Seven Months: Moving Quickly

I forgot to take pictures for Robert’s seventh month birthday. A lot of stress is going on in our lives at the moment and that is why it is hard to keep track of simple pleasurable things. However, I am still very aware of the time we spend together and how we spend it. I try not to communicate my negative feelings to the little one, and I put on a happy face when I am around him. Robert does his magic to my act and after some minutes in his company I feel genuinely happy and so blessed. No matter what else happens, I have him to love for the rest of my life.

This month Robert has become mobile. He is crawling all around and covering a lot of ground with increasing speed. I took some pictures of him wearing a small baby jacket I crocheted for baby Olivia, who was finally born on the 26th of March. One can tell that he is not overly impressed with wearing pink.

He is finally starting to utter da da da, and sometimes tha tha. I note, though, that he still has a marked preference for ma ma ma. Last week Ron had the late babysitting shift, and told me that the baby was whiny, complaining a lot, and calling ma ma ma. Obviously he had some stomach ailment characterized by frequent spit up and general indisposition. The food couldn’t have caused such a problem, and my only explanation is that he is now exposed to a wider variety of germs, tramping around on the floor, whether here in our flat or at Jackie’s place. Of course, the endless teething can still be the root of all trouble. I can feel the outline of the two little bottom incisors but they haven’t put in an appearance yet. It seems unlikely now that they will show up before the end of the month.

Another interesting development is Robert’s new-found ability to pull himself up to a standing position. This can happen anywhere but mostly in the cot. It follows that it is more difficult to keep him lying down when he doesn’t want to sleep. Because he pulls himself up to a standing position and continues to complain until somebody comes to the rescue. One morning I was waiting in vain for his cries to subside, and decided to check on him. I was surprised to find him holding on to the cot’s edge and complaining. It was the first time I saw this happen, so I burst out laughing at the funny pictures. Robert did not think it was funny at all, and started crying with bitterness and hurt feelings.

Miriam has gone AWOL. I think that she has finally found an office job, and frankly she is more than capable for a regular job, and overqualified as a nanny. Pity, because I really liked her and Robert did too. But I had a feeling throughout our acquaintance that she wasn’t really interested. I have to trust my instincts more, they are usually very accurate. Now I have some complex arrangement to look after Robert and they will probably work out for a few weeks in our new and evolving circumstances.

I am starting to take more pictures of Robert in the park. The nannies love him and often carry him and play with him. I am also starting to get more involved in our play together at the park. He enjoys being on the swing and crawling around on the grass.



Finally, here are some funny pictures of my little boy:

Standing in his crib and razzing with great concentration

A somewhat glum expression

Crawling into small spaces.

Reaching up for trouble.

Since he is capable of all this, I have removed the bassinet from the crib, and he now sleeps on the lowest level, and cannot possibly jump or lean out.

Working Through It

Robert is thriving despite our problems, and it is a balm to my heart to watch him grow and share moments of play and laughter. This week he started clapping his hands with enthusiasm. I don’t know whether it is the rhythm of the music or just a reflex, but he did it for the first time as we were listening to some of the songs on my MP3 phone. Yesterday, he gave me such a laugh. I wanted to put him to bed for one of his morning naps, but he wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet, and his complaining kept getting louder and louder, so I went to check on him and found him standing up, holding the edge of his crib, with an indignant face. At the sight of him I burst out laughing, and I guess he took offence because he started crying bitterly with real tears. Of course, I had to carry him in my arms, and hold him for a little bit, and apologize for making fun of him.

Saturday Miriam showed up and we went through the whole baby routine together, and I was hoping that she will show up on Tuesday, when Ron and I had an important appointment, but she has something else planned, and now I need to find alternative arrangement. Thank God for Jackie, she always comes through for me at the correct time.

Thank God for Friends

I went with Jackie this morning to drop off Kirsten at the airport. The sun is just starting to rise over the Atlantic and it is going to be another gorgeous day on the southern tip of Africa. Last night I had a chance to go out with the girls for a little farewell dinner, and we all had a nice evening.

Robert’s adventures during Kirsten’s visit to Cape Town included his first time at a restaurant with mom. Kirsten invited me and Jackie to a Sushi lunch at Saul’s. It was a special occasion for me because I haven’t had sushi in over a year. Robert was mostly obliging but needed some attention midway through the meal, where I had to take a break and give him a feed. It was great that we decided to go out during lunchtime, the restaurant was not too busy and we could pass the baby around and entertain him between us, without much disturbance to the patrons.

During the past week I spent a lot of time with the girls either visiting at Jackie’s or at the park. Kirsten came over to dinner one day, and stuck around many times for feeding sessions, bath and bedtime, while I was home on my own. Her visit was a godsend for me; it helped me deal with the current stress of my life at the moment. I am still trying to get re-licensed for my load control work, and Ron is proving to be a reluctant child-care provider at home. Things are not going to get any easier for sure. I still haven’t heard from Miriam, and if I contemplate the emotional and financial cost of having a nanny it makes me sick, but that is the way things are going to be in the future. From the moment of conception, a baby is by and large a woman’s problem, and this is proving true in my case as well. But no matter how things turn out, having Robert in my life is worth it. He is the reason why I wake up every morning; he simply makes my life worth living.

Ron deals with problems differently. He has now a new constellation of friends, with whom he hangs out frequently. I am not needed in this arrangement, and I don’t think he wants me to ever meet his friends. It is his way of having his own life. He pointed out to me once that I should never try to pursue other interests while looking after Robert or breastfeeding him. “You have to understand that you have no life anymore, your life is the little boy”, he said. Of course, I knew that from the moment Robert was born. He is my life, and I am happy to have it that way. The way Ron said it, however, makes it sound like a prison sentence. At the moment I am trying to come to terms with this attitude, but our relationship has taken strain as a result. Caring for Robert is not a chore, and it makes me really angry when he views it as such. It is a privilege to be around and care for a healthy, happy, and intelligent child. It is wonderful to look into his innocent eyes and see the unconditional love and trust he bestows on us as his parents. I would give anything in the world to be able to care for him myself rather than hand him over to a nanny. In this respect, our priorities and attitudes – as they are over almost everything else- are vastly different.

I am glad that Robert is still blissfully ignorant of the stress. He is mostly happy and contented. If ever he is fussy, then it is because of his itching gum. I noticed also that putting him onto solids is giving him some constipation, and I bought him a natural laxative which the paediatrician recommended. On my next visit to the nurse I need to ask whether it is advisable to use it regularly.

Today’s funny pictures: I tried to catch him on camera in the middle of one of his razzing sessions, and the result is what you see here. It looks like the symphony of razzing requires a lot of concentration. This week also he is starting to make up babbling syllables. I am very excited that he has mastered: ma ma ma, and is starting on ba ba ba. We await the first incident of da da da any day now.

Times Together and Times Apart

Robert’s mom is back to work part time as of today. It is strange to show up at the office again and try to be part of the team. During the months that I was away a lot changed and I have to work for the first few weeks together with a coach. Dad has passed a milestone today as well, looking after Robert for almost five hours. He did not have a great success in putting him down for his morning nap, but I did not have any better luck either. By six thirty poor Robert was so whipped he went to sleep immediately after the feed.

I think we made some progress –hopefully- in finding someone to look after Robert for the weekends, when I work the longer shifts. Miriam is a wonderful lady, and I hope she will prove to be a keeper. The only problem is that she cannot arrive earlier than nine in the morning and has to leave by six thirty in the evening at the latest. This means that the pressure will be still on Ron to take over for roughly four hours per day. Unfortunately, I will face the same problem whenever I hire any African lady, because they rely on public transport, so this cannot be helped unless I quit. The other option is to hire an au-pair, who commands a higher salary than mine, and then it doesn’t make sense at all.

Robert and I still go often to the park to enjoy the warm autumn weather. These days, he is happy to spend longer times there and interact somewhat with other moms and children. Today I had a nice visit with a few moms, and Robert charmed everyone with his giggles and smiles. I managed to get home after a couple of loud squeals and we did not get a full performance of his crying orchestra. I think he is a very happy and content baby, especially considering the little sleep he got today. If he is just a little bit cranky then it is because of his aching gums.

Over the weekend Ron and I went and bought a new supply of clothing for the little guy. He has finally outgrown the outfits I received as a present for his birth. We also bought him a set of huge plastic keys, designed as teething aids, and a small tube of teething gel. I think his first tooth will be making an appearance before the end of the month.

Another milestone for today was Robert’s first tablespoon of butternut pumpkin. Last week I cooked the pumpkin, pureed and froze it in an ice cube tray. Then I emptied the frozen portions in freezer bags. This morning I put one frozen cube in the fridge to defrost, and I later gave it to Robert as a lunch snack. He enjoyed immensely, perhaps because it was still cold and soothing to his gums. Butternut is very popular with babies because of its smooth texture and sweetness. Tomorrow I will give him a larger portion.

Mommy’s Separation Anxieties

It has been a busy week, and I have many things on my mind. I am still trying to find a nanny to look after Robert on the weekends when I am supposed to work for full 8-hour shifts. Initially I shrugged this problem off, Scarlett O’Hara-style, and thought I would deal with it later. It proved to be more complicated than I expected.

Agencies that provide domestic help cater only for regular working hours, and want to place people on full-time schedule, not what I need. An Au Pair, on the other hand, will claim more than my salary’s worth. I am also extremely paranoid about handing Robert over to somebody who posted on the notice board, and would prefer somebody who has known references. I am still putting the word out there, and starting to look at possible candidates.

Robert has made so much progress in the last weeks, he is now completely at ease in an upright sitting posture, and I have taken so many pictures to prove it. He can also lift himself up, when there are things around to hold on to. This first happened at the worst possible location; the changing table. He holds on to the side of the changing mat and looks down at me while I fill his bathtub. I no longer trust to be more than a foot away from the changing table.

The weather is starting to change slowly. Last Sunday at the park, Robert and I spent some of our time sitting basking in the warmth of the sun, where previously we sheltered from its blistering heat under the shady trees. For Robert, the park is much more fun than the promenade, because we can sit on and play on the grass in the park. He also meets a lot of little friends. For me it is my main contact with prospective nannies.

Last week we started introducing formula bottles to Robert. It was a struggle initially. He kept playing with the silicon nipple and chewing it, until he figured out that there is actually something to drink in there, but even then it took him some time to get to the taste. Formula milk looks much thicker and more substantial than breast milk, but he is starting to get the taste. Last week I spent almost half an hour trying to talk him into drinking 25ml, now Ron gives him a 100ml bottle in the morning, without much difficulty.

I feel a mixture of pride and sadness at my baby’s growing independence. Soon he will not need me as a source of sustenance, and it makes me a little bit sad. But this is one many lessons that I will definitely need to learn, and the first of many occasions where I will have to let go of my son, and be proud and happy about it.

It is very humbling, to look at my child and know that this little person is somebody I will love for the rest of my life, no matter how or what he turns out to be. He is my heart and my very soul, but he is a person in his own right, and I still need to prepare him for his own life, where my role will gradually diminish while my love remains the same. Bless you my mother for giving me the gift of unconditional love. I only started appreciating it when I looked into the eyes of my newborn son.

Being a mother is a very emotional experience, but I am in good company. Don Mills Diva has a lot to say about the ultimate transformation in a mother’s life, becoming a mother-in-law. And I thought I was the only mother who fretted prematurely about the day my baby will bring along his girlfriend.

Sitting Pretty

Robert is now finding it easier to sit for a longer time unassisted. A week ago, it took his full concentration to keep himself balanced, now he is starting to play and grab for stuff from this sitting position. I still need to be around him to catch support him if he flops over unexpectedly, though.

While on his stomach he sometimes pushes up on his knees and arches his back, and then starts rocking his little butt forward and back as if warming up for a leap. A friend told me that this is a clear indication that a little one is warming up his engine and getting ready to go. It won’t be long before he crawls.

Last week we had one extremely hot day, followed by a muggy and cloudy day, then a rainy and cold day. It seems that we are already changing over to autumn weather, but none of us really mind that. Anything is better than the extreme heat.

On Saturday Robert was invited to his friend Demi’s first birthday. We got there a little late because I did not want to wake him up from his nap, but he still had a good chance to play and socialize with some young friends, and a few pretty girls too. My friend Britt organized the party at a kid’s venue, which has the correct toys and activity areas. The hire of the venue includes the use of all crockery, cutlery and the service of the cleaning staff. All one needs is the guests and some food. This is a brilliant idea, because it means that mom and dad get to enjoy the party without worrying about the cleanup afterwards.

Robert was one of the youngest babies at the party, this made his participation a little passive, but he did enjoy some new activities:

For example riding on a yellow snail

Hanging out with auntie Britt.

Pretending to be busy when the guys try to make conversation.

Getting all the attention of a pretty girl.

and chilling in the ball pond

Little Demi was born last year on Valentine’s Day, and she is now a perfect little personality, walking, playing, communicating and munching on popcorn ! They do grow very quickly. It will be still some time before my little one eats popcorn but he is enjoying his rice cereal, and I now give him a daily midday meal of three heaped table spoons.

I am still worried about how we will manage when I go back to work, and I definitely need to come up with solutions for the weekends when I work for the full eight-hour shifts. Ron now realizes that entertaining Robert is not so easy. He is becoming more active, more vocal and more demanding every week. He can also get very tiresome and irritable when he misses his nap time, which happens more often than not. He is also still drooling profusely, and rubbing his gums violently, which makes me think again of teething.

Making Plans

The countdown is on. I am going back to work in less than three weeks. Today I even received my shift plan, and it is time to make plans for the next phase. I will be working four-hour shifts during the week, and full eight-hour shifts on some weekends. Ron and I agreed that I should find a nanny to look after Robert when I work weekends, and he will try to manage for the rest of the time. It is all tentative at this point, and we will have to see how practical the arrangement is. Robert has progressed from half a teaspoon of rice cereal, and can now finish two tablespoons of it. The bottle is in the cupboard ready for a test drive, and all we need is some formula and water.

On Wednesday we took him for his second (and last) Rotavirus vaccination. It is an oral dose, and I have been dreading it, because he had such an adverse reaction to the first dose. This time he had almost no problems. Baby’s measurements this week: Weight 7460g; Height 68.5cm; Circumference of Head 42.4cm. His weight gain has slowed down as it should and he is now averaging 100g per week. The nurse also noted that he only grew 0.5cm in the last three weeks, but this is probably due to the inaccuracy of the process, but even with this Robert is still in the 90th percentile in height. His head though is getting bigger, he added one more centimeter on the measures since last week.

Thursday I took him to visit my friend Jackie, where we spent the morning. Robert felt very much at home, and even went to sleep in her room, hugging a little pink teddy bear. He was curious about everything especially Jackie’s gorgeous cat. Unlike our skittish Petey, Spliff came close and let him have a good look at her (under my watchful eye of course).

This week I also noticed that Robert is starting to put himself into crawling position. He sometimes lifts his butt up in the air and then pushes his chest off the floor. He also lifts his chest quite high off the floor and then propels himself forward with his legs. Most of the time though he inches himself backwards, and I keep putting him back in the centre of the playmate. He now turns over so quickly, it is no longer safe to leave him on the centre of the bed, not ever for a moment. I am dreading the day, when he will find a way to turn over on the concave changing mat.

Camping in the Mountains

After months of limiting ourselves to the borders of Greater Cape Town, we decided to go for a camping trip to the Overberg. The planning took most of a week, and for one night we ended up taking a lot of stuff. This is normal, of course, because –apart from food- the same basic things are needed whether one chooses to go away for one night or one week. We wanted to check out the village of Greyton, which according to its internet brochure, is advertised as the Jewel of the Overberg, and a true country retreat. We also wanted to visit its Saturday market, where REAL farm products are sold. Although we were fully prepared by Thursday evening, we almost cancelled the trip at the last second because the weather forecast predicted a massive heat wave over the interior of the Western Cape. Later Ron decided that we might as well go, because it might be better to let the heat catch us outdoors than trapped indoors in the dusty apartment.







We started out on Friday morning after breakfast and in time for Robert’s morning nap. This was great because he went to sleep immediately in the car, and woke up two hours later as we arrived to the Campsite in Greyton. The village is really tiny, with one tarred main street. The rest are oak-lined mud lanes, with many beautiful old houses surrounded by lush gardens. The mountains give a dramatic backdrop to the scenery, towering over the village which lies literally at their feet. The same mountains are capped with snow during the winter. Later, the family who looks after the camp ground told us that the place gets extremely cold and frosty in the winter. There is a river close to the campground, and apparently two years ago, it flooded the surrounding grounds (and the house of the wardens). It gets really rough out here by the look of things. The inhabitants of the village though are mostly wealthy old retirees who can enjoy country life without having to succumb to the hardship of eking out a living.







 As we pitched our tent, and explored the basic campground, we were shocked to find out that the water supply in the village had a brownish tinge. I did drink some of it before this fact became evident and it tasted fine. Fortunately we had enough drinking water to last us for a day or so, and we bought another bottle of water at the shop.

Our green and blue tent was pitched up under the pine trees, and there was sufficient shade to shelter us from the sun. We also had the benefit of the cool breeze from the mountain, so it did not feel that hot. However, it was hot during our walk on the only main street in the village, but Robert was very good in the stroller and we were able to do our sight-seeing in peace. Later we hung out around camp, Ron went for a swim in the river, and we had our meal of pre-prepared pasta with tuna and canned sauce.

Robert enjoyed lying in the tent and exploring the texture of its fabric, the zippers, the ties and all the other strange stuff inside. As darkness fell we did not have any problems getting him to sleep on an improvised mattress of towels. We weren’t so lucky, we had to make do with the sleeping bags on the hard ground, and no pillows. It wasn’t the most comfortable bedding. During the night Robert woke up for a feed, this is rather unusual, but perhaps he was dehydrated and thirsty from his adventures during the day.

On Saturday we visited the market, and Robert got to socialize with many grannies and grandpas. I was impressed with the quality of products at the market. Everything was really homemade and organic : Cheese, lemonade, bakes, yoghurt, feta cheese, and even labneh (balls of dehydrated yoghurt with herbs, preserved in olive oil). We had a treat of pancakes with lemon curd, and bought a small wheel of cheddar. Around noon we started our drive back and this time we took what we thought will be the long scenic route on the West Coast. This was considerably longer, with portions of un-tarred roads that were hard on the car. Robert slept most of the time, and awoke only briefly as we were having lunch near Betty’s Bay. We were driving during the worst heat of the day, and at times the temperature gauge soared to 38 degrees (for outside heat). As we were heading for the final stretch of road towards Gordon’s Bay, I was getting extremely worried about Robert’s continued lethargy. We found the first available parking in Gordon’s Bay and I fished the little one out of his car seat. He was thoroughly wet and completely limp; it gave me a horrible fright for a couple of seconds until he opened his very sleepy eyes. I changed his drenched diaper quickly while he was still waking up, and then fed him for almost twenty minutes. He stayed awake but calm for the rest of the way home.

The apartment was a furnace when we arrived, and we got very little sleep that night. It was easily the hottest night we experienced in all our years in South Africa. The trip could have been termed a success, if Ron did not catch some stomach bug. He thinks it is either something carried by the flies in the campground or the brown water we used for brushing teeth.

Too Much Thinking

Too much thinking makes the head ache, and sometimes makes you physically ill. Robert is not the culprit this time; there are too many things to consider as far as our life in general is concerned. Needless to say, it has been a tough week.

Ron’s birthday was one bright spot there, but after it things started rolling downhill. Ron was under the weather for days, and therefore avoided contact with baby . As a result the three of us ended up feeling pretty down, and the oppressive heat made matters even worse.

On the up side, Robert is starting to have some social life. There is a tiny park about ten minutes from our place, where I escape during the hottest times of day. I met some moms, dads and nannies, and Robert made a few young friends. The friendship is a little one sided at this point, because my little one is rendered speechless in front of his young admirers, but it is still a start. The park has half a dozen benches, and is surrounded by a few big trees that provide shade. The grass is well maintained, and clean. There is also a dog training area adjoined to the park, but a fence separates it from the main park area. Dogs aren’t allowed in the main park area, which helps keep the place clean of land mines, but they still need to access their area through the park, I had to protect my little pup from wet tongues and noses, a couple of times, before owners took charge of their four-legged friends.

In addition to social development, Robert is becoming more tolerant of the wide world outside. He has very few objections now to sitting in the stroller, and is comfortable enough in it to fall asleep when tired. Yes, he still cries and fusses before he finally nods of but that is not so bad.

His other skills are developing rapidly, he sits up with support now for a long time without any problems, and if he has something to hold on too he can even keep his balance for a little bit without support behind his back. This week he also started rolling over onto his stomach before falling asleep. I still try to put him on his back again, but when I check on him one final time before turning in myself, I sometimes find him sleeping on his stomach or more often on his side. Robert is also more vocal with razzing and babbling. I think of his razzing as a form of singing, he goes onto a long session of it when he is relaxing in the bath. As for his play, it is getting more interactive as he explores the principle of cause and effect: He lets stuff drop to the floor so that we give it back to him, he grips the handle of the cupboard to pull it ajar, or swings the gate back and forth. These games are played under our close supervision of course, and he is content to play them for a long time, or for as long as our patience holds.