|Our Baby Diary: Week 5
Mummy took Baby to have his check-up today.
The good part is that Baby has been growing fast and now weighs 10 lbs. To think that some children are born at this weight. He is huge now.
The not so good news is that, much as Mummy had feared and as seems obvious on the most recent photos, Baby seems to have some sort of eczema. The midwife thinks it is diet (Daddy's cooking) and the doctor suggests it is the environment (Mummy's fabric softener). It might also be hormones, a reaction to the milk, the weather or just a fiendish trick to keep Mummy and Daddy on their toes. We are not at the panic stage . . . yet, but it might be an partial explanation for why he has been so restless. Maybe he is itchy or perhaps we are grasping at straws. Let us do our research, change everything and see what tomorrow brings.
Mummy's visit to the baby clinic was a little adventure in itself. The Health Centre has carefully arranged this in a separate part of the building so Mummy had little idea of what to expect when she opened the door. Certainly not scenes from bedlam: children of various ages running amok, babies at different stages of undress screaming their heads off, hassled Mothers juggling their babies and in pursuit of their older offspring, and midwives chasing after the lot. Mummy has quite enough excitement in her life now but if she ever gets too bored, she knows where to go.
It is the end of the evening. Mummy is dead tired, Daddy is half asleep. But after being up all night and all day, at least Baby is catching up on his nap. As a reward for Mummy's hard work, we are going to indulge ourselves a little: Mr. Darcy and Rich Fruit Cake. Thank goodness for the prescience of Daddy's Mummy who not only filled our larder with deliciousness but stopped us from gorging ourselves at the first opportunity. We have saved up the cake (carefully infused with just the right amount of brandy, ahem, for medicinal purposes!) for precisely such an occasion, and we think that nothing short of two slices each will revive us.
As for Mr. Darcy, this is a special treat to make up for Mummy not being able to see the big screen version. Not that Mummy considers Colin Firth to be any other than the first choice in any situation one can imagine. Daddy, alas, fails to share her appreciation. The disastrous proposal scene is proving to be the highlight of the evening. Go for it, Lizzie! How curious it is, though, that Daddy did not show this to Mummy before his efforts in the same department...
Astonishingly, someone wrote to the diarists asking why yesterday's entry did not appear before midnight GMT! Firstly, we are delighted to have such a dedicated readership. Secondly, how amusing to think that a parent's work ends at the stroke of midnight. Thirdly, it is becoming very obvious that keeping a daily diary is a considered task best conducted in a calm and tranquil environment where the events of the day and their import can be reflected on etc. I.e. think Regency desk, Tiffany lamp, leather bound vellum and quills. Mummy and Daddy, on the other hand, lead an insane existence where surviving the next 10 minutes undisturbed can be our number one priority. Sadly, these pages are always at the bottom of our list of priorities.
Life in the UK can be much harsher than in Hong Kong or Spain. The night before our wedding (in Spain), Daddy and his friends were very amused to see a toddler being wheeled down the high street at 15 minutes past midnight. We joked that if this happened in the UK, the parents would be arrested for child abuse. Little did we know.
Daddy was running up a hill yesterday night and passed three separate babies being wheeled around. This was not the balmy evenings of a Spanish Summer but the cold freezing fog (-4° C or 25° F) of the English Winter. Mummy and Daddy have long observed with hilarity that skirt lengths on Friday nights in the UK are inversely proportion to the temperature. (Tights are verboten.) Teenage immunity to low temperatures can be explained by a combination of population genetics, classical Darwinism and self-medication. Surely, none of these would apply to new-born infants. No. The only explanation is that these hardy parents are keen classicists. Isn’t it wonderful to see age-old Spartan traditions being brought to life again? Nonetheless, if no one minds, Baby can stay nicely wrapped up indoors for just a few more weeks yet.
Before Baby was born, Daddy was fairly worried that both Mummy and Daddy would have difficulty bonding with the newborn. Perhaps we are "hard-wired" to love the familiar, like the mother of the Ugly Duckling. Daddy would only be able to love little Chinese babies with stubby noses, and Mummy would only find Spanish babies with beaky noses appealing. Our child would most likely be half way in-between (beaky stub or stubby beak?). Besides, as Daddy told Mummy, all newborn babies are dark, wrinkled and very ugly.
It was thus a great miracle that Baby is so utterly lovable, to give his parents absolutely no choice at all in this matter. (Daddy can forget about his fancy theories about biological imperatives. That is so not what Kant is about.) Mummy still carefully checks out all the other push-chairs she passes in the street. By the most objective criteria, using her most critical judgment and bringing all her artistic faculties and general good taste to bear on this matter, Baby is the most handsome child around.
After much back and forth with our very understanding parish priest, we have at last fixed a date for Baby's baptism. It is going to be the 18th of December, in two weeks time. Much of the fuss was to accommodate friends and family from abroad who would like to come. As it is, neither of the God-parents will be able to attend in person. (The Catholic church allows parenting by proxy, but only in the spiritual and not the temporal category). We are running around like headless chicken trying to organize a reception afterwards. Unfortunately, this being the pre-Christmas/Hanukah/post-Eed season, not only does our parish hall have a previous booking but so do all the possibilities within a likely ecumenical orbit. We are determined not to be stressed about this though. Mummy and Daddy (and Mummy's Mummy and Daddy, no doubt) have happy memories of organizing their wedding reception, and would rather never have to do the same again!
Baby's eczema is increasingly turning out not to be. The doctor and midwife may have panicked Mummy and Daddy prematurely. He still has milk spots but the dry skin on his forehead has largely disappeared with his prescription moisturizing cream (doing double duty as a hair gel). We thus have to scratch around for an alternative explanation for his restlessness. It may just be that he is growing up and becoming more aware of his surroundings. Rather cruelly, Mummy and Daddy are pinning their hopes on separation anxiety. Mummy is sure that Baby is getting to know her personally and not merely as his feeding station. But if Baby could prevail on himself to call for reassurance every now and then, Mummy would be very much reassured in turn. Daddy is more hard-hearted and cares not whether Baby is developing an unboundedly interpersonal, socially-associative relationship with him. He is just happy to cradle Baby to sleep on his chest.
Weekends are a strange time for Mummy and Daddy. After five days hearing Daddy moan pathetically at having to go to work every day and not being able to play with Baby (or watch repeats of "Bewitched" at 10 a.m.!), Mummy is keen for Daddy to have the full experience of a restless child who refuses to settle all morning for more than 10 minutes without crying. Not that Mummy is complaining, mind you. It is just important that Daddy has a proper appreciation of the trials and tribulations of Baby as well as his virtues. Alas, Daddy (no doubt because he can leave it all behind again on Monday) tends annoyingly to treat it all as a great adventure: "Isn't it fun that he is screaming? We never get this at work...". Can't Daddy learn to complain just a bit so Mummy can tell him off for moaning when she has to deal with this every day?
It is also the case that Mummy is super-efficient by now in all things to do with Baby. Not that Mummy had not put her whole heart and soul into reorganizing our lives in preparation for Baby's arrival. Drawers and shelves were cleared out for Baby's kit all stacked by category (in a complicated system that Daddy has yet to figure out). Plastic bowls (which happily used to hold Christmas puddings in their previous existence) carefully labelled with "top" and "bottom" and placed next to the hybrid baby toy/bath thermometer provided by the fairy Godmother. What is most impressive, though, is how quickly Baby is stripped down, cleaned, dried, changed and dressed. Think Formula one pit stops. Except that Mummy manages with a team of one (Daddy might just count as another token half). Daddy can only pretend, when it is his turn, that he is taking a gentler approach out of consideration for Baby's delicate constitution.
It occurred to us, after re-reading previous entries, that it has been already some two weeks since Mummy's Mummy and Daddy went back to Spain, having driven their way up the continent hurriedly in the first place to care of mother and child after Baby's birth.
Lest our readers are wondering, we were never the least concerned that their arrival would be an interruption of our hedonistic and sybaritic lifestyle. Alas, the truth is that hedonism, or even general degeneracy (the aspiration of every ambitious young person), is not compatible with 1) pursuit of a would-be spouse, 2) engagement for marriage or 3) marriage. Let that be a warning for all ye callow youths.
As it was, the three of us, parents and child, were so royally taken care of, that adjusting back to life without their comforting presence came as a great shock. It was as well that Baby is such an all-consuming interest: little time was left for Mummy to feel very sorry for herself. So here is big thank you again from the bottom of our hearts, all the way across the aether, to a little village in Castilla (which has broadband). We are looking forward to seeing you in two weeks.
Today was a fun-filled day for Baby. (And hence a short diary entry for Mummy and Daddy.) Not only did Mummy have her friends around, including the director/choreographer of her dance company, but a good friend of Mummy and Daddy, whom we miss dreadfully, came all the way from Cardiff for a surprise visit. (That is, Cathrin told us she was coming but we forgot completely. So we had twice the amount of pleasure.) Baby was in fine form in front of our guests, and encountering another howling infant, did no more than adopt a considering expression, as if to say "ah, that is how it is done". Having said that, Baby needs little tuition. Even if he was not in active daily training, he has clearly been blessed by quite enough natural ability in the bawling stakes.
On of our regular correspondents telephoned to ask if Mr. Darcy's fruitcake is the same one we would have had for the baptism...
Well, if you
are one to wonder what happened before the princess met the frog and had lots of
tadpoles, this is the prequel to Mr. Darcy:
At this point, even Daddy realized that he was not so much barking up the wrong tree but yodelling in the wrong forest. Ah! Mummy was referring not to the baptismal cake but a cape which had been sent from Hong Kong. The difference of a single letter.
Of course it would be perfect. He had no objections at all. Quite the contrary. So it seems our guests on the day will not after all have the traditional free entertainment of a punch-up outside the church between the grandparents over all four hereditary baptismal gowns. There shall be just one gown which Mummy's Mummy has arranged to have embroidered with the names of all the previous babies through the generations. And over this will be draped the gloriously over-the-top embroidered golden design (i.e. the cape) from Hong Kong. Baby will be accoutred like a prize boxer on the day, and Mummy and Daddy shall take a suitable number of photographs to embarrass him with when he grows up.
As for the fruitcake cake, it has eloped with Mr. Wickham. To any of our readers who might have been thinking of coming to the baptism, before you reconsider, let us offer some reassurance. "I am grieved, indeed," you might cry. "Grieved -- shocked. But is it certain, absolutely certain?" Yes. But don't worry. There is plenty more cake where that came from.
Remember to write about the bladder, Mummy urged. Today's entry should start off with: "Daddy at last has some appreciation for what Mummy had to endure in nine months of pregnancy!". This is something not all our readers will have come across: "Pregnancy Profile is a wearable vest-like garment that replicates the visual appearance and actual feel of the third trimester of pregnancy." Apparently, they are a staple of many prenatal classes in the US. Sadly, our midwife was too practical for such fun. But if you really wanted someone to get the same experience for free after the arrival of a child, you can persuade the father to have three glasses of water before strapping the baby onto his front, walking to a long church liturgy (this should take at least an hour and the child should not be detached at any point), and then strolling back as slowly as you can. If you collapse into fits of unsympathetic laughter half way home as well, that is definitely helpful. But for the full effect, try and get the father to laugh as well. (He will be crying at the same time.)
Mummy is still waking up every two hours at night. The odd three hourly intervals last week were obviously just to get our hopes up. Yesterday, Mummy woke up at 4 a.m. to find that she had left Baby on her tummy after she fell asleep during the 3 o'clock feed. When she was woken up again at 5 a.m. by a hungry Baby, it took her 5 minutes of searching before she realized that she had put him back in his Moses basket next to her after all. When A. E. Van Vogt had writer's block, he used to set his alarm clock to ring every hour. He would rouse himself, jot down whatever came to him and go back to sleep. By the morning, he would have enough ideas to get going again. This clear lunacy certainly explains a lot about his books, and also why he disappeared into "Dianetics" for 20 years. Don't do this at home without supervision, boys and girls.
Unlike his boss, and contrary to his own and Mummy's expectations, Daddy hasn't been weighing Baby obsessively and plotting obscure charts of his daily progress. (Weighing Baby involves stripping, weighing and re-garbing him, and then spending the next hour trying to get the poor kid over the shock.) This has not prevented him discussing the all the more improbable popular science theories with Mummy.
For example, we have noticed that, when Baby can be persuaded to unclench his fist, there is a significant discrepancy between his ring and index fingers. (For cutting edge science of this sort, it is not necessary to measure as such, only squint). Baby is also much more inclined to turn to his right to look at pretty and bright objects, indicating a possible strong left brain dominance. There is some feeble evidence that both of these may be linked to the levels of testosterone exposure in the womb. Does that mean he should drink more tap water, given that there is supposed to be some estrogenic contamination of the UK water supply? (Male fish in English rivers have been reported to be changing sex. The two hormones being sort of opposites, like sugar and salt, should surely cancel out.) Does that also mean that he is going to be less strong in the languages and artistic pursuits, and that therefore, Mummy should devote even more time and effort into instilling some aesthetic appreciation into him? Daddy's college tutor was the University professor in endocrinology. There is no other excuse for Daddy's gross ignorance. To quote Daddy's boss, there are few people who know so little about so much...
We are enjoying this.
Mummy is really pleased because her bus driver today offered to swap her bus for Baby. No. She did not go through with it. Daddy checked. Baby is asleep (for once!) in his Moses basket. The real question is are these transactions common, and where does one park the bus afterwards? No. Of course we are joking. We would not swap Baby for anything in the world. It was not even a double-decker.
We had a query about the origins of our recent Jane Austen theme. Apparently, any incipient interest in Jane Austen rather than, say, large trucks or football, would be a matter of extreme significance for Daddy. Thank you very much to the other five correspondents who sent us the BBC news link: According to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, testosterone for Chinese men does not drop after marriage, but only after the first child... (The article is misleadingly entitled "Becoming a father civilises men"!) To reassure everyone, Baby finds the incessant 18th century Ceilidh dancing a little distracting, but, apart from that, Colin Firth's admirer remains Mummy who now refuses to watch anything else on TV.
Thanks also to Rikkie for sending us these simple baby exercises. "Stand in front of your baby and make simple movements, such as sticking out your tongue or opening your mouth wide". Apparently, Hong Kong is less keen on Welsh rugby than the All Blacks and their Haka. It is not such a bad idea really. Baby has started to watch Mummy and Daddy's faces intently, and is just starting to make the odd cooing noises. I reckon it won't be two years or so before he starts speaking his first words.
We tried out Baby's new toy tonight. Actually, Mummy's Daddy had assembled it long ago when he came after the birth but, being well organised, we have only just got around to putting the batteries in. It is a mechanised baby swing with aquarium (perched on top of the swing and waiting hopefully, like in a variety show, to decant on our solitary contestant should he misbehave!), music, water sounds, mobile and flashing lights: this is the Swiss Army Chainsaw approach to pacifying children. At the moment, Baby is just a little light for the motor, so he swings around an arc which is alarmingly high for his parents (despite the three-point seat belt). The lad himself, though, is his usual cool nonchalance, calmly surveying the see-sawing room with some glee (until he became hungry and starting clamouring for Mummy again). Thank you fairy godmother. At some desperate point, at 2 o'clock in the morning, we shall be sending our thanks again.
This site was last updated 02/16/04