dinner party missed because a baby would not go down, feeding for 6 hours when the baby just didn't seem to have enough, the lack of sleep and the tears and the rows with the husbands. It all sounded horribly familiar.

The general message from all the Mums was - it is tough for everyone, it does get better after a few weeks, and not to get too stressed. Ask for help, make sure the husband helps at night - work or no work the next day, and keep some sanity.

The midwife weighed Eve (she is putting on weight like a trouper), checked my feeding technique and suggested an option that might work better, and made a suggestion about how to get Eve to go down in the cot. And told me that I absolutely have to come every week.

I am still tired, a little teary, feel a bit inadequate. However, I am now repeating like a mantra "it will get better, it will get better" and just need to hang onto my sanity until it does.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Letting go, just a little

Since Eve came home I have been a bit over the top in wanting to do everything myself. In the way of modern "have it all" woman I still seem to buy into the myth that I can be the perfect wife, mother, career woman all at once and without any help. I simultaneously want my daughter to be so deeply bonded to me that she doesn't want anyone else (thereby showing I am a good mother) but also to be so well socialised that she will go to anyone or sleep anywhere (showing that I am a modern, practical mother).

This has resulted in me insisting that the Boy or I do every feed, every nappy change and are the ones to put her down. This works fine when the Boy has some time off work, but when he is at work it means that I spent 3/4 of my day either feeding, changing, settling or playing with Eve. The remaining quarter is for sleep, phone calls, blogs, work (I am still getting calls...), and eating. Yes, that is all within 6 hours.

Something had to give.

So, after about 4 days of nagging his progressively exhausted wife, I finally gave up a little bit of Eve care to H. H has been employed as a nanny, and is very good with children and babies - knowing far more than I do. However, my resistance to giving her Eve is both emotional and logical. Emotionally, she is not family, she is not Eve's relative and it just seems wrong to give my child to someone who is not a relative. I was always looked after by my parents growing up, and my sister looks after her two children - so it is just something I don't have in my DNA. On a practical level, I also have a fear that now Eve is in something resembling a standard routine, H's version of childcare may differ from mine and muck things up.

However, the Boy was right and as I intend to go back to work at some point, Eve needs to bond with H and H needs to get used to Eve. With some nervousness I asked H to do Eve's 10am change, feed and put her down. Prior to this I explained our principle of routine (i.e. wake up Eve every 3 hours, then what happens next). Although H didn't agree with waking up a sleeping baby, she was fine with the rest.

So I ran the bath, locked the door, switched on the radio loud and forced myself to stay in there for half an hour while H got on with it.

Eve was, of course, fine. She fed lots. H rocked her to sleep (which we don't do), which meant that Eve didn't go down to sleep quite so fast. H also has a habit of picking Eve up at the first whimper, whereas we soothe her in her cot and let her put herself to sleep (good habits for later life!). However, other than this, all went very well. I now plan for H to do one feed a day with Eve, and once we get past 8 weeks and we need to start preparing Eve for my return to work and more bottles and formula, she will do more.

I couldn't, however, stop myself smiling when H couldn't settle Eve in her cot. It seems that for some things only Mummy or Daddy will do.

Beware of the breast

The family has had a very active weekend, taking Eve to the two major rowing centres in Hong Kong. Yesterday to the main rowing centre in the New Territories to watch the Boy row and then today to the ocean rowing centre on the South of the Island to meet some friends for lunch.

It is nice to get Eve out once a day, and people seem amazed that we are taking a 2 week old out at all. Aside from the vast amounts of stuff required each time, it is actually surprisingly easy and she is quite portable. It also keeps me sane and reminds me that there is life outside of my little three hourly feed, change, sleep cycle and is nice to see friends.

The easiest option for me would be to breast feed while we are out. No need to find mugs of boiling water to warm the express milk, no need to worry about keeping the bottle at the right temperature in transit. However, Hong Kong does not seem to be a place where breast feeding in public is very common, in fact I have never seen anyone feeding in public. It was, therefore, with some hesitation that I decided to head up to the rowing centre yesterday without a bottle. The rowing centre has both a women's changing room and a club room. The club room has sofas and usually has nobody in it, and I refuse to nurse my child in a toilet ("nobody puts baby in a corner").

So I settled down yesterday with my friend L, at the appointed feeding time, in the club room. Just as a men's eight from one of the Universities decided to warm up in the same room. There is something about the leaking, icky-ness of the whole child experience that means I am less bashful than I once was, but even then I was pretty discrete, and turned a chair out towards the window. At which point they all decided to warm up on the balcony right in front of me. I think it took about five minutes for them to realise what I was doing, and a further five seconds to flee to the safe confines of the rowing shed downstairs to finish their warm up. If you want to scare eight 19 year old men, whopping out a tit and attaching a small child seems to be a very effective way to do it.

At lunch today, in slightly more polite company (i.e. people I know) I took a bottle with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Any colour your like, so long as it's pink

There is no denying that I have a lovely baby girl. She has strawberry blond hair (like the Boy), bright blue eyes and is cute as a button. Other than a slight double chin (also like the Boy) she is clearly a girl and pretty damn gorgeous to boot.

However, society seems to have decided that as I have a girl she should be almost exclusively dressed in pink. I am not a big fan of pink. Other than some LK Bennet pink shoes (all rather mini mouse and fun to wear to difficult meetings) I do not have a single item in pink. When I was captain of the college rowing team (college colours being pink and black) I even went so far as to ensure the only part of our rowing kit that was pink was a small pink logo discretely on the chest of an otherwise entirely black rowing lycra.

Two days ago it became evident that we only have summer clothes for Eve so I popped her in a taxi to M&S to buy some more long sleeved suits. It was our first trip out by ourselves (no nanny or Boy) and it went very well. However, I was disgusted when I got to the M&S baby section to find that I had two options of colours - pink or blue. The damn display was even colour coded (blue to the left, pink to the right). There was no yellow, green, beige. If you wanted to buy anything in a size of up to 1 year old, it had to be pink or blue. I picked the least offensive items, with the least pink, and fled.

Why, oh why, am I supposed to affirm my child's gender by way of her wardrobe? Is it to help aged Aunts recognise what gender you have, or as colour coding for passers by so they can attribute a gender? Why is it assumed that parents will want to colour code their children?

The Boy, in rebellion, has bought her two blue suits, a blue hat and blue mittens.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A million little indignities


Before I fell pregnant, indeed for a good portion of my pregnancy, I was a bit prissy about certain things. Excluding the inevitable lack of glamour involved in most sports, I generally prided myself in ensuring good upkeep of myself. I was always waxed, shaved and moisturised. I would rarely leave the house without some form of make up, even just face powder, to even up the blemishes. I wore only very well made shoes, high heels at that, and usually with some form of designer suit or jeans. I had never had any form of medical discomfort (a tiny knee op when I was 13 doesn't count), and I had a flat tummy and looked relatively presentable in a bikini. In short, I was a bit of a princess, even if I wouldn't have admitted it at the time.

What a difference a baby makes. And nobody tells you. In fact, when I challenged my sister about all the things she didn't tell me relating to the icky stuff she simply laughed and told me it wouldn't have made any difference and it would happen anyway so there is no point in telling you in advance. Well, I think there is, so here goes...

Firstly leaking. Pick a part of your body that could possibly leak, and it will once you have a child. I won't go into the details of "down below" but it ain't pretty. And your nose is always snuffly, I had the first nose bleed since I was about 8 yesterday (I don't think I can attribute this entirely to childbirth but the two must be related somehow). Both tits leak when they are full, or when Eve cries, or sometimes just because they feel like it. Occasionally they spurt, whale blowhole like, when I am getting ready to feed Eve and have prodded them a bit. Sometimes I forget when I am feeding and the Boy has to make polite comments about maybe not leaking on the feeding cushion.

As a result of leaking, clothing becomes functional. I have two nursing bras, kindly brought from Australia by my friend L. She picked the sexiest, prettiest ones but they still look like something I went camping in when I was a Girl Guide. Without underwires (block milk ducts or something - I have "ducts"?), they turn your chest into some sort of homogenous continental shelf. I now look lovingly and jealously at my Agent Provoc underwear in the cupboard wondering whether I could possibly breast feed using them (um, no). One of the nursing bras is a horrid lace number, as if in some vague attempt to make the hideous garment more attractive a first year design student came across the idea of covering the damn thing in nasty cheap lace. The other one, obviously another design student got their hands on this, is broderie anglaise effect. At least the bras are white, the other colour choice was beige.

The leaking also means that I have all manner of pads to mop up the bits of me that are, quite literally, falling out. It would seem that the millions of dollars that have gone into researching nappies and other "feminine" products to make them thin and comfortable has not spread to any padding related to new mums. Maternity pads are akin to the Dr Whites sanitary pads that the teachers frightened you with in sex education in the early 1980s, only bigger and more horrid. And don't get me started on breast pads... they don't even absorb much.

I am slowly progressing back into heels, but with the c section recovery and the space age, 4x4 buggy, they aren't all that practical so I find myself in flats and trainers.

Then there is the scarring from the c section, which despite the undeniable experience and technique of the lovely Dr D, still makes me look a little as if Freddie Kruger got his hands on my lower abdomen. The breast feeding "fat" currently residing as something orange peel-like on my bum reminds me that where there was once a nice toned behind there is now a lump of jelly. And it takes some time, in fact probably a lot of time, for the wobbly excess skin around my middle to dissipate back to whence it came.

However, despite all this ranting, I find that I don't actually care. My tits leak because I am feeding my gorgeous new baby, and I continue to find it amazing that my body can produce all the food she needs. The "down below" is my body cleaning itself up after 9 months of a living, growing person being inside me. The wobbly bits (which are diminishing very rapidly) will stay there until Eve has everything she needs from me to grow, and then will be run, rowed and canoed into submission.

So, for any ladies reading this and wondering whether they really would want to go through this. Yes, you will undergo indiginities you didn't think possible, but you just stop caring the moment you have your own little bundle.

Although I am not sure I would want a catheter again...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sleepless in Hong Kong

DO NOT deviate from the routine. DO NOT pass go. DO NOT collect two hundred pounds.

It was not a good night.

On a more amusing note, I stumbled across possibly the silliest, or scariest, blog this morning. Who on earth looks at this stuff? Except sleep deprived new mums that is.

Cry baby

At about 4pm yesterday I think I did what is, in technical mother language, lose the plot. It all came home to roost, the lack of sleep, the constant worry, the complete and utter lack of control over this small bundle and what she needs - and how to understand her. There were tears (mine - she, being in daytime baby mode, was happily asleep) and the Boy gave me lots of hankies.

There are two things I could have done in this circumstance. The first was to get professional help. Before my own mother reading this worries too much, I was thinking of a sleep consultant offered by a midwife company here in HK. They spend three sessions with you and your baby and come up with a plan to help the little one sleep better. I got the Boy to print out the application form.

However, before I did that, I thought it was worth one last try myself. To do this I needed two things. The first was discipline. I couldn't start something and then cave in at the first moment and put it into the "too hard" basket. Parenting is hard, bloody hard (and anyone who says otherwise is lying or has a backstage cast of thousands to help them). The second was to live true to my word of the year, a concept I have stolen from my friend C, which is "patience".

I went back to a book highly recommended by my working friend L and read the chapter on how to set a good, albeit flexible routine. It went thus:
1. Feed baby when she cries for food. Fill her right up until she no longer wants to eat. This may take longer than usual and, in the case of fussier or lazy babies, involve waking her up a number of times. DO NOT let her sleep.
2. After she is full, do some form of activity. Change her nappy, play with her, read with her. DO NOT let her associate food with sleep, but get her sleepy via activity.
3. Only then put her to bed and leave her until she sends herself to sleep.

This last part was the hardest, because Eve is already used to being fed to sleep as she was in the hospital and has no frame of reference regarding how to get herself to sleep.

So, at 12.20am I found myself putting a somewhat awake Eve in her cot. She started to cry. It is impossibly hard to leave your child to cry. Every part of you as a Mum exists to protect and calm her. Allowing her to cry is counterintuitive and, at a much deeper level, horribly painful and difficult to do.

However, secure in the knowledge that she was not crying because she was hungry or needed changing because I had patiently made sure she was neither before I put her down (which involved feeding her for a lot longer and with more breaks than normal = patience), I relaxed. Eventually, after 20 minutes of whimpering and the odd screech, she was fast asleep.

As the night wore on she got herself to sleep progressively faster each time and with less wailing.

The Boy, who is altogether more rested and spends less time at night with her, was initially worried and kept offering to get up and "settle" her. I got very stern (I was on a bit of a power trip by this point!) and told him to leave her. Each time I was right. He now trusts my instincts too, which is the best endorsement of me as a Mum.

Today she has been the clockwork baby. Waking up exactly at the right time for feeds, and I have kept this system going. Let's see how it goes again tonight, but my sleep patterns and my sanity took a huge uplift last night.

And the Boy was almost functioning at work today!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rebel with a cause

Before Eve joined our family I did, as is my way, a lot of research into the issues we might face and how to deal with them. I discussed with friends what they did, joined in the Gina Ford debate (either love or hate her) and thought I knew the basic "dos and don'ts". Routine = good, reactive parenting = bad. I was determined to have my baby in a routine from Day 1, let her cry herself to sleep rather than picking her up whenever she cries, and stick to the same routine each day. I approached this with the same determination as managing a big project at work, with planning, organisation and sticking to the approach.

I am, therefore, a bit baffled as to how after only 4 days at home I ended up at 5am with Eve asleep on my chest (bad), in bed (bad, bad), having just fed her to get her off to sleep (for which mothers rot in hell). I know why I rebelled against all the books. Firstly, I have not slept more than 2 hours in one go since she came home. I am tired, emotional, and simply need her to sleep. Secondly, I have tried what the books tell us. I rock her rather than feed her if she cries outside her "routine", I wait 10 minutes until I go to her when she cries, I even try to wake her up on routine during the day. However, this simply doesn't work. It is now midday and I spent an hour this morning trying to wake her up at her "routine" time. Once it became clear she was not waking up I tried undressing her, changing her nappy, turned on the TV really loud and put her in the middle of the living room when the flat below is doing renovations and there are roadworks outside. Nothing. Eve would not wake up and not feed. Most likely because she was up all night and is really tired now!

I have done what parents for years have done and taken the path of least resistance and done all of the things I shouldn't. Why don't babies come with user guides?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lost in translation

After another night where the angelic daytime baby turns into nighttime banshee baby, I find myself a small step (perhaps a baby step?) towards learning the new language that is "baby".

The only way that babies can communicate this early is by crying and thus if anything is needed then the first thing Eve does is cry. As mentioned before, there are a limited number of things that a baby actually needs at this stage, and so the theory goes that you work through them and eventually hit on what they are need, deliver it, and they calm down.

The problem with this, however is that just as with adults babies can often be temporarily pacified by an intermediate solution. For example, if I went to a shop really wanting the gorgeous black round-toe Alexander McQueen shoes I can be temporarily pacified with a nice pair of Jimmy Choos. I will take them home and coo over them for a bit but, in reality I still want the Alexander McQueen shoes and find myself heading back to any stockist in HK in an effort to find them in my size. Buying the Jimmy Choos made me feel good, but they are still in their box not yet worn because they didn't really address my need.

Last night, for the overnight banshee phase, as with every night since we got home from hospital Eve starts whinging about 2 hours after her 1am feed (which goes like clockwork). She never feeds much at 1am because she has a big feed after her bath prior to her 10pm feed so we don't worry too much when only about 2/3 of what she normally eats goes down. Therefore, when she starts to wail at 3am we think she's still hungry and try to feed her. For about 10 mins she drinks but then falls asleep and we pop her back in her cot feeling very smug that we have got this nighttime thing sorted out now.

Only to be woken again at 4am for the feed she was due to have as part of her routine. We are frazzled and confused again, she can't be hungry only an hour after we fed her, but still feed her and she drinks lots this time.

Only to wake up one hour later screaming again. At this point I notice that this scream sounds a bit different to the one at 4am. She is straining and really screaming continuously, whereas her "I'm hungry" scream is more an on and off cry and cannot be pacified with a finger in the mouth as the straining scream can temporarily.

I start running through the list of things that could be wrong and, to be helpful, Eve interjects with the biggest fart I have ever heard. I feel her back and tummy and she has hideous gas. That's it, she has the oft mentioned "colic". I pick up the baby book and colic is defined as lots of trapped wind, usually happens at the same time each day, and for about 3 hours. Ladies and gentlemen we have BINGO! This is exactly the problem of our little banshee.

So I stroke her back and tummy, feel the wind work through her, talk softly to her and keep her as calm as I can through her pain. Half an hour later, and a few more farts, she is asleep and sleeps through to her 7am feed, then her 10am and is back into her routine.

It would be a lot easier if she just spoke a language I could understand, say, French.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mini milestones

Three very important milestones have been reached today.

1. I fed Eve this morning on my own, breastfeeding, and she was full. The dairy cow that I have become has finally managed to produce enough milk to satisfy my ravenous daughter.

2. I have already lost 10kg of the weight I put on during my pregnancy and I'm not even trying to lose it yet. Only another 10kg to go...

3. Eve has her first item from Gucci. L very kindly and generously bought Eve a present from the Baby Gucci range.

I didn't realise that Gucci did a baby range. This could be a very dangerous, and expensive, thing for me to know.


Yesterday was the Boy's birthday, a fact we had both forgotten until about 10am. I had planned just in case I had to have Eve early so had a present and card not only from me but also from Eve ready before I went into hospital. It was an unusual moment of organisation from me.

However, it seems distinctly unfair to not do anything to celebrate your birthday so I called Eve's godfather, G, to see whether he was around for a quiet drink in a bar not far from our flat. Incidentally, I managed this conversation while breastfeeding Eve - a master stroke of multi-tasking. (For anyone who ever speaks to me on the phone, best not to imagine that particular image next time we speak)

So, we had our first social outing. We would walk to the bar (about 30 mins), have a drink or two, and then taxi back to the flat. Sounded nice and simple. However, here began the logistical nightmare that is getting a baby out of the house.

The timing is the first issue. Eve has already fallen into a pretty good 3 hourly routine, but even then, knowing precisely when she would be fed and we could leave was an unknown until about an hour before we left. Then, we realised that unless everyone was on time, gulped down their one drink super fast and we had almost no conversation, we would be out when Eve needed feeding. For all of its many benefits, Hong Kong is not very breastfeeding friendly, so formula had to be made.

Which led us onto the second challenge, the sheer amount of stuff that you need to take out with a baby. Eve is only around 7lbs now, but once we had got the bottle with formula, nappies, changing mat, wipes, blanket, various different changes of clothes (in case she got too hot, too cold, too "last season") we had added about 4 times her body weight in extra stuff. Not to mention the buggy and car seat that we also needed to take.

It took us half an hour to pack for our tiny bundle of joy. At the end the Boy proudly triumphed "right, we're all ready to go", until I pointed out that he hadn't actually got a shirt on yet. Oops.

With hindsight, I was a bit silly in thinking I could manage a brisk 30 min walk just 6 days after major abdominal surgery and with tits the size and weight of basketballs. We made it about a third of the way until I needed a little sit down and we waited for a taxi. I will not be running any marathons, or even a 5k waddle, any time soon.

In the end, however, my daughter's debut into polite society went very well. She slept until she needed feeding, then fed quietly and happily, burped and gurgled a bit as I got in some of the first adult conversation I have had in a week (we discussed the recent Merrill Lynch write down, the price of gold, elections and the state of Hong Kong government).

And, I felt a strange pride as she behaved so well and was the angel baby.

Right until about 1am this morning, when she turned into the screaming banshee again.

New discovery

I have been wandering around like a zombie today because of lack of sleep last night. Eve has been a little madam and slept right through the morning while I have made vague attempts to get some tasks done. This has occurred with very little success as I have developed the habit of walking into a room and immediately forgetting why I was going there. This has happened at least 6 times today.

However, as a result of sleep deprivation last night, and the SAS crack training course has nothing on my daughter in this respect, I have made a new discovery when it comes to sleep.

It is the type of sleep you have when your body has simply had enough, when it knows it needs to cram in 8 hours as fast as it can and make you functional, human even. It is, quite simply, the deepest sleep I have ever had and I feel like I've had a full night even though it was only an hour before Eve woke us up.

I have decided my new discovery is to be called "Mummy sleep"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The longest night...

Apparently for all first time parents the first night at home is the hardest. The hospital, anywhere in the world, is a nice safe place to be with people to advise and help you and someone to care about you and baby. You worry less about whether she is breathing, sleeping, crying, because there are people on hand to look after you.

However, when the Boy, Eve and I went to bed last night I was feeling pretty confident that we would not be like that. She had fed well (off the breast) for the afternoon and evening feeds. We had the cutest time bathing her (she seems to like water, thank goodness, if we had a baby who didn't then the Boy would have been distraught), and then she was down and asleep by midnight so we pottered to bed.

She slept, to use a phrase hopelessly inaccurate, like a baby for the first 4 hours. I, however, didn't sleep as I woke up at every gurgle, cough and gasp. She is still a bit wheezy from the c section so makes a variety of odd noises. Unfortunately, after going purple and stopping breathing when we were in the hospital, the Boy and I are a bit sensitive to it at the moment so I barely slept a wink.

Then, at about 3.30, all hell broke loose. I had no idea than one tiny thing can make so much noise. Initially it started well, she woke up, I fed her for 20 mins until she fell asleep as she always does, the Boy changed her nappy to wake her up a bit, and she fed for another 20 mins. Nice and sleepy we put her down in her cot. Where she remained for about 30 mins before turning into a banshee and screaming for the next 3 hours.

She seemed to still be hungry, but wouldn't feed, we changed her, rocked her. Pretty much all but offering to sell our souls to any higher, or lower, power who was willing to take them. She would sometimes calm down and sleep for 10 mins, but then be up again screaming at us.

You see, the problems with babies is that they only need about 3 or 4 things - food, cuddles, nappy change, sleep. But they can't tell you which one and how much they want. And I was screwed if I knew what the hell she was after.

The Boy went off to work at 7.30am muttering something about an urgent document and his laptop not working at home (hmmm, a cunning plan I think). So, having tried everything I gave Eve to H, her nanny. "She's hungry" H said. She couldn't possibly be, I'd been trying to feed her for the past 4 hours! However, willing to bend to the greater experience of H we heated up a bottle of formula and gave it to Eve.

The little madam drank 75ml (more than a baby her size should be able to take) and promptly fell asleep in H's arms.

It would appear that I had run out of milk during the night, it not being fully "on tap" as yet, so she was hungry still after the feed.

In the spirit of least effort, we are now resolved to mix formula and breast feed, using formula at night, so all three of us can get some sleep.

Finally home

Well, it has been a slightly traumatic experience, but little Eve and I are finally home. I must admit, if I had known 9 months ago what a trauma bringing the little one into the world would end up being (I won't go into detail but it involved scarily high blood pressure, my kidneys giving up, and being rushed into hospital after a splitting headache suggested all might not be well), I may have been less calm throughout the pregnancy. However, seeing by little baby girl made everything I have been complaining about for the last 9 months worth it, and more.

However, I feel it my responsibility, nay my obligation, to break some of those popular motherhood myths that have haunted me during my pregnancy.

1. "A c section is an easier option than a natural birth". Now, I don't know about natural labour, having not managed it myself, but it would have to be going some to be worse than a c section. Of course the baby is out nice and quickly with a c, however the recovery is far from the piece of cake it is made out to be by the celebs. I missed out on Eve's first 30 mins because I was lying on my back being stitched up, I needed help getting out of bed for 2 days afterwards, I have a scar (albeit a small one) that will make my nice black low bikini bottoms a thing of the past, and your body takes a bit longer to realise that it has given birth so everything is taking longer to sort itself out.

2. "Breast feeding is natural". No it's not. It bloody hurts. And to begin with when, as a new Mum you have enough stresses to deal with, you have nothing to feed your baby on (it takes a few days for the milk to appear) and so you and your baby get increasingly cross with each other until you give up on the whole thing. I was lucky and stubborn, and decided to express my own milk (more of that in another post) and bottle feed it to her. Apparently there is something horrific about doing this, but it seems to work for Eve and I and it means I spend a few hours each day reading or watching TV while I express, giving me some valuable downtime.

3. "All babies scream and cry lots". No they don't, not at the beginning. They eat, crap and sleep - sometimes all at the same time. In a few weeks time she will get difficult, but mother nature has an amazing way of ensuring that the new motherhood bit isn't too hideous to start with.

4. "You forget all about it once you see your baby". No you don't. I still remember feeling like a fat whale for the last 6 weeks, I will never forget the feeling of being cut open and having my baby hauled out of me, I will never forget the sheer terror on the Boy's face as my blood pressure went up to over 200 on the evening after the labour, and I will never forget the moment this morning when I realised my breasts had leaked onto my top and felt both proud and horribly icky as a result.

So, the moral of all of this is not to believe what anyone tells you and that every experience is different.

She is, however, worth all the risks and worries and pain and discomfort. I have, quite simply, fallen in love with my daughter.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New arrival

Eve Lu-Zhu arrived on Saturday at 4.38 Hong Kong time. She was 6 lbs 3 oz and she is gorgeous.

After all of my worries, I ended up having to have an emergency c section and true to form Eve is on great form and getting bigger and stronger every day while I am giving Dr D daily scares with my own health. Hopefully I will be home by the end of the week.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Deep breath and calm

As the potential arrival of Bump creeps ever closer I have been having an increasing number of strange and worrying dreams (the one about the nipple nozzle was the strangest so far and will not be further explained), and moments of panic about what is to come.

So, today I spent the afternoon with S, a colleague, who has two children the latter being 8 weeks old. It was great to be able to sit with another new Mum and discuss all of the fears and worries I have and, largely, put them to rest. She confirmed a few things, but told me not to worry (i.e. babies cry, lots, it won't kill them), gave me some practical tips (i.e. make sure the husband tells you how well you are doing when you have the inevitable low points, and if he doesn't then get really pissed off with him because it will make you feel better if you get angry at him), and gave me some items I didn't know existed which make some things much easier (again, things to do with nipples that I don't want to go into). She is desperately bored at home so we are setting up our own mother's coffee mornings and outings for the two of us and it feels wonderful to have someone I know so well to turn to when things get tough.

It doesn't all seem so scary now, and I am back to looking forward to having my very own screaming Bump, bleeding nipples and stitches in unmentionable places. Sort of.