It’s hard to believe that a whole year’s passed since I became a mama! Life’s been a whirlwind in the best way imaginable and I count my blessings daily to have such a happy, healthy little boy of my own.
This post is part 1 of 2 and together they’re aimed at being an ‘Introducing Jackson’ kind of deal because he’s going to be heavily featured on here over time and I’m keen to share our own milestones and celebrations in the future.
Starting at the start, let’s get through birth – 6 months…
As a surprise to all involved, Jackson came clattering into the world six weeks early. It was a huge shock for everyone and he was whisked away immediately to his own little incubator for the first 18 days of his life. I won’t go into full detail here as I’m keen to dedicate a post entirely to his birth story, but he was born at 2.50am on April 6th weighing a teensy 4lb 13oz.
Pre-Jackson I wasn’t aware that babies could be quite so purple and alieny when they’re born, so in my hormone-addled, just-squeezed-a-baby-out-of-my-own-body haze of confusion I was pretty surprised to see him fresh out of the womb looking like a squished, mildly sunburned, grumpy old Italian grandpa:
Being born at 34 weeks meant Jackson was classed as a preemie (pre-37-weekers fall into the premature category in the UK) and he’d need a stay on a neo-natal unit. At the time I was able to rationalise him being in the safest place but I now hold a guilt-like feeling, still wondering if it’s something I did wrong that caused him to arrive so soon.
During his time on the ward Jackson was hooked up to a machine monitoring his blood oxygen, he had a nasal feeding tube stuck to his face and he had a few stints under a UV light for mild jaundice. His oxygen monitor was my least favourite because it’d beep and ping every couple of minutes; this in itself wasn’t a bad thing, but watching the numbers move down was particularly gut-wrenching no matter how many times it happened. Too low signalled a desat and would bring a flurry of nurses to get more oxygen into him, the worst of which happened while I was visiting on his ninth day.
He was always at his worst after feeding, which he’d had about half an hour previously, and I was taking advantage of some quiet cuddle time. The machine beeped which sent my eyes flicking to the numbers…91…85…72…they weren’t coming back up and Jackson was starting to stir in my arms. 61…55…47…he was struggling and I was beginning to panic. Two nurses came to work on him. They took him from me, laid him in his cot and began rubbing his chest, encouraging him to breathe, but there was nothing and he was becoming stressed. In a moment I thought the worst. I honestly thought I was going to lose this precious tiny boy and my mind went black, like I’d just been powered off. Jackson eventually picked back up after having a suction tube go in through his nose and down his throat followed by an oxygen mask on his tiny face and one of the nurses – a lovely lady called Lindsay – massaging his chest whilst manually squeezing the oxygen through the apparatus and into him until he was fully stable again.
That episode was by far the worst, along with a few milder ones during his time there, each one ending in him being helped back by the wonderful nurses on SCBU. I will never be able to put into words my gratitude for the nurses and doctors on SCBU, or even for the unit as a whole, but I am thankful every day for every ounce of care, love and compassion that was afforded to Jackson, and us as well, during his time there.
Without keeping it too bleak it has to be said that SCBU did bring plenty of happy times as well. Jackson had his first bath there, he made some baby friends and he learned to feed once he’d mastered the all-important suck/swallow/breathe co-ordination. He was also given a couple of very special crocheted friends, made by the wonderful souls at Octopus for a Preemie (here is their Facebook), whose tentacles are there to replicate the feeling of the umbilical cord in the womb which brings comfort and familiarity to premature babies who aren’t quite ready for the big wide world.
UP TO 3 MONTHS
During the first few months of Jackson’s life it was a bit like getting used to looking after a very fragile potato. He was beautiful, he was growing perfectly and he was very good at snuggling…but he didn’t really do much. Nevertheless he fit right in to our lives, the cats seemed to like him and we couldn’t get enough of him.
With Jackson’s first at-home health visit came the discovery of him being tongue-tied, which explained instantly why he never managed to breastfeed properly. He was quickly booked in for his snipping and, out of the whole waiting room of about 11 babies, he was the only one who yelled afterwards, even after being bribed with milk. In itself the procedure was horrible to witness (though maybe I’m just soft???), but he immediately began feeding better and the healing was completely hassle-free.
Over this time period Jackson started to smile and laugh, he began exploring touch – including hair-pulling…probably payback for subjecting him to immunisations – and was really brightening and becoming more alert. It felt like every day we could tell that he was starting to take in so much more of the world around him.
At 3 months we started to notice a lot of dribbling being done by the boy and he went from a few milky possets each day to bringing back a lot of milk after every feed. He also developed what sounded like a tickly cough, though sometimes he’d cough so long and so hard he’d bring up what seemed like the entire contents of his bottle, or he’d gag because of the extra fluid and retch to try and clear his throat. Being certified Baby Noobs, Brad and I had no idea if any of this was normal, we wondered if it was a cold or a bug or something more serious. A trip to the doctor shed some light on things; the dribbling was a sign of teething, which in turn caused the coughing as he was trying to clear away the extra saliva, then that scenario was paired with mild reflux that had gone undiagnosed so far. Jackson was prescribed a low dose of Infant Gaviscon and that really helped him through, plus it was quite nice to be back to normal and not have to change his clothes multiple times each day or worry about him gagging on excess saliva.
By the end of his third month Jackson was up to 8lb 9oz and was fitting nicely into all of the Newborn clothes we’d had waiting for months!
This is the bit where we began noticing changes in Jackson more prominently than before. We began introducing him to proper food as soon as he turned four months; porridge for breakfast, puréed fruit, milky rice and different puddings were all on the menu as he started to explore new tastes and textures.
Lots of tummy time meant that he could lift his head properly unaided by four months and at five months he was able to fully roll himself onto his front and back again, though he didn’t make any great effort to do these things much because he is the ultimate lazy boy.
The dribbly episodes were still occurring, there was still no sign of teeth and he wasn’t making any moves in terms of crawling either. Sometimes I found myself comparing his progress to other babies, often overlooking his 6-week disadvantage, but I kept reminding myself that him being healthy and happy was the most important.
As he was heading into his sixth month he had a spurt which seemed to bring a million different changes at once; he went from not trying to move to pushing on his hands and knees, he’d support himself when he was sat up and he started to try different finger foods too. He also started to become super vocal around this timeframe, babbling away, laughing out loud and yelling for attention, something which he’s still very good at!
Summer 2018 was an absolute scorcher so I spent a good six weeks sleeping downstairs with Jackson because the bedrooms were always so hot and stuffy I’d panic it’d be too warm for him. Safer Sleeping is really drilled in so I’d have visions of alarms blaring, sirens flashing and social workers descending through the loft hatch if we tried to make him sleep in such a stuffy bedroom. Our living room and dining room are open plan so it was a lot airier, we could keep the fan on and we got much better sleep than the nights we tried all three of us in the bedroom. It was like camping down with a squishy marshmallow in a basket of his own.
Right at the end of his sixth month was when Jackson began to sit up unaided. He still wasn’t pushing himself up on his arms properly, and he couldn’t put himself into an upright position, but he’d happily stay sat up unpropped and play with toys or have stories read to him without flopping immediately backwards.
Heading into Halloween my spoopy lil babe was up to 15lb 10z and had transitioned from his Moses basket into his lovely Chicco Next-2-Me bed. He’d also had a sit on Dada’s motorbike but don’t tell the DVLA.
Writing this retrospectively has been so hard! I’m sure I’ve missed so many bits out but I’ve included as many milestones as I can remember and I’ve done a little tear a few times thinking back on a beautiful first six months with my boy.
Everything here is simply how we’ve experienced things as a first-time-parent family and I cannot stress enough how every baby is different, so if your little one is differing from the accounts I’ve written here don’t worry. There’s been times I’ve panicked and worried and cried over the last year; he wasn’t crawling by six months, he didn’t cut his first tooth until he was nine months, he’s a one-year-old who hates finger feeding and still wants a bottle in the night…it’s all relative to you and yours!
The one guarantee is that babies are tiny little weirdos, and as long as they’re happy and healthy that’s paramount. Enjoy them while they’re dinky.