Owen is 16 weeks now. We had to look up a calendar to confirm (actually Peter used a calculator). Owen now weighs 14 pounds and 4 ounces. That is the only measurement we keep. Days are flying by, one flows seamlessly to the next, feeding to feeding, nap to nap. I don’t keep track of how many times throughout the day Owen nurses or how many hours he sleeps. He seems healthy and that is enough for me. People talk about how hard it is to take care of a newborn, the constant holding and nursing. I can hold and nurse him to eternity and that is not an exaggeration. There certainly have been a handful of frustrating moments, like how he cried and screamed tonight when I tried to put him to sleep or when I felt like I didn’t have enough milk during one of his earlier growth spurts. But for the most part, we have not had a truly difficult day. The only hard time for me was the time I spent away from Owen at the hospital. There is a thing called “baby led weaning” where babies older than six months are encouraged to feed themselves what adults eat, rather than being spoon fed baby food. If there is a term for what we do I would call it “baby led parenting.”
It is true that nothing prepares you for parenthood. Fortunately no preparation is needed. It took me a while to be able to hold Owen after the C-section. The midwives came and asked if I wanted to nurse him. Of course, I did. I was adamant about breastfeeding. They helped to position Owen’s head on my breast and he latched on right-away. From that instant I knew that even though we were clueless as new parents, Owen knew exactly what he needs. He came preprogrammed. For all of the days that followed, I watched for his cues and responded to them the best I could. When he puts his hands over his mouth I fed him. When he rubs his eyes and yawns I nursed and rocked him to sleep. When he fusses at my breast I burped him. When he kick his legs we helped him to go potty. I can tell the different sounds he makes when he wants to be picked up, walked around or to be fed. Over time his cues change, new ones replaces old ones, some I probably have missed, but everyday I try.
We had planned on co-sleeping based on the simple understanding that babies need to be close to their mom. We didn’t need to read about the latest research on the benefit of breast-sleeping, although that made a lot of sense to us as well. In the last weeks of my pregnancy we purchased an used Arm’s Reach, a small crib that can be propped up next to the bed for a truly American style “co-sleeping.” We thought it would be nice to have around just in case. Owen slept in it for half hour and decided it wasn’t for him. We decided it wasn’t for us. Ultimately the Arm’s Reach was only used to hold my IV medication while I had the PICC line. Today we sold it to another expecting mom.
Owen have slept with us every night since he was born. I am convinced that it helps him to sleep better and longer so we can sleep better and longer ourselves. Owen only goes to sleep by nursing so Peter can’t help much. I often have to stand up, rock him and sing at the same time. It can take a while. He wakes up again no matter how gentle I set him down on the bed. So then I lay down next to him and side nurse him until he falls asleep again. I don’t think he has yet fallen asleep without my breast in his mouth. People tell me he needs a paci but he doesn’t accept any replacement, nor would I want him to. I am perfectly happy being his pacifier. Whenever I look at his beautiful face I know someday soon he will experience highs and low, joy and disappointment. There will never be another time when there mere presence of my breast could bring him so much comfort.
Babies want to be held. We happily accept that as well. I sleep next to Owen every night, hug him when he moves, fed him when he awakes. It works well to keep him semi-asleep. I recently read that adults have 90-minute sleep cycles and are able to transition smoothly from one cycle to the next without becoming fully aware. Babies have a 60-minute sleep cycle and have not yet mastered the transition. They often wake up and unable to fall asleep on their own. Babies will eventually grow to settle and sleep by themselves. They don’t necessary learn those things by sleep training. The babies that do become quiet are still stressed. They just no longer vocalize it. We don’t want that for our baby. He can sleep alone when he is ready to. Until then, I’m here to do everything I can to make sure he feels safe and loved.
Babies really don’t need much. We didn’t have much at home and had even less on the trip. From the very beginning we focused on things we can provide to Owen instead of looking for inferior substitute to purchase. Modern conveniences that are not at all convenient because there are no substitute for parents. We have no swings or vibrating chairs in the apartment. Instead, Peter and I take turns holding Owen. We purchased mostly used clothes for him from Salvation Arm. He outgrew the 3-6 mos onsies we had for the trip so we picked up a couple of shirts for him at the second hand store today. He also had no toy for the four weeks we were on the road. Yesterday Peter picked up a couple of used toys from a mom in the Buy Nothing Facebook group, which people pass on things they no longer need free of charge. Owen wasn’t good on holding things before. When I gave him the sensory ball he tried to grasp it with his hands closed in fists at first. It only took him a couple of minutes to open his hands in order to hold the ball. It was quite amazing to watch.
We are not experts of anything. We just do what works for us. Babies grow and change from day to day. Some days we do well. Some days we are met with a steep learning curve. In the end we are immensely grateful to be able to spend all this time together with baby Owen. Here he is, performing water aerobic in his bath.