One Month

Time has flown, but we have come a long way already with Robert. At one month he now has his cot permanently in the second bedroom, but it took me a couple of days to got used to the new arrangement. On Tuesday Ron had to move the cot back and forth between rooms a few times, and in the first few days, Ron woke up first to baby’s cries and had to nudge me awake to feed him. Now, I am more sensitive to the crying and I wake up first. This was helped a little by the fact that Ron started to use cotton wool to plug his ears at night.

The inevitable routine for nightly feeding hasn’t changed much since Robert was born, but he has changed a lot in one month. His face has become round and chubby, and his body has filled. He now feels less fragile and more robust, and has already outgrown the newborn outfits we bought for him. He is also becoming more alert and aware of his surroundings: He reacts to noises, looks around at pictures on the wall, and I believe that some of his smiles are now real social smiles, and not mere reflexes.
On the flipside of this increased responsiveness, Robert is also becoming a challenging baby. When he was a newborn he just fed and slept, now he has his ‘up time’ and his grumpy time. I still refuse to classify him as colicky, but Ron thinks he definitely has colic episodes. According to my book, colic is defined by the rule of three: Crying fits that start around the third week, last for at least three hours and recur at least three times a week. I still don’t think this applies to Robert.

We Are Four Weeks

Today Robert is four weeks old; four weeks fresh as I like to say. Ron and I had another restless night, and thereafter it was decided that we cannot sleep with the baby in the same room anymore. It is strange that I can sleep through his grunts, while Ron can’t, so we both end up sleeping equally bad, because I wake up for Robert’s nightly feeding sessions, while Ron wakes up at every grunt and groan coming from the cot.

The solution is definitely to move the cot to another room, but it is easier said than done, the way our flat is laid out. The cot is now in the corner of our dining room/office which is technically the second bedroom of the flat. I have a feeling that I will have a harder time with this sleeping arrangement than the previous one, because I tend to worry if I do not hear baby noise at all. I am still not over my compulsive habit of getting up to check baby’s breathing every few hours. In fact, whenever I put him down at night I find that I can only go back to sleep once I hear him grunt.

I have also started to monitor what I eat more closely. Some vegetables that were harmless or even healthy during my pregnancy, now turned out to be no-nos for breastfeeding. The list keeps getting longer. I cannot even have Ron’s wonderful lentil soup anymore, but I cannot bring myself to give up garlic and onion yet, as they do not seem to cause much trouble.

Today is a public holiday here in South Africa, it is Heritage Day which marks the celebration of the diverse heritage of South African people, and it is one of the new holidays created for the democratic South Africa. Informally though it is known as ‘national braai day’ and we planned to mark the occasion (and Robert’s fourth week) with a braai of our own, weather permitting. Cape Town weather is still unpredictable, and it is disappointing to watch the weather forecast, when day after day Cape Town temperatures are barely in the teens while the rest of the country basks in thirty degree heat. For our braai today the sky cooperated, it was a clear and sunny with no sign of rain. The temperature though were around 16 degrees, quite fresh for this time of year.

Our landlady and her husband came to visit us during the afternoon and see little Robert. They brought him another fluffy teddy bear, so he now has a complete family of three (they are shown in the picture, and were named Pinky, Rusty and Canuck). Throughout the visit with our landlords I was busy entertaining, feeding and changing baby, and it was up to a very tired Ron to entertain the visitors for a couple of hours.

As the visitors were ready to leave Robert was finally ready to be put to bed, and then Ron headed to prepare our long awaited braai. Soon enough the briquettes were starting to heat up, and I wanted to head along and help, however our little sweet pea had something else in mind for me; he opened his eyes again and demanded more drinks. Ron prepared dinner by himself as usual. Half an hour later he came to say it was ready, but found me still feeding Robert, and getting exasperated with this. After all I spent at least two of the last three hours with Robert semi dozing at my breast, and I wanted us to have dinner together for once. We had planned to have some red wine with our meal (a first for me since I gave birth), and it was the first time we had a braai since Christmas ! In the end we managed it, sort of. Robert dozed in his car-seat, near the table and at least it was quiet throughout dinner, and we could watch some mindless television, the South African soap opera Isidingo. Of course, the little boss’s chair needed rocking occasionally with a free hand or foot, but it was a small price to pay for his silence.

The red wine we had for dinner was a year 2000 harvest which I bought from a wine farm in Cape Town in November 2001. We were still living in Johannesburg then, and I went on a trip to Cape Town sponsored by the tour company I was working for at the time. Interesting to note that the wine travelled from Cape Town to Johannesburg, then onwards to East London, and returned on a moving van again to Cape Town. We only had the pleasure of drinking it today, and we couldn’t have found a better occasion.

Robert’s Fluffy Friend

The parcel Robert got in the mail yesterday was a present from his auntie in Canada. The challenge for today was to open the present at a time when Robert was in a good mood and when his parents weren’t under pressure to do something else.

We opened the present after breakfast, and it was a soft fluffy teddy bear in white and blue. Ron gave him the name Canuck, and I can see him becoming Robert’s favourite fluffy friend in the future, especially because his stomach rattles whenever he is moved. Next challenge was to convince Robert to pose for a nice photo with his new friend.
It took several attempts, but in the end we managed to get Robert’s official teddy bear photo.

A Friend Comes to Visit

Last night was a difficult one with Robert. It all started after a nice dinner of chicken satay and rice; Robert had terrible cramps and gas and I had to spend the night with him in the lounge, semi-dozing on the sofa while trying to keep him warm. Later Ron would tell me that the meal contained some shredded cabbage in addition to the spinach, which I did not notice at the time. Up until now I haven’t been extremely serious about cutting out the foods that cause gas. I always thought that if they did not affect me then they could not affect Robert, but yesterday was a wake up call. My indiscriminate eating habits have to be altered immediately.I woke up at 10:00, as my phone vibrated with an incoming SMS from my friend Britt, who said that she will be coming to see Robert this morning. Britt and I go back a long way, to the times when I used to work as a travel consultant in Johannesburg and she worked for the same company here in Cape Town. We shared a few trials and tribulations with our very difficult German tourists, and although we haven’t kept in touch all the time we always kept phone numbers, and knew about major events in each others lives. I was so lucky that we ended up living across the street from her house here in Cape Town, because she was instrumental in guiding me to a good doctor and hospital. She recommended necessary baby items to buy, and where to buy them; She even provided hand me downs: Clothes, a baby bath, magazines and books. I think of her as a sort of god mother to little Robert.

Today Britt brought Robert some nice sailor outfits, I think they will look great on him in the summer. She did not forget mom and dad either, and brought us a large ready-to-eat chicken pie. I quite enjoyed her visit, she is always full of positive and upbeat advice.

When Ron came back from gym he was very hungry, and the chicken pie was exactly what he needed, so we shared it for lunch. Ron has been taking strain with me whenever baby has a rough night. The lack of sleep affects him even worse because he drives his body extremely hard while working and exercising. Yesterday he was totally exhausted after his workout, so he had to take it slow at gym today, and tried to rest after lunch. In the meantime I went out quickly to the shops, and stopped at the post office to collect a parcel addressed to Robert.

The night passed peacefully without crying fits, but I had to get up three times to feed during the night. It was difficult, because each time I was pulled up from the deepest sleep.

Robert the Fire-Hose Tips the Scales

Today was a very important day for me and Robert, because the outcome of our visit at the Well Baby Clinic determines the future of our breastfeeding relationship. I was positive that Robert has gained some weight; his face looks more rounded and when I lift him to my shoulder I can definitely feel that I am hefting a healthy baby, not a little kitten. Still, there is only one way to find out for sure.

Ron left us at the clinic and went to do some shopping while we waited our turn. Twenty minutes later I took off Robert’s outer clothes and nappy, then carried him to the scale. The moment he was up there he peed all over the scales and the examination table, I was trying hard to catch most of the stream in a towel so I did not look at the reading. I only heard Sister B. saying: “look at that weight!” then I did a double take and saw the number, it was 3.8 kg !
“Did you feed him mealiepap?”she asked jokingly (this is the Afrikaans name for corn porridge).
This took my mind off the embarrassment for a minute, my baby and I have succeeded ! In the past week he gained 400g – I do not know how this was possible. Sister B addressed Robert as Robert the fire-hose, and told him that he was ‘sorted’. When Ron came to get us I gave him the good news, and I must say that he was really proud of us. Best thing is that weekly assessments are no longer necessary, and we only need to come back in two weeks time to chart Robert’s weight and height.

Expanding the Boundaries

Yesterday Robert turned three weeks. The focus of the past week has been his feeding schedule, and from my meticulous tracking of his feeds, I can now say that he gets between six and seven feedings a day. This means that on average he feeds every four hours, and naps for about three hours between feedings. Over the weekend my mom got her first look at baby over Skype, I was breastfeeding him at the time, and she commented how calm and quiet he was. I was lucky she said. On my worries about breastfeeding she said that my sister had to put both her boys on the bottle because her milk was not rich enough. I did not want to think about this option.

Today was the first hot day we had this spring, with the mercury climbing to 27 degrees. Ron and I decided that it was a perfect opportunity to ‘go see something different’ and ‘expand our horizon’ as he put it. We took a long time to decide which beach to go to; Ron does not like Camps Bay beach because he thinks it is too busy and open, and I did not think going to Clifton Beach Four was such a good idea with the baby carrier. In the end we went to Camps Bay and walked for some time past the busy restaurant strip. Even on this Tuesday afternoon, the beach front was busy, and it seemed that everyone was out to soak up the sun.
For us even going on a little trip like this involved a lot of planning. We had to take the car seat, the baby carrier – which we remembered at the last minute, and the nappy bag of course in case of an accident. When we finished our walk, we could not sit on the sand or put our feet in the water as we used to do. We just sat on the edge of the sandy beach, on a bench, watching families with older toddlers making the most of the sunny day on the beach. It will be a while before we could do the same with Robert.
On our way back home Robert started crying. I was sitting in the front seat for the first time, so I could not tell what was wrong with him. We tried to ignore our instinctive impulse to stop; Ron turned the radio on and baby’s cries were drowned by the music. Shortly before we arrived he stopped crying and went back to sleep, but by then it was time to wake him up again to take him out of the car.

A Whale of a Time

On our walk today on the promenade we enjoyed watching some black whales frolicking along the coast. Their arrival at the Cape coast usually heralds the beginning of warm spring. This year though, the season has been very fickle, with the sunny spells still infrequent. Today was one of those rare sunny mornings. Robert was in the carrier protected from the cool air and the sun; he was asleep as usual. In an attempt to prevent him from sinking too low into the pouch we sat him on top of a folded towel to prop him up. This sat him up more, and he was leaning against the side of the carrier with nose and mouth well exposed to the air. It also helped us walk for a longer time without worry.

Robert had a long sleep after his one o’clock feeding, and during this time I received a call from a member of my work’s management team. She said she had a present for Robert from everyone at the office, which she will drop off. I also spoke to my parents on Skype and gave them some details and updates on the delivery and Robert’s progress.

Robert was still in his best angelic position -asleep- when my work colleague arrived with a bag full of presents and card of good wishes from everyone at my office. The bag contained half a dozen outfits for Robert, mostly suited for spring and summer weather. The theme of the clothes is little red and green monsters, with the caption : “I’m a little monster” printed on them. As I watched over my little one asleep there in the crib, he looked very little like a little monster, and more like a sleeping kitten. My colleague thought he was very cute, although she said that waking up twice in the middle of the night was too much. Young as she is -early twenties- she must think that having a baby is rather uncool.She will come around, eventually. I never was a maternal type myself, but now that I have little Robert, I think that no woman should voluntarily miss out on the experience of motherhood.

Back at Birth Weight

I slept until nine this morning, after a rough night with Robert. This meant that I had to start feeding immediately then rush him into the bath, because we had to take him for his second assessment at the Well Baby Clinic.

All this rushing did not help much because we had a long queue in front of us at the clinic. There were many babies and kids of different ages, most were really large and chubby. Robert looked so tiny in comparison. The nurse’s room was crowded and noisy, and I got nervous of the long wait. That is why I immediately started getting Robert ready for weighing and measuring, while sister B was still busy with the patient ahead of us in the queue, and I made the mistake of prematurely taking off his nappy. This, inevitably, resulted in an accident, for which I was ill prepared. My nappy bag contained a spare nappy and an undershirt, but not a complete change of clothing. Fortunately his outer clothes were only a little bit wet.

Sister B did her quick check-up. She said that the navel was healing fine, and pronounced the acne on baby’s face as normal. She also gave me some advice on dealing with gas, and recommended colic drops. Robert’s weight gain was still on the slow side for the second week running; 160g this past week, which means that as of today he has only regained his birth weight. The nurse advised me to make sure that he was getting enough in every feeding, by draining one breast, then switching to the second near the end of the feed, so that baby gets both breasts in every feeding.

It was good to know that baby was okay. Even the discharge from his eye, which is a result of a blocked tear duct has cleared up by itself. His weight gain was within the lower range of what is considered normal, but I was still worried about the quality of my milk and my ability to continue breastfeeding. Ron jokingly suggested that we might need to put Robert on the bottle, but I did not find it funny. From today I started tracking baby’s daily feeds to make sure he gets enough feeding sessions. Tonight we woke up twice for feeding; it was very cold, and the south easter was howling.

Robert the South African

At two weeks we are starting to have some good times with Robert. We had breakfast before he woke up, and after he fed we took him shopping in the baby carrier. He was asleep the whole time.
Ron went to gym while I had a quiet time doing more paperwork, and catching up on blog and email. Robert’s birth certificate arrived in the mail today; it is the standard (free) birth certificate, which does not contain much information. It only shows ID number, date of birth and name(s). The full birth certificate which contains the names of the parents takes longer to issue – about six weeks we were told- and this is the one that Robert needs in order to register as a Canadian citizen at the embassy.

We had a special dinner tonight of the lamb chops we bought at the store today, and jasmine rice. The routine of feeding every three hours or so was maintained at night. I normally change baby’s diaper at every night feeding to avoid accidents; this is absolutely non-negotiable in this cold weather. On two occasions I forgot these nightly changes, and both times Robert got himself soaking wet afterwards. While changing his diaper early this morning I noticed that his cord stump has fallen off.

Our First Walk as a Family

Yesterday night was exhausting, and today was dedicated to catching catnaps whenever baby rested.

In the morning we dunked Robert in the bath as it was a warm day, later we went to soak up a little bit of sunshine walking on the promenade. I still need to get used to the carrier, and both Ron and I are a little paranoid about baby smothering himself in my shirt. The moment he is put in the carrier and I start walking, he goes to sleep face down, with his nose and mouth out of sight. It is impossible to tell whether he is breathing or not, and therefore we made frequent stops to adjust his position. It is a wonder that he kept on sleeping through that.

Fortunately, tonight was much better than last night. We had a vegetarian dinner, and managed to get some good sleep.