Weaning Antonia

I always meant to write a post about weaning Felix, but I never did. I wish I had. With him I reduced his feeds gradually over a few weeks, and then suddenly got hit with mastitis while we were in holiday in Austria. The doctor there gave me antibiotics and a pill to take to stop milk production. It was hard to make myself take it, I felt so sad. I remember standing in the little kitchen of our holiday apartment, hesitating, holding it in my hands, and then going for a long walk through the wildflower meadows. I weaned him at 17 months, mostly because I was eager to have another baby, and my body wasn’t up for that with him feeding every hour or so over night, which he had done since he was three months old. Once he was weaned he started sleeping like a champion.

Antonia likes to feed all night too. At least every two hours, and more frequently as morning approaches. I have cherished my breastfeeding relationship with Antonia, although it has at times been gruelling. Felix would always do a decent stretch of sleep in the early evening but Antonia never did, always requiring more within half an hour of going down, and more again two hours after that. I have fed on demand and fed her to sleep and it has been the magic cure-all for everything – if she trips over, if she’s tired, if she’s missing me, if she’s bored. She has delighted in it, to the embarrassment of some. Whenever I talked to my parents on skype she decided it was a good time to take advantage, and I think she was showing off. ‘Meh!’ she would declare, with emphasis and clear delight.

Her requests in recent weeks have included: ‘Meh time!’ ‘Meh outside!’ ‘Bedtime meh’ ‘Meh sofa!’ ‘Sit down Mummy’ ‘Meh now!’ Meh – yah?’ And the solemn, throaty, trusting ‘uh side’ (other side). I only ever used to feed her one side at a time but when I tried to cut down the night feeds a month or so ago I let her have two sides before bed, and she thought that was fantastic and needed to be experienced on every occasion. This was not a problem really during the day but quite frustrating at 1 and 3 and 5 in the morning.

I always planned to night-wean her in the summer holidays and I did, almost. I wasn’t willing to give up my sleep-ins so gave her a free pass around 5. Which crept back to 4.30, then 4, and then…

She got a couple of little colds, and wanted to feed all day and all night. We would get home from work and she would tantrum on the floor because I was cooking dinner and not breastfeeding. She would climb on my lap when I was eating breakfast and try to help herself. I started to resent it. This wasn’t nice for either of us. After a particularly disturbed night after her second birthday party on Sunday, on Monday this week I decided I’d had enough. I would just stop. That would be it. Classes start next week, I would have a week to get through the worst of it. I couldn’t bear the thought of another semester balancing precariously on nights of patchwork sleep, and the restriction of not being able to leave her at night.

It’s been going well. Last night at bedtime she said ‘all gone meh’. And when I picked her up from day care today, she said, cheerfully, firmly, in her little sing-song way, ‘no meh’. She is still disconsolate in the middle of the night but she is getting used to it. This evening, when I turned off the nursery rhymes we’d been watching after her bath, she said ‘meh now, peees?’ And I would have liked to, oh, I would. ‘Peees, peees, peeees!’ ‘Look,’ I said, ‘you can have some more weetbix if you’re still hungry.’ ‘Strawberry?’ she said. ‘Raspberry?’ And picked one up from the table as we went past on our way downstairs and that was the end of it. It is bittersweet.

I feel lighter already, younger, even. There is a heaviness to nursing – a beautiful heaviness, but a heaviness all the same. And, as Andie Fox has memorably put it, extended breastfeeding can be ‘a lazy mothers best friend‘. As it fixes everything, you can pacify them without having to think too much about it. You can sleep in together. You can entertain them wordlessly while you finish a conversation with a friend. You can bribe them to come to bed. In short, it is lovely, and an excellent tool. But there are other ways of doing things.

I feel I have been more alert and attentive to her since I’ve stopped. I feel I have more to give of the rest of me.

Of course the milk is not gone, yet. It will take a while. I have been expressing in the shower morning and night, but I think I’ll be able to drop to once a day soon, and gradually express less and less. I was terrified the first couple of days that I would develop another infection. It hurt. What am I doing to myself? I thought. I even got hold of antibiotics and intend to keep them close by me over the weeks to come. But now it seems to be okay. I am glad I didn’t have to take a pill, like the first time. This slow ebb is better.


I wrote this post two or three weeks ago, but it didn’t feel finished and I never got back to it. I remember Michael saying ‘soon the breastfeeding will just exist in your memory’. Which isn’t quite true. Antonia still remembers it, but she’s not upset or wistful in any way. She sat on my lap the other day, and declared cheerfully, ‘drink meh last time!’ (Last time I sat here I drank ‘meh’.) It’s more than a memory – it’s part of her body, and mine. But it’s ok that that part is over.

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Nearly Two

For more than a year, after Antonia’s bath, I would wrap her up in a towel and jiggle her up and down in front of the mirror. ‘Who’s my baby bundle, who’s my baby bundle?’ I would sing. ‘Antonia! Antonia! Anto-ni-a!’ And she would giggle and ask for more. Eventually she would ask for ‘baby bundle’ herself as I was drying her. And then, about a month ago, she started asking for ‘baby bundle’, and then interrupting with a cheeky ‘Nei!’ as soon as I started. ‘What?’ I asked her. ‘Where’s my baby bundle?’ ‘Gone’, she’d shrug. ‘All gone.’

My Mum was recently here for a month, and just before she left, so say, the 8th or 9th of July, as Antonia turned 23 months old, something shifted. It was palpable. Until that day she’d said yes to nearly everything, or, to be precise, ‘Yah’. She said ‘yah’ because she was a generally agreeable soul, and she’d also say it when she wasn’t sure what else to say. Sometimes it was bright and emphatic, sometimes a low drawl that always made us smile. But all of a sudden, she’s nearly two, and has discovered the delights of ‘no’.’Did you have fun in the barnehage’, we ask. ‘Nei!’ she chirrups. ‘Not!’

She’s discovered that she can scream really loudly for a long time, even in the middle of the night, if she’s not pleased about something. Long repressed memories of Felix at the same age have begun resurfacing.

She still mixes up her pronouns a bit but has started using the first person and speaking in sentences. She can say pretty much anything she likes and her pronunciation is getting clearer and clearer. Until recently, everything was ‘help-oo’, or ‘Mummy help-oo (you)’, but she’s started throwing in the odd ‘me’ or just leaving out the ‘you’ altogether. ‘Mummy help!’ When we read the page in The Tiger Who Came to Tea when they all put on their coats and go to a cafe, she says ‘I do that?’

She can count to ten and name quite a few colours. She can, and often does, sing Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with gusto all the way through.

I have been *cough* attempting to wean her, or at least to reduce her feeds a little. It was going quite well, and for a while I wasn’t feeding her at night until – well, the aim was 5 but it quickly slid to 4.30, and then, well… But I had also completely cut down on feeds during the day, apart from just before her nap if we were home. And I stopped feeding her to sleep for her nap and just before bed, I’d give her a feed, read her a book, and sing her a song. Twinkle Twinkle was the song of choice. And it was working well…

But she still wakes frequently and screams so very loudly that after two or so I just don’t have it in me to resist. She’s totally taken advantage of my wavering and is now once again asking for it all day every day, sigh. I try to distract but I’m a bit of a pushover. On Friday I picked them up early from barnehage (bagabaga as she calls it), and as soon as we got home she demanded ‘meh’. I managed to distract her with a huge bowl of popcorn (one of her favourite foods) and some water. We all sat outside together eating our snack. She happily sat on her little red chair, munching away for quite some time. Then she stood up. ‘Done!’ She declared cheerfully, ‘meh-time!’, and strutted towards me, beaming.

Six weeks with my Mum

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Mum left yesterday. It is always sad to say goodbye. Felix says, paraphrasing one of his favourite books: ‘we are sad when the dawn comes and we have to part. But we can meet again.’ The book, which is about the friendship of a duck and a mushroom creature who lives deep within the earth, goes on to point out that even when we are far apart, sometimes just thinking of each other makes us happy. Thinking about my Mum makes me happy.

We had the most gorgeous six and a bit weeks together. Two weeks before Antonia was born of long evening walks, playing with Felix, visiting Stromstad and Fredriskstad, and frequenting of coffee shops. And then an whole month following Antonia’s birth, involving baby cuddles, more playing with Felix, picnics in the forest and by lakes, adventures at the fortress, clothes shopping for us and the children (how much fun it is to buy baby girl clothes!), returning to Stromstad and Fredrikstad with our babe, and many, many more coffee shops. Mum also helped with cooking. washing, waking up early with Felix nearly every day, and completely sorted out some very messy patches of our garden, taking away a dead bush, planting trees, shrubs, and spreading pine bark.

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A second baby does not enable the same quiet cocooning that I experienced with my first. Everyone told me a second baby is easier, and this is true and not true – yes I already knew how to look after a newborn, but looking after a newborn AND and an exhuberant, curious three year old at the same time is a new adventure. Adding to the excitement, Felix had not one but four medical emergencies during Antonia’s first month home! Two asthma incidents requiring ventolin inhalations at the emergency department in the middle of the night, one tick bite behind his ear which got infected and neede two weeks of strong antibiotics, and to top it all off, a pea getting stuck up his nose. The whole family (apart from Antonia and me, thankfully) also had terrible colds for the first two weeks of Antonia’s life, so energy levels suffered. The lowest point was two days after we returned from my hospital, just as my milk was coming in. I was exhausted, in pain (those who told me breastfeeding wouldn’t hurt a second time were wrong indeed), Mum and Michael were sick and Felix was coughing up a storm and getting more and more distressed. I sat on the toilet sobbing, while Michael took care of Felix. Mum asked if I was ok. ‘No!’ I said. ‘Everyone’s sick. I’m going to get sick, and Antonia’s going to get sick, and I’m going to get mastitis.’ ‘It will be ok,’ said Mum, ‘just remember it’s your hormones talking.’ I had a shower, and felt better. Antonia and I didn’t get sick, I didn’t get mastitis, and the cold going around was just a cold (despite Felix’s asthma), not some lethal virus which could hurt my baby.

Two nights before Mum’s departure Felix’s asthma saga reoccured (he gets it every time he has a cold). Michael was away for the week. We had two trips to the emergency department over night (first Mum, then me), then at 9 in the morning Felix was still in terrible form so I took him to his normal doctor who sent us on to the hospital. Luckily he stabilized on the way over, but we still spent the day there, having tests done and getting another inhalation for him. I was so, so pleased Mum was with me. As Felix sat in his bath after we got home that evening, he said – ‘but we didn’t have an adventure!’ ‘Oh’, said Mum and I, ‘I think we did.’

But the rest of the time was truly lovely. It was wonderful having Mum with us during the first weeks of Antonia’s life. Four weeks is long enough for a little personality to emerge. Rare smiles and long serious stares and little ‘hnnnnn hnnnn’s. Long enough for a baby to grow round and soft. Antonia squeaks with delight as she lies on her change mat and looks across at the picture of the baby on the pack of diapers. Over the past week, she has been genuinely pleased every time she sees my Mum – she smiles, and looks intently, purses her little lips, and coos.

In less than three months we’ll be in Australia for an extended holiday, so Felix is right when he says ‘we can meet again’. But I’ll always remember this special, special time of Mum being with us as we became a family of four. A time, after all, of quietness, love and adventures. As Mum’s stay drew to a close, we found ourselves consciously repeating things we’d done before, to close out the circle. On Tuesday, on Antonia’s one month birthday, we went back to the very same cafe in Gamlebyen where we had eaten lunch the day of my overdue control, just hours before Antonia’s birth. And yesterday, we took Felix back to the cafe in the harbour where we had taken Mum the day she had arrived, and then we all walked her across to the train station together. I cried. I feel so very looked after.

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The birth of Antonia Elinor Celeste

pregnancy-birth-9Warning: Long post. And, in Michael’s words, ‘men might not want to read it’ (a couple of gory details not left out). But when he got to the end he said he liked it very much. Here’s a link to Felix’s birth story.

In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, I walked. For most of the summer, the days were oppressively hot, but the evenings were long and light. Every night, once Felix had gone to sleep, I walked roads and paths and winding loops. Neighbours I had never spoken to greeted me from their gardens and tracked my progress. ‘Not long now,’ they would say. I walked past lawns and trampolines and inflatable pools. Once I saw a tiny deer. Once I walked to the forest, but it was the sky I wanted the most – the sweeps of pink and orange cloud, the watery blue, sunsets that would last an hour. And the moon, which grew and thinned and grew again. I remember looking up at a perfect full moon and thinking – maybe by the next time it’s full, she will be here.

The best place to look at the sky was walking by the wheat field. There is a lovely undulating wheat field not far from our house that catches all the colours of the sun. I found a little path along its far edge so I could look at it for longer.

As with Felix, I had to wait and wait for Antonia to come. I got to 40 weeks. I got to 41 weeks. Nothing. My midwife booked me in for an overdue ‘control’ at the hospital.

pregnancy-birth-4At the overdue appointment they gave me a CTG and an ultrasound to check heart rate, the placenta and umbilical cord, the amniotic fluid and the size and position of the baby. Everything was perfect. The doctor estimated the baby would be between 3.8 and 3.9kg. She examined me internally and found I was already 3cm dilated, giving me a prolonged poke while she was at it. It might be uncomfortable, she said, but it would be nice if we can get this to start on its own. Afterwards I felt crampy and washed out. She booked me in for an induction on Tuesday, when I would be 42 weeks, but said she expected I wouldn’t need it.

Mum was with me. I felt quite weak after the appointment so I let her drive, and we went across to the old town for lunch and apple cake. I had a couple of stray contractions accompanied by back pain. I did not think it would be long. When we got back home I fell into bed and had a much needed two hour nap.

Early that evening, utterly appropriately, we went across to my friend Margrethe’s house for brownies. It was her son’s first birthday. We had visited them for brownies and waffles the night before Felix was born, and the day before she had gone into labour with her daughter, we had been out for chocolate cake together. (This time I had tried to pre-empt things by inviting them over for brownies the night before my due date, to no avail.) We sat on their deck in the sun and it was lovely. Linnea rode her scooter, Felix snuggled with us as he was tired, and the birthday boy crawled proudly around the deck, pulling himself to his feet on their umbrella. I walked back home.

As I read Felix his bedtime stories around eight o’clock that night, I felt the beginnings of more regular contractions. I was glad. I snuggled him on my lap as I read, and lay opposite him as he cuddled up in bed. ‘Mummy loves you so so very much’, I told him. I watched my beautiful boy fall asleep, thinking of the hundreds of times I had done this over the past three years. My baby, my firstborn, my little boy. I lay for half an hour after he fell asleep, feeling the quiet waves of contractions and watching him breathe.

Downstairs I drank a glass of milk and ate some cherries. ‘Is the babbie coming tonight?’ asked Michael. ‘No,’ I lied. I didn’t feel like saying anything yet.

I went for a walk with Mum, as we did every night. We walked towards the wheat field. ‘Shall we try this little path through the trees?’ asked Mum. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I want to go past the field.’ We walked past the field and I looked at the light in the wheat. I looked at the huge moon, just one day from being full. I looked at the tiny orange and white berries on the trees. I sometimes had to alter my pace a little when the contractions came, but Mum didn’t notice. In my head, I counted through them. They would get stronger and dip away again when I reached 26 or so. I guessed they were coming every three to four minutes.

When we got back Michael was watching the end of a Dr Who Christmas special on TV, so I sat on the fit ball and joined him. When it finished I told them. ‘I think the babby’s coming tonight.’ ‘What – when do we have to leave?’ ‘A couple of hours, I think.’ It was ten o’clock. Michael raced off upstairs to finish something he had to write for work. Later he said it normally would have taken a whole day but he did it in half an hour.

I rocked around on the fit ball and wrote some messages to friends on facebook. Mum timed the contractions for a little while and they were coming every 3-5 minutes. They were still quite manageable but I remember thinking at the start of some of them – ‘I really don’t want to do this.’ Don’t be silly, I told myself, you need to stay positive. I had a shower. It was nearly 11 at this point and I was feeling a bit tired so decided to try to lie down for a while. I also wanted to make sure Michael got some rest as he’d been at work all day and I was anticipating we’d be up all night. We lay in bed and stroked our black cat Mermos. The space between contractions lengthened slightly but their intensity didn’t. After a while they started feeling a little too sharp for my liking, so I got up. ‘I’m going downstairs to call the hospital’, I said.

I paced around while on the telephone and they told me it was up to me whether I wanted to come in yet or not. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m coming.’

They were relatively strong and frequent now, I felt I had to brace myself against a doorway and flex my legs to manage them. I wrote a note for Felix and got out a chocolate egg for him. Mum packed us some cheese sandwiches and a hot water bottle. I felt so much more lucid, alert, and nervous than I had during Felix’s birth. I must have been doing a good job projecting calm because Michael didn’t realize for a while that we had to leave now, but soon enough, just after midnight, we were off.

At this point I was panicking slightly about how I would manage the 45 minute drive. But I turned the classical radio station on and that calmed me a lot. I found if I slapped my thighs hard in time to the music through the contractions, I could manage quite well. I listened to the sound it made. If the pain got worse, I slapped louder. I was grateful that I had read Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills in the lead-up to labour, as she talks about the efficacy of techniques like this – anything to distract your brain from the heart of the pain. I think sitting in the car also slowed the rate of the contractions, which helped a bit. ‘Tell me if I should be driving faster,’ said Michael. ‘No,’ I said, ‘there’s no hurry. I’ll probably be in a bit of pain, but there’s no danger.’ I explained about my weird tapping/slapping pain-management technique.

All the same, I was glad when we arrived. I staggered out of the car. Being upright again increased the pace and intensity of the contractions. It was hard to relax between them because I had the most terrible heartburn. I braced myself against the hospital walls and sign-posts during the contractions, and paced about quickly between them, as Michael got the parking ticket. 12.52am. I vomited into the hospital garden. Once I had collected myself a little, we went inside.

Huffing and panting through the corridors, we eventually found the right spot (the normal birthing wards were closed for the summer). I could barely speak to the midwives. They ushered us into a tiny room and our midwife fussed around for a while trying to attach the heart-beat monitor. I insisted on standing while she did it. The baby’s heartbeat was all good, so she made me climb up on the bed for a moment to check my dilation. 6cm already! I hopped down again immediately. I thought – I don’t want to do this. I can’t take hours of this. This time I just want an epidural and to lie quietly on the bed and relax. Of course I didn’t have time to say any of this, because the contractions kept coming and coming. Just do it, Mel, I told myself, don’t be scared, meet the contractions head on. There wasn’t time to think. During contractions I bent over, clutched the little side table, swayed my hips and groaned loudly. The noise helped a lot. The sounds I made were very, very low, I could feel the vibrations. In the short breaks between contractions I perched on the edge of the little bed, panting, clutching my legs just above my knees.

Last time the contractions had felt like a twisting, snarling dragon; this time they felt like a quick-rising sea of pain. I groaned and sang at them. I made different shapes with my mouth and listened to the different tones it made. I spared half a thought for poor Michael having to listen to it all but put it out of my head. I needed to focus. When the pain worsened I bellowed louder and louder. Not screaming, roaring. Michael said they would have been able to hear me on the other side of the river. And all of a sudden the sounds I was making changed slightly and I found my legs wide apart and something pressing down between them.

The midwife looked up from the computer screen on the other side of the bed. You need to climb up on the bed now, she said. Michael helped me up. I did not like being on the bed at all. I felt panicky. I need to check you, she said. I need to do a poo! I yelled. She needs to do a poo! said Michael. It’s the baby, she said.

Suddenly there were about four midwives crowding around the end of the bed. They fussed around trying to get my legs in the right position. Eventually we ascertained they wanted me to hook my hands under my knees and hold them up that way. This wasn’t particularly comfortable. I tried to rest one of my legs on Michael.

Don’t push! They said. Are you joking? I thought. Don’t push, said Michael. Ok, I thought. I remembered the book I had read. If they tell you not to push, you need to pant, lots of short little breaths. I panted loudly. I didn’t push but my body pushed a little on its own, I couldn’t stop it. This was new to me, it hadn’t happened at all with Felix. That’s great, they said, fantastic. Breathe normally!!! They told me once the contraction had finished. As in Felix’s birth, it was getting a little difficult to tell when I was having a contraction.

Eventually they said, ok, when the next contraction comes, then you can push. A big baby wedged inside your birth canal is uncomfortable. I don’t like this! I thought. But I thought – I need to work as hard and as cleverly as I can so that this is over as quickly as possible. I clenched a wet face-cloth with my teeth. I held my breath and pushed, three times per contraction. Is everything ok? Michael asked the midwives. Yes, they said, everything is perfect. This was reassuring, as it all felt very strange and very quiet. Only a few contractions later, she was coming out. Wait, they said, wait… ok, push. I felt a large, lumpy thing sliding through. She was out. She was quiet for a few long seconds, and then I heard her grizzling, and then she was flopping on my belly and I held my child.

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pregnancy-birth-29I was stunned. 1.47am. It had been less than half an hour since I was 6cm dilated. Less than an hour since we drove into the hospital car park. And I felt – fine. At Felix’s birth I had been so dazed and exhausted, but now I just felt normal. But here was our baby! Better than an epidural – it was already over. Michael kissed me.

antonia-1-1After what felt like far too long they finally let us transfer to the recovery room. Antonia curled up on my chest and I held my daughter for hours as the sun came up on her very first day.

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One week in spring

Felix has had a fever all week. Time slows, is measured in pats and songs and cuddles and naps and walks and tears. We call Australia for five minute skype chats to break the tedium. Sometimes the little guy brightens up and is almost himself. Other times he sobs. He knows what he wants. ‘Nom!’ he says, demanding a breastfeed, and ‘no no!’ when he’s had enough, or if I try to offer him anything else. When he naps, instead of folding the washing, I nap too, or sit on the sofa, reserving my energy. Night times are the worst, he is so hot and I am frightened. He vomits all over the sheets, twice. Michael puts on load after load of washing. I stay with the boy. Time slows. I slow too. I am with my boy. Outside, it is May. We go into the garden for a picnic on the lawn. Felix is happy on my lap, distributing the pine cones.

2011: Love

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am reposting one of my favourite posts from each year.

In 2011, after weeks of waiting, Felix was born and changed everything. I will never forget the day of his birth. My grandparents visited, all the way from Australia. We stuck around in Norway just long enough to taste the first hint of spring, before disappearing to America for six months. We did some awesome trips, and I had a blast visiting a blog-friend in Seattle. Michael took some pretty great photos. We capped the year of with sunshine and family in Australia. But this is my favourite post of all.
                                                                                                    

September 2011: Love

Last week you turned seven months old. And I just love you so much. (Though sometimes I am ragged with tiredness and just want someone else to take you for an hour.) I feed you to sleep for most of your sleeps. And when you fall asleep, I just gaze at you, your lashes and your soft cheeks. You are so beautiful. Michael took these photos at a lake in Montana. Usually you are too distracted to feed when we are out anywhere, but this time you were hungry, and relaxed, and you fed for a long time, making sure I kept looking at you.

You can sit like a pro now. You are nowhere near crawling, but you have grown adept at sort of launching yourself from sitting towards the direction you would like to go. You are also very good at letting me know what you think about things. Tonight after your bath we read a book together, and you were having a fabulous time chewing and scratching and whacking it. Then I could see you were tired so I said ok, lets go to sleep now, and you smiled at me so sweetly. Then I started putting you in your sleeping bag and you cried with such bitter disappointment and rage, before snuggling in for your evening feed and drifting off to sleep.

At the moment you love to click you tongue, blow raspberries, and shake your head rapidly from side to side. I tried it, and it actually makes the world look quite funny – I wonder if you do it for the thrill of it, as well as to show us how clever you are. You love when I sing ‘open, shut them’ and ‘insy winsy spider’.

This morning we walked along the river, and stopped in the coffee shop before storytime at the library. This is pretty much routine, and a good one. Since you’ve gotten into eating solids you don’t need to feed as much when we’re out, but you seemed to want it. I realised you hadn’t had any since 5.30, and it was nearly 10, so we cuddled together in the corner of the sofa and you fed for a long time. I guess it felt special because normally when we’re out you have about two sips and then wriggle around to see if you’re missing anything. But walking over to the library, both of us satisfied with our morning drink, I just felt so happy.

Settling in

We made it! The journey was long and tiring but Felix took it in his stride. He slept on my lap. Now he is adjusting to the time-zone, all the attention from my family who adore him, and all the new sights and sounds, especially the raucous birds. It is just so different here.

We encountered these guys on our morning walk.

Felix really will need a few more days to get used to the noisy cockatoos. But he’s getting lots of cuddles, and lots of milk.

My parents are just so excited to see us, and have even prepared a special play corner for Felix. It’s going down well so far.