Itchy !

One of my resolutions for 2008, is to start writing this blog in real time. This objective hasn’t been achieved yet, and I am still lagging one week behind. My cute little monster is growing, and I am beginning to appreciate my life-long commitment to the task. He is the number one priority in everything we do, and every decision we make.

Since he sleeps for close to ten hours through the night, his hours of wakefulness during the day are long, and he needs constant diversions and outlets for his abundant energy. I think he will grow into an active and intelligent kid, who would gets bored quickly. We will need a lot of creative talent to keep him amused.

This week Robert finally discovered his feet. He now pulls at them while sitting or lying, especially on his changing table, which adds of course to the fun of changing his diaper. He moved quickly from razzing to sucking on his bottom lip, to make a smack-pop sound, which is quite funny. He also sucks occasionally on his thumb hooking his forefinger over his nose. The first time I saw him do that he was trying to calm himself down to get to sleep, and he was lying on his side. Now he goes to sleep regularly on his side, with the consolation of the thumb or a fist, and sometimes even without them.

We had some storms and fierce winds during this week, followed by a boiling hot day without any winds. Robert was tired after a visit to the mall but could not get to sleep at all in the heat, and cried in frustration until the temperature cooled down with nightfall. That night the mosquitoes feasted on his exposed limbs and face, and just looking at him made us both feel very guilty (and itchy). The mosquito bites made him very irritable, pulling the stiff leg, and red face trick many times during the day.

We immediately bought a length of gauze-like fabric which I joined together to form a mosquito net. To salve our conscience we also bought a topical cream that the pharmacist recommended for bab. The cream proved useful, but the net was the proper solution, I now throw the net over his crib just after I put him down, and he hasn’t had any bad mosquito bites since then.

What We Can Do at Four Months

Oh yes, we are looking quite perky at four months.

See? I can hold things with my RIGHT hands.

In fact, I can grab with both hands. My hand-eye coordination is steadily improving. Mom and dad have even witnessed some great achievements such as moving an object from one hand to the other!

I love playing in the pay-gym, grabbing and rattling these colourful hanging toys.

My attention can be diverted quickly even while playing, and especially during feeding.

Everything goes quickly into my mouth.

And I mean everything including the strap of mom’s camera-phone.

Some stories that weren’t told in these pictures:

A marked decrease in the number of meals. Robert’s stomach is obviously getting bigger, and he eats more at each meal, which makes him require less feeding. Another thing, is also the increase in the frequency of dirty nappies. Sometimes we go on for two to three days without any. However, when it finally happens we do require a full bath !

Baby is able to play alone now. He keeps himself amused for some time in the morning and in the afternoon on the jungle gym. Sometimes he is just happy to watch the reflections of light and shadow on the walls and the ceiling, gives us a break for breakfast and lunch most of the time.

Rolling over is an established routine while playing with dad, it is getting to be more natural. On some occasion Robert also falls to sleep on his side, and then rolls onto his back again during sleep.

Likes listening and has an extended repertoire of noises. He screeches, babbles and laughs, the latter is still a little rare though. Most of the time he laughs with delight during an activity. He is not ticklish, and has to be tickled vigorously before he reacts with laughter.

Sixteen Weeks: Developmental Milestones

This week Robert was busy with many monumental developments, and both of us were kept on our toes keeping track with him. His grasping skills are improving rapidly and he now reaches out to take a toy held to his fingertips. He spends a lot of time just looking at his hands, or regarding them, which is considered a very important step in his awareness of himself and how his body works. Grasping is becoming a conscious effort rather than a reflex. The little hands have been busy as usual exploring around his face and mouth, and now his ears have been added to the repertoire of toys. I saw him tugging at his ear a couple of times.

His exercise sessions on the play gym are becoming more eventful as well. He now likes spending time on his tummy and has mastered rolling from front to back, and attempts rolling from back to front using his hips and legs. Sometimes however he gets himself in a pickle while trying to do this. He was fussing at bedtime on one hot evening and ended up on his side. Ron came to the cot to find a very angry baby trying desperately to roll forward or backward without success.

Robert’s awareness of his surroundings is now very clear. He reacts to things he sees and hears and lets us know, in a not too subtle manner, when he dislikes something. Ron is sure for example that Robert recognizes the jingle of our daily South African soapie “Isidingo”, which we watched frequently while I was pregnant, and while in the past he did not react to television he now looks at it and shows interest in following the movement of pictures and colours.

The weather continues to drive us crazy. A blistering hot day is followed by a cold one, and the morning sky is never and accurate predictor of the day. Sunny mornings often give way to rain and thunderstorms, while a misty and cold dawn can later enfolds into a hot and humid day. On Saturday we witnessed the most amazing sunset, the pink hues of the sky turned the ocean purple. We only viewed this spectacle from our balcony, but it must have been amazing at the beachfront.

On one particularly hot evening I put Robert to bed without his shirt, and he was still too hot, and only when the air cooled down with nightfall. The next evening it was cool and I had to put him in a shirt and zip him up in a sleeping bag. This is not normal at all, looks like we will have interesting holiday weather.

Fourteen Weeks: Runny Tummy Time

It is typical that we have to get sick right after a routine visit to the pediatrician. Robert had a runny tummy over the weekend; there were no painful cramps, but he seemed lethargic and lacking his usual spunk. Today he is a little better, but still not quite right. Hopefully this little thing will get sorted by itself.

Over the weekend we went to the Sea Point Christmas market. There were many interesting things to buy, home industries, jams, sauces, liqueurs, biscuits, chocolates, and lots more. I resisted the impulse to buy and buy. As in all Christmas markets things look pretty, but they are rarely useful. The only thing I would consider useful are the sweets and cookies, but Ron doesn’t like them.
On Saturday we drove to Camps Bay to see the Summer Festival at Camps Bay High School. The trip was a great flop, and at the school grounds there was only a huge sign announcing the cancellation of the event. We hadn’t planned anything else, so it was another nice and hot day wasted. At least we got to walk a little bit on the main road to Camps Bay, which was hopping at this time with tourists. We could have had more summer revellers if the weather wasn’t so fickle. The south easter was blowing again on the weekend, and it keeps pushing cold weather systems into the Cape.

Since our visit to the doctor I started giving Robert one extra feed before I head to bed. He still wakes up at the crack of dawn for his first meal of the day, but at least I know now that he is getting one more meal per day- better than last week. Now that his interest in the outside world is increasing he doesn’t seem to fuss too much about hunger. In fact, he keeps himself amused for a long time in the morning before he finally decides to raise his voice for our attention. He is slowly getting used to the play gym and a few times he carried on a conversation with his reflection on the play-mat’s mirror. He still prefers being held and carried around, though. When I carry him or lift him up, he has the annoying habit of turning his neck to glance backwards over his left shoulder. Initially I thought that he was trying to look at something from this uncomfortable angle, but whenever I turn his body in that direction, his neck remains twisted in the same position, looking backwards. I never know what he is looking for.

Ron is keeping track of Robert’s motor development, and I think his attention to exercising with him makes Robert quite advanced for his age. Even the doctor remarked on his good progress in that area. His head is steady, and demonstrates very little head lag when pulled up to a sitting position. He has mastered almost all gross motor skills for the average fourth months baby. He can now sit with support, and he quite enjoys being wedged in the middle of the leather sofa, or in the corner of his crib. His expression is normally one of amazement at the new perspective.

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.

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.

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.

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.