1. ARRIVAL 2. SLEEP 3. HARLEQUIN SYNDROME 4. THE STUMP
Our baby Owen arrived a week late, as we’d expected, weighing in at 8 lbs even, and while labor lasted about fifteen hours, only the last three were spent at the hospital with the delivery. Everything happened pretty fast and was really intense and before we knew it, my wife was being taken in a wheelchair to the recovery room, while I was wheeling a little crib with my newborn son in it.
It was really surreal.
We ended up spending two nights in the hospital which proved invaluable and vital in hindsight. My wife needed time for recovery from the accelerated delivery and we needed time to get breastfeeding down.
When we were discharged from the hospital, we were still using a nipple shield to facilitate breastfeeding and continue to do so. One of the worries of the nipple shield is that the baby doesn’t get enough milk. But working through our third week now, Owen has already surpassed his birth weight and I predict is about a pound over now. So that isn’t an issue.
But being able to spend a couple days and nights at the hospital were so important to get into the schedule of feeding and dealing with a newborn. And always having a trained nurse at our beck and call and bringing us food helped so much in getting us going with being parents.
There’s a fascinating article on postpartum practices around the world and how the US has the worse ones. In China, the mother gets to stay in a sort of hotel for a month and is looked after so all she has to focus on is her baby. In other countries help is always available, and often both parents are supported to be at home and raising their newborn.
In the US it’s all about getting you out of the hospital ASAP and then it’s usually just mom stuck at home having to do everything, while dad is back at work. After two weeks of living with a newborn, getting up every 2-3 hours for feeding, diaper changing, cleaning, making time for us to eat, and getting sleep where we can, we don’t really know how moms on their own do it. We know we’re incredibly fortunate to have both of us at home with Owen, and it’s certainly paying off, as we work together on everything, and tag team chores and jobs so that the other person gets a break and rest where possible.
We also know that while Owen is still very much a newborn who doesn’t really know what’s going on with everything, we have done plenty of skin to skin bonding, and he now knows who his mommy is, and who his daddy is.
The first week was really tough. The first night we got about three hours sleep, Then four on the second. Then five to six on the third. We now average about six to seven hours a night, if possible, even if it means sleeping in late and taking naps.
Now, to anyone, five hours and up sounds pretty decent for sleep, but it’s a whole different diaper pail of diapers when you’re getting up every 2-3 hours for feedings. These feedings can last anywhere from twenty minutes to over an hour. Then it’s getting Owen back to sleep: sometimes he crashes out pretty quickly, other times I have to walk with him and rock him to sleep which can take up to half an hour, and then I get to go back to sleep. And then it’s maybe two hours until the alarm goes off again or he wakes up and it’s time to do it all over again.
We’ve got our routine down pretty well now. We started with an alarm, but now Owen wakes up and starts fussing, and if that doesn’t wake us up, he’ll start crying. So I’ll unswaddle him and get him up and wide awake while my wife prepares for feeding. Then he feeds for as long as he wants, I take him and change him, and then he does another bout of feeding. Hopefully after that he’s feeling pretty tired and I swaddle him up again and put him down to sleep.
But newborns will be newborns, and often have problems getting themselves to sleep. So he’ll be breathing away in slumber land for five to ten minutes, and then shake himself awake and start crying. That’s my cue to pick him up and rock him and stroke him and do whatever I can to get him sleeping again. Usually he’ll drop into REM sleep pretty quickly, but I know this is light sleep for him that he can easily be woken (by himself) from, so it’s necessary to sit with him, continuing to rock and keep him sleeping, until he sleeps into a deeper sleep and that’s when I can put him back down in his crib to sleep until he wakes up hungry once more.
3. HARLEQUIN SYNDROME
This is a rare condition that occurs in less than 10% of newborns and is completely harmless but extremely alarming if you don’t know about it. In our case, we had no clue and were scared out of our wits when we first saw it, but fortunately the internet put our fears to rest.
Owen was born with jaundice, which is very common and occurs in about 70% of newborns, and is usually cured and cleared out of the baby system within a month, so long as he’s regular feeding and regularly pooping. But because of this, his skin color was an unhealthy-looking yellow.
During one of his feedings on our first night at home we saw that when he would be laid down on his side feeding, the complete bottom half of him — as if someone had drawn a line from the top of his head straight down his back along his spine to his bottom — was a deep red, while his top half was that jaundice yellow. And we naturally freaked, thinking something was horribly wrong with him. But when we stood him up it would eventually clear, but as soon as he was laid down again, the condition would repeat exactly down the half of his body that was touching a surface.
After a panicked call to an advice nurse and some online research, we learned about harlequin syndrome in newborns, which is to do with a not completely developed and formed circulatory system that causes no harm to the baby, and eventually goes away within a couple of weeks.
This has been the case with Owen and he doesn’t harlequin anymore.
Still, it was really freaky.
4. The Stump
One piece of information I really wished I would’ve known having a newborn is that the leftover bit of stump really stinks. Considering it is a piece of decaying tissue, that’s not really surprising.
But in that first week, we kept wiping him down with a cloth and keeping him as clean as possible, with plenty of diaper changes, wondering why he kept smelling so bad, and it was all because of that rotting stump.
Owen’s fell off after five days, at least part of it did, which is pretty early. But he still had a piece deeper in his belly button that eventually got pushed out after two weeks and now he has a perfectly normal looking bellybutton, stump free.
But as soon as that initial piece of stump fell off, he started smelling a lot better, much to our delight.
Today’s surprising fact brought to you by . . .
On our birth plan, I had nominated to cut the umbilical cord. And once Owen was out and in my wife’s arms, after the cord had ceased pumping its important nutrients into him, the midwife handed me a tough pair of surgical scissors and showed me the spot between the two clamps to cut the umbilical cord.
From what I’d seen in movies I was expecting it to be a quick and easy snip and that would be it.
But no. It certainly wasn’t. It was like cutting through inch-thick rope, hacking through the tendrils of tissues that were like thick cord, and took a surprising amount of strength and scissoring before it was fully cut through.
It was an incredible experience I will never forget.