|Our Baby Diary: Week 3
Baby is celebrating his first two weeks. Isn't this marvelous? We can no longer even recall our previous drab lives. This also means that our honeymoon period is over and Daddy and Mummy and their mummy and daddy and all their friends who can read and write a civilized language will have to turn their attention to a most vexing task: to choose a name for Baby. Oh, we don't mean Leo Pedro Iolo. That was the easy part. We mean his proper name in Chinese.
Let us explain. Chinese names are like American Indian names. They represent the aspirations, talents and general qualities of the parent. If the Chinese were hunters, we too would have names like Sitting Bull, Crazy horse. Instead, we have the understated "Intelligent Fortitude" (my best man) and "Brilliant Literature" (my best friend), the subtle "Loyal to the Ancient Line of Chinese Emperors" (my cousin), the ironical "Quiet and Decorous" (another good friend) and (sounds better in both Spanish and Chinese) "Armonía de la Poesía" (Mummy). As one can see, much rests on our choice if he is not to be a laughing stock for the rest of his life.
We understand that the standard practice is to avail oneself of the services of an erudite acquaintance who would provide a small tasteful selection to suit the parents, grandparents, precepts of the ancestors and so on. Unfortunately, so far, our literate friends have been over-excited by the chances of seeing their choices immortalized in our line. "Civil Liberties", "Uphold democracy" while noble sentiments are perhaps a little obvious. ("No to the Iraq War" thankfully does not parse in Chinese). The Catholic curate of the baby's father from his days in Hong Kong provides a salutary tale. His parents named him "Fearless Pastor". When the vanguard of the Great Proletariat Revolution arrived at the remote hamlet he served, and the cadres read down the village roll, there was only one obvious choice for 20 years hard labour.
We have two weeks. Chinese babies are presented to the world at the end of their first month. It was be quite disgraceful for poor Baby to still be anonymous by then.
First, a small digression from the usual increasingly eclectic fare. The diarists have received serious complaints that there is a distinct lack of a Spanish perspective on these pages. So here it is: a small toast to the uncle and aunty in Madrid from their nephew. "Salud" y "chin chin" and a loud wail.
Alas, if only Baby could have a bit of cava, roll over and fall asleep. Continuing our previous alcoholic speculations, it has been reported to us that a close relative did try a small glass of something special (just wine mind you, nothing stronger) while she was breast-feeding. To her immense disappointment, her child ended up more alert and awake than ever. Daddy remembers that when he was at school, evidence for alcohol disruption of sleep was overwhelming but the exact neural mechanism was unclear. Mummy says she doesn't care so long as no one in a white coat comes near Baby.
Today was another exciting day for Baby. The would-be highlight of the day - the arrival of the health visitor - turned out to be an anti-climax. Daddy had imagined (whatever Mummy's ideas were) that this would indeed be someone in a white coat and a clipboard going through the house looking for contraband, dirty kitchens, undisposed nappies etc. It turned out just to have been A Nice Person who said hello to Mummy. The compensation for Baby was that he had the opportunity of being taken into town by Mummy to have lunch with his other parent and be cooed over by strangers. Baby Leo was well behaved and took it all in with wide eyes.
We naively thought that the small excitement would exhaust him for the rest of the day and, hopefully, the night. But he has being wanting fun and simulation all afternoon and all evening and all night. I think it is probably bed time for all three of us now. When Mummy and Daddy were young (last year), we could stay up half the night dancing and misbehaving. Those were the days....
One thing Mummy has noticed in Daddy is the rapid deterioration of his sense of smell. At various times over the past two weeks, Mummy has asked Daddy whether there was a whiff of something in the air but Daddy never smells anything. If pushed he will admit that the house smells of, umm, baby: a rather nice smell. This is either due to terminal neurological decline (from lack of sleep), olfactory collapse (from odorant assault) or more probably the extreme efficacy of the most important item in our possession: an unprepossessing non-descript plastic yellow bin specially designed for baby nappies. Through some magic mechanism (Mummy, being technical, was in charge of setting it up) involving spinning wheels, this somehow manages to swallow up all Baby is capable of. If you knew Baby as well as we do, this would impress you mightily. What a testament to background research, market surveys, dedication, consideration and careful preparation! I think the Fairy Godmother from Boston is taking care of Baby very well.
A final minor digression. As part of baptism research (Google!), Daddy found out that the Three Fairy Godmothers are illegitimate. According to Roman Catholic canon law (more Google), God parents when numbering more than one, have to be of opposite gender. So the Three Fairy Godmothers should be one Godmother, plus two accompanying "Christian Witnesses"... As usual Father Richard had to ride in to save the day. Apparently, the 1917 code of canon law contains special provisions for fairies... I am not sure whether he was pulling our legs though, because he went on to say "You do know that fairies aren't real do you?". What on earth did he mean? And who is going to take Baby's teeth away when he grows up? All in all very traumatic.
First, an urgent message from a correspondent on yesterday's entry: "Quick, clap your hands! He's just killed Tinkerbell!!!" (This is a verbatim quote. You know who you are!)
Baby was in fine fettle tonight. Dinner was ready and we were just sitting down when he woke up. Two hours later and three or four complete nappy and pajamas changes later (we have gone past the bountiful provisions of our Boston Fairy Godmother onto Mummy's ancient ancestral baby gowns), Mummy finally got to have her food: with Daddy in attendance and trying to juggle a feeding baby at the same time. It is just about possible, but only if Mummy feeds herself using a spoon. Baby is forcing us all to regress to his level.
Now at last, Mummy and baby are both asleep on the sofa. A beautifully serene picture. Daddy would love to take a photo and capture the moment for posterity but if the shutter wakes up either, all hell might break loose again. Being a coward, here he is typing at the computer instead.
Several of our friends have emailed wondering why the Chinese names lovingly chosen by their own parents for their subtle elegance and refinement (in Cantonese) somehow failed to sound sufficiently ridiculous (in English) to make the list I included two days ago. Should they be insulted? (Or should their implicit lack of filial piety be pointed out to their parents?)
We were both quite tired today from last night. So I hope they will forgive our immediate irrational surge of annoyance: who are they to complain about what we write. Read the top of this page. This is The Baby Diary, not a blog to the promote the hang-ups of our friends and relatives.
This nastiness of ours is, as I am sure any half-decent psychiatrist would tell you, pure transference. It is not that our friends and relatives have forgotten that the baby is the centre of the universe (which he isn't) but rather that Daddy and Mummy must now realize that their lives revolve around Baby's every want. How suddenly our perspectives have to change, and how difficult it is to abandoned the unrealized little selfishnesses we cherish. Mummy being a nicer person all around is probably finding it easier to adjust.
Ah well. It had to happen. They have awoken. Mummy just came in, saying "Remember the umbilical cord". Daddy had nearly forgotten the great event of the day. Probably because he wasn't there. It was when he came back from work in the evening, changing the baby's nappy in his usual ultra-inefficient manner that Mummy sprung it on him. "Well. Have you noticed it?". The only safe answer seemed a neutral mumbled half question: "Umm, Dear?". "Where is his umbilical cord?", she asked. Daddy reared back in total panic: It was gone and he had stuffed it down the nappy by mistake. He was done for: these are grounds for justifiable spousal homicide. But no, thank goodness, it had apparently fallen off naturally earlier in the morning. He was off the hook for the moment. Would Daddy want to see it? Being a wimp, he passed. Mummy is usually the squeamish one, and Daddy watches medical documentaries (let alone mere ER) unblinkingly and unflinchingly. But there are limits.
We are still glad that Baby is finally free of his umbilical cord. This is the latest evidence that Baby is making his heady way away from total dependence on Mummy. Give it another 20 years or so. More importantly, this also presages tomorrow's great adventure. Baby's first full immersive bath. Watch this space.
One of the great joys of parenthood is watching the baby begin to explore the world around him. At the moment, Baby's world is still constrained by infant myopia and he is still not yet coordinated enough to start reaching for all the interesting colourful, shiny and very fragile objects around him. In fact, he has yet to fully understand that his hands are part of his own body rather than unattached random appendages flashing surrealistically into view. Most importantly, he has to remember that Daddy is not a source of milk. We were all in bed today when he had a sudden in-between-meals urge to feed (which we strictly discourage, unless Mummy has a attack of soft-hearted tenderness). Unfortunately for Baby, he was being held against Daddy (who was balancing a croissant on his nose, baby on one arm and orange juice in the other hand). This provoke a scream of annoyance. "Ah, Baby is rooting at your breast", said Mummy. "What a privilege!", with not even the slightest hint of sarcasm. Yes. Daddies in general are quite useless.
Both Mummy and Daddy love to "wind" Baby. Somehow, it is one of the most intimate experience one can share with Baby. Usually, it is Mummy's privilege. Partly, because she is in charge, partly because Daddy is foreign and incoherent in English at 2 a.m., and most definitely because Daddy does not always give the right answers. The response to "Did Baby burp?" is not the too honest "Does screaming count?".
Anyway, winding babies is fun mainly for the one thing they do not mention in baby books. Babies get incredibly drunk on milk. It is an amazing sight to see a fully sated baby. They have red puffed up faces and they reel around giddily looking silly. The occasional inebriated hiccups are a bonus. And it is not that Mummy or Daddy are secretly pouring single malt whisky down his throat either. We have made our enquiries. Other babies are apparently like that as well. If there are any decent, sober, upright babies, can they please write in. Perhaps bottle feeding is less likely to provoke such outrageous behaviour in one so young.
This is the one time when Baby' face is full of unadulterated pleasure: Babies apparently don't smile until they are six weeks old. Contrary to one's expectations, Baby has a look of steely determination when he is feeding. Think starving piglet at the trough. So, having an utterly content baby on one's shoulder with his head on the crook of one's neck gazing with adoration at one's face is an incredible experience. Especially if Mummy did all the hard work and Daddy is the one appropriating Baby's misguided affections.
There are nights when everything goes perfectly. Baby is fed just before we go to sleep, wakes up once for another session before slumbering blissfully through with his parents. It is this prospect which keeps us going. Yesterday, or rather, this morning, we were able to catch some sleep between the hours of seven and nine.
There are those that claim that medicine is an art not a scientific discipline because there will be patients who don't respond whatever you try, and when they finally recover, you never know which of the various desperate measures actually worked. If so, Baby tending is pure black magic. We tried everything: different positions, fed him, changed him, talked to him in three different languages, imprecations in four, and paced all the rooms in our house deasil and widdershins. And if he could only tell us why he finally fell into an exhausted sleep when he did (at two minutes to seven), we might be able to repeat the magic formula at a less fraught hour tonight and tomorrow.
If a teeny-weeny little note of pessimism has crept into this entry, do not be put off. It is merely the lack of sleep. We are actually very upbeat, Mummy more so than Daddy. Which is amazing considering that she is supposed to be in the midst of post-natal depression and has to shoulder all the feeding and most of the nappy changes at night. Whatever magic potion Mummy is taking, Daddy wants some too.
Daddy is not hardy at all, and had the temerity to fall asleep during the mid-wife's visit this morning. The shame! (If only we could be bothered to care.) We were wild-eyed and disheveled but she was a professional and had no doubt seen much worse. Daddy was feeling especially lethargic and as he was cradling a sleeping Baby, thought this would be the perfect excuse to lean back and let Mummy do all the hard work. Baby hasn't been weighed since birth and we were keen to see what progress he was making. So while Daddy reclined languidly, Mummy quickly stripped Baby off for the balance. Of course, it was when Mummy popped out of the room and Daddy was completely unprotected by the usual layers of nappy and clothes that Baby decided to wreak havoc as payment for his lost night's sleep. It was as well that Daddy's trousers needed changing anyway but it provided plenty of amusement for both midwife and Mummy. Yes, despite discarding his impedimenta before mounting the scales, Baby is making excellent progress. More than half a kilo after two weeks.
That was not the end of the story though. The midwife found Baby's manly cough very alarming and bundled us off to see the doctors. Our clinic is conveniently just 10 minutes away by push chair: past the public house, prostitutes, drug dealers and pimply hooded youths trying to skate board, and around the corner from the mosque. It was time Baby was introduced to our multi-cultural neighbourhood. Needless to say, the nice doctor said Baby's chest was perfectly clear. Ordinarily, it is frightfully embarrassing (if typical) that symptoms clear up just as one is walking into the surgery. But we have become quite shameless and brazen with our baby. He has become our perfect Get Out Of Jail talisman, and we have no qualms about using him to the full.
Another fun filled night for Mummy and Daddy who did not get any sleep until 5 a.m. Poor Mummy is get worried not only about Baby but also about how Daddy is going to manage at work. Daddy is rather less concerned, having had ample training in coping without sleep in his youth. Junior doctors used to be told (in Daddy's day) that their then ridiculously long working weeks were an essential part of their training: presumably, by seeing how their sleep-impaired mistakes were killing their patients, they would learn how not to kill even more patients if they ever found themselves in similar situations. It appears that youthful dissipation can be at least as effective as medical training.
What kept Baby up was his first cold. Poor thing. We could hear him huffing and puffing in his sleep every time we put him down in the Moses basket. After 10 minutes of this, he would feel fed up (still in his sleep), start wailing at the top of his voice and wake up (in that order). It was rather hilarious for us, as Baby normally winds up his cries gradually, like an intermittent hand-wound air-raid siren. Yesterday night he just opened his lungs, took a deep breath and let the whole world know how intolerable it all was. And in the process reassured Mummy and Daddy no end. Even amateurs like us know things can’t be that bad if he can still scream this vigorously. If he can clear out his throat and lungs, all the better. Our poor neighbours have no such consolation. On the advice of another nice doctor, we are now propping baby up with pillows. He spends his day lounging on the sofa like a medieval sultan, with a suitably appropriate look of mild amusement on his face.
Daddy was lazy last night and did not get up once. Sorry, Mummy. It won’t happen again. But what a beautiful day it is. The colours are more intense. The air feels fresher. The ground is more bouncy. Baby smells, well, more like Baby. How very strange. Daddy doesn’t remember feeling like this before. Mummy on the other hand is rather tired...
Poor Baby is still sniffling but is definitely on the mend. He is keeping down his food again which is a good sign, given what a greedy little guzzler he is. If Daddy and Mummy were ever to feel the slightest bit down, we only have to start doing an impression of Baby feeding (with all his desperate panting and little snorting noises) to end up in fits of unseemingly giggles, often with Baby looking up disapprovingly. Gluttony is a paternally-derived vice and we shall have to see what special powers Mummy will endow him with. Isn’t this exciting? Another 6 to choose from.
Some random thoughts for today's entry:
There has been much surprise from Daddy’s side of the family at poor Baby’s cold. This is mostly due to the extraordinary effectiveness of civic education campaigns in Hong Kong. Bottle-fed babies are not the only ones to fall ill and, yes, Daddy does know that in breast milk one can find immunoglobulin A, lactoferrin, lysozymes, antibodies…
Baby is start to develop his comic potential. Mummy thought, having seen Baby as soundly asleep as he ever gets, that she might have just 5 or 10 minutes of peace and quiet to relax in her bath. As one might have predicted, a carefully timed wailed got Mummy hurrying out leaving a trail of puddles all the way down the stairs. Her audience of one was too young to chortle, but give him a few weeks. Daddy was scarcely any more sensible yesterday. He was persuaded to share his bath for the first time. Initially, Baby was quite unsure but when he discovered the joys of paddling in the warm water, he relaxed completely. So much so that poor Daddy had to have a shower afterwards. We can't wait until he grows up a little and Mummy can take him swimming.
A belated big Thank You to our nice cousins from London. Having worked our way through Baby's entire wardrobe in a day (now all sitting in our laundry basket), we are onto the presents from the visit last week. Pretty as Baby's new clothes are, what impressed Daddy most was how practical the positions of the poppers are for nappy changes. Oh dear. With our rapidly declining sartorial standards, it seems unlikely that either of us will be able to qualify as nannies in the more fashionable parts of London.
This site was last updated 02/16/04