Magic Hugs

CUDDLES are your new game, and I love them. From you, they are the best magic trick I have ever known. Magic, because they have an unparalleled power to fill me with joy and make me the happiest girl in the world. Magic, because they come from nowhere, suddenly and without warning. Magic, because they make this life infinitely better. Magic, because they are from you to me and all mine.

You part with them mostly when you wake up and when you are tired. There’s the kind where your arms get thrown around my neck – often after smiling or crying. And there’s the kind where you bury your head into me – often after crawling up to me to have a little rest.

I already know that one day, when you feel too big to cuddle mama so often, I will miss these hugs.

I will miss too, you falling asleep in my arms each night. I will miss watching your eyes get heavy and your arms fall limp as you turn down the energy which has seen you through the day. I will miss tucking you into your cot, and watching as you turn onto your side and pull your comforter towards your face. I will miss you calling out in the night, and then staying with you until you stop crying. While all the world sleeps and it is night, I will miss holding you quietly to me. I will miss picking you up when you wake up, and trying to contain you as your excitement at being awake sees you desperate to get down and play.

Already, at nine months, I miss the things you have grown out of. I miss feeding you. I barely remember how light you were, or how we held you so you wouldn’t break. I’m not sure if I remember your squeak, that little sound you made instead of crying, and which led to your nickname. I miss how you only took up half of your bassinet, which I would wheel into the lounge so you could sleep while I did the hoovering. I miss how you calmed down when Tony danced with you around the lounge during those crying evenings. I miss how you fitted just in the crook of his arm.

All these things, they pass too quick. So while you, my Little Mister, are in such a rush to play with the next toy and crawl to the next adventure, I will try to keep you in my arms a few seconds more. And later, when you wake, while all the world sleeps and it is night, I will hold you quietly to me a little longer.

Excuse me while the anger subsides

HE JUST wasn’t ready. At five months, six months, or even seven months. But now he is eight months, the time has come for the Little Mister to eat. At last. Our progress over the last week and a half has been spectacular. I am almost at the point of boasting that he is eating three meals a day. Almost. And they are small ones.

I’m not going to complain about the fact that he only seems to want to eat very sweet and well-pureed fruit. I’m not going to complain about the fact that he will only be fed from a metal teaspoon, at the same time as holding another metal teaspoon himself. He’s gone from not eating any solids at all, to eating about a quarter of a cup three times a day. Success.

For months now my attitude has been that when the Little Mister is ready, he will eat. I’ve been confident that he has been putting on weight and drinking plenty of milk, so I’ve not been worried. But a conversation I had with a nurse about Milin’s eating habits last week did make me really angry.

We were at the doctor’s just over a week ago, when the doctor we don’t usually see suggested I speak to the health nurse while I was there – she was kind of the equivalent of a Plunket nurse. She weighed the Little Mister straight off and I rejoiced. She didn’t. I had an inkling he was packing on the pounds with formula and the scales showed I was right. At 7.1kg the Little Mister is no longer in the 0.4th percentile. He’s made it up to the second.

But of course, a lengthy discussion about solids ensued. How much does he eat, she asked? About two teaspoons of solids a day if I’m lucky, and up to eight bottles, I answered. I was actually quite pleased that he was eating that much – it was far more than he had been taking previously.

“He should have no more than five bottles a day and he’s not eating solids because he’s full. You must stop feeding him at night so he eats more solids in the day.” She said, or something to that effect anyway. It was a lecture.

I know one size doesn’t fit all, and I’ve stopped caring about all the advice that gets thrown at first-time mums, but this woman made me angry. It took a few days before I could again believe that I was doing the right thing with the Little Mister and following my instinct by letting him guide our pace.

As for giving up night feeds, I don’t mind getting up. He’s a little baby, and I think he’s young enough that if he wants his mum at night and the comfort of a feed, I’m going to give it to him. If I’m tired the next day, it’s not as if I can’t take a nap when he does.

Yes he drinks a lot of bottles instead of eating the prescribed amount of solids, but he is thriving. Plus, after the dramas we had trying to get him to take formula, I don’t mind if he doesn’t give it up in a rush.

I left with another copy of a colourful poster showing what foods to introduce at what age. The colours correspond to the colour of the jars at the supermarket. I also left with a leaflet questioning whether my baby was getting enough iron. It contained a whole load of recipes for beef and lamb dishes for babies – most of which took two hours to cook. Because yes, that’s what I feel like doing in my spare two hours to myself every night. Cooking shepherds pie and blending it into mush. Not surprisingly, the leaflet was from a particular lobby group with an interest in encouraging me to buy copious amounts of beef and lamb.

On another day, I wouldn’t have been angry, I would have beaten myself up about failing to feed my son well enough. I would have gone and stocked up on beef, lamb and colour-coded baby food jars. I would have tried to force feed my proudly independent Little Mister. I would have forgotten that his nutritional needs are being met, despite what meat lobby groups tell me. Nobody would have won.

For first-time mums, the industry that has grown around marketing baby products can be overwhelming. It can make you question whether what you are doing is right, and it can make you doubt yourself. Surely though, no-one knows what a baby needs better than his mother does? And surely, if a mother is trying her very best, that’s what her baby needs?


A Day for Firsts

Lying on his rug in front of the fire, Milin rolled from his back onto his tummy tonight. Well, it was really more like he launched himself onto his belly and then wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

He’s been trying to roll off his back for weeks. Which is interesting, because he hates being on his tummy. So tonight, after his bath and nightly massage in front of the fire (I know, lucky boy), the Little Mister surprised himself. The move usually starts with a serious back arch, then he looks all the way over his right shoulder, chin angled up, and tries to push himself round. Tonight he managed it, and landed rather unceremoniously with his face planted on his mat. He was shocked. I picked him up quickly, gave him a cuddle, and we continued with some good night songs.

And then he did it again. And again. Except when I didn’t pick him up these two times he got rather upset. He realised he was on his tummy, and with one arm stretched out underneath him, he couldn’t roll back. Ah the joys we will have if he rolls onto his tummy at night…

Of course, I am suitably proud of my Little Mister. I’m also filled with awe at how much he is learning. He has so much to figure out, and every day, he figures out a little bit more. Sometimes he gets frustrated at what he can’t do, but mostly, he just tries again and he gets it eventually. Amazing.

He showed me today how much he is growing up. We went down to Island Bay for a walk along the south coast and a hot drink at a cafe stop with Tony. What a beautiful winter’s day it was out there. Milin had enough after a while in the buggy and I got him out and held him as we walked.

He’s seen the ocean before. But today, he really saw it. He was transfixed. He didn’t even want to look at Tony, his favourite person. He couldn’t take his eyes off the huge moving blue mass which stretched into the distance. I wonder what it is like to see the world for the first time. And to like it. It was a day of firsts.

Watching the ocean

Happy six months

Milin is six months old today. Happy half a year, Little Mister

Yes, it’s gone fast, but at certain times, it’s also gone incredibly slow. Sometimes, in the wee hours, it feels like the time passes at a snail’s pace. It feels like the sleepless nights are endless. At other times, when I think about how much the Little Mister has changed in such a short time, it feels like the time is passing like a lightning bolt.

Perhaps because it’s a half birthday, I’ve been thinking about Milin’s first day.

It was 1.16pm on the last day of the year, and of course, it seemed unreal. He was finally here. He was ours. He was tiny, and light, and fragile. We were shell-shocked, exhausted, and terrified. We held him and our lives changed.

Our first week was spent in hospital, and we were amazed at how quiet he was. Our little baby who had no name yet, was our Squeak. He doesn’t really cry, we said in awe. I had to set an alarm clock to wake him every four hours through the night and feed him. I thought I was tired then. I thought my baby was a good sleeper.

The second night was hard. He was so hungry, but I don’t think I knew that then. The doctors gave him panadol for his headache, they said. I wondered what I was doing wrong and if I would ever learn how to stop his crying. He was a little jaundiced, his blood sugar dropped, he lost weight. But then in a few days he was fine. The doctors were happy. He slept.

We learnt to change his nappies, to dress him, to bathe him. We marvelled at his inky black eyes, his tiny fingers, his alert expression. Tony had to leave the hospital and head to the baby shop to buy teeny clothes, because everything we had was too big. I was scared he would get cold.

We brought him home. He was so small in the buggy. He cried all the way from the room he had spent his first week in, to the exit doors on Mein St. As soon as we were outside, he stopped crying. On the five minute walk home, he slept. We bundled him into his bassinet for the first time. He filled less than half its length.

Today, the Little Mister is the happiest person I know. He loves smiling, particularly at new people. He loves the reaction he gets and he knows that with his cheeky gummy grin, he makes people happy.

In six short months, he has learnt  to smile, to laugh, to babble, to put his fingers in his mouth, to roll from his tummy to his back, to reach for toys and put them in his mouth, to blow raspberries and grasp his toes. Already, he has taught us so much. We have learnt of a different joy and of another love – all in our hardest but our best half a year.