Friday, December 31, 2010

A Christmas "Gift"

Over the past seven and a half months, I have fretted over almost everything.

Am I feeding her too much? ("God, does your baby ever stop eating?" an acquaintance remarked)
Will my milk dry up? (Every so often, when she would fret or not feed properly, I would squeeze my nipples just to make sure there was still enough)

Was I dressing her warmly enough for the air conditioning? Too warmly for the blazing hot sun? Was I playing with her enough? Were the games appropriate? Was she learning all she should? Was I spending too much time talking to others instead of with her? Was she bored? Was she overtired? Was I devoting enough attention to her? Too much maybe? Most importantly: was I a good mother? Was I giving her the security, support and love that my baby girl needs to grow up with a strong sense of self and confidence, compassion, intelligence and the knowledge that she can do and be anyone she wants to be.

If she cried when I went for a shower, I agonised about whether she would grow into an adult with abandonment issues...

But on Christmas Day, none of that mattered.

In the week leading up to Christmas, DW had gotten ill and then better. I was so focused on his health and would we make it to our family Christmas lunch that it didn't occur to me that anyone else might get sick.

At about 2:30 in the morning, she woke with a start and burst into tears. A first in seven and a half months. I reached over to calm her and found her skin burning to the touch. Ridiculously, I hadn't figured out how to use the thermometer, so was forced to wake DW. (Stupid, I know)

She was running a highish fever but, more importantly, she seemed incredibly uncomfortable and upset. Every so often, her entire body would jolt, sending her into frightened fits of hysterical crying.

We were terrified and suddenly acutely aware of how ignorant we are about these things.

And, of course, it was 2:30 on the night of Christmas. Even on the easiest of nights, the emergency room is not a place for a baby, and there was no way were were going anywhere near that germ-infested mosh pit!

For the next day or so, we did all we knew: we took off all her clothing, dosed her up with homeopathics, sponge-bathed her, sang to her, and tried to make her comfortable without letting our panic be too noticeable. It was like a pre-choreographed dance -- the parents dance -- that
neither of us were aware we knew the steps to until we were forced into it.

And dance we did, handing one another wet sponge after wet sponge, changing the water when it got too cold, taking her temperature a million times.

This was all complicated by the fact that DW could not touch her because of his own illness that he was still recovering from.

DW, in his infinite patience, has the ability to make a book sound interesting even after he's read it four thousand times. Honestly, I don't give a crap where the damn fish is. It's still in the same damn place it was last time we read the book -- 30 seconds ago! DW loves doing the same thing over and over again. I'm not so good at it even though I know that's what she loved... Little baby girl, at seven months, is perfectly happy with the familiar, and repetition -- Where's That Fish, Berries for Jam. I know, I get it... But she's still tiny and learning.

So there we were, Christmas Day, as far from the fairy tale of Santa as is humanly possible. Being raised Jewish, I don't really care about Christmas, except that it offers the same thing as any Jewish Holiday worth its salt: an excuse to gather with family and loved ones.

At some point, I did realise the obvious: even though it wasn't all reindeer and jingle bells, we were all together. Baby girl, DW and I. Working together, being there for and with one another.

Vida was grizzling away, not able to find a comfortable position. She cried out, and arched her back. And forgetting about all the fretting and hesitating, all my guilt and self-doubt, I scooped her into my arms and held her tight. She instantly relaxed and fell asleep a few moments later.

Since then, though neither of us is prone to superstition, we've knocked on so much wood, I'm starting to see grooves in the furniture.

Thankfully she's better today (knock on wood).

And as I said to DW late Saturday night as we watched her breathing, with everything, there really is no other place I would rather be.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Green Smoothie

I got two hours today. Two whole hours to myself.

Elation! Excitement! Happiness! Joy! Guilt! Fear! Doubt!


But I'm not here to talk about me -- I'd like to talk abut a certain baby and a certain green smoothie.

Green isn't a colour often associated with things babies or children like. Broccoli is green, as are Brussels sprouts. Spinach is green. But smoothies? Aren't they meant to be full of blueberries and bananas and lovely stuff?

If you know me, chances are I've mentioned my green smoothies before. DW is willing to sacrifice work time in order to get his morning smoothie in. In fairness, his aren't green -- they have raw cacao added.

But what to make for baby?

When I was pregnant and as I've been breastfeeding, I've eating as many greens as possible, drank as many green smoothies as I can. I'm hoping she will get a taste for them, maybe already in the womb or through my milk. Who knows? All I can say is she liked this one!

It was simple, none of the superfoods I add for us adults. Just fruit and veg. Banana, apple, spinach. The colour was beautiful -- like a baby version of mine. My Green smoothies look like something I dredged up from a swamp: deep, mossy, fecund. Vida's was a light, happy green, eighties in hue.

I dunked her favorite spoon in it and let her guide it into her mouth. The expressions on her face were wondrous: an eyebrow lifted, her nose curled, her lips opened and shut in surprise.

Then she dove in for more.

I have to admit, it wasn't a proper BLW meal as I did help her get more onto the spoon than the floor. But she loved it, loved it, loved it. She sucked that spoon and sucked and sucked, a smile in her little eyes.

"Mba ba!" she said, waving it around.
"Mba ba," I responded.

She laughed loudly at my joke and threw the whole thing on the floor.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Love is in the creases

Never have I been so interested in the details of another being -- not my loved ones', not my own. And yet, I know her mouth so well. It can shrink to the size of a kernel of corn, a scornful dot in the middle of her face. Like when she doesn't want to be in the pram. She doesn't even look at me, and her mouth scrunches up as if she's withholding something very dear -- as far as I'm concerned, she is.

Other times, like when I put an orange in front of her, or she needs to get her mouth around it, her lips stretch almost from one ear to the other.

She has a beautiful mouth, this baby girl. It's a kind mouth, a happy mouth, one that is ready to engage at any time, to take a chunk out of life or that piece of pear.

Though she doesn't use it to talk -- not yet anyway, not the way we know -- this mouth expresses plenty of thoughts, emotions, desires and dislikes.

We went to the Sunday farmer's market the other day. Just she and I. She was snuggled against me in her carrier and fast asleep for the walk there. But once we arrived, she was wide awake, ready for the next adventure.

Now that she is eating, she is more active in asking for food. It's only been two-three weeks and yet, she's gotten the point already. So when I tasted some bits of apples on display, she opened her mouth wide and moved her head towards my hand.

I asked her if she wanted a piece. She applauded and giggled -- a definite yes. We found a bench and ate our apple together. One bite for me, one bite for her. It was an absolute delight.

I couldn't wait to share food with my baby girl and now the day has come and she loves it every bit as much as I hoped she would.

Last week, she loved broccoli, yesterday, she couldn't be bothered with the flowery florets. Cucumbers have come, gone and come back again. Banana has found no favour at all -- not juicy enough. But apples? Apples are by far and away her favourite, maybe because like her Mama she loves the fact that we can eat them together -- one bite for me, one bite for her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Tale of Plums, Spoons and Oranges

My daughter loves plums.

And oranges.

And big, metal spoons.

I think she loves them for different reasons though when they are cold, they all serve the same purpose.

At first, when a piece of food would inadvertently land in her mouth as a result of her razor-sharp gums, she would blow and blow and drool and drool and drool until whatever it was flopped back out.

Now, she knows what to expect. In fact, she welcomes it. Especially the juicy bits.

I gave her a plum yesterday. Long gone are the days of tentative sucking. She grabbed that poor piece of fruit like it deserved what it had coming and stuck it in her mouth. Or rather, she stuck it on her mouth and her nose, and part of her cheek, her jaw working its way towards the edges like a bulldozer through wet sand.

By the time she was done with it, this plum was halfway to being a puree.

She loves plums. She told me so by clapping excitedly when I put it in front of her.
When she brings those little hands together, sometimes they are full of things -- a book in one hand, a teething ring in the other. Sometimes her sleeves cover her palms and fingers. Not that she cares, it's the movement of clapping that gives her pleasure; the gesture is unmistakable, her smile ecstatic with achievement.

Before the plum, there was the orange. Soft and juicy, it made an indelible mark on her and provided a real turning point. Unlike everything that came before it, I think parts of that orange actually reached her tummy, teaching her that what she was holding in her hand was more than just another thing to put in her mouth and then discard.

I realised the importance of feeding her healthy food. Not only for her but also for me: when she was done sucking it dry, I ate the rest of that orange. It was too delicious to bin. And better citrus than biscuits.

Lastly, Madame Spoon. We bought her cute little bamboo ones. Pretty, inoffensive, eco-and child friendly. But now that she's eating like we are, and with us, she wants what we have. The lot of the bamboo has been sealed: it goes on the floor immediately, without even a glance. The large, cold metal spoon, on the other hand, goes straight in the mouth -- with or without apple sauce, bean soup or dahl.

For my part, I've already started to mourn the lessening of her dependence of me. I won't lie: it's hard. I didn't expect it to last forever but maybe I hoped it would go on for longer than this. At night, when she turns over and reaches for me, it makes me smile with a little relief as I know we still have a little ways to go -- less than I thought, but still something. I inch towards her, happy to provide the comfort, the milk, the connection that will help my daughter sleep soundly and feel safe.

And in the morning, I happily make us all breakfast: one for Ima, one for Pappa, one for Vida. She claps with delight.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Beginning of Baby Led Weaning

It's been three years since I first started blogging here. I remember wondering who on earth would do such a thing -- expose themselves in such a way to anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection. But it's addictive. In a world where we spend less and less time face to face, other modes of communication have become a necessity, if only to feel connected in some way.

So while I take a break from one blog, I find myself needing to do it, to get my fix, to reach out in some way.

You see, there is news. Big news.

I couldn't wait for this day and now that it's here, I'm wishing it hadn't arrived so quickly. I'm not ready yet. Can't she stay small for just a little while longer? Instead, she does new things every day that make it so blatantly clear that it's only a matter of time before she's rolling her eyes at me and telling me not to be so clingy.

My baby girl has started eating.

It has made me want to document it, write about every movement her little mouth makes, every time she claps with glee -- also a new feature in our lives.

And as she discovers food, so do we.

So far, we have experimented with cucumber, apple sauce, apples, carrots, bananas, yellow pepper, kale, broccoli, chicken bones, barlotti and vegetable soup. It's been two weeks, but even in this short space of time, the changes have been immense.

We are trying baby led weaning, so no purees (except apple sauce and the soup so far although we let her feed herself those as well). She copies us, her eyes fixated on our every move. This is how she learns to put the spoon in her mouth -- because we do it too. Then, when she discovers that there is something ON that spoon, her face changes a hundred times: from shock and horror to pleasure and adventure.

Everything is an adventure.

She's enjoying getting dirty, enjoying textures and tastes. And spitting it all out.

It's all so new.

Makes everything pretty new for us as well. A cucumber is easy to gum, though only the middle and only the ends. Carrots -- oh baby, she looked at me, don't waste your time. Oranges. Now there's something to squeak about! But don't make me mush up another banana!

Ba Ba Ba she mouths silently.
Mba Mba we keep thinking she's said something. And she does, constantly. With her actions, her smiles, her little satisfied sighs.

Then she drops another piece of food on the floor and the fun can start all over again.

Oh bliss.