Kris à Genève

A Canadian living in Switzerland

Juniper Reita Terauds

with 5 comments

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

Midwife: “Two forty-six AM.”

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

Eileen: “I don’t want you to get sick or anything, Kris.”

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

Eileen: “I’m going to take credit and say I did this.”

Kris: “Well, you did. Everything but the last few minutes.”

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

Juniper: “waa?… waa? AAAH-WAH-WAH-WAH!”

(collective oohs and aahs)

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

Doctor: “Okay, baby, okay. Okay?”

Midwife: “She’s all good.”

—-

Those were the sounds that accompanied the arrival into the world of our daughter, Juniper Reita Terauds. She was born at 2h46 on June 22nd in the maternity ward of Geneva’s university hospital. As you deduced from the transcript, Juniper arrived by Caesarean section – the beeping was from the machine monitoring Eileen’s heart rate. At birth, Juniper weighed 3.47kg and measured 50cm in length.

Surgery was not part of Eileen’s birth plan, but became the obvious option after Eileen spent 24 hours in the delivery room, battling contractions and a stubborn cervix. Throughout the labour, the midwives and doctor respected Eileen’s wish to deliver naturally. They tried every technique available to them, but over the course of Eileen’s labour, her cervix only succeeded in dilating from 2cm to not-quite-3cm – well short of the required 10cm opening. Both Eileen and Juniper were healthy throughout, but the doctor calmly explained that Juniper would eventually tire, at which point things could become more urgent. She proposed before the last few interventions that Eileen consider a C-section and prepare herself emotionally for it, in case the last few efforts did not succeed in routing the cervix. Just after midnight, Eileen opted for the C-section and the midwives began preparing her for the surgery.

I know that Eileen was disappointed not to deliver naturally, but we were both appreciative that the staff tried everything, kept Eileen informed throughout, and prepared her gently for the decision. In the end, she was allowed to conclude that a C-section was the best option. And even at the time, we recognised that, faced with the complication of an undilated cervix, we were fortunate to have the operation so readily available, and to have the luxury of opting for it at our own speed, without the anxiety and helplessness of an emergency procedure.

For fear of Eileen breaking my camera or crushing my face, I did not attempt to shoot any photos during her labour. But I shouldered my camera after they wheeled Eileen into the operating room, and I changed into my surgical scrubs before rejoining her. Here is a self-portrait of me in my hospital tuxedo, red-eyed after 23 hours in the delivery room:

As well as providing a safe alternative to complications in natural birth, C-sections offer rapid gratification.  As she directed me to the locker room in the above photo, the midwife told me “you will meet your baby in a few minutes.” Indeed, I shot the above photo at 2h35 or so, and 11 minutes later, Juniper emerged! Removed from the moment, the predictability seems obvious, but for Eileen and me, after almost 24 hours in the delivery room, waiting for the periodic progress updates, the sudden predictability of the C-section felt as odd as hailing a taxi to drive you the last 100 metres of a marathon.

After the beep-beep-beep and the cries of the delivery, the doctors quickly showed Juniper to Eileen and then whisked the little one away for a pediatric exam. I was lucky enough to accompany my daughter on this confusing first ritual of life. Fathers always have the more enjoyable role during pregnancy and birth, but this is particularly true in a C-section delivery. As I cooed at Juniper during her pediatric exam, and then held her in the sauna where we waited for Eileen to emerge from the operating room, I was elated at the opportunity to be close to my daughter during the first hour of her life. But I was also sad that Eileen was strapped to a table, alone in the next room. It reinforced the gross imbalance in the distribution of child bearing duties between the sexes.

Here is a photo of Juniper, five minutes after her birth, gazing up at the pediatrician. After a first few cries, her eyes opened wide and she looked around in silence at the bright world for the next 45 minutes. You can clearly see the 3cm crown on her skull, where she was bumping up against Eileen’s obstinate cervix.

Here is a photo of dad, who would continue to grin like an idiot for days to come, with Juniper in his arms for the first time. She was perhaps 15 minutes old at the time, and still looking a little misshapen from the delivery – she becomes cuter, I assure you.

Before a healthy and clean Juniper and I retired to the sauna – a holding room for newborns that is kept at 38 degrees, presumably to knock tired fathers into a sweaty sleep – we stopped to say “hi” to Eileen.

After the doctors closed Eileen’s incision, stitching the seven layers of tissue, the midwives wheeled her to a recovery room. There, we had a brief hour or so as a new family, with Juniper on Eileen’s breast. But the room was dark and we were coming off the adrenaline high, so I don’t remember too much about that time. Eileen was exhausted and was still shivering from the anesthetic, so the midwives took Juniper to the nursery to let Eileen sleep for a few hours. I stayed with Eileen for another hour or so, relaying to the nurse on duty that Eileen needed more morphine to dull the gathering pain from her incision. At 5h00 or so, Eileen drifted off to sleep and I stopped briefly at the nursery to say goodnight to a sleeping Juniper, before walking home in the gathering dawn.

We are fortunate to live 300 metres away from the maternity ward of the hospital, a proximity that allowed us to stroll there together to check Eileen in. More importantly, it allowed me to remain late each evening during Eileen’s hospital stay, then stumble home for some food and sleep before returning early the next morning. Our hospital stay was also improved by the absence of a roommate in Eileen’s two-bed room. Altogether Eileen and Juniper spent five days in a bright, comfortable post-partum suite with a balcony. The food was predictably drab and the nights alone with Juniper were scary for Eileen, but altogether the hospital stay was pleasant.

Here is a photo of Juniper in her rolling bassinet, with her vital statistics written above her head:

As expected, Juniper slept through the majority of her first week in the world. The following photo doubly illustrates a typical scene: Juniper sleeping, with mom or dad staring at her from up close.

In fact, here is a photo of Eileen breathing on a sleeping Juniper:

Eileen and Juniper

Babies are phenomenally trusting. Our friend Belinda was our first visitor and Juniper did not even check her child minding experience: “Yes, yes, good to meet you too. Do you have a lap? Fine, I will sleep there.”

From the beginning, wakeful Juniper showed off her big, blue eyes. In fact, brown-skinned, brown-eyed Eileen questioned whether someone might have swapped her baby for this fair-skinned, blue-eyed one. Nonetheless, once Eileen gazed into Juniper’s big eyes, she decided to keep her.

Since Eileen was recovering from her surgery, I had the enviable task of chauffeuring Juniper around the room when she wanted some exercise, distraction or comforting. We bounced back and forth hundreds of times between the door and the balcony. Here is a typical photo from those first days, of Juniper whipping her steed:

And now back to the balcony!

Juniper also practiced her crying at the hospital, although she saved most of it for nighttime with Eileen. Here is a critically acclaimed daytime performance on Eileen’s lap:

Although our stay at the hospital was positive, it was nonetheless a hospital: after five days Eileen was eager to return home to food with flavour and some privacy. I could barely contain my excitement, bringing my girls home. I had some bubbly in the fridge to celebrate, although Juniper thought it was all a bit boring:

Once settled at home, we were diligent about implementing a routine – the cornerstone of staying sane as a new parent. Eileen covers the nighttime feedings and I take over at 7h00 or so while Eileen sleeps in. With this routine, we have so far avoided any sleep deprivation and, more generally, we have each avoided overexerting ourselves in our parenting duties. Here is a photo illustrating part of my morning routine: watching Juniper sleep out of the corner of my eye, as I read and eat my breakfast.

I do not mean to suggest that we find parenting easy. Only that adjusting to Juniper’s needs and rhythms has so far felt natural and doable. On the negative side, breastfeeding has been an ongoing frustration, borne almost entirely by Eileen. In fact, from an overall parenting perspective, I estimate that breastfeeding accounts for 95% of our angst, with the remaining 5% caused by predictable changes to our lives. Eileen devotes a considerable amount of her time every day to pumping milk and then struggling to put Juniper on the breast. And I suspect that the emotional load is even greater than the physical exertion. It is hard, hard, hard. And unforgiving.

Instead of illustrating the difficulties of breastfeeding, here is a photo of my finger in Juniper’s mouth. We have tried a number of techniques to help the breastfeeding, including prompting her sucking reflex and then pressuring her tongue to increase her sucking power.

Since Eileen bears most of the emotional weight of breastfeeding, I once again have the easy job. My chief parenting concern is trivial by comparison: calming my frustration when Juniper’s cries become frantic. Most of the time, I feel as if I am a capable father, able to understand and respond to most of Juniper’s signals. Juniper’s crying fits are rare, but sometimes I misjudge what she wants; at other times she is just inconsolably cranky; and this can escalate into some high-pitched, accusatory cries.

Logically, I know that she has no other way to communicate verbally, and she may not even know herself why she is uncomfortable. I also know that even if I misdiagnose her discomfort, she will eventually tire and stop crying. But a couple of times it has provoked in me an involuntary rush of frustration. I feel my heart rate accelerate and I handle her less gently, for example jerking her around on the changing table when she really thrashed and wailed during a diaper change. My emotional and physical reaction no doubt amplified her bad mood. More worrisome, I picture how, in my strong hands, a burst of uncontrolled frustration could really hurt or harm her.

This “grrrr” impulse is unusual for me. I rarely feel physically aggressive or resentful towards others, whatever they are doing. Even with Juniper, I don’t really experience it as anger towards her, but I think it is more deep-seeded frustrations from other parts of my life, bubbling up through the portal of my momentary anxiety at Juniper’s crying. I don’t really understand why Juniper’s crying activates the feeling for me, when annoying behaviour by adults does not. But it scares me and has been my principal parenting anxiety over the past couple of weeks. I have been working on talking myself through her crying and deliberately maintaining the slow pace and gentleness I normally employ with her.

Here is a photo of one of Juniper’s “Dad, you are murdering me” crying episodes:

For the last while, I have felt relaxed in my reactions to Juniper’s crying, so with my main concern under control, the bulk of my time with her is a joy. Here is a photo of Juniper exploring our apartment from the safe confines of my chest:

Next is a photo of me, after I vanquished Juniper in a who-will-sleep-first duel:

From her first day in the big world, Juniper began asserting her personality. For example, she prefers exploring her surrounds in her parents’ arms rather than on her blanket or on the floor.

Also, she prefers to wind down by gazing at (out?) the window, rather than having us minimise her sights and sounds:

Juniper gazing out the window

Physically, it is difficult to give a snapshot of Juniper, as she changes so quickly. She is now only five weeks old, but her soft baby hair has mostly fallen out, replaced by more wiry hair. Similarly, her hands and feet at birth looked delicate and undercooked, but now we remark how much bigger and stronger they look. Here is a photo of her fingers at 15 days or so – they are now longer and fatter, and the fingernails are harder and in need of a trim.

Next is a photo of her scalp of baby hair, with her pink little body below:

Juniper newborn scalp and body

Along with my general time spent with Juniper, I enjoy observing her involuntary baby reflexes. I find it amazing how their bodies are often controlled by unconscious, pre-programmed reflexes. As new parents, the rooting reflex is the one we find most informative: her head jerks from side to side when she is hungry, searching for a nipple. It can be triggered by any tactile sensation on the side of her face or head. Here is a photo of Juniper rooting towards my hand, which is cradling her head from behind:

Another reflex related to sucking involves stuffing her little hands into her mouth. Its message is not as distinct as the rooting: sometimes she sucks on her hands when she is no longer hungry, but wants to suck to soothe herself or aid her digestion.

Next are the hiccups. A baby’s lungs and esophagus are unused, fresh out of the wrapper, when they are born. The esophagus is often bewildered during the first weeks, meaning in Juniper’s case that she had hiccups at least once per day. I hate having hiccups myself and try to suppress them, but Juniper does not seem phased – she knows nothing else. Here is a video of one of her hiccup episodes. Incidentally, this was also the first time I noticed her lifting and turning her head while in the prone position.

My absolute favourite was Juniper’s newborn sneezes. Within a couple of weeks after her birth, they changed to more adult-sounding, mucous-clearing noises. But at first, they were full-body convulsions animated by a cute little squeak. I tried to record a video of the sneezes, but for many days Juniper would wait to sneeze until I had just stopped recording. My only reward from the first couple of weeks of trying to document her adorable sneezes was this photo, showing her little body lifting off the couch mid-sneeze:

Newborn sneezes are the best

Eventually I identified one of her sneezing patterns: she sneezes a few seconds after I place her on her changing table, so the following video is a successful capture of some changing table sneezes. I admit that I selected this video in part because of Juniper’s flattering wardrobe choice on the day.

The Moro is another fascinating reflex, which Juniper deploys when she feels as if she is falling. I have not captured it on video or photo, but the Wikipedia entry contains a couple of videos. Juniper’s Moro reflex usually occurs when she is asleep, or when she rolls over a sudden bump in her stroller. In most cases it does not wake or upset her. I find it amusing because it looks so primitive, it engages her whole body, and it seems so useless. Is the momentary splaying of her feeble little limbs really going to prevent any kind of fall?

I observe Juniper’s reflexes in the little moments when they jerk into motion. But most of my observation time occurs during the parenting activities we repeat with her. Juniper’s usual cycle lasts three to four hours and follows this rough sequence:

  • Wake
  • Feed
  • Diaper change
  • Massage
  • Activities
  • Unwinding in mom or dad’s arms
  • Sleep in her bassinet for 1-1.5 hours

We did not bathe her very much in the first weeks, but are starting to do that more now: as she gets chubbier, spilled milk hides in her skin folds and starts to smell of cheese. So a bath will find its way into the evening cycle every second day.

The following photos show scenes from Juniper’s routine of activities. The first one shows a parent-friendly moment, when Juniper fell into a milk coma immediately after a feed:

Juniper loves burping time. On one hand, she cranes her neck and practices controlling her head as she gazes around the room. On the other hand, I interpret that she feels it is a social time, as she searches out Eileen’s and my faces with her jerky head movements.

A burping expression, if such a thing exists

Juniper and I quite enjoy our diaper changing time, but I can appreciate that a general audience may not want to see a graphic photo of the activity. Instead, here is a photo of Juniper’s changing table. Juniper has once again gifted her parents an early nap, but the photo also shows two indispensable parenting props. First, the hair dryer: she loves its loud whine, which presumably reminds her of the sounds she heard for nine months in the womb. Second, the contrasty shapes and colours pinned to the wall, which she contemplates as we change her diapers.

When she is alert, Juniper typically does not like to sit still. She can tolerate examining your face for a few minutes, but she gets squirmy if she does not have some movement in her routine. So far, activity time goes one of two ways. In the first weeks, she was happy to lie on her blanket and discover gravity and her body by jerking around.

Playtime on Juniper's blanket

In the last couple of weeks, she likes to be held and see more of the apartment, so we chauffeur her from attraction to attraction, often in the following position:

Juniper has enjoyed the few baths she has had. Here are a few photos of Eileen bathing her daughter:

Eileen’s parents were our first family visitors, staying with us for the first two weeks of July. They were happy to meet their first grandchild – Eileen is their only child – and seemed quite content to hold and stare at Juniper as the main activity during their stay. Here are Erlinda, Mike, Eileen and Juniper at Geneva’s Jardin Botanique:

2013_07_14_Family_photos_026

It was hot at the Jardin Botanique that day, so Juniper was too groggy to smile when it was time for a family portrait with mom and dad. We’ll have to organise a photo with less sweat, glare and napping, but for now I think this is our only family portrait:

2013_07_14_Family_photos_041

All of the photos so far, whether cute or amusing, have shown our earnest parenting efforts. But since babies are oblivious when they sleep, Eileen and I have occasionally taken small liberties with Juniper’s dignity when she sleeps, for our own childish amusement.

2013_07_22_Juniper_sleeps_007

Altogether we are thankful that our first month of parenting has gone so well. The time has not been without its difficulties for Eileen and me, but Juniper constantly reminds us that she is healthy and happy – the fundamental objective of our efforts. We shudder at the thought of single parents trying to do this on their own or, worse, the wrenching stress of having a sick baby. From that perspective, we are fortunate to have an alert, curious and contented Juniper to reward our parenting efforts.

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Written by Kris Terauds

July 27, 2013 at 12:18

5 Responses

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  1. Look on the bright side, having a stubborn cervix is better than having a belligerent cervix…

    Pretty awesome description of the first few weeks. Love to you three.

    Nik Terauds

    July 27, 2013 at 14:04

  2. Juniper is really a beautiful baby and how lucky she is to be welcomed to the World by such a loving family.
    Love to you all, Chris

    chrisinvictoria

    July 27, 2013 at 16:42

  3. Congratulations you two! She is such a cutie, and it sounds like she already has quite a personality. All the best,
    Tara & Lynn

    Tara

    July 28, 2013 at 18:15

  4. Hello,

    I’m a Graduate Intern at The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington. I wanted to know if I could use the image of the baby yawning on one of my PowerPoint slides? I was told that I would need your permission.

    Respectfully,

    Tonja

    Tonja

    October 24, 2016 at 23:07

    • Dear Tonja,

      Yes this is no problem. Please just credit the photo to me: Kris Terauds. Cheers,

      Kris

      Kris Terauds

      October 25, 2016 at 15:50


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