Nine Weeks: Fuzz and Freckles

Last weekend was quite a busy one for all of us. On Saturday we went on that long tour of the churches and bookshops of Main Road, and on Sunday Ron had a movie shoot. Robert and I finished our breakfast rituals early, and since it was nice and sunny outside I decided to head out as well, and take advantage of the quiet early hours on Sunday. My initial plans were to walk on the promenade for a while and get the Sunday paper on my way back. But halfway towards the promenade I thought to phone my friend Jackie and see what she was doing, I haven’t heard from her for a while. Jackie was having breakfast with her boyfriend in one of the posh hotels on Beach Road, and she said she would phone me when she arrived home so we can have a short visit. My little walk lengthened into an expedition, that included window shopping, a stop at the deli for bagels, and a visit to Jackie and her houseful of friends. Jackie gave me some more clothes she bought for Robert, which I also added to my booty for the day. Robert and I headed back after a short time, but we were both reaching our physical and sensory limits by the time we made it home.

Jackie had last seen Robert when he was a newborn, and she commented on how big he was getting. She was concerned that the 0-3 months clothes she bought for him would not longer fit. And in addition to the developments I noted for his two months birthday, Robert’s appearance is also changing, his head is now covered with the soft fuzz of what is likely to become very light brown or dark blond hair. Ron hopes he will get a full head of thick hair like his mom, and I would like him to have his dad’s hair colour. His eyes are still a dark shade of blue, and they will hopefully stay that way, or lighten into the clear blue of his father’s eyes, rather than the muddy grey of his mom’s. His skin is neither too fair nor too sensitive, this is very good, because it means that he can handle the fierce southern sun, and he hasn’t suffered from nappy rash to date. It would have been nice if he was allowed to keep the perfect tone and smoothness of his skin, but he already has his first blemish, a dark freckle or mole on his left thigh. It first appeared a few weeks back, and is now a little bigger, so it seems he will be inheriting the freckled skin from my side of the family.

Two Months

Today we reached another developmental milestone in Robert’s life. At two months he is blossoming into a cute and very aware little fellow. In the space of one month he changed from an unresponsive little blob (no offense meant) into a tiny human being who reacts and interacts. If we pay attention carefully, we can easily detect his likes and dislikes, the way he calms down at the sound of his dad’s voice or starts getting excited at the sight of a toy, or at the sound of the running water for his bath. We can tell that he is now that he is watching, listening and taking his whole surroundings in. The pictures we take of him these days show him frequently smiling, as most of the time he is happy to see us and to respond to our smiles. His level of activity is also increasing; he loves standing upright (supported of course), and then he can carry his weight for a few second on his little legs.

To celebrate the occasion of Robert’s two-month birthday we took him on a long walk. Two of the churches in our area were holding summer charity bazaars, and we thought we might find something for him there. Unfortunately we were only able to leave the house late in the morning, and therefore there weren’t any exciting offerings left by the time we made it to the bazaars. We had no success either at the second hand charity shop; the books there were of nostalgic value, but will be terribly lacking for the education of a little guy in the 21st century. The final stop on our tour had to be the bookshop, where we bought Robert a little picture book of farm animals, which I had earmarked earlier as a possible present. Robert was asleep throughout the walk as usual, but he had his photo shoot on our return home.
With two months gone since Robert was born, my clock is also ticking. My maternity leave ends in just over two months, and by then I should have concrete plans in place. My ideas on this next stage are still vague, and I have this image of myself continuing to breastfeed and having an easy schedule at work. I know however that this is wishful thinking, things will be difficult for all of us once I get back to work. During the next few weeks I need to do some research, and ask other working mothers how they solved this problem. Like every other breastfeeding mother, I got terribly attached to the time I spend nursing my son. I feel privileged to be able to provide him with nourishment. To watch him thrive as a result, is pure bliss, and I would hate for this special time to come to a premature and abrupt end, before Robert turns six months. I have read in my baby book about breast pumps, and to me this looks like a solution that will enable me to continue breastfeeding exclusively for the recommended six months. It looks good on paper, but I have to find out if it is practical.

The process of planning the next stage is complicated further by Robert’s unpredictable schedule. He still feeds erratically, and his sleep times also aren’t always consistent, especially during the day. And as his alert times become lengthier he is also getting more prone to over-stimulation, which in turn leads to afternoons of irritability and over-tiredness. After today’s long outing, we were in for one of those.

Robert Gets the Needle

Robert was in a very good mood this morning, he actually went back to sleep between us on the bed after his 6 a.m feeding, which is something he rarely does. I woke up at nine and had a full breakfast before he finally called for me.

Ron was busy checking out tennants at our rental flat, so Robert and I managed together with feeding, bath, and two nappy changes. He was perfectly content through all that, and fell asleep as soon as I put him in his car seat, it is such a pity that we were about to spoil such a perfect day by giving him the needle.

We arrived at nurse B’s rooms shortly after twelve, with less than an hour to spare until closing time, and I feared that we will have a long wait ahead. As it turned out, however, she was busy with one baby, and we were immediately next in line. During the past weeks I got to watch many babies and children getting the needle. The nurse uses one room, she attends to injections and assessments on one side of it, in clear view of the waiting area, where all the moms, babies, toddlers, and some dads are seated. Last week there was quite a line-up of vaccination cases, their reactions, and that of their mothers varies dramatically: A mother of an eleven-month-old girl winced and hid her face as her daughter was jabbed, while another Afrikaans-speaking toddler did not issue a single whimper. In general, though, most small babies would be content throughout the examination right until the moment they feel the needle. The only exception was one older toddler near the end of the waiting line; he started howling the moment his mother moved with him to the other end of the room towards nurse B. He had been silently watching the procession of happy kids working themselves into screaming fits once they go to the other end of the room, and was old enough to know what to expect. Of course, little Robert was innocent of any experience in this regard and did not know what was coming.

Nurse B weighed and measured baby Robert, he weighed 5060 grams, and was gaining beautifully. Next on the agenda was the vaccination, which is a combo injection for: Diphtheria, Tetanus, whooping cough, Hib Meningitis, and Polio. The nurse advised me to sit with Robert in my lap and put him on my breast in order to calm him down quicker once he gets the injection. She injected the vaccine in his right thigh, and there was a little bit of crying, but he soon calmed down and resumed the feeding session. The nurse said that we should expect some fussiness in the next 24 hours. Baby will feel some pain in his upper leg for the next few days, and there was a rare risk of running a fever. We had given Robert a dose of infant drops before heading to the clinic, and the nurse advised us to continue with the recommended dosage at least for the next 24 hours, and later as needed.

Robert did not run a fever. He was a little bit cranky in the evening, but the drops helped calm him and he slept through the worst of the injection’s side effects. His next vaccination appointment is in two weeks’ time, and that one will be oral drops.

Eight Weeks: Discovering the World Outside

Last week we had our fair share of outings. On Thursday, and buoyed by a good night’s sleep, we drove to the shopping mall at Canal Walk. The objective was to get a faulty digital thermometre swapped, and buy some more baby and medicinal supplies. As it turned out the thermometre needed only a battery replacement, and we didn’t need to buy too many things, so we thought we had some time to treat ourselves to a quick meal at the food court. Baby was sleeping peacefully in the carrier, and the only problem we thought we had to deal with, was finding a suitable type of takeaway that I can safely eat without dripping crumbs or sauce over Robert’s head. After much deliberation I finally decided on spicy potato wedges, while Ron went for the Shwarma. Our little break ended sooner than anticipated, when Robert woke up hungry, and although this was a predictable outcome, we weren’t prepared for it this time. On our earlier stroll around the mall I haven’t spotted or located suitable spots where I can breastfeed discreetly, and the poor baby had to wait for his meal until we were back home. It was an uneasy drive back home, with little Robert crying bitterly, and for a good reason. I felt very guilty at having food in my stomach while my little one went hungry. Lesson number one: Baby has first priority when it comes to allocating meal times.

On Saturday we went for another outing to the V & A Waterfront. This time we were better prepared and armed with our experience from Thursday’s lesson. We timed our outing right after Robert’s feed and were only slightly inconvenienced when his nappy needed a change right after we drove into the parking lot. Ron stepped forward to this task in the awkward space of the backseat, and it went well with no major disasters. Last week Robert was lulled to sleep as soon as we started walking around, this week he looked around a little, before falling asleep.

Ron and I are beginning to notice baby’s increasing interest in the world outside. He now sits up higher in the carrier and can look up over it at the shops and the people. When we walk down our busy street, he watches the passing traffic with some interest, but is thoroughly fascinated with the huge trees shading the pavement. I always see him gazing up to the green canopy. He is also starting to respond to and recognize familiar items: Canuck the teddy bear, the colourful animals hanging above his cot, the changing table and the bathtub.

A warm bath in the early evening has become one of our successful strategies for combating crying fits. It works wonders during these scary times, when Robert closes his eyes and starts expanding his lungs at the expense of our nerves. He stops as soon as he recognizes the sound of running water, and the crying turns to soft whimpers, to disappear completely once he is dunked into the warm water. And although the crying might resume once the bath is over, there is no denying its relaxing effect; Robert calms down with a little snack, and soon settles to sleep.

Seven Weeks: Sunny Days Come at a Price

The sunny weather has been holding since the weekend, and it beckons us to get out of the cold flat. At this time of year it is so much warmer outside in the sun.

Last Saturday we managed to get out to the V&A Waterfront. When we arrived there in the early afternoon, the place was busy with tourists and locals. A group of singers from the Cape Town Opera was performing in the amphitheatre, and there were many street artists performing their acts: rope jumpers, African singers, marimba musicians, traditional and gumboot dancers among many others. Despite the considerable noise level, Robert slept soundly in the carrier, and we were able to enjoy the sun and breeze outside, as we walked around the harbour, looking at the boats, the seals and simply enjoying the happy vibe. We timed our outing to last two hours right after a feed, and therefore arrived home in good time and before Robert started to fuss with hunger, thirst or over-excitement.

Today was another sunny and breezy day, and I felt antsy to get out. I felt like doing some window shopping on Main Road in Sea Point, so I strapped up baby in the carrier and we went out on what turned out to be a very long walk. I browsed baby books at the book shop, stopped at the supermarket, and then again to chat with Jackie’s mother whom I met outside her hairdresser’s. Robert and I arrived back home two hours later.

During the late afternoon, I received my payback for this quiet and enjoyable outing. Robert’s witching hour extended past nine, and in the end Ron advised me to put him down in his crib and let him cry himself to sleep; he was obviously over-tired. I still find it very hard to leave the baby crying, but after feeding and changing and spending a couple of hours singing and rocking, I have in fact done all I can for him. When I finally steeled myself into leaving him be, he cried for some time, then gradually calmed down and settled to sleep for the night.

First Checkup

Today was the appointment for Robert’s first checkup at the pediatrician. We were out with him on the same location last Wednesday. We took him to the Well Baby Clinic, thinking that he was due for his first vaccination shot at six weeks. The nurse, however, said that at six weeks they only give two shots that are partially subsidized by the government, and recommended that we rather give him one combo vaccine at eight weeks. The combo vaccine is more expensive, but it is less likely to cause fever and side effects, and it gives all the required vaccinations in one shot instead of two. Sister B charted Robert’s height, weight and head circumference on his little growth chart. His weight was 4.52 kg which is exactly on the 50th percentile, while his height measured 57cm, and head circumference at 36.7cm. Wednesday was also a nice warm day, and Robert got to wear sweat pants without booties for the first time, and when we walked with him on the beach at Moullie Point, Ron rubbed some sand into his little feet to mark his first visit. Of course, such a busy day usually comes with consequences; Robert was brought completely out of sync, and we had a tough night with him .

After our experience two days ago, we were a little apprehensive of today’s trip to the hospital, especially since it will be longer than the quick assessment visits. However, as it turned out he spent the most part of the day in total relaxation mode. He fed without frenzy and then settled for long naps in his chair, waking up now and again to coo at us, and shower us with smiles or just sat there chilling and blowing spit bubbles.
Around noon we started getting ready. Robert had his bath, and we dressed him in his new summer clothes. I chose for him an outfit that has a picture of a little red Muppet monster, with the caption: “I’m a little monster”. I hoped to prove the opposite true by putting Robert in it.
Ron thought that we should check whether the pediatrician was running on time, and it was a good thing that we did because he was half an hour behind schedule. We had a slight problem there because I had booked a check-up with my doctor half an hour after Robert’s. Fortunately, my doctor was running on schedule and he was very quick as usual with the examination and tests. He was satisfied with my recovery and progress, and I had no complaints or problems either. During the past weeks the appearance of my incision improved dramatically. All the little flaps have now knitted together perfectly, and the tube of fat I had near the site of the operation has almost disappeared. There is only a small ridge of fat left, which, according to the doctor should go away slowly with regular exercise and massage. He gave me a sample of ointment to help the process.
Twenty minutes later, we were back at the pediatrician but we were in for more delays as he was called for a delivery. Robert could not be kept asleep indefinitely; Ron had to take him for a little walk-around while I was at the doctor, and he needed to be fed again as we were waiting for his doctor. When he finally came I was allowed to continue feeding in the examination room, while the doctor started answering a few queries we had. As far as we both could see Robert was doing well, but it was good to get the confirmation from the specialist.
The doctor made up his checklist and in the next thirty minutes he checked for reflexes, heart and lung sounds, weight, height, and head circumference among others. In the end he advised us to do an ultrasound screening for baby’s hips. He did not feel that anything was wrong, it was only done to be on the extra safe side, since Robert was a breech baby. We thought that we should do the screening today while we were there, but at radiology we found out that only one doctor performed this test and he was away on leave for two weeks. Both Ron and I thought that the test wasn’t an absolute necessity so we decided to make an appointment for it at a later date.
The whole trip to the clinic and back took about two hours, and there was minimal fussing from Robert. He was very good the whole time, and especially in the car. However, when we arrived at home he was wide awake. Between us we tried to keep him fed and entertained, and in the end he went to sleep at his normal time, at eight.

Six Weeks : Colicky or What?

I am now almost ready to admit that Robert is colicky. If he is, then there is some good news for us at six weeks: Firstly, we are halfway through this tiresome stage, and secondly it doesn’t get any worse after this.

The cause of colic is not known for sure, but there are many theories trying to explain it. According to these, the crying may be caused by any of the following: gas, immature digestive system, expanding lungs, misaligned limbs (in c-section babies), and/or overstimulation. Most of these theories are unproven, but in Robert’s case the most likely one would be overstimulation. We noticed that his crying got much worse on days when there was too much going on. For example when we go out for a long walk in our noisy neighborhood, or when he stays awake for too long without sleep. One particularly nasty episode of crying occurred last week after a long talk with my aunt on Skype. Ron often comments on how animated (and loud) my talks with my family are – this is a middle eastern trait, people in that part of the world cannot speak quietly. It is possible that Robert did not react very well to this excitement, especially since it happened dangerously close to the time of day when he starts getting cranky.

We have tried several strategies to deal with Robert’s crying. The most successful one so far is putting him in the baby carrier. This works very well, and whenever I start walking around with him he calms down, and falls asleep soon after. The only problem is that he wakes up as soon as he is taken out of the carrier. As a result, he spent more time sitting in the carrier than out of it in the past few days, especially when it is cold.

Despite my ample experience at walking around with baby in the carrier, I had a scary incident last Friday. I twisted my ankle while walking down the hill and went straight down on one knee. Fortunately, I held on to baby and kept my upper body upright. Robert bounced against the padding of the carrier, and wasn’t affected much. In fact, he only grunted, changed position and then resumed his nap, while I got away with a nasty scrape on my right knee. Ron also had an alarming experience. He was looking after Robert one evening while I was trying to get some sleep. Robert was sitting in his chair in the lounge, in a lively but non-threatening mood. Ron must have gone to the bathroom for a minute and when he came back, I just heard him exclaim: “Oh my God”, then he brought Robert over to the bedroom and started asking me tense question whether I took the baby out of the chair. He then told me that something awful had happened ! When he walked back into the lounge, he saw baby lying flat on the floor with his head underneath the chair. Of course, he panicked and it took him a few seconds to realise that baby was quite alright. Later we concluded that Robert must have gradually slipped down from his sitting position in the chair (which is designed to work as a rocking chair). As he slipped down he must have tipped the chair forward, so that its seat touched the floor and created a sliding surface. Thus he ended up on the floor without a thud or a cry. The incident made us realise the danger of leaving baby unattended even for a minute. It was even scarier for us because sometimes we put the baby chair up on our breakfast table while we are eating.

The weather is still cold. Sunday was particularly dismal, and it was on that day that I finally finished knitting Robert’s baby jacket, which I started two weeks before he was born. It turned out nice and he finally got to wear it today, thanks to the late arrival of spring.

On the brighter side of things, Robert is cooing, gurgling, and trying to make conversation. This is starting to happen now more often; once he gets his fill of milk he looks up at me and smiles and starts up with his side of the story. I always give him a playback of the sounds he makes. Ron for his part, swears that baby is almost ready to stand up by himself. When he holds him upright, Robert plants his feet on his lap and locks his knees to carry his weight on little legs. Ron also ‘exercises’ Robert’s muscles regularly, and the little one likes that. I can tell that he is an active little baby, and will take after his father in this respect. He will be quite a handful once he gets bigger.

Five Weeks: More Challenging Times

The past week has been the most challenging time we had with Robert so far. The crying spells and fussiness has increased, while naps are becoming shorter.

The day starts quite early at around four, and feeding time stretches until daybreak. This didn’t pose a problem when Robert went back to sleep immediately after feeding, because I still managed to sleep in late with him. Now as his early naps become rather rare, I am left to struggle with morning grogginess, and by the time Robert gets his first nap of the day it is too late for me to go back to sleep.
At about six I normally bring Robert to our bedroom, where I can at least nod off in bed while he continues his feeding ritual, and Ron can help with a little entertaining or burping. We tried several strategies for feeding baby in bed. Lying down is obviously my favourite but it has the most disastrous consequences in terms of spit up in the middle of our sheets. Now I mostly prop him up on a pillow, while sitting up or semi reclining, and it works for both of us.

Later in the morning we go for a walk with baby, combining it sometimes with a shopping stop. Last Saturday for example we went for quite a long walk on Main Road, and it was fun to look at the shops while baby slept soundly in the carrier. The rest of the day passes peacefully, because both Ron and I help each other with entertaining the baby, changing his nappies and bathing him. The real fun however starts at around 5 pm, which has been termed ‘suicide hour’ by a friend of mine, more seasoned in the arts of motherhood. At this critical time between day and night, Robert gets completely out of sorts. Dealing with these latter hours of the day consumes all my remaining energy, and I stumble to bed almost as soon as Robert is put down. Ron and I rarely eat our dinner together these days, sometimes he actually feeds me a few bites to keep me going while I continue the protracted evening feeding session. I get my own meal eventually, but then it is either taken in great haste, or eaten just before bedtime.

All fussiness and occasional crabbiness aside, Robert is thriving and growing every day. The visible improvement, however, does not extend to his hair which is in rapid recession. When I spoke with my parents on Skype last weekend, my mother commented on how much he changed in ten days. I know this is true, because a few days ago I was in a rush and took him out in the baby carrier without putting the cushion of folded cloth under him. I noticed then that the top of his head is now higher than the the top edge of the carrier, and he doesn’t need the additional cushioning anymore.

Yes, the little one manages to exhaust the combined energy of both his parents, but we forget everything whenever he smiles and swear he is the cutest little guy. And of course when he sleeps he is positively an angel.