New Year’s Eve

It is amazing how everything in my life now relates to before and after Robert. This past week marks Robert’s first Christmas and the first New Year.

At about this time last year we visited the Festival of Chariots, there were only two of us then, and Robert was still a very much doubted suspicion. This year the three of us went, and dad was holding Robert in his carrier. My heart always burst with pride as we go for these walks, I now have my own little family; it is the most comfortable feeling in the world. From his perch in the carrier, Robert was all regal looking, watching the procession of the chariot and the devotees pulling it. A man was throwing candies from the chariot, and a number of kids were hot on the trail, collecting the falling candies and fighting over them. I still managed to pick up exactly three pieces, for the three of us. One of them actually had to land in the brim of my sun hat. I was never any good at catching, or even tossing for that matter, and Ron had to direct me to where the candies fell, pathetic performance.

A group of Cape Minstrels took advantage of the closure of Beach Road for the chariot. They preceded the chariot with their characteristic musical performance; I thought they were getting ready for the celebration of the 2nd New Year on the Second. The 2nd of January will mark the 100th celebration of this popular Cape Carnival. The music of the minstrels mixed with the chants for Rama and Krishna, and I thought it was a little disruptive to the festival, but nobody seemed to be too concerned. After all this was the rainbow nation and it should have space for all sorts of festivities.

I remembered when we went last year to watch the minstrels on the 2nd of January. The streets were crowded with people who follow this annual festivity. A coloured man spoke to me at length, about God and living in this country. He was proud of his tradition and proud to be part of the New South Africa, after living through Apartheid. I can still remember his face and his parting remark. He told me that for 2007 he was going to make a prediction that next year at this time I will not be standing alone, he pointed in the direction of my abdomen, and said: “It’s a girl”. His prophecy startled me into thinking and hoping that maybe I will become a mother after all, and perhaps I wasn’t experiencing a hormonal hiccup but a start of a new life. In the end he was only right on one count, but in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am happy to stand here holding my little boy.

The little boy in question is becoming more of handful as the weeks go by (literally and figuratively). Ron and I haven’t used a stroller yet, but I can see us needing one very soon, once he becomes too heavy to carry in the front carrier. His muscles are strengthening and he can now sit with support for a long time. Sometimes when he refuses to feed, and arches his body backwards, it becomes a real battle to settle him into place. As his personality and stubbornness begin to emerge, his gross and small motor skills are also improving. A week ago reaching out and grabbing small objects was a feat that required huge concentration and effort, judging by the amount of grunts and frustrated outbursts. This was especially true when the skill required coordinated movement of both hands; you could almost watch how the growing brain is learning to fine-tune the choppy motion and the hit and miss process involved. Some larger muscles – unnecessary for the task- are occasionally enlisted, such as neck, stomach and legs. Now there is none of that; the movements are still a bit jerky, but definitely less robot-like and more focused. He reaches towards objects and grips them with ease, directing them immediately towards his mouth. Robert’s verbal tricks continue to expand from grunting and cooing to some lengthy babbling, and a few days ago he added some wet razzing. He continues to slobber profusely but there is no sign of teething yet.

I also show him his books regularly. The book he finds most interesting is the one with the bear puppet, but I think at this point the bear fascinates him more than the pictures in the book. He wants to engage in play with the puppet and reaches towards it to bite its arms. He shows some interest in to the book illustrating colours and textures, but his attention span there is much shorter, and he gets grumpy very quickly once he tires of fingering and touching a few texture pages.

More relevant to celebrating the closure of an eventful year, New Year’s eve was a quaint and simple affair in our household. In the afternoon we went on our most favourite outing, the V&A Waterfront. Yes, we have talked at length at expanding our range, but it remains a project for next year. This year we are stuck at a 10 kilometre radius, or better still a 15 minute drive. For a change we tramped around a different section of the mall where we haven’t been before, and bought an ice-cream cone, for a treat. But as it is always the case with parenthood, precisely at the moment when we let down our guard for a long-awaited treat, Robert made his presence known and demanded some attention. Perhaps he was unsettled by the closed mall and the crowd, and we had to rush outside, carrying him and a rapidly melting cone of chocolate and mint ice-cream. Somehow we managed to take turns with the baby and the ice-cream, but it wasn’t quite the relaxed treat we had hoped for. Later in the evening Ron prepared us a braai of steaks, which went very well with baby potatoes and a glass of chilled white wine. We nursed the wine throughout the evening, but went to bed a good two hours before the old year was over.

Looking Back on 2007

I wanted to dedicate a post to 2007, as the year draws to a close. This has been a remarkable and special year for all of us. Not a day has passed since Robert’s birth when I did not stop to marvel at the miracle of his new life. I am endlessly grateful for the blessing of a healthy and happy baby.

There are of course the restraints, of less time for us, and less freedom. The increased burden of work and planning and the limitation of our activities, but all of these things do not change the fact that we are both very happy to have Robert.

My mirror image looks tired and sleep-deprived most of the time, but the shadows under my eyes and the small wrinkles on my face are marks of a mature woman, a woman who has discovered the deepest kind of love. The happiness shining from within me cannot be disguised by mere fatigue.

As I reflect on the year that passed I remember the nine months of pregnancy. It was an energetic, blissful and healthy pregnancy. I did not experience any of the common ailments; no morning sickness or nausea not even sensitivity to smells. I was as healthy as I ever was, more energetic, and my complexion did not suffer the slightest of blemishes. I was also lucky when my weight increased gradually and did not balloon out of control, this may be the reason why I did not have any stretch marks.

Fortunately our diet and lifestyle are normally healthy, so I did not have to go through a major change there; I have been a long-time fan of cereal or oats for breakfast, and drink milk regularly with dinner. I always had a healthy appetite, it became more pronounced as the baby grew. I admit to indulging my cravings for sweets and chocolates some times, but I also paid attention to the correct diet: I had two daily servings of milk, at least two pieces of fruit, lots of vegetables, and tried to eat fish at least twice a week.

On the whole I enjoyed the experience of being pregnant, and when my belly became big I sported it proudly while lugging myself (and baby) up and down the hill, and hopping on and off taxis. Yes, occasionally it was scary thinking how vulnerable I was against muggers, or traffic accidents, but I was cautious and hoped and prayed for the best. Initially there was the added worry about how healthy the pregnancy was, the risks related to my age, and other genetic factors, but these fears were set aside with every progressive test and screening. I loved going to see the little one on the ultrasound, and the new ‘photo’ will be pinned on the fridge each time. When baby started to have features we would discuss how big his/her nose was, and whom of us s/he resembled. For me personally the first ultrasound was the most touching and dramatic. It was my first appointment to the doctor, and I just had a positive result from a home pregnancy test. The baby was only 10 weeks, but I could already see him or her happily floating there, and moving tiny arms and legs. It was incredibly touching for me.

My doctor has been perhaps, exactly the type that I needed. He has seen it all, and never gave me a reason to worry or exaggerated any type of problem. He just took everything at his stride. From the outset he located what turned out to be the only problem I experienced with the pregnancy. I had a fibroid, located quite low in my uterus. On that first visit he warned me to prepare myself for the possibility of a c-section. However, he kept me upbeat and did not discourage my hopes for a natural birth until the last few weeks. At 38 weeks the baby was still in breech and there was not enough space for him to turn. The doctor considered it too risky to try and force the baby into the head down position, and I think he made the correct call by scheduling me for a c-section.

The pregnancy was also a time when I was most productive professionally. I continued to work until the last minute, both at my office job and my freelance translation projects. Ron supported me throughout all of this a 100%. My pregnancy helped me move from full time to part time work at the office, and it was a good reason to get out of working the extreme early shifts and night shifts. It was nice to get special treatment for a while.

Ron helped me keep active for the whole nine months. He initiated the regime of the daily walk and we followed it diligently every morning, shortly after daybreak, and up until the 27th of August, the day we welcomed Robert.

In 2007 Ron and I had our last vacation as a couple, and for this special occasion we travelled as far as the Caribbean Island of Dominica. It was a very special trip, and it reminded us of what was really important in life, the simple uncomplicated pleasures of living, and the futility of running after material things. On our way back from the Caribbean we stopped in Berlin, and had a great visit with my family there. We were fussed over and I was treated like a little kid again, pregnant belly notwithstanding. I was about to become a parent myself, but I only appreciated this lifelong commitment when Robert arrived. It is much easier when you are the child, you can then afford to grumble at what you perceive as the unwanted ministration of the parent. I am just starting now to see the picture from the other side of the fence.

Our trip to Europe was touch and go until the last second, because up until the beginning of May I only had a temporary South African passport. I only received my permanent passport the week before we were scheduled to leave. I was finally a proper South African citizen after eight years of living in this country. This monumental event happened also just at the correct time, because baby is immediately eligible for SA citizenship.

For me 2007 was a tremendous year, it brought fulfillment to many of my dreams. I look back at it with fondness, and gaze towards the future with more hope. As Ron said, 2008 will also be Gr8.