…come and find us at littleeandbean.com :)
I'm mummy to Little E and Bean. This is where I celebrate life and writing and my babies.
…come and find us at littleeandbean.com :)
On coming out the other side of colic…
Winter was relentless.
We all bought daffodils,
Willing the season on,
But time froze.
We ached from the cold,
The biting wind stung our eyes,
And our limbs were heavy
From trudging through the days.
I walked for miles,
To and fro, back and forth,
The route etched into my muscles,
The creak of the floor our evening song.
Pain echoed through the house.
You pushed us away
Scratching and kicking and arching,
Like a wounded animal.
I tried to comfort you with love,
Letting your cries wash over me,
Lest your desperation broke us.
Secretly I knew my sadness had hurt your tiny body.
Then came signs of spring.
The days got longer,
The birds sang louder,
Our hope for warmth returned.
A bracing cold still lingers and
Flurries of snow brush against the window.
But sometimes the sky breaks,
And the sun shines tentatively.
As winter is replaced by light,
You emerge and we can breathe.
You were here all along,
Waiting for the thaw.
I hold you in the warmth.
You sigh and unfurl in my arms,
And grip my finger so tightly –
A hold that anchors us after the storm.
This embrace isn’t to sooth your pain, only to love you.
I cry because this is how it should have been and because of the lost days.
Despite the title I’m not becoming super-dooper health conscious. According to the internet (currently my only source of truth, shame on me) I would need: a juicer, a cupboard full of kale, a running buggy, and some pretty leggings with a galaxy print to even attempt a personal detox. I have none of these things. Also I’m breastfeeding which means I eat everything. EVERYTHING. If it looks like food and it smells like food and it hasn’t got your name on it, then it’s going in my belly. And another thing, I’m pretty sure a health kick would involve giving up biscuits and quite frankly they’re the only thing getting me through the colic. So while the rest of the world appears to be on a health kick I’m forced to
cop out admit defeat where my fitness is concerned. Hey ho, I’ll get over it.
What I do feel ready for is a family detox. By this I mean a re-think and a re-jig of our family’s
slovenly ways status-quo in the hope that we can adopt a healthier lifestyle. So, I’ve donned my thinking cap and come up with three changes I think our family might benefit from:
1. No tweeting until the boy is sleeping
This idea was inspired by a Facebook friend who recently posted a status saying she didn’t want her children’s lasting memory to be of her with her phone in her hand. As soon as I read it I felt The Guilt.
I think phones are amazing. Not so much for the old-fashioned stuff like calling and texting, but for the instant access they provide to a world of opinion, advice, ideas and friends. My phone (or more specifically the magic of Twitter and Facebook!) has kept me sane and connected on many occasions – during night feeds in the wee hours, when Little E struggled with sleep issues, during tantrum filled days, and in those moments when I’ve just needed a chat. However, it’s just too easy to get sucked into the world inside my phone and switch off from my reality. I’m not about to give up Twitter, Facebook or blogging (can you IMAGINE?!!) but I must be present for my boys. I need to exist mentally, not just physically, in their world.
I know I’m not alone in spending too long glued to my phone. When I watch other people talk to their kids while on their phones I realise what my boys experience when I do it – minimal eye contact and lots of half listening. It’s become normal to invest more time (and therefore place a higher value) in people and experiences inside our phones and gadgets, than on those in front of us. I worry about how our children could be affected by this, and whether maybe our half-listening and distractedness might be creating new types of emotional and self-esteem issues for them.
I think a lot of people (me included) use the lovely world inside our phones as a crutch to get us through the day and while its valuable in so many ways, without limits it can detract from reality and restrict the experiences of our children. So, I plan to limit my phone use and social networking to when E is asleep. Don’t take it personally if I don’t respond straight away! And wish me luck, I’m a total addict so this will be hard.
Another feature of my life crying out for an overhaul is my finances. I estimated that the part-time child care we’ll soon need for the boys will cost us about £800 a month. Ouch! I’m going to try to prepare for this by being more considered with spending, which leads me onto…
2. Finding time for food
My biggest problem when it comes to food is that I’m a bit rubbish at planning. Quite often J gets home from work and then has to make a mad dash to the supermarket for dinner. It’s probably the least cost-effective way of eating. If I do manage to cook I feel like I deserve a bloody medal because there are so many variables that need to be just right for me to pull it off…
I need the right ingredients which means at some point I need to plan the meal. If I tell you I haven’t had time to brush my hair in two days it should give you an indication of how short I am on time for meal planning.
I need enough time to cook. Again, it’s that time issue. Ultimately it’s totally dependent on how my day with the boys has gone.
Lastly the boys have to be happy, occupied or asleep so I can get on with cooking. This isn’t so much an issue with E as he’s used to me cooking and often ‘helps’, but Bean has been far from happy the past few weeks and it’s left me with no time or brain power to do anything.
I never realised cooking could be so stressful! I so miss the days of locking myself away in the kitchen for hours and cooking our favourite meals.
On a more positive note Bean has shown signs of improvement with his colic recently so I’m going to use any extra time I might have to plan my meals for the week and do an online shop. Doing this should mean healthier, more cost-effective meals for the family and less last-minute meal planning stress. I just need to find a half hour slot in the day to plan and save a list that I can come back to each week. It SHALL happen!
3. Getting out and about
Something else that I think will make us happier and healthier is finding new places to explore as a family. I’m pretty obsessed with the idea of going on family trips each weekend. I think it drives J a bit nuts when I bounce into the room on a Friday evening and ask “so, what’s the plan for the weekend?!”. I guess a lot of the time he’d just like to relax. Well, unfortunately for him I’ve been more cabin feverish than ever recently. So when Friday graces us with its presence I’m almost ecstatic. I’m always relieved to have an extra pair of hands to help out with the boys and I get ridiculously excited at the prospect of going out to have fun as a family.
We live in Gloucestershire which is a great place for families because there’s a lot to keep everyone occupied. It’s brimming with beautiful walks and parks, there are good museums, the most gorgeous little towns and villages and a good number of wildlife and activity parks.
Unfortunately though the weather here been bloody awful for months and we’ve ended up spending far too long in the house or in
hell the local softplay centre. I’ve attempted to embrace the British weather – I bought E an all-in-one rain suit – but no matter how hard I try I’m just not cut out for gale force winds and driving rain, no matter how pretty the scenery.
However, it’s March now and in theory the weather should start improving soon (we’ll ignore the fact that snow is falling as I type this). So while E loves softplay and always enjoys our visits to feed the ducks and see the cows and puddles (see above) at our local arboretum, I think it’s time to find a few more exciting places to visit locally.
Pre-children I think I would have scoffed at a list like this and wondered why on earth anyone would find it difficult to put down a phone, plan a weeks food and get out somewhere new each weekend. But that was before the boys. Nowadays getting everyone washed, dressed and fed before midday feels like it’s worthy of a medal and a lap of honour. So, if I manage my little family detox I’ll let you know. I shall expect a pat on the back ;)
*We went to feed the ducks (again) but spent 99% of the time in a puddle and E was adamant I needed to jump in too – “Mummy thplath!”
…more commonly known as
that bastard colic has blighted our family for the last 6 weeks. It’s been hideous. There has been much wringing of hands, grinding of teeth, whispered bickering and bucketloads of tears. We’ve paced the house for bloody miles. We’ve felt helpless, and responsible and quite lost with it all, and I feel like we’ve talked about nothing else. We are colic bores. I’ve wanted to blog about it for a while because it’s had such a massive impact on family life, but I’ve been putting it off.
One reason I’ve dithered is because it feels ridiculous to be so emotionally and physically drained by something common and ultimately harmless. As is often the case with me I convinced myself that things weren’t that bad and that I should just plod on with it. But after rather a lot of reading on the topic I’ve realised colic really is as hideous and relentless as it seemed, we weren’t just being dramatic, phew! I was relieved when I stumbled across this piece a few weeks ago, immediately I felt less alone, but I still can’t read it without having a bit of a weep – it’s hard identifying so closely with the writers despair.
Another reason it’s taken me forever to write this is because I knew I wouldn’t be able to whittle it off in a few minutes and colic has left us without time to do anything. In the past few weeks we’ve struggled to find the time to talk, eat, drink, pee…the list goes on. We’ve had to put our lives, personalities and relationship on hold; so blogging dropped right to the very bottom of my list of priorities.
But now things seem to be improving…I typed that very tentatively, I’ve become ridiculously superstitious. I can’t bear to think that the colic is going, let alone say it, for fear that it’s lulling me into a false sense of security. There’s something quite torturous about having a good, relatively colic-free day and believing you’re out of the woods only to be faced with hours upon hours of your baby crying in agony. Until now we’ve steeled ourselves against disappointment by refusing to acknowledge any improvement out loud. Cue lots of strained ‘conversations’ where J and I get mildly hysterical with each other if we express too much optimism! So, going back to what I was saying – things seem to be improving and since 6-10pm is no longer a guaranteed write off I figured it was time for an update. Brace yourselves or run away now while I’m not looking, because this is a long one…
About 4 weeks after Bean joined us we’d become a family living on frayed nerves. It was a tumultuous existence. If Bean was happy, we were happy. Alas, Bean was rarely happy. The pervading feeling was of walking on eggshells and waiting for the next bout of screaming. Our days consisted of him crying and writhing and flashing us looks of despair, this along with the frustration and loneliness it caused Little E was exhausting.
It seemed all Bean wanted to do in the first few weeks was feed. I figured he was just a very hungry baby but I worried that I wasn’t producing enough milk for him. I drank huge amounts of water to up my supply and stave off the dehydration headaches. But then I realised his upset intensified after each feed. His little face grimaced and turned beetroot and his legs sprung up into his chest; all classic signs of wind. I thought I’d just forgotten how upset newborns get with wind and I upped the ante with our routine; winding thoroughly and giving infacol with his feeds. But it didn’t work, in fact Bean was getting more and more upset.
The extent of his upset and the way our lives were being impacted didn’t really hit me until J had to go away for work when Bean was about 5 weeks old. It was only for a couple of nights but I was dreading it, not because Bean was still so small but because I genuinely didn’t see how E and I would make it through the day with all the screaming. How on earth would I get E to bed, or cook dinner, or get myself ready in the morning when the screaming just didn’t stop? This was probably the point at which we realised we were dealing with colic rather than normal newborn wind.
The night before J left it got really bad. We were well into our nightly routine of taking turns to pace the room with Bean and we were exhausted. The screaming had been going on for hours and was only escalating. The infacol, back patting and weird and wonderful holding positions weren’t working so J decided to drive to the supermarket for gripe water in the hope it would do the trick. He must have been gone for all of 20 minutes but it was long enough for me to panic. My tiny baby was doubled up, shaking in pain and rigid so I couldn’t cuddle him better or feed him. He went beetroot red and screamed so violently I was worried he’d pass out. As I paced the room trying to find a position that might relieve his pain I caught a glimpse of myself in the living room mirror. I looked exhausted and completely vacant (the only way I could cope with the colic was to switch off and run on automatic, this meant I was robot-like for a few weeks – not a lot of fun for J and E). By the time J came back with the gripe water Bean had fallen asleep through complete exhaustion, as he did each night. Luckily for me my mother in law came to help while J was away. She was a godsend, sitting with me during the hours of screaming and taking it in turns with me to pace with Bean. I wouldn’t have coped on my own.
One of my lowest points was realising the effect it was having on E. I knew it was stressing him out because as soon as Bean started to cry he would tense up and run to me for a cuddle, he knew once the crying started it could go on for ages and that while it happened I wouldn’t be able hold him or communicate with him. It was stressful at the time but I knew his cuddles were a way of intercepting what felt like Beans complete dominance over me. I still feel awful that he had such a difficult transition from single child to older sibling. The tipping point for us came when Bean was having one of his meltdowns and J realised E was reacting in an unusual way. I heard him have a quiet word with E but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I found out later that day that E was getting so anxious he was pinching his own cheeks when Bean cried. This really, really upset me. I knew we had to try something else to deal with the colic for both our boys sakes.
By this point Bean was 5 weeks old and we’d had about 2 weeks of quite intense screaming. I scoured the Internet for answers and after trying colief, infacol and gripe water and eliminating dairy and other ‘nasties’ from my diet* with no success I decided to book a cranial osteopathy appointment. The Internet is awash with people suggesting osteopathy is the answer to colic so although I knew very little about it I was willing to give it a go – by this point I would have run around the garden in my underwear if I thought it would have helped. In fact in my
darkest maddest moments I often thought about how I’d happily give birth over and over rather than watch my family endure colic, that’s how shit it was.
So I scoured the internet some more in a search of a reputable osteopath and found a practice with lots of good reviews. We booked an appointment for later that week and crossed everything that it would give us some answers. What followed has been an unusual and interesting experience. I’m still not completely sure how cranial osteopathy works because I’m hopeless at understanding the science behind it. Luckily J is far more adept at that so I made sure he ‘translated’ the science-speak to me after each appointment!
As I understand it the basic premise of cranial osteopathy is that very gentle manipulations of the skull (and in our case the pelvis, ribs and spine) can ease pressures and tensions that have manifested during a traumatic pregnancy or birth. I’m not sure whether it was the pregnancy or birth behind our issues, it’s probably a combination of the two. Although my pregnancy was physically healthy I was really struggling with depression. The awful thing was I knew it was probably having an impact on my unborn baby, but that just upset me even more, it was a vicious cycle! And while I was pretty chuffed with the 1 and a half hour labour at the time, I now realise it was probably a difficult experience for Bean. It was so quick that there must have been a huge amount of pressure on his skull. Cranial osteopathy has shown that this pressure can have significant effects on children, including putting pressure on the lips, cheeks and tongue which can affect their latch, and on their diaphragm which can result in digestive issues. The osteopath noticed that using a dummy calmed Bean and explained that it made sense as the pressure in his skull would be temporarily alleviated by the sucking motion. She also explained how the quick birth could go some way to explain his unsettled temperament – essentially the stress of my pregnancy and the quick birth would have created tension within him meaning his nervous system is constantly alert. This rang so true with us. Bean could be described as fussy or highly strung but ultimately he struggles to switch off, even when he’s completely exhausted and his eyes are red and puffy. And because he’s so tired and desperate for sleep, he gets frustrated and works himself into what we call a “colic attack”.
The appointments have been quite enlightening – we’ve had four now and our fifth (and hopefully final!) appointment is lined up. After spending a long time going through the details of my pregnancy and Beans birth the osteopath worked on him quietly for an hour each time, stopping occasionally to fill us in on what she was identifying through the gentle manipulations to his head. She explained that the fluid inside the ventricles of the brain should be in a constant state of movement but with Bean the fluid in his left ventricle was almost static. Apparently this is common after quick births and a sign that the baby was, and still is, in shock. In hindsight this makes sense – when Bean was born the midwife had to encourage him to move and respond as he was completely still, it was only for a few seconds, not long enough to worry us, but he looked exactly like he was in shock. The osteopath also said that one of the major nerves running to his gut had pressure on it which would have been impeding its function. She then manipulated his pelvis and asked me whether I’d noticed that his pelvis and spine were leaning to the right; I hadn’t picked up on this but I’d noticed he preferred to feed from the left boob. I now realise this is because he struggled to lean to the left. She said the position of his spine and pelvis indicated he’d been back to back during the pregnancy, which he had (he’d moved to the correct position just before or during the birth) but this wasn’t something I’d told her!
The osteopath started treatment hoping that one session would be enough but it’s not been that easy, in her words he’s been a “tricky case”. So much so that she’s enlisted the help of her colleague for the last couple of sessions. It’s quite odd seeing my tiny baby with four big hands working on him. Although he’s not been a simple case we’ve seen a definite improvement. In the first couple of weeks of treatment the colic attacks persisted each evening but we saw a real change in his temperament – his calm periods lasted longer and he started to show signs that he was happy.
The colic fog is lifting
We’re now a month into treatment. Bean still gets unsettled and quickly works himself into a state when he’s overtired but (and this is HUGE for us) in the last week we’ve had some nights without a colic attack. Don’t get me wrong, the colic is still very much present, tonight for instance we’ve gone back to pacing the room and praying for sleep to come, but just one night without colic is a massive improvement. It feels like a miracle.
The horrible cloud of depression during my pregnancy and the 6 weeks of colic hell have affected the whole family. It’s been like a heavy fog and it’s drained us and our tiny baby. I think it’s hard enough having a colicky baby but having to also juggle the emotional and practical demands of a two year old has been quite something. When it’s been really hard I’ve cried at the relentlessness of it all. But as upsetting as it is I think we can see an end in sight. The best thing is now that our baby isn’t constantly struggling with pain we’re finally able to get to know him. Colic has been a horrid experience but I’m trying to see it as something that has brought us closer together as a family; we’re still standing and more importantly the boys are smiling.
* According to the Internet there are a huge number of foods that are colic inducing. If you’re in the same position as I was – trying to get rid of colic by adapting your diet – be careful, it’s easy to get very obsessive. I came close to a nervous breakdown last week when I ate a handful of grapes by accident. This morning we’ve run out bread so I’m having cereal with a tiny splash of milk, and although being dairy free for nearly 3 weeks has made no difference, I know I’ll be on edge all day and will feel responsible if Bean suffers a colic attack tonight. It’s a minefield of guilt!
I don’t normally use baby feeding rooms but last week I was caught short in town – it was freezing, Bean was hungry and the nearest place to feed him in the warmth was a mother and baby room in a department store. I can’t say I’ve spent much time considering the qualities of good feeding rooms before, but the sight that greeted me last week has left me wondering why some retailers place such little value on the custom of mothers.
I’m not sure how it works elsewhere but in the UK baby changing rooms are spaces where parents are expected to change and feed their children – more often than not there’s no distinction made between the two activities in terms of the facilities offered. I’d never considered this an issue before but as they say, ignorance is bliss. Having children has made me realise the disgusting nature of many of these facilities.
Usually I actively avoid baby feeding rooms and before now if someone had asked why I probably would have said I’ve no need for them – I’m happy feeding in public and it gives me a good excuse to go to a coffee shop, sit down and eat cake! But since my experience of feeding next to a U-bend I realise my avoidance tactics are about more than that. Feeding rooms are often dirty, smelly, poorly lit, cold, cramped and in many places they include a toilet. When I’ve used them I’ve felt lonely and ostracised. There is no joy in feeding your child alone, in a sparse box of a room with no windows and a harsh light. The experience is generally an exercise in sensory deprivation and I’m always left feeling guilty for subjecting my child to it and like I’ve been taught a not so subtle lesson – that if I want to feed my baby with want nature intended then I deserve to be alone while doing so.
I find it ridiculous that a society so concerned with germs and health is so uncaring about the well-being of babies in public areas. There is no way a retailer would invite an adult to eat next to a toilet, so why on earth is it considered acceptable for babies with an immune system that isn’t fully developed to consume food in spaces like the one above?! It would take such little time, money and effort to make these spaces more welcoming and usable. I can only assume it’s laziness or ignorance that keeps retailers from updating their facilities. And ultimately it’s incredibly shortsighted of them – mothers of small children often have the desire and time to shop that makes them the perfect customer, yet they’re not being catered for effectively. If I’m to feel relaxed and comfortable and inclined to spend money while shopping then I have to know that there is somewhere I can feed and change my baby in comfort. Considering the current panic about the decline of the high street I think some retailers need a proverbial nudge, because after last weeks experience I for one am inclined to stay in the comfort of my home and shop online.
As I’m discussing breastfeeding I feel I should touch upon what seems to be the default topic regarding this issue. I know some people are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding in public, and here is my take on that: I have very little time for their discomfort. I grew up in a culture entrenched in sexism and a fear of women and I’ve had to work hard to feel comfortable in my own skin. So this post isn’t about me justifying my right to breastfeed in public because as far as I’m concerned it’s my baby, my body, my right, end of. What I am arguing for is that comfortable, hygienic baby feeding facilities should exist for parents who wish to use them.
So, what do you think? Are you as disgusted as I am by the lack of thought, care and hygiene that goes into baby feeding rooms? Do you agree that a distinction should be made between a space for eating and pooing?! Or do you think I’m overreacting?
At 26 months Little E is a whirlwind of new words, emotions, expressions and actions. So much so that I couldn’t write a post that would do justice to all the things he’s recently achieved. Instead I’ll reflect on the developments that have stood out for me…
J prefers to call this “exploration”. I think this might be because E’s behaviour reminds him of his own toddlerhood and bouts of
pre-meditated mischief exploration ;)
Mischief isn’t a new phenomenon for E; he’s spent months perfecting the art of being a bit too silly/loud/boisterous. The new feature is the thought process that occurs before the mischief begins. Luckily for J and I there are two big signs that his mind is whirring with naughtiness. Firstly, he goes very quiet. Secondly, he leaves the room J and I are in and shuts the door behind him. In the last week we’ve had three ‘interesting’ experiences that all started this way.
1. Baby lotion-gate
J and I were talking in the kitchen one afternoon when we realised that E had gone quiet. I popped into the living room to check up on him but he’d disappeared, and the living room door which we always keep wedged open was shut. I knew something was up. I tiptoed upstairs and heard movement from behind the bathroom door which had also been shut. When I opened the door I discovered E half-naked and covered in baby lotion, as was the floor and the side of the bath. He had the guiltiest look plastered across his face. He looked at me, pointed to the toilet (also covered in baby lotion and overflowing with toilet paper) and informed me that he’d been “cleaning”.
2. Contact lens solution-gate
The days of solo toilet trips are long gone, I accept this. What I’m not as keen to accept is that rooms will be trashed in the time it takes for me to pull my trousers up.
On this occasion E swiped a bottle of my contact lens solution while I was on the loo. Before I had time to grab it back he’d shut my bathroom door. Once I managed to get myself out I noticed he’d also shut my bedroom door and his bedroom door. Whatever he was up to had to be pretty spectacular considering he’d had the foresight to block me out with three doors. I opened his bedroom door to find him half-naked (a recurring theme) spraying my contact lens solution like a garden hose all over his bedroom. All over his walls, bed, books and toys. He responded to my steely glare with a look of absolute shock and the words “oh noooo, it’s wet!” while continuing to pump saline solution over his Chuggington book.
3. Carpet cleaner
I was in the kitchen this morning pre-occupied with jiggling a very whiney Bean and foraging for food resembling breakfast when I noticed E had gone quiet. Lo and behold the kitchen door was shut. I made a dash into the living room to find he’d taken carpet cleaner from the kitchen cupboard and was attempting to prise the lid off. On this occasion he looked pretty thrilled that I’d found him.
E has finally started to say please and thank you. It’s been a bit of a thankless task encouraging it over the past few months, he’d often just nod and grin when we asked him to say it. Now he will more often than not say “thank you mummy” before being prompted. Success!
E likes to talk. We don’t always understand exactly what he’s saying but we always get the gist. One of the biggest signs that his speech has developed is that he’s far less frustrated now he can communicate what he sees, wants and feels. It’s generally only during the bedtime hour that he gets a bit fraught and shouty because he gets tired and forgets his words.
E still LOVES cars and trucks and bikes and all things stereotypically masculine. He’d choose rough and tumble over a quiet book any day, and poking things with sticks over playing with dolls. I’ll continue to encourage quiet, non injury inducing play because I think it’s really important, but I’m so excited about this summer – I can’t wait to plan some family trips so E can get out in the fresh air and do what he loves most.
E would happily spend all day playing in the mud, building his train tracks or talking about racing cars but recently we’ve seen another side to him. Much to my relief he’s been sensitive and gentle towards his baby brother – he crouches down to whisper sweet nothing’s into Beans ear and cuddle him gently. It’s lovely to watch and a great reminder for me not to get wrapped up in one dimension of my child’s personality.
I haven’t done a post like this for a while, so this is about 3 months worth of phone pictures. It’s amazing how life can change so much, so instantly!
If you enjoy reading littleeandbean and you’re feeling very generous then please feel free to nominate it for a 2013 MAD Blog Award! Thank you to those of you who have nominated it for the best writer category; I’m a very happy lady! xxx