Six weeks

Six and a half, actually. Not the best photo in the world but I know my family likes to see his face. Poor little guy’s got a bit of a rash on his neck at the moment, but aside from that he’s doing well. He shrieks for joy now when he’s looking up at his mobile. And shrieks with frustration other times. He can be very very loud! Photos hardly do him justice really, because of how rapidly he changes expression.

Got him weighed yesterday and he’s now 5.5 kilos and 60 centimetres! That means he’s grown on average a centimetre a week, which is pretty incredible. He’s getting a bit more purposeful about controlling his hands and rubs his eyes when he’s tired.

I was down at the harbour today again, and the sun was blazing, but I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera so I can’t show you. There is still ice in the harbour though, and the ducks are still trundling all over it. I walked around and around the river and the harbour and the little town, and went back to the coffee shop and finished reading ‘Five Bells’ which is very beautiful and very sad.

After six weeks the utter absolute newness of the experience has faded a little, but he is still here! How strange! And I thought I would have more to say but I don’t really, not now. Michael goes away for two days tomorrow but I know we will be fine.

A long week

Michael was away for most of this week. I was very impressed with myself for coping just fine, with the help of a some friends who came over a couple of evenings. It’s very nice to have him back though. Felix did some sleeping and some smiling and some playing and some crying.

The little jacket is the first piece of clothing we bought for him, from a second-hand kids clothing shop in Berlin when I was about 19 weeks pregnant.

The cats wanted attention too, and one afternoon while I was breastfeeding, Mermos was incredibly sweet and sat on the back of the sofa behind me and rested his paws on my shoulder. Then he insisted on playing with Felix on his mat.

I went along to a baby group in town on Thursday. It was so funny seeing so many babies in the one room. And on Wednesday, as most of the ice has cleared from the roads, we walked to the edge of the forest.

The sun is shining and shining and it is lighter and brighter and warmer every day. Last year in early spring I ached and ached for green leaves and flowers, which we can’t really expect for another six weeks. But this year I will just rejoice in the bright austere beauty of an early Norwegian spring. It is winter no longer.

In other exciting news, the little guy’s passport arrived today! It is so funny to see his name written down in such an official document. He already looks so different from the passport photo taken several weeks ago.

And Michael is back now. Hurrah!

Yesterday

I took the little guy on our first solo outing. Drove down the hill into town (when I am very strong and brave and the ice has all melted we will be able to walk down, but walking back will be an effort), got the pram out, browsed some shops, walked to the harbour that was milky with melting ice, and stopped for a coffee and a piece of carrot cake on the way back. Felix slept while I was in the coffee shop, so I had time to write in my journal, and read the novel Dad posted over for me (Five Bells by Gail Jones – I am very much enjoying it).

Walking around town I passed many other mothers wheeling prams. They are everywhere here. It is strange to think I am as inconspicuous as any of them. I see them differently now, and wonder about the little clouds of thought that trail after them, and what whole worlds they are pushing about in hooded carriages.

It was so nice to sit in the coffee shop quietly with my sleeping son. I used to go out for coffee all the time in England, but I do it hardly at all here. It really is quite expensive, but sometimes it’s worth it. I remembered sitting in a coffee shop on my own in Australia just over a year ago, seeing other mothers with babies and feeling shocks of pain and yearning, coupled with a mute and bewildered acceptance. And now here I was, his sleeping face more beautiful than the snowy park outside the window.

I wonder how much my experience of this time is coloured by the loss that proceeded it. If anything it makes me treasure it more, although I could not imagine treasuring it less. I still occasionally feel a weird and uninvited envy towards friends’ uncomplicated first pregnancies. But I do not think of it often. It is like a shadow, a dream. There and not there. Part of the story.

Fragments

A very good weekend. So lovely to have Michael around. Felix seemed more relaxed too. I’m learning to read his signals a little better – when he wants to play on the floor, when he wants to lie back in his basinet and coo at his lion before nodding off to sleep. Much more relaxing than rocking him asleep in my arms and putting him down only to have him wake up five minutes later, over and over. I sort of miss the amount of cuddles that entailed, though. Will have to make sure he still gets plenty of cuddles. But it’s strange – sometimes he does just want to lie down, and if you cuddle him he gets distressed, which you think you have to solve by more cuddles, etc etc. Not to say he doesn’t love his cuddles, but he needs breaks from them too. You just have to catch him at the right time and put him down before he gets distressed, because once he is distressed, he doesn’t want to go down. And of course I pick him up again if he tells me he’s not happy! Although everyone tells me that babies keep changing – you think you have them figured out and then the rules change. So we’ll see…

This morning we went for a drive in the sunshine, past all the melting lakes. Many of them are still frozen enough to ski over, and even to drive little tractors over. Felix liked the car trip but was a little grumpy when we stopped for our thermos of coffee. I think it was too bright for him. When the sun comes out here it’s clear and cold and piercing and gets inside your head. He’s had a long sleep this afternoon and I tidied up, prepared spinach cannelloni with enough leftovers to last me a few days (Michael is away for four days this week), baked some brownies and put two loads of washing on. Michael’s been catching up on some work upstairs. It’s strange what having a baby does to the time you have to yourself – such a pressure to use it productively! I even tried to sit down and relax instead of making the brownies but couldn’t bring myself to… And now I write and write as he snuffles in his basinet. He will wake up soon. I think. He’s a little unpredictable. I don’t need a nap today because he slept like a champion last night – 9.30-5am, and then 6-8. I woke up at 3 anyway, bursting with milk.

So much learning and rearranging. I am tempted to rush things when he is asleep but I consciously relax my shoulders, breathe. Try to make the tasks that need to be done part of my time for myself rather than something that gets in the way of it. And I hope I will find time soon for other kinds of writing and reading and thinking, in the moments between things. But I am not in a hurry. In some ways I had felt I had run out of things to write about before he was born. I think he will change that. Change everything.

I love him so much. I love his sage satisfaction when he lifts his head from a feed. I love the warmth of his small body in my arms. His dark blue eyes that look straight at me, or over my shoulder at something I cannot see. His uncomplicated delight at coloured blocks jangling above him. I even love the way he kicks his legs in frustration (as long as it doesn’t go on for too long). He is a strange and beautiful creature.

Mum

Mum left on Wednesday. It has been lovely having her here for so long. I feel sad that we live so far away and that she won’t get to cuddle the little man every week. In fact, I feel so sad about this that I try not to think about it.

You lose things and you gain things, by living so far away. If we lived in the same city, she wouldn’t have come to live with us for six weeks. And that was wonderful. She did such a great job of helping us settling into our new life together. She cooked a lot of food, folded a lot of washing, fed the cats, and gave Felix lots of cuddles and me lots of breaks. And we went walking together, and shopping, and talking, and found a great coffee shop in town.

I have never lived on my own in the same town as my parents. I think that would be quite nice.

There are so many things that I wanted to write but if I wait until I work out exactly what I want to say it will never get written, especially as now Mum’s not here to help entertain the babe, I have hardly any time at all to write blog posts!

Mum was extremely good at soothing Felix. She said it all comes back to you. But I wondered if it was also partly her counseling training. I pointed out to Michael that she never says ‘stop crying’, but instead empathises: ‘oh, I know, it’s tough for a little baby, but it really is ok…’ Validating emotions instead of squashing them, but still helping the little fellow to calm down. Michael got the hang of it and started empathising with the cats too. He was quite pleased with himself and declared: ‘I empathise with all my creatures!’

Having your own child redefines your relationship with your parents. I am only at the beginning of this.

I have also been thinking about my own grandmothers. I am very close to both of them. I have such fond memories of doing craft with them, and watching tennis late at night, and wandering around the garden, and going out for afternoon tea. Having my own child has strengthened my connection with them, too, even though I live on the other side of the world. We have chatted on skype, something we hadn’t done together before he was born, and my mother’s parents are even planning a trip over here in April!

So I’m sure the little guy will be close to both his grandmothers, too, despite the fact that one lives in Australia and the other in Germany. We’ll just have to be creative about it.

My first two days on my own with the little fellow went well. Sometimes he is great at sleeping during the day but most of the time at the moment he’s not that keen on it, so it can be pretty tiring keeping him happy. But he’s still very good at sleeping at night, which I guess is very nice for us indeed.

He is still utterly adorable. He had lots of plays today with a new toy Michael brought back from Sweden.

He smiles and coos and generally looks innocent but this evening he also managed to squirt poo half way across the room. Luckily for me, Michael was in the firing line.

Four weeks

I cannot really believe four weeks have gone past so quickly. I will not say it feels like he has been with us forever, because it doesn’t. He still feels new. But we love him dearly and shaping our lives around him is no problem at all. I think Michael and I have both been impressed by the ways in which we have stepped up to the challenges.

And because this is a reflective post it gives me an opportunity to put up two lovely photographs that I missed at the time. This, of the little man folding his hands aged one day old:

And this, a few hours after we first arrived home, when Felix was three days old:

Little Felix has grown so much since then. We had him weighed last Thursday, and he was already 4.7 kilos, and 57cm! No wonder he didn’t fit into his little 56cm suits anymore. He now makes little cooing noises: hnnnnn, and ooooo and ahhh. He loves to wriggle around on his mat. He loves a cuddle, he loves his koala, he loves his milk, and he love his bath. He is still a very tiny man.

Most challenging has been:

  • About three occasions when I really found I had not had enough sleep (including this afternoon!). The only solution for this is sleep. An hour and a half nap seems to solve it.
  • Mastitis. Urgh. I caved and started taking antibiotics a week ago which I’m pretty sure was necessary. I hope I keep it under control from here on in.
  • One day last week when Felix decided that the newly fast flow of my milk was terrifying and he didn’t want to feed anymore, but was hungry. He went all sleepy and floppy. I worked out that he was happy to feed lying down so got through that ok too. He’s got the hang of it again now.
  • The air is really dry here because of all the heating, and it’s meant his poor little nose has gets blocked up easily. The first time we noticed it we gave him a bath in desperation at 4am (the steam helps). Mum went to the pharmacy for us the next day and got these little vials of salt water to drip into his nose which solve the problem. He doesn’t mind it too much.
  • Not being able to have a cup tea whenever I like. No way am I prepared to have a hot drink while holding him…

He’s not quite as sleepy as he was for the first two weeks, and every day is different, but he still sleeps pretty well at night. He wakes at least once every night but has got good at going back to sleep quickly. We are constantly learning new tricks to calm him down when needed – he loves being on the change table for some reason, and getting the hang of handling him more competently. He loves flopping over our shoulders. It has been just amazing having Mum with us for all this time (she goes back this Wednesday), but I will write more about that later.

It is hard to make a list about what is most lovely about him because he is pure loveliness.

  • His little gooos and aaahs and hnnns.
  • His utter earnestness.
  • His delight.
  • Actually, the immediacy and intensity of all his emotions. If feeding isn’t going the way he wants he will yell in frustration and a split-second later rearrange his features into eager anticipation. Or if he is very tired he will cry loudly in your arms and then very suddenly be asleep.
  • His warm soft head.
  • His beautiful eyes on my face.
  • The way he kicks his legs in the bath.
  • His warm body sleeping in my lap.

This one’s for Nanna

Now that the little man loves to play on the floor where it’s a bit colder, Nanna (his other great-grandmother)’s cardigans are coming into their own.

He really really loves his koala. He talks to him. And knocks him over. In the photo above the penguin’s already been got. Agh he’s growing up so fast! All the little suits that fit him perfectly last week are now too short…

Ready to go

Hat and overalls by my friend Kylie; jumper by his Great-grandma. He has so many great clothes!

Had a trip into Halden town centre today with Mum and the pram. People admired the little man at every turn. He slept through the whole thing save for the last ten minutes. Pizza at our favourite restaurant, and lots of shopping. It is so, so lovely having Mum here; I am trying to savour every minute. That’s why I’m writing this down, as though it makes it more real, our quiet little afternoon outing. The sun shone and shone and the snow was all melty.