A birthday, and a goodbye.

My baby is one year old and my heart is full. A balloon of joy swells up in my chest and bursts. Not every so often, but constantly, always. When I am with her, when I thinking of her, when I am talking about her, when I am watching her sleeping …

My life is full, too. Mr Bun and I are racing, racing – juggling and tap dancing through a weekly circus of two very demanding jobs, the insanity of this property market, our marriage, our families, ourselves. It is all going by so, so fast. We are breathless. But we are happy.

Today is my daughter’s first birthday. It’s my 100th blog post. It is time to say goodbye.

I have squeezed so much pleasure out of this blog, which is wondrous considering it was borne from a place of pain. Infertility hollowed me out. It was a physical battle, but the scars are emotional. While driving last week I happened to looked right instead of left – and out popped a memory. A curve of road, a traffic light: there I had been, wailing at the steering wheel as I left behind another negative beta. Oh, that pain. The pain of wanting something so very badly. I remember every aching minute.

I am not a closed person, and have been open about what we went through … but no-one knew, no-one knew like you did. I have relished the luxury of not having to explain anything. But equally, you listened to the detail I sometimes felt compelled to go into. This place allowed me to open up all of that.

Thank you. For your support, and your curiosity, your advice … your humour! This age that we live in is truly miraculous, allowing us to build these extraordinary communities from all around the world.

When I first discovered the world of infertility blogs, I fell upon page after page, seeking out stories that mirrored mine. Some sites I found were years old, many had stopped writing altogether. Most, though, had stuck around long enough to reveal that they had finally become mothers. This gave me hope like nothing else. I like to think that maybe I’ve done that for someone out there.

I will miss this space, particularly as a kick-up-the-bum to write – because I don’t get to do that so much any more. I dunno, I may drop back and regale you with more minutiae … or maybe create somewhere new? But for now I think it’s a good time to sign off.

Life is a matter of contrast, and I’m sure there will be dark days ahead … but there will be light ones as well.

Right now?

Now – my baby is one year old and my heart is full.

Sending you all love, and luck, and happiness so pure that it makes you float.

x

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Make Like A Swan

Life keeps on keeping on, doesn’t it? When it starts getting easy, we humans generally just go and make it hard again. Guess that’s what keeps us living, as opposed to just being meaty breathing machines.

I’ve finished my first week as a working mumma. It was HAA-AAARD (she whines, to a world of, “Well – duh‘s” …)

It’s only a week in and working has already changed the dynamic between Mr Bun and I. There’s definitely more tension: we’re both tired and working hard and it’s difficult not to be short with each other. But we also have so much more to talk about, the relationship feels richer again. We’re even more of a team now, playing the juggling game together.

And then there’s my baby. My love, my daughter. Oh, my darling. I crave her throughout the day. I do my grownup thing, and wear heels and makeup and joke and berate and negotiate and email and present and through it all, my heart sings for my little girl. I am missing the little moments throughout the day, the pure intimacy of spending every moment together – drinking in my girl. Now I am realising just how fast she is growing, because I am catching up, instead of being there when it happens.

But leaving Little Bun has been easier than I expected, mostly because she’s used to those caring for her, so departures haven’t been too traumatic. I think this may change as she starts to become used to the new routine.

Leaving work at 5.30 on the dot? Much, much harder than I expected. Me and my jobshare twin have landed in a typhoon of big projects with short timelines and little support team. I am working full bore, head down, arse up, no-time-for-a-wee hard. Sprinting until 5.30, then sprinting home, then sprinting through bath-bottle-bed-dishes-laundry-dinner-more work-emails-teeth-face-bed-START AGAIN.

Argh.

I am going to have to embrace working after LB goes down to bed, and for the time being, being on phone/email on my ‘off’ days and weekends. Just to get through this initial few months. Just to prove to the office and the bosses with wives at home that job sharing is a good thing, and Mums who leave at 5.30 can still kick arse. To prove to the other women in the office that it CAN be done. To prove to myself that I can do both.

This is it. This is the new reality. I’m going to have to make like a swan and keep smiling up top, while paddling like crazy down below.

Working Girl

I’m going back to work. Soon. Really soon. Yeesh!

The Australian/British approach of a year-long maternity leave must mean my reticence seems silly to those of you who went back after six weeks. I am so impressed by you women! At six weeks post partum I could barely feed myself, let alone run a meeting.

But I’ve had a year to wear comfortable shoes and questionable hair. Now it’s time to put on my big girl pants and march back into the workforce.

I’m talking a big game here, but the truth is I’m only returning part time. A friend / colleague (frolleague?) of mine and I are entering into the brave world of Job Sharing. Which, in my industry, is about as common as leaving the office at 5.30pm. It’s safe to say we’re flying by the seat of our (big girl) pants.

Setting the logistics of my new role aside, of course what’s weighing heaviest on mind is Little Bun and how this will affect her.

We have a hideous child care shortage around these parts. I have had my name down at three centres since November 2011 (do the math) and I am still ‘six to twelve months’ away from getting a spot. As January turned into February and my polite stalking of these centres elicited no positive response at all, I knew I needed to find an alternative solution. And that was a nanny.

I never imagined we’d be the sort of people who’d have a nanny. I’m not sure who ‘those’ sort of people are, but I figured they sailed boats and wore a lot of white. But I guess they’re normal, like us, and have certain requirements in certain situations that mean a nanny is the go.

Hopefully this is a short to mid term solution until a spot becomes available. And while not the child care route we had planned, I suspect it will make for an easier transition back into the working world.

And me – work! Meetings! Conversations with multiple adults in which babies aren’t referenced at all! Shaking hands! Email at 11pm! Wearing heels! Sitting down for more than five minutes! Lunches out!

I don’t know if I’m ready. Oh BOY my heart is shuddering at the thought of leaving this beautiful baby bubble. I’m going to miss my girl every minute.

But hey, this is life, right? Bring it on.

Sleeping Beauty, Sleeping Beautifully

Yup.

Right now, as of this minute, my daughter is sleeping through the night.

By Christmas (at seven months old) I was getting really over waking up anywhere between 1 – 6am to feed and settle. This was on top of the Dream Feed I was still doing around 11pm. It was like I’d run out of juice. Where I’d previously been bouncing through the day on five hours of (broken) sleep, suddenly I was mainlining sugar just to get through the day.

I started by trying to drop the Dream Feed a few times, but failed dismally. She wouldn’t have a bar of it. We ended up losing it with the unorthodox approach of flying 12,000 miles. I know, not that easily done – but I’d recommend it! The jetlag from a long-haul flight knocked LB’s Dream Feed out the window.

Right, one down.

On arriving home in January we embarked on a month of upheaval, house-moving and portacots. I just didn’t feel right cutting out her overnight feed while there was so much else going on – especially considering we’d also just been overseas for a month. I wanted to allow LB plenty of time to settle back into her own cot and her own routine.

February became The Month. And randomly, as she woke up ‘early’ for her overnight feed at midnight one Friday, that became The Night.

Being a beautifully stubborn little thing, I was fully prepared for my daughter to give me hell for weeks, once I turned off the overnight tap. The first night she grizzled and cried for an hour, with Mr Bun going in every 10 – 20 minutes to settle her. She then slept through until 5am, stirred, and slept again until 7. I, of course, woke at 4am and stared at the monitor, wondering when she’d wake.

The next night I went to bed almost hoping she’d wake up, so we could continue bedding down the ‘new approach’. But, she slept. From 7pm until 7am, waking at 5am and putting. herself. back. to. sleep. This kid NEVER resettles herself, not when she wakes up after midnight.

I was so confused.

There was one night, about a week later, when she woke at 3am. I spent almost two hours going in and out of her room, settling and soothing as she grizzled, until she fell asleep again. And that was almost two months ago. Since then, I pop her down into bed and she smiles and laughs as I tuck her in. She’ll chat away to herself for a while before falling asleep. She’ll then stir a few times throughout the night and early hours, but settles again until waking up around 7am.

Forgive me if I’m sound boastful here, but it is bloody amazing.

I believe in sleep training, and I was fully prepared to commit to it as long as it took. But it didn’t really take long … no, it didn’t really take at all. You see, she was ready. She was probably as desperate as I was to get more sleep, but just didn’t know how to go about it. All she needed was a little bit of encouragement.

The amazing thing is, she’s sleeping more deeply at night. I can now pop my head in and check on her when I go to bed, whereas before that would definitely wake her up, and she’d be hollering until I fed her. AND – wait for it – she’s napping better during the day.

Since she was eight weeks old my baby hasn’t napped for longer than 40 minutes. It has absolutely been the hardest thing I’ve had to manage, hands down. To have her roll out a few one or even 1.5 hour sleeps in a week is amazing for me.

I am aware this will change. There will be teeth, colds, developmental leaps, slumber parties and bad breakups with boyfriends. BUT. This Mama is getting some sleep for the first time since les bump was small enough to let me sleep through. And that is a BLOODY GREAT THING.

Letting Go

As so many of you were supremely helpful, answering my pleas and whines, I thought I’d drop a little update on how Little Bun and I are going on the milk front.

Three months ago, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the triple whammy that I was dealt – her allergies, my own milk’s problem with freezing, and her not taking formula.

Well – we’re through it and (almost) out the other side. Once we’d settled back home after hotfootting it around the globe and back, I started LB on a bottle of her stinky formula here and there. Luckily, she’s a guts and her appetite’s only getting bigger, so she seemed happier and happier to take the bottle.

Then, with my back-to-work date looming, I started to slowly wean her. Just as they recommend in the books, I replaced a feed a week – beginning with her least ‘favourite’. And she was fine. Absolutely. Fine. It took her a while to pick up her quantities, but I knew that she was getting plenty of milk from me, and PUH-LENTY of food and water as well (my girl likes to eat).

The slow approach was also kind to my boobs, and I haven’t had any troubles with engorgement or pain.

She was crook last week so I delayed dropping the final feed – the one first thing in the morning. But I think that was more for me than her. You see, I’ve been sad to wean her. As lovely as its been to have more than a three hour window in which to get out and do things on my own, I miss feeding her. What was such a close, warm, organic thing is now a different – not bad – experience. Nice cuddle, plastic teat, gulp-and-burp. Done.

But the admin! I really applaud those women who have been managing bottles for months and months. The washing, sterilising, transporting, buying of formula … it’s just another thing to fit into your brain when it’s already fit to burst.

I’m so grateful for the boob-support I received – both online and in real life – all the way back to those first few weeks when I couldn’t breastfeed at all. Now that it’s time for us to move on, I do feel some sense of sadness. My baby is growing up.

But what we’ll miss in that, I’m sure we’ll discover something new elsewhere.

20 Bunless Questions

So, life’s gotten in the way of blogging in a BIG way lately. I’m not going to go into it, but it’s been a crackingly busy, boring, delightful, frustrating, wondrous, tedious, brilliant, crazy Summer here in the Bunless household.

When I saw the 20 Questions post over at Pail I was so pleased: a nice way to get my blogging brain back into action, and indulge my rampant narcissism at the same time.

OK. Let’s do this thing.

1. What was the last thing you threw in the garbage/recycling?

Cardboard ‘stuffing’ from a newly-purchased vaporiser. Little Bun came down with a belter of a cold on Saturday morning. Fever, streaming nose, red eyes, barking cough – the works. My little trooper managed to continue to sleep through, albeit very noisily – which broke my heart! The worst of it seems to be gone, but we’re left with a nasty cough – hence, the vaporiser.

2. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?

Well, ignoring the lullaby tracks that I played religiously during LB’s months 5 – 8 (Brahms will forever remind me of long, napless days), number one is Lippy Kids, by Elbow. A stunningly beautiful, hauntingly nostalgic track that makes me feel happy and sad all at the same time. Seriously, have a listen.

Sigh – I love that song.

3. What is your favorite quote?

I’m not sure I can pick a favourite, but one that’s close to my heart – ‘Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember’ (Seneca) … pretty much sums up my response to a lot of things. I am a terrible nostalgist.

4. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?

Ah. Hands down this would be cleaning the high chair. This has easily surpassed every other tedious chore in my life. As LB feeds herself now, the mess ranges from mild to HOW DID TUNA GET INTO MY SHOES? Avocado and mango are the worst. Crevices YOU DESTROY ME.

5. What is your favorite form of exercise?

OK. Um. I am a bad exerciser. LB’s dairy and soy allergy meant that from three months post-partum I had to alter my diet pretty drastically. This, combined with breastfeeding, meant that I dropped under my pre-IVF weight really quickly. While great, it’s also been an excuse to ignore exercise in a big way. So I’m properly wobbly and unfit and gross. Having said that, we walk walk walk all day every day. So right now, walking with my girl is top of my list.

6. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?

I’ve always been a sucker for balmy summer nights. So I’m loving evenings at the moment, out in our little courtyard. The smell of cooling, wet soil – freshly watered after a long, hot day. Mr Bun barbequing our dinner, the two of us catching up over a glass of something very cold, as the sky turns pink and purple overhead.

7. What is on your bedside table?

I’m embarrassed to say, no books. This is unusual, but since having LB my bookwormy ways have fallen by the wayside. Now she’s sleeping through, I’m going to pick this up again. But, I’m afraid that currently my bedside table holds my phone, a glass of water, the baby monitor and sometimes a bit of the weekend paper that I’m still catching up on come Thursday.

8. What is your favorite body part?

Probably my mouth – because of my enormous head (!) I managed to avoid braces as a kid. I think a big, happy smile can be the most attractive thing about a person. Unless you’re Daniel Craig as James Bond, and then it’s your sweet, sweet body.

(yes, I’ve recently seen Skyfall)

9. Would you use the power of invisibility for good or evil? Elaborate.

Oh, evil. I am a snoop – definitely. I used to love riding on the top of the double decker buses around London, only so I could peer into the window of first floor flats.

10. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

My twenties were a really fun decade, particularly years living overseas and working as hard as I played. Or was it the other way around? But how can you pick a year from the past, when you have a baby who is growing into the future? I’d love to be lucky enough to answer that question when I’m very, very old.

11. What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?

Oh wow, I could write a NOVEL about this stuff. Seriously, when I’m having my most anxious 4am moments, very detailed lottery-based fantasies can calm me down like nothing else. So, first thing? Open a seriously amazing bottle of Champagne and start looking for a beautiful home.

12. What is your biggest pet peeve?

I am an anally retentive, obsessive perfectionist. EVERYTHING is my pet peeve. No seriously. What you’re doing right now – stop it – it’s annoying me.

13. If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?

That’s easy – what are those winning lottery numbers? Because money can’t buy happiness, but it can sure help along the way!

There are other questions – ones about life, and death, and all that’s in between. But I’m too superstitious to muck with that stuff. Even if I could find out, I don’t know if I’d want to.

14. At what age did you become an adult?

When I left home, and moved overseas to a foreign city with no friends, no job, and no clue. I was 21. It was the best thing I ever did.

15. Recommend a book, movie, or television show in three sentences or less.

Oh goddamn you. This is my favourite thing to do, and there’s no WAY I can stick to just one medium, let alone three sentences.

OK – a book – one of my favourites with my non-Aussie friends in mind. Dirt Music. A rolling, languid, sensual dip into my country. A truly magical read, with a corker of a love story holding it together. Let me know if you like it.

16. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I’m not sure about trouble as such, but gee could I talk. Probably quite obnoxiously. Definitely precociously. All home movies have the unfortunate feature of having my face thrust into almost every frame. Not a shy little flower!

17. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

It was this. On cassette. I was entranced by her hat.

18. If someone wrote a book about you, what would be the title?

I think this is the hardest question here. I’ve come back to it a few times, but I’ve got nuthin’. How about ‘Anxious and Paranoid’ … ? I’m only half kidding. Those who love me, love my neuroses as well.

19. What story do you wish your family would stop telling about you?

Thankfully, I don’t get many stories told about me at family get togethers. We’re not big on reminiscing in my family – more about anecdotes of the day … But generally a joke or two about my large head makes its way into the patter.

20. True or false: The unicorn is the greatest mythical creature. State your case.

Oh, false false false. A unicorn’s got nothing against The Woman Who Can Be It All – Fantastic wife! Perfect mother! Stellar friend! Exemplary career woman! Spiritually aligned! Physically fit! Now THAT’S a creature worthy of myth and legend.

(can you tell I’m due back to work soon?)

– – –

Well, I hope that fit the bill – I can’t wait to read everyone else’s answers. And hopefully this has been the kickstart I need to pump a few more posts out into the ether. Thank you Pail for the great inspiration!

x

We’re Going LONG HAUL

All I want for Christmas is … 24 hours on a plane with a baby!?

Yup. We’re doing it. Leaving on a jet plane and zooming over the oceans and through the timezones to spend Christmas in its ‘proper’ home, the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a cool 28 hours (give or take) door-to-door. I won’t lie when I tell you, I’m NOT looking forward to the journey.

The airline has helpfully declined to guarantee a bassinet. This is particularly excellent, as from what I’ve read, a bassinet is crucial. In light of Little Bun’s recent ‘restlessness’, I am praying we get one … how times change! A few years ago I was dedicating the same energy to wishing for an upgrade. Now, I don’t give a hoot where we’re sitting, as long as my daughter has somewhere to sleep.

Having said that, some babies hate the bassinet and it just becomes another storage unit for toys / nappies / empty vodka bottles (ahem).

Anyone have any first-hand experience of this particular type of travel hell experience? I’ve found a bunch of blogs with helpful tips, so we’ll stock up on changes of clothes and ‘quiet’ toys.

I think the best thing to do is expect the worst, hope for the best.

And hey, it’s only 24 hours, right? Just don’t get me started on dealing with baby jet lag and how that affects sleep patterns … !!!!!

Sour Milk

As some of you know, LB has a dairy and soy allergy. As she is exclusively breastfed, we’re currently managing this via my diet. It’s been a little tough (eating out is pretty much a thing of the past), but there are upsides too (eating more healthily, saving $$ and of course, a much healthier tummy for LB). As she’s now on solids as well, we’re sticking to fruit and veg and will be introducing protein in the coming month/s.

This also means LB can’t have normal or soy-based formula. There is a formula currently available in Australia, on prescription only, that is dairy and soy free. A.ptamil P.epti Junior Gold. This will be what LB will have to have when I go back to work.

The thing about the A.ptamil is it tastes repulsive. I mean, according Dr Hob, it’s almost undrinkable. Way to go formula company! You think parents of kids with allergies need more shit to deal with!? I tried a teaspoon on LB last week and she dry retched. Dr Hob recommended giving LB 4-6 WEEKS to get used to it. I was planning to begin this slow wean in January. How I’ll do this, I have no idea.

With the grossness of the formula front of mind, I had been pumping a little milk here and there. I wasn’t planning on giving LB EBM on heading back to work, so this little stockpile was just my ‘freedom milk’. Just enough for a bottle once in a while, to allow me a night out or an afternoon away – or even an evening at home with a few glasses of wine. I can’t tell you how much I need this.

Last week I defrosted some of the precious liquid to give Mr Bun a chance to reintroduce LB to the bottle, while I was around in case it didn’t work.

The milk was off. It smelt, and tasted disgusting.

Right – so. We tried again. Another batch, same thing. Completely sour. This had never happened previously. A little Googling found the probable reason – lipase. It’s an enzyme that’s excessive in some women’s milk, and causes the souring. A way to get rid of it is to scald the milk before freezing.

I express such small amounts at a time (20ml) that I don’t think I can even scald it and not burn/boil it, and I can’t express larger quantities.

So I can’t store my EBM and I can’t currently give formula either (I need to get her onto that formula, or I’m not going back to work, so I’m already pretty stressed about that).

I can’t catch a break here. I mean, it’s fine. I’ll remain stuck to LB’s side until next year sometime and that’s OK. I love hanging out with her. It’s just – psychologically – the idea that I can’t get away if I want or need to, is a tough one to get my head around.

Has anyone got any experience with either sour defrosted milk or yucky-tasting formula?

The Un-Asked Question

I find, when your bub gets to about six months old, people stop asking;

‘Is she sleeping through the night?’

It’s like it becomes taboo … because, y’know, she should be*. And if she isn’t, well – that’s just awkward for all concerned.

LB is very much NOT sleeping through the night. She is doing the very opposite of that, unlike when she was four, or five months old. I know this, because back then I was optimistically (and, yes, a little smugly) noting it down in my calendar. Scribbly little exclamations in biro ‘Until 7am!’ … ‘Through ’til 7.30!’ popped up three or four times a week for a few months. I was excited – thinking, this is surely IT. She’ll start doing this more and more often, until the nights when she does wake up become the exception. WOooHooo!

But, no – she has slept through only once in over a month. Not only that, a few weeks ago she started waking at 1am and 2am again. I still give her a Dream Feed at 10.30/11pm, so this is clearly not a hunger thing.

When she’s up before 3am, I settle and re-settle until it’s 3:00 and she gets a feed (if I feed her before then, she’ll wake again at 4/5am). If she wakes after 3am, I leave her grizzling for 20 minutes (in the vain hope she’ll go back to sleep – hardey har har), then feed her.

So. Waking at night. Sometime it’s 1am, sometimes it’s 3am, sometimes it’s 4.30am. Either way, when I feed her, she goes right back to sleep until I wake her in the morning.

Why do I feed her at all? Well, she still hasn’t doubled her birthweight so I feel like I should be giving her that overnight feed if she needs (wants?) it. The other reason is we’re heading overseas for Christmas and I really don’t think I’ll be able to handle the stress of sleep training her out of her overnight feeds, while staying in someone else’s home.

People suggest I go to bed at 9pm (or earlier), to get a few hours in before the Dream Feed. But you know what? Those few hours in the evening are the only time when I am ME. I get to sit, enjoy a glass of wine, watch TV, talk to my husband (wow – another ADULT) and generally remind myself who I am. I can’t give that up.

After six months of broken sleep you’d think I’d be OK with it. I mean, she’s a baby right? And a pretty young one at that. Suck it up!

But I actually feel more tired, and less able to cope with the hours – particularly the 1am nights when I have to do two hours of settling and THEN a 45 minute feed. I just feel so drained, and empty – running on zero sleep for so many months. I am really ready to get my nights back.
Zzzzzz …

*Fuck off.

Somebody Swapped My Baby

It happened over the weekend. It’s funny, because she looks exactly the same – but she is really, a completely different baby.

Gone is the quiet, shy, placid little thing that would play forever on her own. In her place, a very noisy, frustrated bundle of movement who will grizzle and SQUEAL REALLY RATHER LOUDLY IF SHE WANTS SOMETHING:

Things Little Bun would like:

  • To be put down
  • To be picked up
  • To be on her tummy
  • To be OFF HER TUMMY NOW OH GOD THIS IS AWFUL
  • To put all the things (ALL THE THINGS) in her mouth
  • … except for baby food, get that stuff away from me
  • But give me the spoon. I want the spoon
  • To be held held held all the time
  • Except now, don’t hold me now
  • BUT HOLD ME NOW
  • And don’t. Under any circumstances. LEAVE MY SIGHT, MAMA

Sigh. It’s rather exhausting.

I knew I was spoilt, but I didn’t realise how much. For months I’ve been used to running mini-errands around the house while LB is awake and playing happily. Now I have windows of three minutes to do things in. Like go to the loo. Or shower.

The only place she’s happy is the pram, pounding the pavement. Luckily the weather is gorgeous here, because we are going out walking A LOT.

What do you think is going on? Her bottom two teeth are completely through, so I think it’s more developmental. Separation anxiety? Sudden realisation that the World Out There exists? Just, y’know, being a baby?

She’s still smiley and wonderful and gorgeous – but oh lordy she’s putting me through my paces!