Ava is 8 weeks old
Ava has just carried on being a real little treasure – sleeping for 5 to 6 hours straight at night, smiling at me and her Dad and the toys hanging above her changing mat, accommodating our social life by behaving beautifully when we took her to a dinner party and for sundowners on the rocks at the sea, cooing and giggling and kicking her little legs when I talk to her, staring at her mobile above her cot with thinly-veiled suspicion, and burping easily (this may seem like a strange inclusion, but you have no idea how much time most parents have to spend getting their babies to burp: we are really lucky that Ava seems to be able to manage on her own).
So I haven’t really learned anything new this week, or had any epiphanies. I’ve just carried on being so grateful for my gorgeous, easy-going, alert little Noen.
Ava is 7 weeks old
Things I’ve learned this week:
- Regurgitated breast milk does not stain clothes! Which is lucky for me, because my tops and jerseys have absorbed what is probably, by now, litres of Ava’s spit-up. My life is so unglamorous right now, it is frightening.
- Going to the paediatrician for the first time is awesome. She tells you stuff that makes you realise that, in the six weeks you’ve been muddling along with the new baby, you’ve actually been doing okay. And she tells you how your baby compares to others (which is shamefully important to me) – like, how Ava is more alert than other babies her age, and is a bit smaller and lighter than most of them, too.
- There is no happy medium (so to speak) between newborn clothes and 1-3 month-size clothes. Ava is too big for her newborn things now but is drowning in the 1-3 month outfits – she looks like she’s in hand-me-downs the whole time.
- The lengths to which I would go to get her to smile and laugh are ridiculous – I have no idea what makes her decide to grin and giggle. Sometimes she just stares at me stony-faced while I sing silly songs and pull stupid faces, and other times she loves it. I’m just glad there’s no one at home during the day to see me making a fool of myself.
- Spicy food really doesn’t go down well for the baby when you’re breast-feeding. I thought I could get away with eating a delicious hot curry, but Ava wasn’t happy afterwards. Dammit. I don’t mind the not drinking, the no caffeine and the no chocolate so much, but I really miss chilli in my food.
Ava is 6 weeks old
Things I’ve learned this week:
- Before the baby, you thought you’d never be able to function if you got only three hours’ sleep more than one night in a row. But when it befalls you that your darling decides she can’t sleep unless she’s on your chest, whether it’s day or night, no matter how long you leave her to ‘cry it out’ in her cot, or how many times you pace up and down the passage with her, or how much time you spend bouncing with her on your Pilates ball, or how many times you try to replace her dummy, or how thorough you are in your checks (nappy clean – check, fed – check, not too hot – check, not too cold – check, burped and winded – check, room not too bright or too dark or too noisy or too quiet – check), you realise that you can, indeed, function. And you do.
- ‘Functioning’ includes looking after the baby, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, celebrating the baby’s first smile, seeing your friends for lunch, going shopping, spending quality time with your man, and shaving your legs. It does not seem to include anything even vaguely cerebral. Not even putting together a blog post of more than two bullet points.
Ava is 5 weeks old
Things I’ve learned this week:
- Flushable baby wipes are actually not flushable if you have a septic tank (I learned this the hard way).
- The African Lullabies CD I bought is highly effective in putting me to sleep, especially in the afternoon. It’s a pity it has absolutely no effect on Ava.
- My baby’s perfect newborn skin lasted exactly a month.
- Googling ‘rash on newborn’s eyebrows’ takes you to websites with pretty horrific images, which is really reassuring – you realise that you are probably overreacting about the little red patches on your baby’s eyebrows which no one can really see except you.
- People’s reactions to seeing Ava for the the first time fall into two opposing categories: “Oh my word, she’s tiny!” and “Wow, she’s so fat!”. I think both are intended as compliments, but neither is really true. Yes, she has fat little cheeks and is putting on over 250 grams a week, but she actually isn’t a chubby baby.
- If she was a boy, I’d have no problem with people commenting on how fat my baby was (even if he wasn’t). I am aware of the hypocrisy of my position, and will try to conceal this position from Ava. I don’t want to be one of those mothers who comments on her daughter’s weight with thinly-veiled judgement, even if it’s to say “Look how fat you were as a baby!”.
- No matter how in love you are with your baby, and no matter that you’ve been doing it for five weeks straight, it’s still really hard dragging yourself out of bed at 3am every morning when you hear her whimpering and niggling. I really thought I’d be used to it by now. Being able to make her happy just by holding her does make up for it, though.
Ava is 4 weeks old
Things I’ve learned this week
- People without children who say they don’t have enough free time are, to quote Dylan, “taking the piss”.
- Projectile poo is a Thing.
- Cleaning poo that projectiled onto the carpet at 4.30 am is enough to make you wish for the days (not that long ago) when you were awake at 4.30 because you hadn’t gone to bed yet because you’d been too busy going out and having fun.
- Cuddling your clean baby on your clean carpet at 4.45 am is enough to make you feel ridiculous for having felt nostalgic for a time prior to her adorable existence.
- Even if you’re back down to your pre-pregnancy weight in 4 weeks, it’s going to take a lot of boring and difficult exercise to eliminate the soft bump of your tummy (especially if you’ve never had a flat stomach in your life).
- Barbara Kingsolver is so right about how shocking it is to a mother that her baby is not actually part of her any more – in her essay ‘Civil Disobedience at Breakfast’, she writes about her daughter: “… in the beginning she was mine – as much a part of my body, literally, as my own arms and legs. The milk I drank knit her bones in place, and her hiccups jarred me awake at night. Children come to us as a dramatic coup of the body’s fine inner will, and the process of sorting out ‘self’ from ‘other’ is so gradual as to be invisible to a mother’s naked soul. In our hearts, we can’t expect one of our own limbs to stand up one day and announce its own agenda. It’s too much like a Stephen King novel.” This is how I feel when Ava announces her agenda at bath time – she does not like it! – or when she wants to be fed – which she likes more than anything else in the whole world – or when she is captivated by black-and-white stripes – clearly the most visually fascinating phenomenon on earth. She’s her own person, with eyelashes that are longer and blonder than mine have ever been. She might be small, but she’s totally herself. This is hard for me.
- Ava is really portable and, blessedly, sleeps very deeply around lunch time. So far, she has accompanied us to The Foodbarn, the Constantia Uitsig Restaurant, Massimo’s, and Cafe Roux.
- In a life without chocolate, caffeine or alcohol, as far as vices go, ice cream suffices.