Monday, October 27, 2008

Tim's Nature

26 Oct 2008

Tim is an old soul
A thoughtful baby with a heavy-duty philosophers frown
(Which I’ve learnt means ‘Do Not Disturb’)

He loves the light
And will gyrate his body inside out to gaze enrapt
He loves being outdoors
Surrounded by the dappled light of trees and the gurgling fountain
He raises his eyes skyward, hungry like a baby eagle

He’s a quiet guy
Doesn’t cry much, uses his voice sparingly
Prefers to warn with a short sharp snort
(Usually when I try massage his little feet while he’s wearing his Do Not Disturb sign!)

He is much more animated in his dreamlife
Where he regularly smiles, whimpers and sucks imaginary breasts
What is he experiencing?
A few nights ago Christo was doing the nightshift
When Tim started laughing in his sleep
A deep belly laugh that rocked his little body over and over again

I can’t wait for his laugh to spill into his waking life

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Tortoise and the Dassie

25 Oct 2008

Sometimes Tim is like an old tortoise
Wizened little head and crinkled neck searching
Lips pursed to make a little beak

Sometimes he is a dassie
A chubby little block of mammal
Inclined inert across my lap as he feeds

But when he is still
His face a Chinese painting of dashes and noughts
He is a little human baby
Newly arrived on planet earth!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it

21 Oct 2008

They take a time honored event and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it,
Until something new enters the world

- Don DeLillo, Mao II

Repetition is quite a formidable force
A bit bludgeoning
Life goes by in a swirl of cycles and cycle fragments
Wake, feed, burp, hold, nappy, feed, burp, hold, play, settle, sleep
Takes 1-2 hrs and happens around 8 times a day
A complex percussion


21 Oct 2008

I’m feeling a bit clumsy with Tim lately
I think I’m trying too hard
Lost the touch a bit

And I’m missing Tim
Even though I spend most of my day circling his orbit

And I’m missing Time
Ever since sleep training started my time has halved
And I’m a bit lost

At touch of the blues?
Brought on by the ‘ol night train

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big brother

20 Oct 2008

Matt has dashed up from Grahamstown for 3 days
He's taken to Tim with an easy grace
His lanky body all soft elbows and generous hands cradling Tim comfortably
I’m amazed how gentle he is
And he’s also courageous – bathing, burping, feeding, cuddling like a young pro

Ironically Matt's just discovered George Orwell
Animal Farm really blew him away
Yesterday he bought a copy of the iconic ‘1984’ by Orwell at Exclusive Books in Bedford
Big Brother is watching

Lucky for Tim Matt is a good big brother
He worked out yesterday he’ll be 25 when Tim is 10.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Small things make a big difference

By feat.
18 Oct 2008

Don’t complain

Complaining saps your energy and makes you a victim. Stop complaining and your energy shoots up.

You can still get fed-up exhausted, and re-tell the story of your hardships to sympathizers, but try stay positive.

Be zen

Everyone knows a happy baby is a happy mom, but the reverse is also true. Which is why it’s so important to relax into the moment – Tim often follows suit … Being zen doesn’t take away the hard stuff, but it makes it more bearable.

We lose the plot completely almost every day though. Poor mite, when he gets over-tired and the hiccups strike, but he is so tired he can’t feed them away. He lies there, his little mouth latched, but slack, drifting into sleep between each hiccup, wrongly believing each horrid cup is the last.

Bath every morning

It’s amazing how regenerative a bath can be. You go in with the night still weighing on your shoulders, you come out beautifully refreshed (with a little help from wonderful hormones that new moms come equipped with!)

Got to take the gap and bath when Tim takes his first sleep of the day, because the rest of the day is accounted for …


Dedicating effort to understanding baby is very worthwhile, though it’s often mystifying, especially since Tim changes. The more and faster you learn the happier everyone is. Here’s some stuff I reckon is useful to know about Tim, and I guess other babies might be similar –

Chill on the running banter

Know when to talk and when to shut up. For Tim talking is more of a happy thing. He doesn’t like talking all the time and often has more important things to do like look at the light streaming in through the window or pass a bit of wind.

When he’s tense he seems to find talking an unwelcome guest, like an insect buzzing at his ear.

Stroke him gently

One of our favourite things is stroking each other. I use it when he’s sleepy to rouse him and when he’s relaxed, because he succumbs completely to my purring hands. And Tim strokes me oh so feather soft when he’s feeding. It’s gorgeous.


But when he frets at the edge of sleep, then stroking just makes him fret more. I prefer to rest a hand on his chest.

Hold him

There is nothing more huggable and squeezable than a little baby. Mixing a little bit of holding and hugging with every wake time makes him happy.

He cracked his first smile yesterday. And again this morning. Both smiles came when I was cradling him in my arms and playing small silly games. There is nothing nicer.

Moms beware the allure of the adorable little piglets – watch out for exhausting cuddle addictions! I prefer little bursts of loving throughout the day, rather than prolonged lovey-dovey sessions.

Sleep Training

16 Oct 2008

It caught up with me this morning
I’m gatvol of night feeding
A good night is five feeds!
Ridiculous! Outrageous!

So I ran to a my sleep book and read about how demand feeding leads to bad sleeping habits
Which ruin the child and drain the mom
So today we started the path to the contented baby routine
The aim is to get Tim to go to sleep by himself
And not rely on me to feed him to sleep
(Yes, I confess!)

I also need to slightly reduce how much he sleeps in the day
The underlying belief being ‘less sleep during the day, more sleep at night’
This directly contradicts the demand feeding mantra of ‘the more they sleep, the more they sleep’
The logic of reducing day sleep to increase night sleep makes some sense though
So i’ll try this idea out for size

The only problem with less day sleep is that Tim is awake for much longer
Which is a problem because I don’t quite know how to fill up his awake time
We played nicely this morning
But he can only play for short spells still
What do we do the rest of the time?
And less day sleep for Tim is less time for me, oh dear

He wakes! Wish us luck!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Zen and the art of baby maintenance

13 Oct 2008

Breastfeeding can be a rather meditative affair
(when you’re not all floppy-necked half asleep!)
When you’re happy to hold the little seal close to you
And you chilled
Then things go swimmingly

My day is made up of lots of experiences that are both intense and pedestrian – changing nappies, bathing us, making lactation tea, sterilizing bottles of expressed milk, eating, writing, stretching, sleeping, a bit of cooking, admin and ofcourse the ubiquitous breastfeeding etc.

On a good day I enjoy each activity, no matter how repetitive
Looking for the sweetness in each one
Nappy changing is a chance to make eye contact, play with his little feet, fondle and fuss
A bit of cooking is a welcome escape
& feeding Tim can be warm and chill at the same time

Eureka! Is this the big Zen?!
Live in the moment ek sê
Here’s to more good days :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


12 Oct 2008

All my life I’ve slept well
Blessed with a rich dreamlife
It was a gift I treasured
Now it’s gone
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast....
Macbeth, Act II Scene II

This is what sleep means to me now
The room is dark except for a nightlight in the corner
Casting a glow over Tim’s basin
The nightlight puts terror in my heart
The light at the end of the tunnel
Is an oncoming train

Sleep is like a runaway train
Hungrily lapping up the minutes
To build a jigsaw of stolen moments
That quilt the night together into a semblance of sleep

What’s missing is the deep sleep
Even when you’re down
The world outside flashes by in surreal, aching bursts
I live in REM
But my dreams are ghostly
And disappear like a puff of smoke when I wake up

The secret to overcoming the avalanche
Is to take an afternoon nap with baby
Without the nightlight I fall into deep sleep
For one juicy intense hour
My body drinks from the ‘chief nourisher in life’s feast …’
(Thanks to Dr. Heidi for the tip)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The games we play

9 Oct 2008

Tim and I play 3 games so far – Whoosh, Goldfish & Sneeze


This game is inspired by one of my favorite funfair rides – the boat, which swishes round a dizzying 180 degrees. You feel like you’re falling, but it’s all so gentle, like someone is holding you.

The ride must have come to mind because of the experience of putting Tim down in his cot – you got to handle the drop in altitude with gentleness, or Tim feels the rush of cold air and startles, thinking he will fall. But if you do it gentle, he gives into the fall.

In the Whoosh! game I cradle him in my arms and gently dip his body back and down and say Whoo-oo-oo-oo-sh! as we dive. I think it helps him relax about diving through air.

Tim really likes the game. He locks eyes with me and urges me on to the next Whoosh!


This is a simple game of pursing lips and popping them gently like a goldfish. I figure Tim can relate to the sound and motion of the goldfish because he knows all about sucking sounds and cupid lips.

Tim is intrigued by this game. He watches closely and I almost get the feeling he’s trying to play back and imitate me, but still lacks the control.

Christo plays a similar game with Tim, but his fish is much bigger.


Sneeze is an opportunistic game – every time Tim sneezes, usually about 3 sneezes in a row, I go ‘Yowweee’ or ‘yoh’ or some such, celebrating sneezes like fireworks.

He hasn’t shown any response to this game yet, but I'm hoping the long-term effects will be a happy and easy love of sex.

Professor Play & the Sandman

7 Oct 2008

There are different ideas about taking care of babies
The big fashion now is ‘low stimulation’
Darkened rooms away from the noise of life
Startling arms swaddled tight against the jerks of life
10 minutes of Mozart for stimulation once a day

Christo doesn’t think much of this
He belongs to the school of 'don't walk on eggshells'
A world of noise and light and people and toys and bangs

Last week I had a blissful day when Tim put himself to sleep time and again
I was high on freedom
This sterling achievement was the fruit of a low stimulation diet

But Christo wasn’t having any of it
He complained he hardly saw Tim anymore, he was always sleeping
He wanted to play with monkey mobiles and funny noises

Zombimom cried No, once he starts jolling he doesn’t stop
(... and I’m the one that has to get up in the night)

But a few days later I felt the tug of loss too
I was the sleep-machine, the sandman
And Tim was being swallowed up by drowsiness

So we’re aiming for the happy medium now
Christo has learnt that Tim does startle when you bang plates around
And I've learnt that a startle is just a startle
Tim soon settles down again
Absorbing the surprise

He sleeps in the lounge during the day
Golden light streams in through the windows
A steady stream of music infuses the air around him
Electro, funk, soul, rap, house, jazz, alt country, folk, dub, contemporary classic
When he’s a bit older we’ll progress to punk and Japanese noise bands

As for me
Sleep deprivation takes its toll
The light at the end of the tunnel is the light of an oncoming train
So sleep is a big thing in our lives
But loneliness also takes its toll
We need to reignite our love every day for the good energy to flow
The good energy that shakes the night before off

So I'm learning to cool off on the sleep police
Relax and play
Funny-sad it didn’t come naturally

Friday, October 3, 2008


3 Oct 2008

Breastfeeding is not for sissies
We have beautiful breastfeeding moments
Little jaw relaxed and rhythmical, little tongue lapping
And we have horrible breastfeeding moments
When desperate little mouths thrash in frustration
Especially in the early days
And when breastfeeding turns dark you’ll do anything to make it better
That’s how I ended up with one giant breast and one little breast

In the beginning when latching was a hit and miss affair
We found it easier going on the left side
So instead of alternating, like the experts say, we kept gravitating back to the left
The result was 10 days later I sported a watermelon on one side and an orange on the other

A happy-latching and disciplined alternating week later
And I’m relieved to report I'm back to two mangos
(though one mango is still a bit bigger)

Tim's first venture into the world on his own

29 Sept 2008

Tim is 2 weeks old today and we weighed him at the clinic. He came in a healthy 3.6kg, with nappy and babygrow, which we didn’t have the heart to take off in the clinical clinic. He came into the world at 3.2kg, so I reckon he’s doing well.

Today was also his first venture into the world on his own. He drove strapped in a car chair to the clinic. Last time we drove I held him in my arms, so he was still inside his little cocoon. He became frightened when we strapped him into the chair and quickly hunkered down, shut his eyes tight and went to sleep, where he whimpered and squealed pitifully in his dreams. He’ll probably need a lot of TLC tonight.

My first watch

29 Sept 2008

I remember getting my first watch. It was a slim ladies digital in burgundy leather. I looked at the time every five minutes, no matter how hard I tried not to.

The first days with Tim were exactly the same – I couldn’t help looking in on him every few minutes. At night he slept against my breast. Two weeks later and I still like to be by his side, but I no longer need to check on him every five minutes. Sjoe.

These are a few of my terrible things ...

28 Sept 2008

He thrashes his little body taught
Tormented by hiccups and air demons
Rooting and chortling for food
Like an angry little ferret

The moments between waking and getting up in the dark
Weary feet, wrists, shoulders, neck, arches and planes
Shot nerves, vertigo spells, imaginary goblins
(I’m no longer protected by Tim’s warmth inside me, nor is he protected by my warm waters)

These are a few of my favourite things

photo by Christo
28 Sept 2008

He makes this wicked little chortle in his dreams
His smile is all sunshine lips, ears and eyes leap open
He is rosy and golden
Ntombi calls him pinkie
His legs are tiny chicken legs, his feet so strong
His one ear is slightly crumpled
He has a darling, expressive face
Thunderous frowns
Delicate lip smacking
Arches his brows in a comical French way
And wonks his eyes crossways
Inscrutable bright-eyed Buddha
The way he wakes up, raising one lazy tortoise eye at a time
His little body easing into warm water, cradled by Christo
He smells like a hot loaf of bread in the middle of the night
My little bun is fresh out of the oven

1 week old

22 Sept 2008


The week before Tim’s birth I was unnaturally calm, my anxiety betrayed only by the odd sobbing spell that broke suddenly like a Highveld thunderstorm.

Day 1: Joy

At the hospital I felt nauseous with anxiety, and like a child I closed my eyes to ward off the world. Christo stroked my hair. A soft-spoken Russian anesthetist gently injected my spine. My legs disappeared. Something pushed down on me and with a great guttural wail, Tim burst bloody and waxy into the world. He was unbelievably beautiful and I exploded with joy and tears.

Our first day was heavenly. Timmy slept in my arms all day, bathed in golden light and pethedrine, holding each other tight.

Day 2: Terror

At 4am a rough nurse tossed me out of bed. Hot pain. Then she abandoned me to take an inexpert bath alone, wincing and whimpering.

Tim wouldn’t wake up. Nurse said not to worry, newborns do that. 12 hours later blind panic struck. He was hot and lethargic. I stripped him down and dabbed him with wet cotton wool. A few hours later he choked on vomit because I hadn’t burped him properly. By the end of the day I was tearful. I spent the night fighting off terror. He was so little.

Day 3: Delusions of Mastery

Next day I woke Tim up every four hours and fed him. After a rough start, we were getting the hang of breastfeeding (deceptively tricky to begin with). A few successful feeds and nappy changes later and I was feeling masterful … only to be undone a few hours later by a bout of angry hiccups and a fretful feeding session lasting 4 hours. I finally worked out it wasn’t food he wanted and cuddled him in bed.

One week later …

Yesterday we had a wonderful day. He was so peaceful and easy going – sleeping, feeding, pooing, peeing and chilling bright-eyed with us. But just the day before I woke up feeling like someone had smashed my arms with a hammer. I don’t know what I’d do without Christo. He calms Tim and I down when we’re exhausted and stuck.

Today Timothy Zé Doherty turns 1 week old. We’re getting a little orange-cherry cake from the bakery and a candle to celebrate. He is as cute as a button.