With You — Week 7 to 3 Months

Settling in

After surviving the first 6 weeks, both for Rino and myself, it was time to find routine in our new existence. Or whatever resembled routine for life with a baby boy.

I was starting to get out and about, to the beach, to events, overnight trips. Each a new adventure and a move towards a new normality.

Beach Boy

Week Seven: Sand and Sleep

This week we took Rino to the beach for the first time. A first of many. As summers heat started it was time to end the day in the water. We took turns to jump into the ocean, and Rino slept in his car seat. When he woke I fed him wondering about the salty nipples and potential sand invasion to his milk. It was here on the beach at the end of a sleepy day that I woke up again, felt alive and knew that all the challenges could be overcome because I could adult again and take this short moment for myself amongst the cold waves of Mount Maunganui.

This was also the week where Rino slept through a couple of nights from 9pm to 4am. Incredible! But short lived… a couple of good days followed by some unsettled nights left me appreciating so much more those moments when I could sleep 5–6 hours in a row. Not fully uninterrupted, uninterrupted by Rino but woken by a puddle forming around me from full full breasts. Uncertainty around where to release the overflow, I was left with sore breasts that needed massaging to remove the lumps forming of stored up milk.

Worth it though for a few hours sleep!

Week Eight: Community and Cousins

With a bit more sleep and getting into the flow of our new life, this week I got out and about. I wanted Rino to get used to interacting with other babies, and to travelling around.

I joined a group of mums called Space in Omokoroa (where we would soon call home). Every Wednesday at 12.15pm I would be 2 hours spending with 7 other mums and their little ones. On day one we sung welcome songs, introduced ourselves and our babies. We told the story of their names, did some crafts and got through the scream and sleep rhythms of other babies. Rino was a dream, eating and sleeping and being calm throughout, but I knew my day would come when I was one of the mothers with a crying unsettled baby that needed to be calmed outside.

I wasn’t sure about the singing and structure but it was a pleasure to meet other mums who I would share Rino’s journey with in the coming months.

This week was the beginning of building a community around myself and Rino. Friends for him to play with, and other mums for me to talk through all the joys and the issues that arise with new babies.

Rino had his first road trip with his cousins to Waihi Beach this week. We all packed into one car, timed the baby sleep times and took off. We car pooled with another mum after a stop for coffee and drove the hour to a Bowentown Reserve.

While the older babies closer to becoming toddlers walked around, ate food and went down to the beach I sat with Rino and fed him under the trees. He slept in my arms, and I sat content with my situation, my sleeping little one. There wasn’t much interaction with the other babies but I knew the day would come when he would be up and running around with them, when he would enjoy these outings more than the relaxation that the shadow of the trees brought him, outlines of leaves for him to watch. His day for more interaction would come but for now I would enjoy him calmly laying in my arms and observing the world.

Week Nine: Smiles and self-love

This week we reached a developmental leap that brought with it very unsettled sleeps making it almost impossible to get him down in his cot. (This week we moved him into his big boy cot as he escaped the swaddle and began to hit the side of the bassinet, the fast growing boy that he was). It also brought with them noticeable changes, the most exciting — a smile that grew on his little face when content with the world. We had seen gassy smiles or dreamy smiles but not interactive smiles, a reaction to his surrounding environment. Nothing lights the heart like your son smiling at you from his usually serious little face.

He was now spending most the day only sleeping on me, and anytime I moved he would wake up. As tiring as this was, it bought me joy that he was getting sleep, no matter how or where. There were also a few nights when he was overwhelmed from the day he started to let you know it with unconsolable cries that the whole neighbourhood heard. I stood and sat and walked around upstairs with him for an hour or two in these nights as nothing worked and he wore himself out. These nights were hard but on other nights he would be asleep within 10 mins. The way through the hard moments, little pep talks to myself, about the temporary nature of this all. Each day, each moment, each sleep, one step at a time.

I was starting to feel a bit more human, recovering and having the odd night of decent sleep, so I decided it was time to start to find little moments of personal time each day. I would try and do one of these each day: go for a swim in the ocean, do yoga or write some words. Even if only for 5–10 mins. These are the things that I do only for me. I find a lot of joy in my day spending my time helping Rino grow, for him to feel the love and support I have for him. But having a moment for me, no matter how short, is not only good for me but also means I returned from my little mum mind breaks refreshed.

Week Ten: Work and Cool Traveller

This week I connected in with work. First I visited the Tauranga office, a 40 minute walk there and back. While in the office he cried, did a poonami which I had to change in the shower room, and fed in a phone booth as the meeting rooms were being used. It was exhausting but I learnt a few things to prepare for venturing to the Auckland office: yes to change of clothes always in bag (needed for mum too), no to bringing out the breast in a work environment (meeting room needed), no to a big walk on the way to the office and tiring out mum and baby before we even got there, and yes to lots of hugs and getting to know work friends.

A couple of days later we left for Auckland straight after his first feed in the dark of the morning. We stopped for a coffee where he stirred and almost woke but went back to sleep. He kept sleeping like the angelic traveller he is — until about 15–20mins before we arrived and hit Auckland traffic on the highway. He screamed and continued screaming until we could stop. I arrived at office sat in the Princes Wharf carpark at the Viaduct and fed Rino, changed his full nappies and his wet clothes and got him ready and relaxed for the trip to the office. This took almost an hour. I planned to walk around and get him to sleep but the weather had other ideas so we went up with a tired baby who didn’t make it past reception without meeting multiple work friends and managers and the CEO of NZTE.

As every great work place should, the Auckland office has a breastfeeding room. After the first round of introductions it was time for a nap. We went to the feeding room, sat in the comfy chair, and in the darkness of the room and the privacy it offered soon Rino was fast asleep in my arms. He woke, fed and we chilled for a bit before meeting the team for lunch. Here he meet more new faces, had some hugs and then fell asleep in my arms again. A meal for a breastfeeding mother was presented by the team and I got to catch up on all the latest at work.

People asked me if I missed work, I replied, without any doubt in mind, no. On reflection it wasn’t because I didn’t want to be at work, or that I was pleased to not be there — it was merely that I was so content with what I was doing at this moment, with my little one, that I didn’t miss anything from my prior life. I was enjoying being a mum, and at this point in time it is all I wanted to be.

We spent the night in a motel, Rino’s first night in a travel cot, and the next day we spent hours walking around Grey Lynn while he slept soundly in his pram. Then we cruised back to Tauranga. Overall, a successful first journey to Auckland. An adventurer we will make out of him, without a doubt.

Week Eleven: Wellington

After the trial run, with the road trip to Auckland, we were more prepared for the planned trip to to Wellington for my brothers 50th this week. Me and Rino drove up with mum, our first leg of the trip was from Tauranga to Turangi, it was the first night of many where I would leave Rino in bed with me while Dad was in Auckland working. He was coming to meet us in the weekend, flying in Saturday morning to join us for the party and the long drive home on the Sunday.

Rino slept most the way to Wellington the next day without any issues — the only hiccup was due to road works. He woke after a deep sleep in a state of hunger and let us know all about it until we found a cafe to stop and feed him.

We made it to Wellington, trying to avoid any traffic that could wake him again from his peaceful slumber. We had another two nights without Dad around and I’m sure Rino could tell. The first night in Wellington was the hardest to get him to sleep. He screamed and would not settle, it may have had something to do with too much time sleeping in the car or feeding off my drained energy from the trip. But his Auntie was there to help and we finally got him to sleep a few hours in his travel cot before an unsettled night in bed with me.

The next day we were back in the car to visit an art exhibition of a glass-blowing cousin in the Wairarapa. A touch of culture for Rino, enjoying all the larger than life shadows that played on the empty walls surrounding the structure of glass art in its multitude of colours and shapes and deformities.

We all jumped back in the car and went over the Rimutakas and into the capital. We were staying at Lowry Bay in a 4 storey house with my sister, her husband and two children, and my mum. Our first big trip with all the babies and children together. Cousins who would grow up together.

There is a real beauty in being able to do this all together, for them to meet the Wellington cousins and to have Rino adapting to more adventures. Especially in these difficult times, where the is restriction to travel and group gatherings, here we exist in an oasis.

The drive home after a late night turned into a 12 hours day of travel due to an incident on the road. The first leg from Wellington to Hunterville went well, with the same wake and panic at the same road works. Then went on through to Taupo and he just woke up as we passed the bypass. We exited to head to Taupo for another feed and time out of the car when there was a bang and slight shift in weight of the car. We pulled over and checked to see an exploded tire almost worn to the rim.

It was a Sunday and our chances to find a new tire were limited. And there was no spare in the car. We were so close but now so far from finishing the day our trip.

Waiting on the side of the road for AA and then AL, our own personal mechanic, under the hot sun was just another part of the adventure. We saw a holiday park in the distance and went to get cold drink and ice creams and use the toilet. I fed Rino on the side of the road and changed him in the boot of the car, we put him in his pram and shaded him from the sun. It wasn’t the worst place to break down and after a couple of hours a spare tire was fitted — we transferred to another car and we continued on the final leg of the journey.

This turned out to be the most difficult part of the whole trip.

Rino wouldn’t sleep, we stopped for food and to calm him, then we tried to continue as the screams moved up a level and his distress began to full the car and affect us all. I leaned over his carseat in the back and offered him a breast. It got to a point where even this wouldn’t calm him.

It was getting dark and into our 12th hour of the travel, we pulled over to the side of the road, changed him, put him in his sleeping bag and got him to stop crying. He calmed but lost it when we put him back in his car seat. Here he screamed and I offered him milk, and sat holding his hand and spoke to him. Both tired and worn out, he finally fell into a sleep and we made it home.

It was an exhausting time, but apart from that last part he was a dream and a great travel companion. With time he will only enjoy these adventures more and more.

Week Twelve: Worn out

The week after returning from Wellington was recovery. At one stage I sat with tears streaming down my face and a nose dripping, I lacked the energy to blow it as I sat out and looked at the water and the mount, a view that is imprinted in me and will be with my son. Nights of interrupted sleep while venturing up and down the island played its toll on me.

There is no break from this. All the joy in the world that the toothless smile brings me doesn’t completely eliminate the reality that this is a responsibility that lays on my mind and will for the rest of my life. I will go back to work, I will get back into a rhythm of my life, my new life, with that which I love. But it will never be my sole purpose. This will now be driven by the life that I have brought into this world.

I have my good moments and my moments where I feel a little lost in my new existence. But these moments are short lived as I start to think about day care centres for next year, and I remember that I need to make the most of this special time. My day spent with this smiling little face whose eyes follow me around the room.

For now my complete time is dedicated to his every need, sleep feed play and poop. Nothing else matters.

This week was the lead up to Rino’s first Christmas, we didn’t get him any gifts or plan anything special. The real difference is that this is the first year we are parents at Christmas with a new perspective on life.

Rino made it to 3 months, smiling and sleeping longer stretches. He is an absolute charm and a joy — and this Christmas was a chance to celebrate that with family. Because so many moments of this new life deserves celebration.

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