This blog was written by FitRight founder Taryn Watson in November 2016.
My beautiful little Benji Button is 6 weeks old already…! That sounds like I think that the first 6 weeks have flown by – they most definitely have not. I actually feel like I already can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in our lives, I can’t remember what it’s like to sleep longer than a couple of hours at a time, I can’t remember what it’s like to not smell like baby vomit, I can’t remember what it’s like to not have a little person completely and utterly dependent on me.
Early motherhood is a whirlwind, definitely the most difficult thing that I have ever gone through, but also the most beautiful. I think that the thing I’ve loved most is being able to finally share him with my husband. I have felt slightly selfish through the pregnancy that I was the one who got to feel his movements and have him with me at all times. Now there is nothing more lovely than to watch him in my husband’s arms, looking up at his Daddy, both of them forming those special early father-son bonds. There’s still obviously the increased time I have with him while I breastfeed, but it’s lovely that I have been able to express milk each day so that Byron can do the first evening feed while I sleep, and get that bonding experience too.
So although I am vaguely aware that there are some newborns that sleep six hours or more at night, my Benji decided after his first two weeks of sleepiness that 20-30 minutes or less is the maximum he will go, day or night, unless he’s held. And he wanted the boob pretty much two hourly at all times of the day and night. This meant that I needed to try and nap for an hour or so anytime a family member was free to hold him between feeds, and my husband does the evening shift until about midnight, and then Mummy just doesn’t really ever sleep from midnight onwards… I felt like a bit of a fraud putting up my Instagram posts on return to exercise, with smiling pictures of my morning river walks with Benji. Although I appreciated comments such as ‘you’re doing so well!’, I really wanted everyone to know that the reality was that those morning walks usually followed 7 hours of no sleep. Yes, I was doing well and of course I am madly in love with my baby boy, but it’s never as perfect as Instagram can make it seem!
We have had a really scary experience over this first 6 weeks. When Benji was 4 weeks old, he suddenly went four hours between feeds without waking up. I did a little celebration dance, left him in the swing for two hours (which he was tolerating for the first time ever) and tidied the house! I then had to rouse him to feed, and when this happened a second time I started to vaguely worry and think that maybe it wasn’t just him finally becoming a good sleeper. I took his temperature in the early hours of the morning when he refused the breast and it was 38.5 degrees. With no experience in newborn health, I messaged my sister-in-law who is a doctor, and she confirmed that I needed to take Benji to the emergency department immediately.
Benji went downhill very quickly over the next few hours at the children’s hospital, becoming lethargic and pale and not feeding very much at all. The poor little mite then spent the day undergoing multiple invasive tests – suprapubic catheter, IV cannula (which then had to be redone more than 20 times over the next few days because it kept dislodging), ultrasounds, X-rays and (the worst) three lumbar punctures because the first two failed. He went from screaming in pain with each procedure to being limp and lethargic again. By that evening, my poor husband had arrived from Kuala Lumpur after rushing back from a work event, and the doctors confirmed to us, the shattered parents, that Benji had a urine Staph Aureus infection, associated with an enlarged right kidney and ureter, which had spread to his blood. This meant two weeks of IV antibiotics through a long line cannula, followed by further tests on the bladder and kidneys and very probably surgery to fix whatever caused the backflow of urine.
So, in retrospect, poor little Benji’s unsettledness could definitely have been due to him being in significant pain from the urinary tract infection, which absolutely breaks my heart. Why can’t these newborns come with a manual? Or a secret language so that they can tell you what’s wrong? I can’t believe that I tried so hard to teach Benji how to settle and sleep when he was so unwell.
Here’s to an easier, less scary, next few months!