My boy is six months tomorrow. And I still don’t believe I’m a mother a lot of the time. Is this normal for women who have struggled to get pregnant? Part of it is also because I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been I think, especially considering his little heart problem. On which note, we had a second check-up in the children’s hospital this month and, once again, the consultant was astounded at how well the procedure in April had gone. There’s hardly any narrowing of the valve now and we’re not back until March. I can’t imagine what my boy will be like then at nearly a year old. We’ve been so lucky.
It’s been amazing watching how babies develop over these months. How many connections must be fizzing around in their brains for them to realise, without the benefit of a mirror, that the tongue sticking out of their mother’s mouth is the same as the unseen thing they are waggling in response. And the hands! My boy’s move from grasping things clumsily with his fingers to discovering the brilliance of opposable thumbs has definitely improved his quality of life. Newspapers can be ripped! Glasses swiped! Rattles placed delicately in his mouth rather than simply hurled at his face!
Gone his is “Aye!” shout. He now often coughs for people’s attention, including to wake me in the morning, which is very sweet. He is super-aware and can spend long bouts just staring out of the window, watching the birds or the wind rustling in the trees. We watch Teletubbies, In The freaky Night Garden and a little bit of Peppa Pig here and there and he loves them, except for the boring bit in Teletubbies when they show the film of the children (twice – so much repetition in that show).
He’s making some great sounds and seems to surprise himself sometimes with the noises he produces. He’s not a great crier. Since his rare bouts of colic finished, any tears are mainly of frustration, for example when he’s put down for a nap or back in his carrycot where he can’t see what’s going on. We’ve had several shopping trips when I end up letting him sit on the handlebar of his pram, where he rides like a lord through the shop, surveying his people, while I steer with his legs (don’t call Social Services). A future bobsleigh champ, if we had any snow sports here (or snow). I took the forward-facing part of the pram out of the garage tonight and plan to try it out tomorrow, as he’s way too hemmed in in the carrycot these days and getting too big for it anyway. At our last public health nurse visit in July, he was apparently in the 95th percentile for height (and the 50th for weight, so that’s all back on track after a rocky start). He doesn’t get the loftiness from me but the donor is moderately tall, at 5’10”.
Some of the tears have also been caused by teething. I noticed a little white nub on his lower right jaw at around 3.5 months and two teeth came up fully this month, the bottom pair. They are sharp! No more allowing him to stuff my fingers in his mouth – the boy knows how to chomp.
Overall, my baby is thankfully still very chilled, with a great sense of humour. He laughs his head off at his granny and thinks his grandad is hilarious too. I looked up the donor’s profile again and his older boy sounds exactly like mine: charming and wanting to engage with people and leaving lots of smiles behind. Four and five months seems to be a great age, when they are more aware and so pleased to see you and just smile and smile and smile. Remind me of this when he is a sullen teenager who doesn’t want to walk on the same side of the street as me.
Apart from teeth, there’s been a lot of change in the last month, including loads of rolling over. You put him under the baby gym these days and, when you come back, he’s waggling his limbs in front of the sofa like a stranded turtle. Babies must have incredibly strong cores, certainly stronger than those of their mangled, c-sectioned mothers.
I also made a move to solids at 23 weeks, which has gone fine so far. We started with baby rice (horrible, disgusting wallpaper paste) and he immediately grabbed the spoon and knew exactly what was going on. I had worried slightly about how you know when to start on solids but he had begun to show a lot of interest in other people’s food and was wolfing down his bottles, pretty textbook and hard to miss.
To date, we’ve branched out to pureed cauliflower, broccoli, peas and sweet potato. I’ve avoided giving him any fruit so far to get him accustomed to more savoury tastes first but wonder will this backfire, as his mind will surely be blown by his first taste of sweet stuff. Why on earth would you go back to cauliflower after tasting stewed apple, I wonder?
The most important change has been sleep-training and this has improved everyone’s quality of life no end. We had zero routine and he had stopped sleeping much during the day, just a couple of 40-minute naps, if at all, turning him into an antichrist and making it very hard to get anything done. I was feeding him on demand with no schedule whatsoever, including a couple of bottles at night, and not getting more than a couple of hours’ sleep at a time. My friend had lent me one of the Baby Whisperer books, which I hadn’t had the energy or time to read, but I decided to give her approach a go.
I started at the five-month mark and was definitely delivering hate rays to her (Whisperer, not my friend) for a couple of days, as it was very hard, but it worked and we have a routine now, even if I don’t follow her advice completely. We’re more or less in four-hour cycles from 7am, with naps at 9ish, 1ish and 5ish. I will admit to helping him go asleep at his daytime naps (by rocking him in the pram for five or 10 minutes), which is a big no-no (acting as a sleep aid), but napping at all, and at regular times, is a huge improvement on no naps at all. Previously, you could spend an hour singing to him/taking him for a walk/rocking him, and he might sleep for 20 minutes, which was so frustrating for both parties, not to mention very time-consuming.
This may seem totally obvious to those of you with babies who napped properly and fed at regular intervals but it makes such a difference knowing what to expect and when you’ll have time for yourself during the day.
Most importantly, he miraculously falls asleep on his own at night now, which was amazing when it clicked with him a couple of days into the training. He goes down at 7.30pm-ish, with a ‘dream feed’ while he’s asleep at 11pm (I find that part really strange but if it helps him to stay asleep longer I’m up for it). We’ve had some glorious nights where he’s slept through until 7am, though there have been others when, for whatever reason, he’s awake at 5.30am (though who can complain when you’re woken by a polite and cute “Cough-cough”?). It’s all so much better than before.
And we’ve been using the co-sleeper, at long last, so the €220 I forked out on that is not lost after all. He seems to like sleeping on his side facing the wall of it, which means he has his back to me, which just looks hilariously adult. (Though no one told me that active five-month-old babies tend to hurl themselves around and out of their co-sleepers and sleep half-in and half-out of them, or scrunched up in the corner, or on their tummies at a right angle across them, and occasionally (I’ve no idea how many right angles this took) surprise you by ending up parallel to you on your own bed.)
And yes, our photos were sent back by the Passport Office, so we now have a passport with a horrible but regulation-fulfilling pic. We’re good to travel at least.