Baby, again

Antonia-day5-1The main reason the blog has been quiet lately is technical difficulties – my computer died and I can’t find my camera charger (and the camera is a bit worse for wear anyway). I’ve got hold of one of Michael’s cameras but it’s not as versatile as I’d like and I have no way of getting the images onto the computer I’m using. And the time and energy required to solve these problems are not forthcoming at the moment. But I must try.

I’m typing with Antonia sleeping on my chest – her favourite spot of an evening. She quite insists upon it. She is so lovely. Calm and cuddly and her head smells nice. I put her in the bath with Felix this evening – helping him to hold her head above the water – and it was adorable. She was weighed yesterday at her six week check and she’s already 5.8 kilos and 60cm! When she was born they told me she was 50cm but I’m certain that was a mistake and she was more like 54.

10671407_709543925800904_2566291290407506977_nTo begin with, the night wake ups were way more brutal than I remembered. I hadn’t been particularly worried about them, especially was I was waking several times a night anyway towards the end of the pregnancy, but there is a bit difference between your own body waking you and a complaining baby waking you. For the first few foggy weeks I thought every time – ‘what? Really?’ Now I have acclimatized a little and adjusted my mindset and it’s not so bad. She needs cuddling all evening (but will happily snooze on your chest as you lie on the sofa), goes down for the night between 10 and 11.30, and generally wakes around three or four and again at five or six, but these days will usually snooze off again pretty easily. Felix has even been pretty kind with his wake-ups and I often don’t have to start the day properly before 7.30. Argh sorry this is so boring, must remember to skip the details…

Saturday-30It’s hard not to constantly compare the two experiences – Felix’s babyhood and Antonia’s. There’s not the same seismic identity shift as when you become a mother for the first time. But there is something.It’s more gradual, in a way, but your identity does alter. Being a mother of two is different from being a mother of one – it’s more of a juggle, and more repsonsibility. And Antonia is herself, is different to Felix, so my relationshiop with her is different, and affects me differently. Oh, these observations seem dreadfully bland, but I am trying…

antonia-1-26I love… her breath, her weight on my chest, her sticky cheek on my skin. I call her ‘Puff Puff’ because of her quick puffing breaths. Sometimes she reminds me so much of a baby Felix – especially when she pulls off after a feed, utterly sated, whinying slightly, her little chin scrunched, her cheeks puffed out. A lot of the time she looks exactly like me – like baby photos of me – which is also curious and delightful. She was a very serious newborn – I’ll never forget the baffled, deadpan expression on her face one night when, only a few days old, she drank far too much milk and after an uncomfortable half hour projected the lot of it half way across our bed. But now she smiles sometimes, and coos, and looks earnestly into my eyes, and tries very hard to poke her tongue out at Michael, and is generally very agreeable. Felix can’t stop kissing her. She’s going to have a very good immune system.

10646706_706468239441806_7298739228512698418_nShe was whining in her little chair this morning as I raced upstairs to collect Felix’s ventolin puffer, but when I got down again she was quietly sucking his finger! He’s seen us do that to calm her down, and thought he’d try it. (He’s also insisted on sucking my finger too – when I was chatting to the nurse at her check up yesterday she was attached to my little finger and he was attached to my thumb!)

I’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun buying and dressing her up in ‘girl clothes’, but it’s also adorable to see her in striped pyjamas inherited from her brother.

photo 1(1)And I feel I must be writing countless inane platitudes here, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re falling in love. I feel ridiculously proud of her – of her chubby thighs and the curls in her hair and her soft soft cheeks. When she smiled at me for the first time I felt this incredible warm relief in the pit of my stomach – ‘you’re there’, I thought, ‘you see me’. I hadn’t even realised I’d been waiting for it. And the bigger she gets the more present she is, and I am so very glad she’s here.

Fabian-1

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Ten weeks

Well, you’ve just survived about the busiest week of your life, with great-grandparents and grandparents to play with! You’ve charmed everybody with your cheeky smiles, ‘agoo’s, and exclamations of delight, and have only got yourself dreadfully over-tired once or twice. You’ve been lugged about to Fredrikstad, Sweden, the fortress (twice), deep into the forest, four different restaurants, a BBQ at a friend’s house, your first train ride and a picnic at the lakes. If there is too much going on or too many people in one day you do get a little overwhelmed, which is completely understandable, but mostly you are happy to watch the world go by and ‘goo’ at those who smile at you.

You’ve decided that you only need three half-hour naps during the day (I’m hoping you decide differently at some point), but you’ve been sleeping most marvelously well overnight – we’ve had several stretches of 9.30pm to 6am, which is pretty luxurious. (And lucky, I know.) Last weekend you discovered your hands but there’s been too much going on for you to really get into them yet. You like pinching fabric now, and you still adore your baths. And your milk. Oh yes.

On Wednesday I heaved you up onto my shoulder and thought – what? You’ve got heavier overnight! You do suddenly seem so much bigger. You’ve been here long enough that I’ve got used to you being around, and got past a certain fatigue that I think I felt around six weeks. But I still look at you sometimes, your shiny little eyes that almost constantly seek out my face, and think, but how did you get here? I am very glad you did.

Generations

My grandparents left yesterday. They caught the bus up to Oslo, for a night there, before flying back to Amsterdam, from whence they are hopping on a boat which will meander down various rivers all the way to Budapest. They truly are world travelers! I was sad to see them go, but the memory of those few days we had together here in Norway will be precious to me forever.

As we were walking through Gamlebyen on Thursday, Grandma said if anyone had told her several years ago that she would one day be walking through Norway with her great-grandson, she wouldn’t have believed them. It would be better to live close to family, but one gift of living so far away is that it makes the time you have together so special. And we are planning to visit Australia in December, so we look forward to seeing them then!

The evening before they left, Michael’s parents arrived! It was only a little chaotic having everyone here at once, and they were very pleased to meet each other. Michael’s parents don’t speak much English, and my Grandparents don’t speak any German, but they managed to understand one another ok. Anyway, says my Grandma, there’s always the international language of smiles.

It is a very nice thing to share a child, to watch others loving him. Especially as I have absolutely nothing to complain about regarding any of Felix’s grandparents – you hear stories of mothers receiving unwanted advice, but there has been nothing like that coming my way. Michael’s Mum, Moni, said she likes my Grandparents very much, and wishes she had had such nice Grandparents. It doesn’t matter, I tell her, because you are a most wonderful Oma.

A perfect day

Something about this photo – the positioning of the figures, our paper cut-outness, and Felix’s benedictory gesture – reminds me of a medieval triptych. Also the overblown sky – just imagine it gilded! I was perched on a little table, which I knew wasn’t a good idea when I’m already so tall. I love the photo anyway. You can tell how happy we all are to be there.

It felt so surreal on Monday night when my Grandparents arrived at our door, and I opened it and said ‘come in’. Just amazing. And then they came in and cuddled Felix, and Felix said ‘ooo ooo ooo’. And now I’m afraid I’m about to bore you with some details but we’ve been having such a lovely time that I don’t want to forget any of it. Yesterday, we wandered around town a bit, had lunch at our favourite pizza place, and walked to the shopping centre to get Grandma a new phone. G&G went back to the hotel for a couple of hours to have a rest, and then Michael picked them up again. We cooked salmon and potatoes for tea, and finished with icecream and strawberries.

Today, I picked them up at 10 and drove up to the fortress, where we wandered around and looked at the view. We then met Michael for lunch at my favourite little cafe in town (a very baby-friendly place with space for prams and toys for older kids to play with and a big stack of high-chairs and surprisingly delicious food), and called in at the other shopping centre to replace Grandma’s handbag. Felix was content napping in the pram and feeding in the cafe before we ate. We drove up the hill home again for tea and easter eggs and a skype chat with Mum and my aunty. G&G went for a little walk (they have more energy than me!!!) while we chilled out a bit at the house. We then had such a lovely afternoon sitting on the deck in the sunshine.

I’m wearing the amber earrings my Grandparents bought me in St Petersburg, when they took me there nearly seven years ago. (At that point I was doing my masters in York and I’d just decided Michael was rather nice and I was hoping something would come of it…)

Granddad read the copy of the Guardian that Michael had somehow procured for him. I cooked dinner – fool-proof spinach and ricotta cannelloni followed by delicious brownies – while Michael helped Grandma install phone numbers into her phone. It has just been so lovely having this time with them, and hearing stories of their children and houses and early life together (next year they will have been married 60 years!).

While we ate, Felix cooed and gurgled. And it was the perfect, perfect day.

Look, no hands!

We tried the little guy out in the sling today. I’d sort of been aiming to all week, but was defeated by all the different straps and buckles. With a bit of help from Michael I’ve got the hang of it now, and it’s actually pretty simple. The instructions say with babies this small they are supposed to face towards you, not away from you, but he hates that, and I think this is ok for short periods. I want to get him used to it so he can stay in it for longer when we’re traveling or going for walks etc. He wasn’t as dubious as the photo makes it look, and I think he actually quite liked it. He likes to be able to see what’s going on.

He’s started gripping on to fabrics and things, like the side of his pram. And today I saw him look at his own hands for the first time. Tiny, tiny little steps, and I know all babies make them, but it gives you such a thrill when it’s your own. And he laughs at us, sometimes, too. And we are always laughing at him.

Now. I was writing this on Sunday evening, and was interrupted by a phone call from my Grandma who had arrived that morning in Amsterdam, but was calling to say she didn’t know if they could get here on Monday as planned, because her handbag had been stolen and her passport was in it!!! So we felt very sad that we might not see them and worried about them both. Luckily the embassy sorted it all out on Monday morning, and they managed to get a later flight the same day, so arrived on Monday night. It is so so lovely to have them here, but I am a bit busy for blogging right now. We’ll try and take some pictures tomorrow.

Two months

Feel free to ignore this endless stream of Felix photos if you’re not family or otherwise smitten… With one set of grandparents in Germany and the other in Australia, I feel justified showing you all his little face several times a week. And then there’s all the rest of my family in Adelaide, quite a lot of them. So…

Here are few more smiles for you all! On Wednesday the little guy will be exactly two months old. It’s such a sweet age as he’s smiling and interacting so much more, but he is still a very small baby. It’s so strange to think that two months ago we hadn’t met him yet.

This is his latest trick – sticking his legs up in the air.

And here he is late in the afternoon, worn out from a long day’s playing, sitting in his little chair watching me cook dinner.

Spring!

We had a really lovely weekend which involved much sitting around in the sunshine. And pushing prams in the sunshine. And bouncing in the sunshine. And drinking tea in the sunshine. And eating scones and Russian soup with friends in the sunshine. And flying a remote controlled plane in the sunshine (well, we tried at least but it was a bit windy). It was just what we needed.

(In other news, the little fellow has slept from 11pm to 6.30 or 7am for three nights in a row!!! I’m not counting on it continuing, but it’s pretty nice. He’s eight weeks old today, and as gorgeous and smily and cuddly as ever.)

 

Tuesday Night

Chilling with Daddy.

It’s hard work being a babby.

By the way, that’s the final episode of season 4 of The Wire you can see in the background. Brilliant series, but I don’t really recommend you watch it if you have a seven week old son. Its focus on the school kids of Baltimore is just too devastating.

A day in the sun

Yesterday when spring decided to show her face again (today is back to dense mist, but at least it’s not snowing), my friend invited me to her mothers’ group meeting up at the fortress. It was still pretty chilly, but we all sat around the fire and roasted sausages! Well, the others roasted sausages, I don’t eat them. But it was all very charming, and very Norwegian – the older kids (3-5 year olds) in the kindergarten do this in the forest once a week. Felix’s gorgeous knitted overalls which were much too big for him a few weeks ago now fit him perfectly. (They’re not too small yet, they’re just riding up a bit here.) We trialled our first outdoor breast-feeding session, huddled in a blanket against the wind, and that went fine too.

Then we went for a lovely walk beside the golf course. Yep that little pond’s still frozen. And there aren’t any leaves yet. But it’s very very pretty all the same. The ground is sort of golden and bare as it emerges from the snow. Some patches are still strewn with autumn leaves which have been hiding there all winter.

And I couldn’t help myself but to walk through the fortress itself to the lookout over the harbour and the town. You can see that the harbour still looks pretty iced over, but that not far beyond lies the clear and shining sea.

Felix meets a friend

We had some friends over for tea and scones and the babbies entertained themselves.

This is the gorgeous Aksel. It’s hard to believe Felix will be as big as he is now in half a year or so!

By the way, Annie, if you’re reading this – we love the socks you gave us. He wears them nearly every day.

Sibling rivalry

Today I was holding Felix and Mermos (our black cat) decided it was time for a cuddle. He purred and nudged Felix with his head until I put Felix on my shoulder. Mermos promptly curled up on my lap. I passed Felix to Michael. Mermos enjoyed pride of place for a while but then decided he needed to sit on Michael. When Michael passed Felix back to me, however, Mermos followed immediately.

A long night

It’s a good thing, my darling, that you give me the most disarming smiles upon waking. Last night you screamed for an hour and a half between one and two thirty, and you have an infected eye and a sore nose and I felt terrible for you. Michael is away. But I held you and I held you and eventually you relaxed. And then I woke this morning to realize I’m getting mastitis again for no apparent reason. It hurts. But then you smiled. And when I carried you downstairs, you cooed twice at your lion and promptly fell asleep. You were still tired. Well, yes, I would be too.

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.

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.

 

The end of February

Yesterday we took the little man for his first outdoor stroll in his pram. After feeds and naps (for him and me) it was 4.30 by the time we got out, but these days it is light till almost 6, hurrah! The light wasn’t great for taking photos but you get the idea. (You can’t see him but he’s wearing his cute little bobble hat again.) Also after two weeks of hovering around -8 it had heated up to around 0, so we felt less mean about taking him outside. I asked the nurse though, and she said as long as it’s above -10 it’s ok. So we’ll see. There will be a whole new problem once it all starts melting again, as I don’t like the idea of pushing a pram down a hill when the footpath resembles an ice-rink. One hurdle at a time I suppose. He didn’t mind the walk, and went to sleep. It muddled up his sleep and wake times though, as happened when we took him to the shops. I guess one gets the hang of this eventually!

Things we are learning:

  • He hates wet diapers.
  • He hates being too hot.
  • Simple cotton all-in-one suits are best, as his skin is very sensitive, and doesn’t like anything too tight or too synthetic, or with too many layers.
  • He looks most beautiful in cream.

He is getting a little more insistent with his demands and testing his lungs a bit further, but is still a pretty happy calm little chap on the whole. He also doesn’t like it when he gets over-tired, which seems to happen sometimes despite our best intentions. We love him dearly but gosh this is hard work! Oh and after a dream-run with breastfeeding I’ve developed a bit of mastitis, which I’m hoping I’ve nipped in the bud. Feels a bit better already but I still need to be careful.

Michael went back to work today which we both felt a bit sad about but I guess it’s the way it goes. I am very happy and blessed that my Mum is staying for another two weeks, which will make the transition into my new life as smooth as possible!

On the weekend I finally finished writing up the story of his birth, which felt like an important thing to do. (It takes so long to do anything at the moment!) It feels good to have that finished now, at the cusp of a new month, when the little man has had two whole weeks in the world.

We are still waiting on the documents we need to apply for his Norwegian birth certificate, which we need before we can even think about registering him as one of our various nationalities, which we also need to do before we can apply for his passport, which we need before we can apply for his US visa for later this year. So we might be leaving a couple of weeks later than planned, but I guess we’ll get there eventually.

It has been a most beautiful two weeks. Michael’s Mum was with us for five days, and left last Friday. She was very sad to go and we were sad to see her leave, but at least Germany isn’t as far away as Australia, and they’ll be able to come back to visit very soon. This is one of the hardest things, how far away our families are. But we will make it work. When she was leaving, Monica said she was especially sad to leave because it had been so very ‘harmonisch’. Which it had. But, little Felix, I am most excited to discover what March has in store for us, too.

Birth Story

Warning: this is a very long post. Also, if you’re not interested in the gory details, you might not want to read on.

On Saturday night, just over two weeks ago, we walked over to our friends’ place for waffles. I was bored, frustrated, more than a week overdue and tired of waiting. Waffles were just the trick. I brought some brownies too. Our friends live only five minutes away, and I insisted on walking, trundling my heavy form through the thick snow and biting cold. (The funny thing is, my friend was nearly two weeks overdue just over a year ago, and the day we went out for chocolate cake together was the day her labour started.) It was a nice evening. We walked home slowly through the cold and went to bed.

At one I woke with a dull ache in my legs. This had happened before and not meant anything. I went to the bathroom and back to bed. At two I woke again with what I soon realized were waves of pain in my lower back. Terribly excited, I crept downstairs without waking Michael. The contractions were coming every two and half minutes. If I walked up and down when they came I felt ok. After half an hour or so Mum came down. Other nights she’d come to check on me but I had just been coping with bad cases of heartburn. Tonight was different. ‘Is it anything?’ she asked. ‘Yes’, I said, ‘yes, I think so.’

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Eleven days old

I love…

The little high whinnying sound you make when you’re distressed. Actually, I haven’t heard you make it for a few days, so I guess already it is a thing of the past. It was pretty cute though.

Your cry, when it decreases from your utter pitch of anger to slightly calmer but still energetic. It sounds exactly like: ‘waa, waa, waa!’ I thought in the hospital in the first couple of days: even your cry is gorgeous. Is it just because I’m your mother, or do you have a particularly lovely voice? Fortunately for us we don’t get to hear you cry all that much. But I do love your voice.

The little sighs you have started to make over the past day or so. Tonight there was even a bit of a gurgle.

I love when you look straight at me.

How when you wake up, you don’t cry, but just snuffle and root around for a feed. You’ll do it for ages and ages if I am too tired to pick you up quickly.

How excited you are when you are hungry and trying to latch on. You fling your head around pant and pant patiently but after a while if it doesn’t work you screw up your face and let out a ‘waa!’ Which of course is a perfect opportunity to plop in the nipple.

How limp and satisfied you are after a feed. Your shoulders droop, your arms and legs hang down, your hands are completely relaxed. (The rest of the time they wave and fuss around.)

How when I stroke your belly downwards you stretch yourself out like a little soldier.

Cuddling in bed in the morning with you and Michael after your feed.

The way you always startle yourself at the end of a yawn.

Overnight you pretty much seem to sleep in three and a half hour blocks, with an hour waking in between. So this really isn’t too bad.

How after their first terrified reaction the kittens have accepted you. Mermos stands beside your basinet and purrs. Whitby brings you his toy mouse and wants you to throw it for him.

How healthy you are. We got you weighed today and you are already over your birth-weight and doing great.

The way you’ve rearranged and centred our lives.

How much Michael loves you.

Michael says I look both older and younger. He says I have a new energy about me, a new purpose. He does too.

Baby goes shopping

Baby capsule. (Um, if you’re sick of baby photos already, you might want to look away for a while.)

Pram (fit for arctic conditions – but we’ve been too nervous to take him out walking in the -8 temperatures so far).

First public breastfeeding attempt. Pretty chuffed with myself.

What we didn’t get was a photo of Michael and I walking arm in arm, pushing the pram and smiling our heads off, so thrilled to be finally out with our own baby after baby-spotting in this shopping centre for past year. Felix did pretty well but I think next time we will take him out at the beginning of a sleep instead of the end of one… As my Mum says, it’s all trial and observation…)

Tuesday

4.30. Felix went to sleep at four after a lovely couple of hours feeding and playing with his parents. I quickly snuck upstairs with a cup of tea and a snack-bowl filled with grapes, popcorn, almonds, dried apricots and two oat cookies. I ate them all. I left Michael chatting to his Mum and adoring the sleeping baby. Soon I need a nap. I went without one yesterday and was a terrible wreck by the evening. It is hard to surrender to sleep in the few moments I have to think and write and contemplate things. Hard but essential. Soon. But right now I sit in my bed and look out all three windows to the soft grey light and the tops of the trees and the wood-smoke and the snowflakes falling and falling.

Beginnings

Three in the morning. I look down in a sleepy haze at the little creature feeding at my side, feeding from my side, and I think incoherently – ‘but there’s only one of you! There isn’t two? I thought there were two.’ And then I realize that there are always two – him and me.

Or him and Michael. Michael took so many wonderful photos of Felix and me in the hospital, but I took hardly any of him. And he is so beautiful with him. I will try to take more.

The days are passing in a beautiful haze. Finally I understand why everyone warns you that with a newborn time slides and it is hard to do anything apart from the essentials. I get to the end of the day and realize I have not had the time to even look out the window. After all those weeks of waiting and gazing out windows. Mum is here with us and Michael has two weeks off work and we are doing so well, taking care of each other.

I feel so blessed that everything is going so well. There is so much to say but the words are hard to catch. Yesterday afternoon I lay in bed while Felix napped, too exhausted to sleep, writing in my head but too tired to fetch my computer or even a pen. Something about how I also understand now how everyone says – about poo and vomit and that sort of thing – that it’s different when it’s your own child. I always thought it would just be because you liked them better than anyone else’s child. But it’s not that. It’s that, at the moment, Felix feels like a sort of physical extension of myself. He is his own person. But when he vomited in my face on our first night home, I truly didn’t mind, because it’s like his physical functions are an extension of my own. The fluid he spat back at me had come from my own breasts. And then I wanted to write about how at the moment it feels that the borders of identity are permeable. Everything is leaking.

But now if I want to finish this post  (for which I have forsaken my chance to have a shower), I’d better just stick to a few more photos.

Yes he is here!

Felix Jonathan Hildebrandt

Born 11pm, 13 February 2011.

3.9 kilos, 54 cm.

Felix for happiness, Jonathan for my brother, Hildebrandt for my beloved.

The birth went well. Will tell more later, because, um, sleep has become a bit more of a priority than it used to be. And yes, we have about a thousand photographs already, so there might be a few more of them too.

We arrived home from hospital today. We are happy indeed. About this happy:

Or maybe this happy:

Or possibly, even, this happy:

41 weeks

Getting a bit tired of waiting. Felt quite irritable today. Feel better tonight after a bean and lentil ‘shepherd’s pie’. Michael is even more impatient. He spent hours on the weekend breaking up ice on the driveway. Everyone says to enjoy the peace and quiet but it is difficult. Perhaps I should resign myself to it taking another whole week but I really don’t want to! Bubs is oblivious to our increasing impatience and is happily doing jigs in there. Michael says when he comes out he’s going to give him a big cuddle. He’s also jealous of the kicks and wriggles I feel, and says he’d like to be pregnant next time! And he says if the baby doesn’t arrive by tomorrow he’s going to the gym. Come on babbie!!! We want to meet you!

Thank you Nanna!

My Nanna (my Dad’s Mum) reads this blog, and when she read what I wrote about not knowing what to get for the baby, she promptly sent over some cardigans and booties she has knitted for him! We love them. They will be perfect to keep him warm. And I love the little pearl buttons. I remember when I was a little girl I loved little pearl buttons. I miss you Nanna. We both send our love.

For anyone wondering, here’s the bump in progress, at almost 30 weeks. I get a shock whenever I glimpse myself from the side. It looks much bigger that way than it does from above. He is starting to feel like a bit of a lump in there. Last night he decided he wanted to lie sideways for a while and kick and poke me, which wasn’t much fun. But sort of amusing all the same.

Aside from that, it has been cold. The forecast says cold and colder. I’ve been struggling with the November blues the past week, not to mention the never ending head-cold which developed into a nasty sinus infection. It’s hard knowing that just about now it’s sunshiny and gorgeous in Australia.

Here’s the frost on the balustrade of our deck. These crystals cover everything, every morning. Well, until it started snowing yesterday. I took these frosty pictures on Friday morning, but I haven’t raced out to photograph the snow yet. When you know it will be a pretty constant companion for the next five months or so, you lose the sense of urgency…

The frosty mornings are beautiful though. It’s hard to capture on camera the puffy yellow clouds of the sunrise shining through the iced branches of the trees. And things are coming together. We’ve spent the weekend snuggling in front of the fire, eating soup, figuring out how to better insulate our loft. My doctor prescribed me some antibiotics on Wednesday, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. And I have my winter boots.