The Doctor Said..

This last week of November has been quite busy for all of us. I am still working on my translation assignment, and I am finding it very hard to stay concentrated while trying to keep Robert happy at the same time. Ron has his hands full trying to help out and keep everything else in order. I would have never been able to pull it off without him.

On Wednesday I had my dreaded interview at work. It went unexpectedly smooth, and I did not have to negotiate down at all from my initial request. I now have two additional months of leave. The finances have to be thought out and planned later, but for now Robert and I are sorted. When I return to work in March I might have the option of working half days which means that I can spend maximum time with the little monkey. In theory I can continue breastfeeding for as long as Robert wants, and I needn’t worry anymore about pumping breast milk.

The news from work was positive. I got a T-shirt, a pro-rated bonus for the eight months I worked this year, and an invitation to the year-end function. In short I was made to feel part of the team, which makes going back to work next year not a totally bad idea. The only technicality I need to grapple with in the next few days is the imminent expiration of my Dangerous Goods License on December 1st. People who work in the transport industry have to take a refresher course every two years to keep the certification current. It just happened that I had to do this refresher and test within the next two days.

I opted to take the test on the very next day, Thursday. I left immediately after feeding Robert at about two in the afternoon. The course was a module which I followed on a multimedia CD, after which I was required to complete a test. Finally my certificate was printed, and my license was brought up to date. The training module and test require one and a half hours to complete, but I needed more time, because I chatted to colleagues and superiors. As usual there was more than one crisis on the floor to scatter the attention. Near the end of the test I kept glancing between my cell phone and the clock, expecting a call from Ron with a screaming baby in the background. I was heading home on a taxi, when the call finally came. Ron had done his best to entertain Robert. He took him out for a walk and played with him, but once the baby got thirsty there was nothing he could do to calm him down. Poor Pea was hot and thirsty, and so worked up it took some time to get him relaxed again for his feed. All of us were exhausted by this exercise, and I am glad we won’t have to do it again. I was only away for a little over two hours, but obviously it was too long. Once Robert was fed he regained his good humour; Ron even got a rare laugh when he popped a plastic bag near him.

Today, we had another big excitement on the calendar; Robert’s three-month check up. Ron and I had a long list of questions for the pediatrician, and I added one more after inspecting an abnormal diaper surprise in the morning. The doctor put our doubts to rest: Robert was NOT teething, and the little white spot we saw was a normal discoloration on his gum. The mole on his thigh was nothing to worry about, and the mark on his back is not a mole, but a mark that will perhaps disappear in time. The doctor explained that a child is considered “moley” if he or she has more than ten moles over the body. Such a child requires further monitoring and dermatological tests, but at this point Robert did not fall into this category. My diaper discovery this morning was a sign of diarrhea, caused by a transient virus. It would only be a cause for concern if the diarrhea becomes severe and/or lasts for a longer period of time. We discussed formula, feeding schedule, and the introduction of solids. The doctor reiterated what we read in most medical books and childcare sites: Breast milk is perfectly sufficient for babies in the first six months of life, and no supplements or solids are needed before then. Furthermore he advised against any introduction of solids before four months. Our doctor said that he advises parents to start on rice cereal after four months if their baby wakes up several times at night because of hunger. When we told him that Robert has in fact started sleeping through the night, he said that it was impressive and a little unusual. We shouldn’t brag about it to other parents, he cautioned, because they would be murderously envious. The doctor carried on with Robert’s examination and wrote down his height and weight. The numbers were as follows: Weight 6005g; Height 64cm; Head circumference: 39.5cm. I realized with dismay that he has only gained about 100g since his last assessment nine days ago. He is still on the 50% percentile, but it is obvious that he hasn’t been getting enough food since he started sleeping in. I need to do something about it, perhaps feed him one last time before I turn in for the night.

Before we went home for the day we stopped at the post office. An old friend of mine from Johannesburg had sent us a little present for Robert. We opened the present as we were having lunch. It is something that Robert will surely have lots of fun with in the future. A big blue whale and three little whale pups, they are his future bathtub friends. For now he was just happy to practice grabbing their package and try to get them into his mouth.

Three Months: Growing Like a Bean Sprout

This is the day we have been all waiting for, through long nights of battling with colic, and around the clock feeding. The book says that from now until about seven or eight months, babies are in their golden age. They stay put wherever you safely deposit them, and are mostly happy to watch the world go by and take it in. So how does our little pea measure up?

Colic is history. The bottles of gripe water and colic drops are collecting dust at the bottom shelf of our changing table. Things haven’t calmed down completely though, and Robert still has cranky episodes. These days he has taken to gnawing on fists and fingers while making complaining noises. It has reached such a degree that I suspect teething, but this mystery will have to wait until Friday when we visit the paediatrician for a check-up. Another big decision is coming up tomorrow. I will meet my management team at work in the afternoon, where I will find out whether my application for two additional months has been granted. If not, I need to add many questions to the paediatrician about formula.

Overall, we think Robert is developing well in the areas of gross motor function and social skills. He is quite active especially in the morning. Ron is trying to introduce him slowly to the play-gym and the ‘bumbo’ seat (see photo). Robert also recognizes mom and dad, and smiles a lot. I might have heard him laugh once, last week on the day after he had the injection. I was rocking him up and down and I think he got a little bit of a fright, and gave a surprised laugh. I also mentioned before that he definitely recognizes the sound of running water, and reacts with pleasure at the prospect of a ‘bath’. During the last couple of weeks he also started to sleep through the night. We can hardly believe it, but yes, he is put to bed at eight and only wakes up again at the crack of dawn at about four thirty. This is over eight hours of sleep, we are starting to wonder whether it was normal.

We took a lot of pictures today to celebrate Robert’s third month. Since everyone is supposed to look their best, Robert and I had many changes of outfits. The green theme we all ended up with was totally coincidental. These pictures made it around the world to Germany and Canada. Ron’s nephews in Canada commented: Cousin Robert is growing like a bean sprout. Great, maybe one day he will be as tall as daddy.

Thirteen Weeks : Are We Teething Already?

Mom and dad have been busy this weekend. I got another long-winded translation projects, and I have been putting in too much time in front of the computer. Ron had a role in an interesting European ad, where he was an 18th century soldier, marching across a sun-burnt field. Robert was busy in his own way, trying to stuff fingers and whole fists in his mouth as we saw. I know that he is not supposed to be teething until around six to seven months but this activity, the slobbering, general crankiness, and a pinpoint of white on his gum makes me think otherwise. It would be a real shame, just as colic is about to end to have aching gums to worry about, it doesn’t seem fair.

Out of all the presents Robert got two weeks ago, the mobile is still the most fascinating. To spare our ears we only wind it up in the morning as we wash up and have breakfast. It keeps him busy and happy for some time, provided of course all his other needs have been taken care of. He is sleeping longer at night, and most of the times I have to wake him up at dawn for his early morning feeds. He slept through the nights a few times already.

Ron also has been trying to put him in his ‘bumbo’ seat for a few minutes at a time. He tires out quickly because his head is not totally steady yet, but he seems to like the sitting position. The developmental play-gym hasn’t been a favourite so far. He starts fussing as soon as he is laid down on it, especially when in the tummy position. When I put him on his back he doesn’t seem too interested in the colourful animals overhead, and he hasn’t reacted much to the ‘baby’ in the mirror either.

We did notice that babies this age have a very short attention span, and focus on one particular object excluding the rest of the world. For example, Robert has not yet acknowledged Petey the black cat. It is not possible to draw his attention to the animal when he is focused elsewhere. Petey for his part gives Robert a very wide berth whenever possible.

Today when we put Robert in the bath we could not help remember how small he was when we first bathed him. Actually it was Ron who bathed him in the first few weeks. I was too intimidated to try it alone, because he seemed so small. Fortunately we have the pictures to prove it : bath; mirror.

I just had to take some current pictures to illustrate our progress. In this bath picture Robert is in the middle of a full stretch. A few months ago he used to flop passively in the warm water, now he wants to kick and splash a little. I suspect the action will become even livelier in a few months’ time.

Another Needle

The South-Easter is blowing and there is a chill in the air, later in the day it also started to rain. Since there is nothing better to do, it is best to get another injection over and done with.

On accounts of the weather the clinic was very quiet, and we were the only ones in line. Nurse B took Robert’s measurements and when it was time Robert took the needle with minimum fuss. As he quietened down to his feed, my consultation with nurse B slowly warmed into a motherly chat. We talked of the joys of motherhood, and how precious the little ones are. The nurse spoke of her two boys (aged ten and six) and about the upcoming family holiday to the Kalahari, they will be driving there to camp. On the way there, they will also stop for some fishing, which her husband enjoys.

The nurse said that she took her own child camping at three months. It does sound tempting; I suppose when a baby is breastfed there is very little to worry about. The only things to haul would be the nappies and changes of clothing. And if the holiday takes us to a warm enough place, then washing can be done on location, and the little clothes would dry anywhere. Ron is an experienced camper, but I am still a novice. Adapting to life on the move, and functioning in small quarters is not a natural skill for me yet. We did have a great time camping though, and summer is just starting, so maybe we can still go on a little trip and surprise ourselves.

Robert’s measurements today: Weight 5900g; Height 62cm; Head circumference 39.2cm.

He is now slightly above the 50th percentile in terms of weight (getting fat as Nurse B jokingly said), and his height is clearly above average.

Our next injection should be in four weeks’ time, but nurse B will be on holiday then until the second week of January. I pencilled in the dates for the earliest and the latest dates where this immunization dose can be taken. Ron and I prefer to continue seeing nurse B rather than her replacement. Robert is used to her by now, and she does have a very gentle and loving touch with babies.

Robert did not have major adverse reactions to the injection. I gave him a course of fever drops every four hours, and before he went to bed. I think he will be a hundred percent by tomorrow.

Twelve Weeks: Quiet Times

I am still working to solve the riddle of a breastfeeding-working mother. Operating the manual breast pump turned out to be a no-brainer. I certainly don’t need to invest in an expensive electrical one. This, however, remains only one small part of the whole puzzle, as Ron correctly pointed out. I still haven’t figured out how to store breast milk and how to manage pumping at work. For once I tackled the problem by going directly to the source and asking for what I thought best, without second guessing what management might or might not approve. I wrote work and asked for two month of unpaid leave after the official end of my maternity leave.

The email went out to my supervisors last week, where I stated my request and suggested a meeting to discuss my situation. The week passed without any response and I had to call today for a fellow up, and my supervisor scheduled a meeting for Wednesday the 28th. I don’t have a feel for what their response might be.

Robert’s latest developments: Bringing his hands together, and folding his thumb between his fore- and middle fingers. In terms of appearance: More fuzz is sprouting on his head, and his eyebrows are starting to get some definition. They are still very fair, but I think they will be the thick variety inherited from mom.

We got into the habit of taking him into the kitchen during dinner preparation. He sits quietly and watches us, listens to the noises of pots, pans and clinking cutlery. We introduce him to the various smells of cooking and spices. He is unfazed by the strong smells of onion and garlic. In fact, I think he likes them. His responses to the different fragrances are interesting, and being our son, he must be used to the smells of curry and ginger, and the taste of them from breast milk. As he gets older and less fussy, I am less stringent now about my diet. I have stopped worrying about eating cauliflower, but I am still keeping away from cabbage. My mom warned me against green peppers, which I have avoided during the worst colic periods. Now I do eat it in salads, and it doesn’t cause problems to either me or Robert. In all it looks like things are settling down, and all three of us are starting to enjoy longer sleeps at night.

Eleven Weeks: Christmas Comes Early

We are only a couple of weeks away from the magic number… three months. Many things are promised then: The end of colic, better head control and hands moving to their target quicker. We are definitely seeing some improvement in these areas, and our hands can now find our mouth after only a few tries.

Ron and I take it for granted that little Robert will be right-handed; it is interesting to note though, that so far he still favours his LEFT fist for the comfort of sucking.

We now have a fixed evening schedule leading to bed time. I start to calm Robert down from around six, then depending on his general state, I either feed him while watching the afternoon soap, or in front of the computer while reading my mail. A little bit of rest after feeding and then he gets dunked in the bath after seven, where he winds down and tires himself out. Finally he will nod off to sleep as I give him a little night cap. Once or twice so far he was calm enough to fall asleep by himself but these are still isolated incidents, and I don’t think they are part of the routine, not yet anyway. Night feedings are now down to only one, after which he promptly falls back to sleep. In short, the nights have become routine, but the days are still far from sorted.

Robert’s quick growth is a constant reminder of the passage of time. In a few weeks’ time I should be back at work, and I still can’t figure out how to solve the problem of breastfeeding. I do enjoy this special bond I have with my son, and I consider my ability to give him nourishment and help him grow, not a mere duty, but a privilege. If it was up to me, I would continue to breastfeed exclusively for the recommended six months, I would try pumping, working less hours, anything. But the best case scenario of course, is to stay at home for two more months. I am not sure that my management at work would go for it though.

Ron is not keen on the idea of using a breast pump, he thinks it is too much of a hassle, and does not trust me to have the dedication required for the cleaning and sterilizing routines. The complications increase exponentially when we start thinking about the procedures for storing and freezing breast milk. My sister-in-law, who is a strong believer in nursing, surprisingly vouched for formula. She had to start using formula early for her youngest son, and it turned out well. Her testimony convinced Ron, but not me. I would love to continue breastfeeding exclusively for six months.

To explore the possibility of using a breast pump, I tried to speak to women who had previously used one. Ron’s advice was to look at “For Sale” ads on the internet for breast pumps in the last few months. I only managed to get hold of one mother, who was of little help since she only used the breast pump once. I was left with my usual weapon of last resort: Ask Britt, and as it turned out she was forthcoming, and then some.

She came in on Saturday with her older girl, carrying bagfuls of stuff. There was a play-gym, baby soaps, bubble bath, and a small headrest for little Robert, in addition to a special baby chair ‘bumbo’ which is made of soft plastic and designed to mould around baby’s bum, back and upper thighs. It was one of the products on our to-buy list for Robert. Britt also brought along a manual breast pump for me to try, and answered all my questions about its use.

On Saturday, Robert opened another generous present, this one from Auntie Carla in Canada. The package contained colourful musical mobile, educational books, a shirt, a baby bathing suit, and a soft sleeping bag. I think Ron and I were as excited as Robert about the beautiful things ( possibly even more about some of them). It took us some time to figure out how to attach the mobile to Robert’s crib. When we finally mounted it there he was captivated, and we could tell that it is going to be his favourite.

He wakes up in the morning to look at it, and then starts talking and cooing to the animals hanging overhead, it is quite funny to watch.

Worse than an Injection

On this cold and cloudy day, we took Robert for another vaccination. I knew that it was going to be oral drops rather than an injection, and I thought this would be another dose of a Polio vaccine.

The Well Baby Clinic was quiet today, and nurse B remarked that she usually only vaccination cases show up on cold days like this one. This time there was a little girl who was in for her second dose of the hexa-injection. I remembered her from a few weeks back when she showed up with both her mom and dad. She was then a very small newborn, due to the fact that she was five weeks premature.
Today Robert weighed in at 5460 g, and measured 60.5cm in height which is a great improvement from last month, and leads me to hope again that he will take after his dad’s family when it comes to height. His head circumference measured 38.5cm. Nurse B then gave the oral drops in a prepacked syringe. Strangely enough, infants usually find it very difficult to swallow any liquid injected into their mouths, as they only know how to suck/suckle. Robert got the hang of it after a little bit, and only a few drops of the liquid were spat out. The nurse warned me that the side effects for this vaccine were stomach cramps, gas, and irritability.
Once home though Robert also became very lethargic and slept most of the time. He seemed to have very little energy and was hardly able to pick up his weight when held upright. This worried me somewhat especially because I was under the assumption that he’d had polio drops. Later in the evening he had bad gas, some cramps and was generally indisposed. We also went through three shirt changes, one of them during the night. Robert would normally spit up (or burp up) some milk after each feeding. This time, however, he vomited up quite a lot, and ended up soiling his outfits and my shirts several times.
Robert’s general condition improved slowly, and he was completely over these symptoms two days later. But I was so worried about this nasty vaccination that I looked up its trade name on the internet, and only then I found out that it wasn’t polio drops, but immunization against the Rotavirus, which causes a particularly vicious diarrhoea. The malady itself lasts also for a few days, and is dangerous to little babies under the age of two years, because it drains and dehydrates them. I could not help thinking though that the vaccination must be nearly as bad as the illness. It surely is much worse than the injection we had two weeks ago.

The Past and the Future

On Saturday, dad got to ‘wear’ Robert in the carrier. Today it was my turn again, as we took him to the V&A Waterfront. This outing is our favourite because it is very close to our flat, and it takes 10 minutes to get there. It is about the only outing that we can decide to go on spontaneously and without too much planning.

The tourist season is definetely underway, becasue the mall and our usual parking lot were full even on this Tuesday. Of course, the sunny weather also helps, and there were as many tourists enjoying it outside as shoppers inside. Ron and I preferred to walk our usual circuit around the water. Ron was the cameraman this time, while I was the reluctant model. It is funny that whoever has the camera displays much more enthusiams for photos, while the other feels them unnecessary. This time, it was my turn to say: “Enough of these silly photographing”.
But before I finally said that, Robert and I had our pictures taken in front of the Victoria and Alfter Hotel, then next to a trimaran that sailed around the world in record time; and also in front of the seal guarding the entrance of the Table Bay Hotel. One photo had to be reserved to Nelson Mandela and the rest of the Noble Laureates ( FW De Clerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Albert Lithuli). I was posing for Ron’s photo, while a German tourist was also aiming his camera in the same direction. I asked the gentleman whether I should move, but he had already taken his photo. He said: “No problem. You and the baby are already in the photo; It is nicer this way: The past -and he pointed at the statues- and the future”. I thought it was a very nice thing to say.

Ten Weeks: Introducing the Extremeties

We managed to get out this weekend again. This time we moved away from the touristy areas towards Rondebosch, which is a central district of Cape Town, and very popular with the younger crowd due to its proximity to the University of Cape Town (UCT). The main destination for our visit was a location for a book exchange in Rondebosch Mall. This part of the outing was a huge disappointment, so the less said about it the better. The only benefit was unloading some of my trashy airport literature, which I managed to accumulate over the years, but I still cannot bring myself to part with before reading first. In the exchange basket I also left the book I was reading at the hospital and during Robert’s first week. It is a very old book :”The Beautiful is Vanished” by Taylor Caldwell. The subject matter was depressing, as it is about a father losing his only son in the First World War. Later in the book the stricken father remarries and has another child, but the open ending of the story leaves us to anticipate that this child will be faced with the next war. I think I cried several times while I was reading that book, because all of a sudden I could completely relate to the emotional turmoil of the bereaved father. I hope and pray that I will never have to dissuade my own child from participating in a war. But I digress; the mission of unloading my books was accomplished in roughly thirty seconds, after which we were left with an unplanned chunk of time, so we chose to walk around a bit in the leafy streets of Rondebosch.

We took one of the pathways around the Baxter Theatre, and ended up somewhere within the UCT campus. Some of the walkways we trampled are over a century old, and there are many interesting historical pointers along the way. We also inspected the cricket field, where I saw real wickets and stumps for the first time. Cricket is not a known sport where I grew up, but it will probably be a sport that my son will play in the future.
Sunday was another cold day, so we stayed put at home, and Robert got to wear his warm sweater again, while he snoozed away in his seat. The big event for him this week is starting to discover his hands, and to grasp things. Up until now, if we closed his hand over a piece of cloth or a toy he would hold on to it, and sometimes for a very long time, but without really being aware of this. Grasping was more of a reflex than a willful act, but this is gradually changing.

His hands are starting to reach out towards things, but mostly he is doing lots of exploring to his own face. After several trial and error attempts where he swats at his own eye or nose, his fingers finally find his oral cavity and start exploring inside it. Sometimes he is so rough he brings himself to gag, but the rest of the time he just puts his fist, and his fingers there, and slobbers all over. His interest in his surrounding is increasing by the day; a week ago I suspended a pom pom, a crocheted circle and a ball made of tinfoil while he sat in his car seat, the idea was to encourage him to swat at these objects and develop his small motor coordination. These objects remained mostly unnoticed, but now he started to look at them, and observe them swinging back and forth, when he rocks his chair. Inadvertently, he swiped at them a few times, but he has yet to reach out for them.

Another first for this week was when Robert went to sleep on his own. It was one of those days when his bedtime came while he was still wide awake, and since he was clean and no longer interested in feeding, I thought it was fair to leave him be in his cot, while I got my own dinner. Surprisingly, he lay back in his cot, very relaxed and spoke to the colourful animals hanging above his head. There was minimal fussing and soon he drifted to la la land. Both Ron and I hoped that this will be the shape of things to come.

Also, the incidents of stomach cramps, and gas have become relatively rare, which in turn means general relief from the crying fits that went along with it. This development comes as Robert’s digestive system becomes more efficient. Some of the notable pointers in this area are: less frequent trips to the changing table as bowel movements become less frequent (but more substantial), and less time spent winding or burping. In the first few weeks of his life, it used to take me up to ten minutes to get a single bubble out, but now I get a huge satisfying belch in a few seconds.

According to what I read, the third month in a baby’s life brings the most exciting changes. Ron and I are beginning to see these changes and watch out for new ones, because every single day Robert shows us something new.