I wrote this for Elka when she was 13.5 months. I just found it in my old files, and thought I would share it.
I write this for you as you approach your fourteenth month. I should have kept a journal of your baby months, but I was so busy being a mother, and trying to salvage what I could of myself before being a mother, that I haven’t done it until now. One day you might be interested to read about yourself as a baby – what your life was like then, before you can remember. And I want to write this down for myself, because I think mothers forget all the details too.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Your Daddy and I lived in Melbourne in 2009. We had talked about having a baby, then one day decided to try for one, instead of embarking on a big trip around Nepal and Tibet. I’m glad we did, because the genes that came together formed you.
My pregnancy was very happy and healthy. I never felt sick. I felt great most of the time. And during that time, we moved to Lismore, to be closer to my parents, and have a better lifestyle for you. We’d bought our house soon after we found out I was pregnant. It was a house on a hill in Lismore Heights. Aunty Jenny was terribly worried about me living on that hill in the heart of Lismore’s summer with a baby and only one car for the family, but I wasn’t worried at all. I was just so excited about your birth.
We did a lot of preparation. Classes at the natural birth centre (which has since closed down, but was the hub through which we met most of our friends in the area), and yoga classes. Your due date came and went, then Christmas came and went, and then at last, on New Years Eve I went into labour. We were staying out at the natural birth centre – a beautiful property out of Lismore – having food with the midwife and the birth support. You were 13 days late. Santo had given me castor oil that day, and then at around 7pm I started going into labour. It was all relatively short – an incredibly strong and powerful sensation took over ever minute or so, and then by midnight I was fully dilated. You weren’t coming through though, so bum up in the air, your head crowning, we drove into Lismore Hospital. Dr Teoh delivered you with a little suction cap on your head. It was heaven to meet you. You came out red, and crying, and very long – 4.2kg – all very good things. I think your Daddy cried. We were both so so happy, especially to see you were so healthy.
Your first few hours were spent trying to suckle and sleeping. We headed back to birth centre only a few hours after y were born and were very pleased to see you went easily into the car. What a tiny little precious bundle to strap into car seats. I think we are still paying the price for that early car trip.
Your whole extended family came to visit when you were about 8 hours old. I was still awake and ecstatic, and we drank champagne and ate cake in your honour. The newspaper people came as well – you were the first baby for the decade in the northern rivers, and you very aptly pointed a distinct No.1 with your index finger when they took the photo. It’s quite a famous photo amongst those who have seen it.
The first few days you slept a lot, and I was very pleased to see you rarely cried. Then on the third day, we did a ceremonial bath for you, at which time my milk came in, and fed you for about 3 hours straight. Every time I tried to release myself, you cried, an this pattern continued for the next few months. You were an excellent feeder. But to get you to sleep was usually difficult. In the end, between Daddy an I, you were in the sling most of the day, then at night, you slept quite well, waking up occasionally to feed. We had you in our bed to begin with, then a little cradle near us, then a hammock, then back to the bed with us.
Luckily Daddy was home many days in those early days, but days spent without him were hard for me. You cried a lot, and I wondered what I was dong wrong. Some people said you had colic, others sad you didn’t sleep enough. I tried everything I could, but in the end, walking around the hot hills of Lismore in the January heat with you in the sling, with dummy, singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was the only thing that worked. The pram was your nemesis; and as it turns out so was the car. That was probably our fault, as we drove a lot in those early days to Coorabell, where Starrs, Will and Griffin were staying with Magri and Richie, as it was so much cooler there.
I did manage to write a book while you were in the sling. I’d sit on the gym ball and wrote a book about foot care in aged care for TAFE. Very exciting stuff.
By about three months, you changed a lot. You started to interact, and were quite peaceful a lot of the time. I was used to your sleep pattern by then. Three short sleeps during the day, then quick feeds about three times in the night. I brought you into our bed, and fell asleep with you, so I never really got tired.
At 6 months, things were great. You ditched the dummy, and started to eat real food. You began with a whole avocado in one sitting, and proceeded to just about everything. Whole grains, yogurt, all fruits, all vegetables. Granny Annie arrived around your seventh month birthday – the day you sat up on your own for the first time.
Apart from in the car or the pram you were very happy. We did a lot of walking with you in the back pack, and a lot of singing and playing. You started to love books, which we of course encouraged. We had a great month with Granny Annie; although during her stay sadly your great grandmother Joyce passed away. Joyce was trying to teach you how to clap, and when she was sick in hospital you were the only reason for her to smile. Every time you were around, she started interacting again, and perked up. It was beautiful.
We had an excellent social life – we still do! We would go to Mums and Bubs once a week at the birth centre, with Ellie and Shelly, Tigerlilly and Kaia, Helene and Mirabelle, Sohie and Olive, Maraya and Lucah, Sariya and Lukah, Lucy and Issy, Jane and Josie – and many others. Now we go to different people’s houses most days of the week, or go to Brunswick Heads, or Lennox’s Lake Ainsworth, or the Alstonville pool. It’s really fun. And you are extremely social especially with older kids and adults. You go up to anyone on the beach and help make (destroy) their sandcastle.
We have a very happy time at home. Daddy and I are always making silly jokes and songs. He only works 3.5 days a week, so is around a lot. We always eat breakfast and dinner together, and for a while now, you eat what we eat. I call you a skally sometimes, because you pretty much do as you please…stand and eat, sit on the table and eat. I guess we are very lenient! You love walking everywhere, holding our hands. At around 13 month, you did do steps on your own, but you are a smart chicken and still prefer to walk assisted. You climb on everything. Chairs, tables, our bed. Your favourite thing is to lead us into the bedroom where we have a king mattress and a single mattress pressed into the wall, and we all roll around, laughing.
You still breastfeed a fair bit. I can’t see you giving up any time soon. I have to say, I am an excellent Mummy and I hope you will always appreciate the fact that I never let you cry on your own, I breastfeed you to sleep at night, and through the night whenever you wake. Sometimes it takes an hour to get you to sleep at first. But I choose this way of parenting – it feels more natural and normal than trying to create rules and guidelines for how you should sleep. You are a baby! And you have the rest of your life to be educated, and law-bound.
We are pretty convinced you are the most intelligent baby on the north coast. This morning when you did a pee on the carpet, you took my underwear which were close by and began to mop up your pee-spill. It was incredibly cute. You are a great conversationalist too. Since you were about 11 months old, you have never stopped talking. Your consonants are all very clear and well pronounced. You warble, and have this amazing intonation, looking directly at your listener and telling them something, quite clearly, in your own language. We do understand the animal sounds you make. Moo was the first one, then woof, now its bbbrrr (horse), snort for pig, ee oo for a monkey, eeiii for an elephant, and rrr for a lion. They are excellent. You understand so much! When I say “can you please get your book about Old McDonald?” you go straight to it in the pile and bring it to me to read.
On that subject, you still love books. They recommend 10 minutes a day – I think we read with you about an hour a day. You love books by Julia Donalson, the Hairy McLarey books, Old McDonald Had a Farm, Touch and Feel farm, the Hungry Caterpillar, anything by Mem Fox. Sometimes I catch you engrossed in a book on your own in the living room. And sometimes a book might even get us through one hairy car drive – well, a book, 10 songs, 3 toys and a little chat about your day.
Elki, at 1, you are amazing. Your beauty, your conversations, your intelligence, and your sociability is admired by all. I am not even being biased!