Monday, April 21, 2008

Daddy, Daddy, We are Sick

Call the doctor, quick quick quick!

Two nights ago was not a good night. Little A woke up every hour and I couldn't figure out why. Sometimes he would nurse for just a few minutes and fall back asleep, other times he'd just feel my arms around him and calm down. During the 5am feeding, I had to take him to the toilet with me because my bladder was about to burst. While peeing, I felt a familiar burning sensation, followed by a dull ache that meant only one thing - a urinary tract infection.

Hoping it would go away, I went back to sleep. But 2 hours later, I peed again, and without a baby in my arms this time, turned on the light and confirmed my suspicions. There was blood in my urine, lots of it.

Things were not as scary as they seemed. A recurring infection in college that required 3 consecutive doses of antibiotics followed by a whole day of in-depth tests by a urologist revealed that one of my kidneys is duplex, meaning it's the size of two regular kidneys and therefore filters the impurities in my body twice as fast as a normal person's does. This means I not only have to pee more often than the average person, I'm also more prone to urinary tract infections. Thankfully I didn't get one while I was pregnant, but nine and a half months after giving birth, it was high time for another.

While lying in bed with the dull ache that always accompanied a UTI, I texted my OB-Gyn. (Thank goodness for technology. It was a Sunday morning, yet I knew I'd get an instant reply.) My biggest concern was whether there was an antibiotic I could take that would allow me to keep breastfeeding my son. Yes, there was! So once he'd woken up and we'd breakfasted, it was off to the hospital to submit a urine sample and then to the chemist's for the antibiotics.

I was godmother at a christening that afternoon, and it was a full-on tropical summer day. The sun beat down relentlessly and the heat was unbearable. It didn't help that the church only had one working air conditioner and that we arrived early. 

Little A fretted in his father's arms throughout the half hour christening ceremony, and fell asleep instantly in mine once we were in the car. The reception was just 15 minutes away, but we sat in the car for another hour and a half to make sure he had a long enough nap, as he would have woken up instantly with the noise and in a new environment. 

My son would have slept on had I not needed, once again, to pee. Thankfully, after the first dose of antibiotics, the worst of the infection seemed to be over. However, it was Little A's turn to need doctoring now.

When I entered the reception hall after visiting the loo and took my son from the friend who'd been holding him, she said, "He's warm." This was a full-time mother of three speaking, so her opinion really counted. While I knew my son's head tended to be warm, his neck was too this time, and he was warmer than usual. Much warmer. My baby was running his first fever! It didn't seem to bother him much at first - he toddled around the room and made friends with other babies, but after an hour started to get fretful. 

Once we were home, I took his temperature and gave him his first dose of paracetamol. Another baby had come home with us while my husband and some friends went to church, so Little A played with Baby G until she too went home. He seemed to be fine despite the fever, drinking as much milk as he normally did and eating his evening meal.

Later that night his fever spiked up to 39 degrees. We gave another round of paracetamol and he slept like a log, waking up 5 hours later for milk, making it his longest ever sleep session, albeit due to drugs. At 6am he had his third dose, and then spent the day glued to me, playing quietly and hardly moving at all. Thankfully, the fever didn't come back and last night he was back to his usual temperature.

Today he was his old self, though I kept him out of the swimming pool and away from the playground for another day. I, however, am not doing so well. The urinary tract infection is under control, but I'm sneezing and coughing and my sinuses are clogged. A cold is coming on. When it rains, it pours. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Body Beautiful

I was an ugly duckling. Not that I consider myself magically transformed into a beautiful swan, but I think the way I look now is certainly an improvement over the me of a few years ago.

There is a saying that certain women have bodies made for motherhood, but this usually implies a full figure and child-bearing hips, not necessarily the most attractive physical features, depending on your taste. But now I am a mother, I think I understand what the term means. 

In the years BB (Before Baby), I was skinny - a size 0, long limbed and with no feminine curves to speak of. A dozen years of ballet will do that to you, and good genes. I ate like a person starved, massive quantities of everything, and never gained an ounce. People hated me at school - the anorexics and bulimics particularly - because I was thin thin thin. It was great to look good in skinny trousers and short skirts, but I longed for real A cups. 

Maybe two or three years ago, when I stopped all forms of exercise apart from rushing about as a weekend wedding coordinator, nature decided it was time to turn me into a woman. Suddenly my size 0 skirts and trousers no longer fit. I had grown hips. A size 2 overnight, the bottoms I'd worn since college were now banished to the garage sale box, and I reluctantly bought new ones two sizes larger. My negative A cups may have grown slightly larger with the weight gain, but not noticeably so. 

My Cups Runneth Over

Then came pregnancy. Right before I gave birth, my husband took photos of me from behind, an angle from which you couldn't tell I was carrying what would be a 6lb,7oz. boy. My waist was still defined, my legs and bottom were still the same, all that was bigger was my tummy, my cheeks, and finally, my A cups. Yay! 

Pregnancy did great things for my skin, too. I'd battled oiliness and acne breakouts from the teenage years til my late twenties (apart from the six or so years when I was on the pill), then suddenly my skin was perfect. The hormones certainly agreed with me, unlike the women I knew who had perfect skin all their lives and then broke out during pregnancy. My formerly sensitive skin could now be washed in any kind of soap - yes, soap! Not just gentle liquid facial cleansers. The only thing that marred my "perfect" skin was a slight darkening of my underarms in the last few weeks prior to giving birth, but my gynecologist assured me this was temporary, and thankfully, she was right. The thought of never being able to wear sleeveless tops again in a tropical country terrified me, with my wardrobe of spaghetti strap shirts.

The first two or three months after my son was born, things got even better. My body hair stopped growing. Joy of joys! Suddenly I didn't need to shave my legs or tweeze my eyebrows. This was nature's way of eliminating unnecessary beauty rituals so that new mothers could spend more time with their babies, I believe. None of the reading I'd done mentioned this wonderful postpartum side-effect, but I loved it. 

Sadly, some good things must come to an end. By the 4th month AB (After Baby), I was back to shaving, tweezing and waxing, but to this day, 9 1/2 months after my son's birth, my skin is still fantastic (knock on wood it stays this way), and my post-pregnancy body is what I dreamed of all those years of skinniness. The 22 1/2 pounds I'd gained while pregnant dropped off within 3 weeks of giving birth, followed by 4-5 more. I was thin thin thin again, but this time I had more than A cups. (Another reason to keep nursing as long as possible!) My bottom is less round than it used to be, so I'm back to size 0, but this time my body looks more proportioned (to my eyes, at least) with more on top. 

My husband commented that it was like being with a totally different woman, body-wise. Never a breast man (or else he would never have married Ms. Less-than-A-Cups), he's getting used to my new boobs, and is happy that the rest of me looks just the same (except for those pesky varicose veins, grrr, which thankfully he claims not to see.)

While the summer is hot, I'll enjoy parading around in my bikinis, which I finally fill the way I'd always wanted to. Next summer I'm sure my body will be different again, so for now I will wear all the cleavage-revealing tops I can. Woohoo!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Rude Awakening

Little A and I attended a birthday party yesterday. Another boy turned one and the celebration was held at a preschool in the suburbs. When we arrived, the party was in full swing and boy was I for a surprise. My Stepford wife dreams were shattered as I was confronted by a dozen or so of the real things. 

I had dressed in active mummy attire of leggings, a stretch top and flip flops. (It was over 30 degrees out in the middle of tropical summer.) But the Real Stepford wives - these women were like Manhattan mothers, perfectly coiffed, made up, wearing dresses and heels. They sat around elegantly at tables for six chatting and looking for all the world like they were having high tea, which, actually, they were. There was no sign of any children in sight. The 20 or so kids were in the room next door, each one under heavy guard by navy and white uniformed nannies. There was a separate eating area for them, less elegantly decorated than the one outside. 

Quickly assuming my role as odd mum out, I let Little A crawl around the play area, which to my dismay was full of nannies and children wearing shoes. So much for being considerate of germs and crawling babies. His little fingers were trod on twice, first by another child and then by the afternoon's games host, a preschool teacher himself. Neither noticed the tiny fingers beneath their feet, and to his credit my boy took it like a man, both times stopping in mid-crawl and looking at the massive shoe that was crushing his little fingers. Both times I pulled his hand away and checked for any damage, but he never cried or complained, just went straight back to playing. 

While showing Little A the murals on the walls and sneaking bites of party food, I observed the Real Deals. These were clearly women of leisure, every last one of them sporting an expensive watch and designer handbag. They didn't work full-time, but neither did they tend to their children, which got me to wondering, what do they do with their days? Maybe they were younger versions of my mom - raising funds for charity-driven cultural events, and perhaps some did part-time work at appropriately Stepfordian jobs. Who knows?

My days are filled with caring for my son. Without the nanny that comes attached to nineteen out of twenty babies and because my husband isn't a very hands-on dad, I haven't had a haircut, a manicure or even a long shower in over nine months. Sometimes I wonder what I could do with a baby-free hour or two (trawl the secondhand bookstores! Oh joy!) but then one fierce hug, one sloppy kiss, and now those baby steps into my arms - it makes the no more me-time all worth it. Before I know it, he'll be in school and I'll have me-time back again, so I'll make the most this while it lasts. 

Friday, April 4, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

Little A is 9 months old today. Hooray! He's starting to walk on his own and eats 3 meals a day to supplement the breast milk - but is still not sleeping through the night. Sigh.

I've not done much reading on this, but most of my mommy friends say that by 4 months (or sooner for girls), most babies sleep at least one 6-hour stretch a night. Formula-fed babies sleep for longer periods sooner than breast-fed ones, I know, but still. 6 hours of sleep is an unimaginable luxury. I don't even know if I can sleep that long in one stretch anymore!

My baby never slept long stretches to begin with. A neighbor who gave birth to a girl six weeks before I had my son said her newborn daughter slept 4-6 hour stretches and had to be woken up for feedings. When she first started solids, she slept 10 straight hours. In comparison, my son went through a stage of nursing every hour in his first 6 weeks. Otherwise, his normal schedule would be nursing every 2 hours for the first 3-4 months, and now every 3-4 hours. At night, he sleeps one 3-4 hour stretch then wakes every 2 hours or more often, not always too feed, though. Lately there is always an hour between 3 and 5 am when he is awake, trying desperately to fall back asleep, and having a difficult time doing so. Poor little one.

Size-wise, he's at the top of the percentile charts in height, and in the upper 50% in weight, so he's certainly getting enough sleep. Attempting to feed him larger quantities at one time to make him sleep longer just results in him throwing up from being overfed, so that doesn't work. The little reading I have done says that babies who sleep in their parents' beds take longer to sleep through the night as well, and as my son sleeps between my husband and myself, this could be a factor. But having him next to me makes nursing in the night so much more convenient, plus our tiny bedroom doesn't leave much room for a cot.

Maybe I'm just making excuses, but I'm sure the night will come when he sleeps as long as the average baby. At least I hope it does.

Meanwhile, I, who used to sleep soundly for 9-10 hours at a time, have long since gotten used to short stretches of sleep. A full night's rest, or even 5-6 hours, is now the stuff that dreams are made of.