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.

Robert’s First Christmas – A Day of Mixed Fortunes

I feel really bad that Robert did not get any presents for his first Christmas, I guess we were too caught up in buying his day to day stuff, and did not have time to buy something specific for him to open on this day. At one point I had elaborate plans to knit him a Christmas hat, or make up a handmade present for him, but somehow these never materialized. I promise that I will work to remedy this situation during the coming year, and make sure he has a full stocking and lots of presents next time. My excuse this year, is that he is too young to know any better.
Mom and Dad got nice presents; mom received something that she always enjoys… chocolate and sweets, while dad got an interesting book. Robert got to play with the wrapping paper, which caused him tremendous excitement and total over-stimulation.

I planned a visit to my work today with Robert. I figured it was a holiday and there won’t be many people about, in there won’t be a lot of work load on the floor, so Robert will not distract people too much, and won’t be overwhelmed with the noise and activity either. I was mistaken.

I carried him up in a quiet elevator to a very quiet building. Only a handful of people were working on the floor, but somehow he did not feel comfortable. He started crying soon after we arrived, with ear-piercing, panicky sobs. I tried to calm him down in the common area, without success. Women from the Israeli sales team came to see what is happening, one of them carried Robert and sang to him in Hebrew, and amazingly he calmed down for a minute or so before starting his tearful cries again.

I tried taking him out to the atrium, big mistake, his cries magnified and echoed and caused even more people to come and investigate. I never thought so many people would be working on Christmas day! Some people looked at me accusingly; others came with helpfully meant but useless advice: Give him his bottle; give him water; he is hot. Finally I retreated to the ladies bathroom. I thought it was a small space he could relate too, rather than the impersonal huge expanse of offices. It did not help much, and the only way was to get the heck out of there. Ron came to the rescue as soon as I phoned, and we deposited a panic-stricken Robert into his car seat. Ron spoke to him softly, but he still had wild eyes. He only calmed down to the rumble of the engine as we drove away from this dreadful place.

I still do not know what set him off, but I imagine it was too much of a change in his routine. When we usually take him out he is in the baby carrier, this time I carried him up, so he was outside the space he is accustomed to. Besides the environment was quiet and a little gloomy, different from the bright and noisy environment of our place or the shopping malls we are used to.

We drove to Sea Point promenade and walked around the Sea Point swimming pool. The day was cloudy with some fresh wind, but the pool was very busy. At this point it looked like our plans for a barbeque will go to naught, it was threatening to rain. Robert was quiet on our walk; it was an environment he is used to. There was even a group of Chinese tourists who fussed over him, the girls said he was cute, and a man took a photo of him in the carrier, and through all that Robert was his regal self, quiet and aloof, and watching the world go by with restrained interest. I had dressed him in his green and red ‘monster’ outfit, to honour the colours of Christmas, but during our walk the weather turned ominous again, and he was underdressed for the cold, so we had to head back.

At home Ron was faced with the problem of lighting the braai. Because of the unclear weather, Ron started the barbeque in a non-ideal location, on our covered balcony.

I might have swayed him into making this decision, which turned out into a near disaster. Poor Ron spent the afternoon battling the smoke which kept blowing into his face and eyes. To make matters worse, the pork ribs we bough were very fatty and turned black on the coals, poor Ron had to scrape them once they were done.

All through that I was entertaining Robert, I held him next to the window for some time to watch his dad preparing a feast that was not going very well. Miraculously, however, things turned out well in the end. Minutes before the meat was cooked, Robert settled for an afternoon nap, and Ron and I had one of our very rare leisurely meals. We enjoyed nibbling on pork ribs, beef short ribs, sausages with sweet potatoes and mashed pumpkin. The meal was accompanied by a wonderful red wine.

It was perhaps the only quiet afternoon we had on our balcony this year. Everyone was enjoying grits somewhere, and no cars on the road. It added so much to our enjoyment of the day. Mom and dad did get a special Christmas after all.

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.

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.