Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The woman who changed her brain - a review

Have you heard about this book? Written by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, it is a must read for any parent in my humble opinion.  I wish I had been able to read it years ago (although it was only just published) and help more of my students. It is about neuroplasticity (ability of the brain to change).

 During my years teaching adolescents, I was privy to so many parents and students telling me their personal histories about their learning histories. Their frustrations with how some things were easy and other tasks were like operating in a fog. Repeated failure to successfully complete simple tasks despite numerous support from teachers, parents and peers meant increasingly low self-esteem and poor results. Often there was an instinct on behalf of the students from the parents and the teachers that this was an intelligent person but somehow there was a wall. Parents spoke of noticing inconsistencies from an early age, even at 18 months old. Students spoke of a fog or knowing how to do a task and then that information fading shortly after learning it.

 Reading this book made me wring my hands a few times. It reminded me so much of some of the students I have had over the years. There are some very specific strategies using brain exercises that can help people address their learning disabilities.  Early intervention can literally be a life saver for children. The good news is that recent clinical research clearly indicates that weaknesses in the brain (which result in learning disabilities such as speech, handwriting, spatial awareness etc) can be strengthened and even repaired at any stage of life. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sleep - a log

Day sleeper - 10 months
I thought I might keep a bit of a log as to your sleeping habits. Being a first time mama, I thought everything you did, including all those nights trying to get you to sleep, would be etched on my mind forever but it appears lack of sleep makes your brain malfunction and causes memory loss. I've realised now the importance of noting things down as well as having the initiative to do so.

 And so to sleep.  This month, at 16 months, we can pretty much rely on you to sleep through the night. Ah, the serenity.  If you do wake up, it is usually when we are going to bed.  Love our floorboards but they do amplify every sound in our little house. Sometimes you wake up in the night but a quick drink of water and you are right to go back to sleep. Last night, you were standing up and I gave you a drink and then you lay/ fell down on to your face and started snoring immediately. I had to stop myself from laughing in case I woke you up.  Your sleep habits are weird. You easily wake up when we go to bed but when the neighbour uses a chainsaw RIGHT next to your window during the day, you don't wake up at all. We had a massive storm recently and it was loud and you didn't wake up during that either. A floorboard creaks and you call out to us immediately.

 At the beginning of  your 16th month, we went on a little Winter holiday and your beautiful daddy gave me a real holiday by getting up to you at night. The first couple of nights, I still woke up if you made a noise but then I started to really relax and just sleep through. What a gift! It really takes at least two people to raise a baby. Women who do it by themselves either by choice or circumstance - I salute you.

 Being in a new place on holiday, you would wake up and need a bit of help re-settling. I knew this would happen however we've traveled before and the memories of the good times outweigh the sleep issues... just. I know with time we will remember more meeting your new cousin and lovely memories of you tickling our feet to wake us in the morning and less of the ever increasing waking at night and the stress of trying to keep you quiet and not wake everyone up in the apartment complex.

This holiday, you were in the room next to us and your dad would give you a bit of a cuddle, a drink of water, lie you down and stroke your hair until you relaxed enough to re-settle yourself or fall asleep. Of course, this is everything that the books told us not to do but you seem to really respond to this at the moment. We have been weaning you and when I have been getting up to you, all you have wanted is boob and have been really hard to settled. If your dad gets up to you, you are easily settled. Win, win.

Since being home, you have slept through every night. I think I have such a sleep deficit it is going to take some time to catch up on sleep. I am grateful that you are sleeping through but have yet to feel the full effects of good nights sleep as yet. 

You wake most mornings at 7am or whenever we get up. We better have a banana ready pretty quickly for you. We often hear you calling out for "Mama, Daddy" or for the dog. You are down to one day sleep, even though I can see you could do with two naps. No matter how matter what I try, you are not into having another nap.   Around 10.45 - 11am, I pop you in your cot and most mornings you will go to sleep without any protest, although sometimes I can hear you babbling for up to an hour. Usually you sleep for about 1hr 45 mins at the moment but occasionally you do some marathon sleeps of 3 -4 hours for no rhyme or reason. 

You are still not a co-sleeping baby. Even as an infant, you did not like being breastfed laying down and would only lie down next to me for the duration of the feed in the morning. We used to be able to bring you into our bed in the mornings and have a bit of a feed and a play but now you when you get out of your cot, you want to be up and nowhere near a bed. We'll keep trying though. You're getting pretty keen on sitting on our laps. You still love your pacifier/ dummie.  You have two  - one is attached to some wooden beads and another is attached to a taggie blanket but you are no longer obsessed with them the way you used to be. 

We are feeling good about your sleep. All the hard work in those first 12 months seem to be really paying off.  Next time round however I might be a little less continuum concept and put a little more routine in place earlier. I was not a fan of having you cry it out but have realised over time that staying with you stimulated you too much and wasn't doing you any favours. Letting you vocalise your tiredness worked for you but was very hard for me. Mind you, if you ever gave an upset cry, I was with you immediately. Letting you go to sleep by yourself was one of the hardest things I have ever done as I never would have imagined that being baby led meant the baby didn't want me in the room! Seeing how you are at 16 months, I realise that you have always have been a very loving, cuddly yet very independent person in all matters.   

Sleep tight my sweetie.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weaning and migraines

me and miss s - 14 weeks
Miss s and I are weaning.
I thought I'd write this down whilst I'm actually going through it. I find if I don't write things down at the time, I so easily forget them. Plus, for some reason, I found it hard to find information on how to wean or stories of how women and their children weaned so I thought I'd share my story thus far.

As with everything in parenting, it hasn't gone as I planned...or hoped.  We have had to go cold turkey unfortunately as I have needed to get back on some medication. My words will probably be a bit all over the place as I am ill with a migraine as I write this.

The background
I have had migraines all my life. A couple of years before I fell pregnant, I started some new medication which changed my life with helping my migraines. I had to stop it whilst pregnant and breastfeeding. Luckily I didn't get a huge amount of headaches whilst I was carrying Sienna however I did get a migraine about four days after her birth and slowly they have started to increase. Since Sienna was about nine months I have been thinking seriously about trying to wean her as my migraines started to become more frequent and more painful.

This has been really hard to do. As with any medical condition, migraines have interfered in my life. I am not at a place of peace with this condition. I hate them. They are painful. I am sick for weeks, sometimes months at a time. I try to not think about it too much and just accept that it is what it is but I do resent having migraines. I know family, friends, teachers, colleagues et al haven't understood and thought I was either a bit of a sook or just trying to get out of an event. I haven't been able to commit to situations/ jobs/ events because of concerns I may get sick and let people down.  The only benefit of migraines is that I have no fear of pain. I had no real fear of birth as I knew there would be a point where it would end, at least after 48 hours or so probably whereas with migraines the extreme pain can last for days if not two weeks with no respite despite the best efforts of my lovely pain management specialist.  I have been blessed with breastfeeding. Despite an unplanned cesarian birth, miss s latched on straight away and fed the first night for over two hours. I have never had mastitis and Sienna has always fed well.  For the first 12 months, miss s was all business when feeding, no eye contact, strong feeding and then when finished, rarely sleepy cuddles.  However once she got past 12 months she started feeding a lot more for comfort and we have had some lovely times with a bit of eye contact and relaxed full body cuddles.

To be honest, I'm really shitty about how migraines have forced me to stop breastfeeding.  Ideally I would have kept going until miss s was ready to stop. Prior to having Sienna though, I thought I would stop about 12 months but as miss s has been so attached to it I realised we would probably go a bit longer.

The process
Miss s has slept through the night on and off since around 6.5 months (with some rather large periods of wanting to feed several times during the night). We have been cutting down the night feeds from when miss s was about 12 months however with being unwell with a migraine, it has been easier for me to feed her quickly and get back into bed. We would have several weeks of only one feed per 24 hours and then she would want to feed a lot more. Miss s never took a bottle so she was always fed from the "source".

Last week we went off on a little Winter holiday. Miss s was getting up a bit at night and has been feeding a lot at night. It was getting to the point where she could no longer sit on my lap without asking for a feed. She would only have a few sips but would just want my boobs out on display all the time. Mr k took on the night duties and the morning shift to give me a bit of a proper holiday. He was able to get her back to sleep with out feeding. Mr k is a patient man and doesn't like to hear miss s cry. He would get up to her, give her a bit of a cuddle and put her back in her cot and then stroke her head until she was asleep or relaxed enough to not protest when he left the room. A couple of nights it was only once and a couple of night he had to get up four times.  He would also get her breakfast in the morning. If miss s asked for "mama" or "boobie" he would say "mama sleeping, you can have some later".

Since we have gotten home, miss s has slept through the night but has demanded a lot of feeding during the day. I've been unwell with a migraine and have been worried about the painkillers going through my milk (have checked several times with doctors etc that it is ok to take but still find it stressful).

Three days ago I had a bit of a moment. I saw the pack of tablets on my bedside table. They've been sitting there for the past four months, waiting for me to wean with miss s so I can take control of my health and get back on them.  I realised I could no longer go on and my dream of miss s gently weaning herself or being gently weaned over a couple of months wasn't going to happen. We had tried reducing feeds, distraction, back rubs, suggestions from this article . I realised that I needed to be grateful for the time I have had breastfeeding my girl and to recognise that in order to have a happy healthy life and be a happy healthy good mama to Sienna, I needed to get back on that medication. I picked up the packet and took the tablet.

There is absolutely no way I can feed miss s with this stuff in my system.  The first day, I told miss s that there was "no more milk, all gone, all finished" and "want a cuddle?". She had a bit of a yell for literally 5 seconds and then was easily distracted by a book.  Later on, she asked again and I was able to easily distract her with a snack and a bit of water.  One of my mama friends suggested that I have a couple of snacks on hand that might be a bit novel for her such a yogurt covered ricecake or one of the commercial baby biscuits. Miss s doesn't usually have these as I like to cook most things she eats from scratch but it was a good tip.  By the third time she asked for a feed she actually replied herself and said "boobie, no boobie" and did a bit of a wah wah face and then went and got a book for me. I must admit I was kind of surprised how easy it was all going and was prepared for day 2 to be a bit harder.  That night I was lucky in that she slept through and as soon as she woke up, I had her breakfast ready to go and my boobs safely confined behind a bra and a couple of layers of clothing.   Day 2 was basically the same. She woke up last night for a about 45 mins and needed quite a bit of help re-settling (patting on the bottom and cuddling) but she didn't nuzzle for my breast or ask for it). Today she has asked for a breastfeed but again she has replied "no boobie" and has easily been distracted by reading a story. I'm feeling rather unwell today so my mum has come to pick her up and take her for the day.

It is early days but it has been much smoother than I anticipated. I am thinking that having breastfeeds in the morning confused her in that she could have breastfeeds sometimes and at other times not. Being consistent seems to have relaxed her and she hasn't asked anywhere as much for it as she has in the previous two weeks.  I also think it took both mr k and I to wean miss s.  I can see his patience and love has really comforted our little girl.  Although I wrote at the beginning of this post that we had to go cold turkey, I've realised through writing that we have been effectively weaning for some time (even though it didn't feel like it at the time) and that her easy acceptance of no longer feeding indicates that it has been a gentle process.  We're up to day 3 but we've been doing this for about 5 months. She is happy, I'm happy (and will be even happier once I get rid of this stupid headache).
Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Eating out at home

One thing that has been working for our little house hold is "Fantastic Fridays". Yes, I am aware of the dork factor but that is how I roll ( I swear I wasn't like this before teaching kids - teaching does something weird to your brain).
 I used to love going out for dinner on Fridays pre-child. It used to signal the start of the weekend (no matter that I often had to go into the office both days of said weekend). I did kind of think that my days would fall into one another and I wouldn't need such things as weekends once I was on maternity leave. Totally wrong, I feel like weekends are even more "weekendy" because mr k is home and having two pairs of hands is awesome with a toddler.

It is a bit difficult to wrangle babysitting every Friday night and I would rather ration family babysitting favours for parties.  So what I do is get myself pretty organised for Fridays. I try and cook a meal early on in the day or most of it the day before so I'm not rushing around in the early evening. Miss s is off in bed by 7pm and then we open the wine, light the candles and enjoy a nice meal. It is weird but sometimes it doesn't even feel like I have cooked it because I did all the prep earlier.  If Sienna is having an angel child week, I might try a recipe that is a bit more challenging. If she is being normal, it is usually an old favourite or mr k cooking on the bbq accompanied by a good wine and followed by an excellent cheese (this is just a link so you can see what the cheese looks like, if you see it at your local deli and you love cheese, buy this and then comment how much you love me).

The pic above is of crayfish bisque-like thingo with noodles. I roughly followed this recipe.  We had a freezer full on crayfish courtesy of mr k's brother (tip - buy family members cray pots for Christmas, it really pays off).

Quarantine is over, catch you next time!