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.

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.

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.

Rough Times Thrown Into the Mix

After a couple of peaceful days with Robert, today turned out to be a mixed bag of some good time, and a lot of rough times.
First bad thing I noted was that his left eye had worsened. I had to clean it with salt water at every nappy change, but the lids were still glued shut with sticky yellow discharge.

The only good time of the day was taking Robert out in the baby carrier for the first time. We decided to take the chance and inaugurate it, because the weather wasn’t too cold, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. As it was our first trial run with the carrier (or pouch) we took a short circular route around our block, but we still had to stop every few minutes to check on baby’s position, and whether he was okay and still breathing. I don’t think either of us got much out of the walk. Robert, for his part was fast asleep, and was not bothered by our frequent poking and pushing.

By evening the day took a definite turn for the worse. Robert started fussing, and when he finally went to sleep it did not look like it would last very long. I had to eat my dinner in a hurry, to avoid a very likely interruption. My discomfort at gulping such a good meal (oriental chicken with jasmine rice) was compounded by Ron’s talk about loosing my pregnancy weight. The crowning of my day though came when Robert started crying before I even managed to take my empty dish back to the kitchen. This signaled the beginning of a long night shift. Robert had awful cramps and gas, and I spent a miserable night trying to comfort him. I ended up sleeping on the sofa next to him, trying to stay warm under a thin blanket. Of course I did not get much sleep, I only nodded off a few times. Robert and I finally got to bed at 04:00 in the morning.