Beaming from ear to ear

Yesterday Cameron gave us his first real smile! He’s been on the verge of doing so for days and Colin and I have been walking around like demented Chesire cats trying to coax it out of him. And then yesterday, while we were out to lunch with Colin’s dad, Cam flashed Col his first smile! A few minutes later a gummy grin was bestowed on me too so neither mom nor dad needs to feel left out in this case (what a considerate boy he is!).

Now that we know he can do it, the demented Chesire cats have taken it up a notch, but then we have so much to smile about so why not! To further mark his nine weeks in this world, Cam flipped from his tummy to his back while Col was giving him his bath yesterday evening. And so an eagle eye and lightning hands, as well as a huge grin, are now requirements for these pround parents!

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Two months old – take two

I’m posting a second series of monthly pics for Cam’s two month mark for two reasons (wow there are a lot of ‘twos’ in that sentence!):

  • The idea is to show how he’s growing and the best way to do this is to use the same composition every time. As much as I love trying out new poses (and Cameron becomes a more willing model with each month that passes) I don’t think the photo I posted yesterday really captured the change in his size. While he hasn’t grown that much length wise in the last month, he’s putting on some serious weight and as I mentioned previously, has developed the cutest little fat rolls!
  • We went to a wedding last night so I took the photos yesterday afternoon, as opposed to after his evening bath, and it was really bugging me that the light was different to the previous pics.

So here is Cameron, two months and one day, but close enough to count I think!

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A dose of perspective

Last night Col and I watched What to expect when you’re expecting which is a movie following the journeys of five pregnant women. Aside from being some light hearted entertainment, it made us realise just how much we’ve grown in the last eight weeks. Things that would have intimidated us a few weeks ago now elicit a wry giggle instead. It was also interesting to think back on that weekend that Cameron was born. I went to bed last night with a feeling of intense gratitude to God for how He carried us through that experience.

It was also a great way to end off what was a really good week with Cameron. I’ve managed to establish a good routine with him and I think we crossed the line from ‘adrenaline based survival’ to now continuing with our lives but with a baby in tow. I started expressing milk for a bottle once a day and Cameron has taken to it with consummate ease. This gives me a bit more freedom, but also allows Col more bonding time as he gets to do a feed. Another unexpected benefit is that Cam has started taking his dummy which makes getting him down at night much easier.

We have had a number of successful outings in the last few days. On Thursday I took Cameron with me to the shops and he slept very peacefully in his carrier the entire time. That evening Col and I had our first date night which was awesome. On Friday night we went out for dinner with Col’s mom. Cam came with and slept in his pram completely unfazed by the noise of the restaurant. On Saturday Col’s mom baby sat while I went to have my hair done – something I have been dying to do for weeks and which made me feel like a new person. That night we went to a braai at which there were four couples – us with our eight week old, the hosts who have a three year old and a second on the way, the third with an eleven month old and a fourth expecting their first in three months. What was interesting about that was that the kids are now par for the course and not the main event. We put our sleeping babe down in one of the bedrooms, turned on the baby monitor and had an adult evening. To end off this flurry of social activity we went to a first birthday party yesterday and then my aunt, uncle and cousins came over for tea in the afternoon. (Recounting this now, it’s no wonder I was so tired yesterday! A sleep in this morning and afternoon nap have left me feeling much refreshed today.)

All of these adventures have really highlighted what a well behaved little boy we have. His routine wasn’t affected by all the activity, Col and I really enjoyed showing him off a bit and we’ve got a bit more confidence in terms of taking him places with us. There have been a lot of tough moments over the last two months but they are by far outweighed by the extent to which Col and I have grown in our roles as parents. Even when we are bleary eyed and half asleep, Cameron’s blue eyes gazing up at us never fail to melt our hearts. And there has not been one second when we have not been oh so grateful for his presence in our lives. The level of fulfilment and joy that having a child brings is so elemental that it’s a very hard thing to put into words. But it flows into everything we do and has changed us forever. Yes it’s been a roller coaster so far but it’s an exhilarating ride and the occasional stomach plummeting moments only make it that much more fun!

The preemie gap

Cameron is eight weeks today and getting cuter by the minute. He’s almost completely over his recent bout of bronchiolitis and is once again a predominately contented little chap. He is getting really chubby now, with little fat rolls everywhere (there is definitely a resemblance to a shar-pei developing). He has got the most beautiful blue eyes and is becoming increasingly alert. I am starting to see more and more of Col in him, especially in the way he stretches when he’s waking up. All in all, our boy is making wonderful progress.

However, having said all that, for the first time we are noticing the preemie gap. Until now there hasn’t seemed to be much different between Cameron and a full term baby. But while full-term babies have now reached that magic six week mark, Cameron is still very much in the two to six week phase. His smile reflex is very evident but we have yet to see our first social smile. He is still on a three-hour feeding schedule, occasionally pushing it to four hours at night. If he is awake for more than an hour he starts to get really cranky and he still gets over stimulated incredibly quickly. That initial gruelling ‘new born’ period is turning out to be slightly longer for us and we are starting to take a wee bit of strain.

The thing that is getting to me the most is the lack of sleep. At six weeks most babies start to skip one of the night feeds, giving moms a blissful six-hour stretch. I’m still on a two-hour sleep schedule and it’s starting to show. My short-term memory is completely shot. I am heavily dependent on my lists as I can’t remember what medication I gave Cam at his last feed, never mind what happened yesterday. I read a page of my book and can’t process what it was about. It’s a bit of a miracle actually that I’m managing to string these sentences together at all (please ignore the typos – I am sure there are many).

But the worst part about it, and the real irony, is that I’m not sleeping all that well when I do sleep. I am so aware of Cameron’s every little noise that often I leap out of bed ready for the next feed but he still sleeps for another hour while I doze fitfully in the nursery. I dream that I’m feeding him in our room and then wake with a jolt and frantically start searching for him in our bed. And invariably when I lie down for a nap during the day he stirs 20 minutes later, waking me with a rush of adrenaline which leaves me wide-eyed while he drifts back to dreamland. Suffice to say I am starting to understand why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture.

Taking the preemie gap into account, Cameron should start moving into his next developmental phase in about two weeks. It seems an eternity right now, but we’ll continue to take it one day at a time and try to take the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.’

A reality check

This evening I dropped off our recycling. I mention this because I’ve been trying to drop it off since last Saturday, so it’s indicative of the sort of week I’ve had. Firstly Cameron has been sick (nothing too serious, but still a new experience for both of us). Secondly my parents were here and rather over-ambitiously, I tried to use this time to get a whole lot of admin done. Thirdly, we’ve been having a heat wave. Combined, these three factors have resulted in one exhausted mamma!

Cameron’s health woes started last week when he had a slight sniffle. With no temperature or change in behaviour, I treated it at home with saline rinse, a humidifier (we have this cool froggie one) and a nasal aspirator. However last weekend he became so congested that we took him to the emergency room on Sunday morning to see a doctor (not the cheapest way to go about health care). He was diagnosed with an ear infection. At five weeks, my poor boy was given his first antibiotic and I experienced my first serious case of mothering guilt (why, oh why, did I not follow the advice of our paediatrician: always overreact).

Armed with antibiotics I saw no reason to change any of the plans I’d made for the week. If what I had to do took less than two hours, I left Cameron with my folks. If it took more than two hours, he came with me. My boy has an incredibly high tolerance for adventuring it seems, and only when I’ve really pushed him does he start to fuss. This leads me to believe that I can do more adventuring with him than is probably wise. By Tuesday afternoon I’d pushed him too far. On reflection I realised I’d taken him out every day since the previous Friday. A day at home with lots of mommy-cuddles was in order so that’s what we did on Wednesday.

And then Thursday dawned. It was to be the toughest day in my mothering journey so far. It was the last day of Cameron’s antibiotic, but his nose didn’t seem much better so I made an appointment with the paediatrician (always overreact). I rushed to the hospital for the 12:30 appointment only to receive an SMS in the parking lot saying that the doctor was running half an hour late. I settled in for a wait that ended up being closer to an hour. While Cam’s ears had cleared up, he’d developed a post-nasal drip and had viral bronchiolitis. On the plus side all his reflexes were absolutely perfect and he passed his six-week check up with flying colours (weight 3.9kgs if anyone is interested). I fed him before leaving as there is a breastfeeding room at the paediatrician. This turned out to be an excellent decision as there had been a fire at Eskom while I was with the doctor and as a result the whole of Pretoria East was without power. It took me nearly an hour to get home while outside the temperature soared to 34 degrees. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

Part of Cameron’s new medication routine included nebulising him every four hours. I had my six-month check-up at the pulmonologist that afternoon, to which I had to take Cameron as he was due for a feed while I was there. (I’m only going to start expressing a bottle for him when he gets to eight weeks for those who think I’m overcomplicating matters.) Worried about the traffic, my mom and I decided to leave early for the pulmonologist and stop to buy a nebuliser on the way. And then the drama began. I was carrying Cameron to the car in his carry cot and I missed the last step on the way out. This resulted in me putting the carry cot down with some serious force as I collapsed on all fours. Super-sized dose of the mothering guilt! Cameron got such a fright he burst into tears but mercifully was absolutely fine as he was well cushioned. I immediately picked him up to console him. My mom rushed downstairs and started consoling me – at which point I burst into tears! We re-evaluated our plans and I left Cameron with my mom while I rushed out for the nebuliser. I cried all the way there, popping rescue remedy pills at every robot. I hobbled into the pharmacy, and demanded a nebuliser from the first shop assistant unfortunate to cross my path. On the trip home I managed to calm myself somewhat. I picked up my mom and Cameron and off to the pulmonologist we went. On arrival at his rooms we were met with a full waiting room – never a good sign at 16:30. That visit ended up taking two hours, during which time the events of the last four hours caught up with me. By the time we left, the sun was setting and I was absolutely exhausted.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then and have titled this post ‘Reality check’ because that’s exactly what this week was in two ways. Firstly it was a reminder of just how little Cameron still is. Time has really warped for me in the last six weeks. On one hand it feels like Cameron has been here for months, which makes me a little complacent when planning outings. On the other hand I have to remember that he’s only two weeks past his due date which means I should be treating him more like a two-week old, and major adventuring is definitely not on the cards for two-week olds. In addition, he is still bonding with Col and I and leaving him with others (no matter how loving and wonderful those others are) is still a stressful experience for him.

The second reality check applied to how much I can realistically expect to do at the moment. Up until now I’ve been focusing solely on Cameron with one or two house-bound tasks on the side. However, trying to expand this focus while my parents were here has highlighted how much life has changed for me. I set incredibly high expectations for myself and once again I am having to reign those in – something I was challenged with during my pregnancy as well. With this comes the feeling of inadequacy as I see odd jobs around the house that need attention. I have to fight hard against these thoughts, remind myself of the season I am in and remember to be gentle with myself.

As I sit here, out of the corner of my eye I can see the canvases I was given by the wonderful EMD team when I resigned in June. On one of them is Isaiah 40:11, the last line of which I repeat to myself like some sort of mantra:

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.

Another of the canvases says, ‘Love never fails.’ In the last two days I’ve fallen in love with Cameron on a whole new level. I love how he smells, his little noises, his expressions, how peacefully he sleeps. I sit for ages just staring at him. And in those moments with my precious baby boy, that love just rises and swells, completely and utterly overwhelming every part of me. God always knows just what we need, and I know this new level of love I feel for Cam is a well-timed gift. As a result, when I reflect on this tough week, all I feel is gratitude that I get to be on this amazing journey of motherhood.

Ekskuus?*

*For my non-South African readers, ‘Ekskuus’ means ‘Pardon’.

When Cameron was born a friend recommended a private clinic run by the calm and competent Sister Maryna. I went to her two weeks ago for some breastfeeding help and was impressed by the extent of the support she offers moms. One of these channels is post-natal classes in which one can learn about basic childcare while meeting other mommies. I signed up straight away.

Today I turned up for my first class full of effervescent enthusiasm. I was one of the last to arrive. The other moms were chatting away, mostly in Afrikaans but that’s par for the course in Pretoria. (I should mention at this juncture that I absolutely cannot speak Afrikaans and my well rehearsed ‘nod and smile’ act will leave Afrikaans speakers with the impression that I understand a lot more than I in fact do.) I took a seat and shortly afterwards class began.

Sister Maryna kicked off with asking us all to introduce ourselves. The list of salient facts to mention was given in Afrikaans which surprised me but I privately congratulated myself on understanding what was required. I was one of the last in line and every person before me introduced herself in Afrikaans. I kicked off my speech with, ‘I’m sorry, I really can’t speak Afrikaans, but I’m Lucy and this is Cameron …’ Apparently this posed no problem.

Sister Maryna then started with the lecture … in Afrikaans. At which point I was forced to accept that this was in fact an Afrikaans class. You might think that I was a bit slow in this realisation but in all my previous experience in Pretoria the ‘corridor chat’ might be in Afrikaans but the ‘boardroom discussion’ is always in English. I found it incredibly strange that Maryna hadn’t warned me considering I’d only ever spoken English to her. But whatever. All in all I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the amount I understood. Fortunately she screened a video for some of the session and that was in English so I was given a slight reprieve.

Usually I am so embarrassed by my poor Afrikaans skills that I tend to clam up when it’s spoken but today I contributed to the conversation when I could (I just added my comments in English which no one seemed to mind). However, today the really practical advice was given in English and only the informational aspect in Afrikaans. It’s okay to misunderstand the odd bit of trivia. It is not okay to misunderstand the steps for, say, breaking a baby’s fever. And so while I toyed with the idea of continuing the course as a language exercise, if they don’t use videos every week I think I’ll have to abandon it and hit my baby books instead!