Week 51 (final post)

Ava is a year old

Ava is a year old

Dear Ava,

I’m sure this collection of my thoughts on the first year of your life will make you deeply uncomfortable when I finally turn it over to you. Who knows where WordPress or even the internet as we know it will be in 15 or 20 or 30 years’ time – so if all goes according to plan, by the time you read this, these posts will be printed out and bound into a book.

As you leaf through it, I hope that you can see how much you are loved. Even when you weren’t sleeping, and were sick, and when you interrupted our lovely lunches with your meltdowns in classy establishments – I hope you can tell that you have been treasured and loved and celebrated every single day of the first year of your precious life.

Right now, you’re weeks, maybe even days away from walking. You talk a mile a minute (not in any language that we can understand, except for “mama” and “dada” and “no”), cling to me when I hand you over to your beloved nanny Naume before I leave for work, you love your Fisher Price mobile phone, you headbang and bop up and down when you hear music with heavy bass, you love eating vegetable mash and baby Cheese Curls (not at the same time), you adore the cat and your dad and me, you play with your long wisps of copper-coloured hair while I feed you your bottle (which you are not looking ready to give up any time soon), you give high-5s and have the most adorable, kick-ass little sense of humour (which you share with your dad, of course – it could not have been any other way), and you’ve got this personality and strong-headedness that just overflows in everything you do. You are just so YOU, and you are so perfect.

So, my angel-cupcake (and your dad’s pumpkin-sausage) – happy first birthday.

I can’t wait to see you growing up.

Love (and more),

From Michelle – your mother

Week 50

Ava is 50 weeks old

Ava is 50 weeks old

We took this little sweetie-pop on her first game reserve holiday this past week (which is why this post is a bit overdue). We all had a great time – Ava loved watching the giraffe ambling right past the window, and stared at the baby warthogs scratching around on the side of the road for ages – until she started projectile vomiting on the second day of the trip.

After 24 hours of her not eating or drinking a single thing and puking intermittently, we drove her to the nearest hospital, an hour away. We waited in the ER queue for a few minutes until Ava projectile puked all over me – for the third time that morning, the first time being in the lobby of the fancy lodge we were checking into (hugely embarrassing and I felt terrible about the lovely furniture) and the second being in the car once I’d changed into fresh clothes: the result of the ER puke was that I spent the rest of the day in a dress that was vomit-stained and vomit-smelling; and the way I could tell how serious the whole situation was, was that I couldn’t have cared less what I looked or smelled like – and then were ushered into a ward immediately. So that’s one way to see an ER doctor really quickly – get your baby to vomit everywhere.

The nice doctor there thought she looked like she had a throat and ear infection, which might have been why she felt so nauseous, so he prescribed antibiotics and anti-nausea pills. The pills kicked in very quickly, luckily, so there were no more projectile incidents.

But now it’s five days since she first got sick, and we’re home, and, though she’s not vomiting, she not retaining anything (changing nappies has never been less fun) and she still hasn’t eaten one. single. thing. The only thing she will drink is a little bit of formula and flat, diluted Coke. I never thought I’d put Coke in her bottle, ever – but it’s really the only thing she wants to drink. And considering she’s lost so much weight in the past few days that her little leggings and nappies are loose on her, I’m not too concerned about how much sugar she’s getting. I do make sure that we brush her teeth, like, four times a day now though!

Apparently her antibiotics could be to blame for her dodgy tummy and nausea (even though she’s taking probiotics too), and she’s still got another five days to go on the course. I can’t imagine her not eating anything for another five days, or being as unhappy and uncomfortable as she’s been.

Having a baby is hard in a lot of ways, but the past two weeks, with Ava being injured and violently ill, have been the hardest two weeks in my entire life. I can’t think about anything other than wishing she would just get better. Every time she turns her face away from food or her bottle, I am filled with fear. What if she never gets better? What if this is how she’ll be forever? Or even the next month? Or the next week?

And, as is typical of our luck recently, this is a long weekend, so we won’t get to see a doctor for another two days. Unless, of course, I take her to our local ER – I can’t decide whether or not I would want her to use her projectile tactics to help us jump the queue.

Week 49

 

Ava is 49 weeks old

Ava is 49 weeks old

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this almost-year, it’s that things change so quickly with a baby around, so head-spinningly quickly.

In the last five days, the three of us have worked our way through Ava pulling a top-heavy trestle table down onto herself; her first post-birth hospital visit; an X-ray session; finding out that she’s cracked a bone in her finger; hearing that there’s nothing to be done for it; and discovering that there’s no dressing in the world that an 11-month-old won’t rip off. We’ve scrubbed her blood off the floors, walls and doorframes; we’ve had to buy a proper first-aid kit; we’ve had to buy baby Neurofen; we’ve worried about her nail falling off.

But we’ve also seen how quickly babies’ wounds heal – the cuts on her fingers have healed right in front of our eyes – her cuts that were open and wet and jagged are almost completely closed.

Even though she keeps her fractured finger sticking straight up, and doesn’t want to touch anything with it, it already looks almost normal again.

I’ve never wished to have someone else’s physical pain given to me instead, because I’m a bit of a – well, a baby – but I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the last few days wishing that I could have fractured and cut open my fingers instead – because at least I’d understand where the pain was coming from.

This mother-love thing can be pretty excruciating.

Week 48

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Ava is 48 weeks old

In exactly three weeks, Ava will be one! So I guess this is my third-last post on My Bundle.

Here is a list, off the top of my head, of the various non-food items Ava has attempted to ingest over the last few weeks – and which, in some cases (with the very small things), I’m fairly sure she has swallowed.

  • a great many Bougainvillea flowers
  • a fingernail of mine which I’d just cut
  • the skin of my upper arm
  • a sturdy-looking board book (made so un-sturdy by her saliva that it turned into a soggy mess)
  • a small green stone – where she found it I have no idea
  • a peach pip
  • at least six acorns that I know of
  • too many leaves to count
  • a label I cut off one of her new T-shirts
  • the windowsill
  • a cotton nappy booster (clean – despite what this list suggests, I’m not a completely wretched parent)
  • the lid of her pot of bum cream
  • an old nail file of mine (on a separate occasion to the fingernail incident)
  • her toothbrush
  • my cell phone
  • the fluff on her softest soft toy
  • her reflection in the mirror (which she also plays peek-a-boo with – I nearly wet my pants every time I watch her “hiding” underneath the mirror and then darting up and squealing when she sees herself, and then “hiding” again)

And despite all of this oral fixation, Ava has refused a dummy (as in, pulled it out her mouth and thrown it across the room) since she was about six months old. Life with her at times consists completely of following her around the house and pulling things out of her mouth. Which is no mean feat, considering how many strong chompers she’s got. She listens to “no!” for a few seconds until she forgets – and when she doesn’t feel like listening, she literally turns her back on me and crawls away, with the forbidden item clutched tightly in her fist, as far as she can get at full speed.

The little imp – she’s a fiery redhead, this one – started standing on her own this week. Every time she does it, she seems genuinely surprised that she’s not holding onto anything. She plants her feet squarely and pushes herself off or lets go of whatever surface she’s leaning against and then looks around her with a mixture of satisfaction and astonishment. She waves her arms up and down for a bit and then sees something across the room to store in her chipmunk cheeks, plops down on her bottom, and crawls off.

Week 47

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Ava is 47 weeks old

Ava is 11 months old now, which even my dodgy maths tells me means she’ll be 1 year old in just under a month.

The first-birthday-party invitations have been sent (if you can call setting up a Facebook event “sending invitations”) and cursory discussions have been had about what we’ll do on the day.

Her birthday is a Thursday, so Dylan, his American cousins who will be staying with us, and I will pop a cork on the comfort of our couch on April 4. Her party (and I use that phrase lightly) will be the following Sunday.

Now, I’m not one for lavish celebrations, being a very lazy person who hates bowing to peer pressure. So there will be no official photographer (not one I’d pay, anyway), no theme, no goodie bags, no decor and no finger foods. There will not even be a toilet. Or a changing or breast-feeding area (these two are essential to any successful first-birthday party, apparently – more on this later).

Essentially, we are going for a picnic on the Common, with some bottles of champagne in a cooler box, and our guests will meet us there. They will stay for as short or as long as they like, share some bubbles, enjoy the nature, and then move along when they’ve had enough (or when the champagne runs out). They will also bring their dogs. This was an essential inclusion for us as our friends are at the puppy-acquiring stage (they say that we “jumped the gun” by having Ava, but, in our defence, we passed Go and collected R200 first – ie, also acquired some puppies).

But according to Baby Centre (actually, Baby CENTER – somehow I ended up “with” the US version while I was pregnant, and changing over is like trying to cancel a Virgin Active contract: not humanly possible), I have disobeyed all the essential rules of throwing the first-birthday party for your LO (which, FYI, is mommy-forum-speak for Little One, the gender-neutral term for “child”, as opposed to  DD – darling daughter – or DS – which I’m sure you can guess … this is about as far as I got in decoding the jargon of the dark and twisted maze of mommy-forums before I retreated in haste about 11 months ago).

Baby Center says you should:

  • Cater to babies with varying numbers of teeth by providing all different kinds of finger foods, including pasta spirals, blocks of cheese and peeled bits of soft fruit
  • Have a private, quiet area for breast-feeding moms
  • Have a clean, private area for nappy-changing
  • Keep pets away from the party
  • Take diligent notes as to who’s given which gifts, as baby will probably rip labels and cards off as soon as she gets her hands on them
  • Supply milk, water and diluted fruit juice in sippy cups, and
  • Give board books as parting gifts to guests

As much as pasta spirals have been a hit at baby-gatherings I’ve been to with Ava, there is simply no chance that I’m going to spend Sunday morning cooking pasta or peeling bits of fruit. Also, I only have one sippy cup, and it goes everywhere with Ava – I’m hoping the same is true for the baby-guests. And I’ve never understood the idea of giving guests presents. It’s supposed to be the other way round. Surely. And finally, guests have been asked to bring donations to a children’s hospital rather than toys for Ava, so hopefully I won’t have to take any notes at all. All in all, and completely unwittingly, I have resoundingly defied the rules of traditional first-birthday parties.

The result (*crosses fingers*): a gloriously relaxed affair in a beautiful meadow surrounded by trees and family from afar and dear friends, celebrating and being communally grateful for the fact that Ava exists, and has enriched our lives for 365 – and a bit – days.

Now I just have to hope that the babies who attend are dog-friendly (in my experience, babies can inflict more distress on puppies than vice versa – within well-behaved-socialised-dog reason, obviously), that their parents will be content to change and/or breast-feed them in their cars or behind a tree, and that toddlers can easily be escorted across the road to the Farm Village loos in time.

The one nod to tradition will be the cake. There will be cake. Fittingly, in the shape of a tree. Ava likes trees more than pretty much everything, including bears and bunnies and ladybirds and all manner of other typical one-year-old-girl cake shapes.

What Baby Center did, very helpfully, alert me to was the chance of my LO (sigh) grabbing the candle instead of blowing on it. Who would’ve thought that blowing out candles isn’t something kids are born with the ability to do – much like burping or rolling or all those other things I assumed we’d all been able to do from day one.

Week 46

Ava is 46 weeks old

Ava is 46 weeks old

This week, for the first time ever, Ava cried when I left for work. It made it very hard to walk out the door. But, if I’m honest, I was quite pleased, for my own selfish ego-boosting reasons.

She now lunges for me when she’s in someone else’s arms. Her nanny said yesterday, “Now she knows you. She knows, ‘This is my mommy and I love my mommy’.” Of course, I thought she’d always known me and that I was her mom, but I can tell by the way she looks at me now that she really kind of likes me.

Week 45

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Ava is 45 weeks old

Ava loves pulling herself up on the baby safety gate at the kitchen door. The dogs usually get stuck in the kitchen during the day, and there’s nothing more fun for Ava than crawling at full tilt down the passage from her bedroom, pulling herself up on the gate at the kitchen door, and sticking her hands through the bars for the dogs to lick. When she gets bored, she lowers herself down to her bum and sets off on a crawl to her next adventure.

As you can see from this picture, Ava really needs a haircut – she pulls clips out of her hair, so they don’t stay in very long, and her long wispy curls waft down into her eyes where they just sit and irritate me. Dylan won’t let me even think about cutting her locks, though.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about the sacrifices we make when we have babies. I read a post about giving up your former life and your old self “dying” when you become a mother (you can read it here if you like) – I’m not sure I felt that way exactly, but I’ve definitely had moments this year when I missed the life I used to have.

I’ve missed going out to dinner on a whim, sleeping in after a late night, going to the movies and concerts and the theatre, going for sundowners, planning overseas holidays (long-haul flights now being a no-go for the foreseeable future), and the wide open future that lay ahead of me before I had a baby.

And of course, financially, there have been sacrifices. Although I haven’t lost any income as such because I still work, when it comes to my career, I probably won’t push myself for a promotion that will put me in a more demanding position where I have to spend less time at home – because I couldn’t bear more time away from Ava. We have a nanny we care about dearly, and who adores Ava, and, to keep her and reward her for all her excellent work, we pay her a decent salary and pay her daughter’s school fees – so, even though I’m still at work, our expenses have increased rather a lot.

Emotionally, I’ve sacrificed my freedom. Having a person you love more than any other thing or person ever puts you in a very risky position – I wouldn’t be able to go on with my life if anything happened to Ava. Remarkably, since I fell in love with Ava, I can imagine picking myself up after losing any other person in my life – even Dylan (although OF COURSE that would be completely and unimaginably awful). It’s a powerful and humbling and terrifying thing – loving someone so helplessly, especially someone who is totally oblivious of your love and who isn’t even capable of loving anyone, never mind you, yet.

And yet. Even with the monetary and emotional and social sacrifices I’ve made since April 4 last year, I wouldn’t go back to my life without Ava. Because life with her is a million times more rewarding and fun and heart-explodingly happy than the 27 years I lived without her.

I’m not sure these feelings seem like a suitable pay-off for the sacrifices I’ve made, but I don’t know how to explain it. That’s the thing about love, I suppose – it’s not about balancing a ledger.