Monday, June 26, 2006

"They Wont Remember A Thing"

It's one of those ever-so-useful platitudes that people like to trot out whenever your baby is undergoing some painful procedure like immunisations or being made to dress up like a caribou. Like most platitudes it is supposed to be helpful, alleviate stress and/or guilt, reassure parents that they have done the right thing (well, maybe not the caribou suit) and make the person who said it feel better. Like most plattitudes, it does none of these things except the last, and it isn't true.

Here's the thing: they may not consciously remember their first needle or that time you spilled red wine on them (okay the time I spilled the red wine) or the fact that mum and dad were not getting along too well or the time you left them to Cry It Out, but you cant tell me that it doesnt affect (affect? effect? I never bloody know) them and leave some sort of mark upon their personalities.

Babies' brains are blank slates when they are born, and their earliest experiences shape the physical structure of the brain itself. The process of interacting with its people and its environment stimulates various parts of the brain, impacting not only on the number of brain cells and the number of connections between them but also the way in which these connections are wired. Over-stimulate the part of the brain that deals with stress responses and you will develop a brain that reacts as if a stress response is required even when it isnt.

When I understood this (for I didnt even realise this was the case until a few weeks ago) it had a profound affect on me. For two reasons. Firstly, the realisation that every.single.thing I do shapes Spudly's personality. Everything. Crying every evening because he was starving and we couldnt figure that out: some brain cells were stimulated and others died because of it. Holding him close for the better part of every day and responding immediately to his cries that mean "my butt's all poopy" "I'm gassy" and "I'm unsettled and feel like a grizzle" stimulate the warm and fuzzy pathways. On the whole, I think the warm and fuzzy pathways are winning out, but what a totally awesome (in the true sense of the word) responsibility. Obviously, I understood before that how we treat Spudly affects how he behaves in the world and how he feels about himself and others, but I didn't consider that how we treat him physically changes his brain so that he wont be able to respond differently to how WE hard-wire him. Fuck that's huge.

Secondly, it made me realise some things about myself. Since Spudly was born I've often ruminated upon what life was like in the House of the Mini Panda. My mother has told tales of being home after her 6 week hospital stay (following pre-eclampsia, 7 day labour, emergency c-section, baby born not breathing and not being able to see her for 3 days, and not having any milk to feed her) and being expected by the Husband and the Three Teenage Sons to pick up where she left off, i.e. her rightful position as their personal slave. She cried into the bucket of nappies on a regular basis from what I gather, and had to deal with not only the expectations of four less-than-enlightened males but also a baby who wouldnt stop screaming or go to sleep without the addition of Baby Valium (I shit you not). Knowing my father and brothers as I do, its not hard for me to picture the atmosphere in that house. The tension, the arguments, the screaming (not just from me) and more than likely the physical abuse. Is it any wonder that that baby grew up into a child and then adult with severe anxiety issues? Is it any wonder that she has suffered depression most of her life? Is it any wonder that a sudden loud voice, whether in anger or in fun, sends chills down her spine and does weird squidgy things to her guts?

For so long I put these things down to the things in my life that I could remember. The physical abuse my mother and I suffered from my father, the abuse I suffered from my mother, the violent relationship I ended up in with Fuckhead. The depression and anxiety disorder I put down to me being somehow weak or not made of strong enough moral fibre. I'm not denying the profound effect my remembered experiences have had on my personality, but what a shock it is to realise that the things I cant remember have had the biggest impact of all.

I'm not even sure how I feel about this. Relieved. Disturbed. Angry. Sad. Mostly relieved, I think. It goes a long way towards explaining why now that I'm in a loving, safe and supportive environment I feel like I'm out of my comfort zone and have to continually remind myself that this is a Good Thing. My comfort zone is that which was hard-wired into me in infancy. And its not a place I want to or should stay.

Speaking of the things they wont remember, here's some evidence for later court trials:

Mamma and Spudly do that 'net thing

Spudly says "Lemme see what you're doin..."

In case you cant quite read his t-shirt...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Got Poop?

Coz we sure do.

After three days of nothing in the nappy department 'cept for a lot of moistness, yesterday we were greeted with a rock-hard nugget which seemed to have acted as a cork for the TORRENT of plasticine horridness that followed for the rest of the day. Monkey Boy came back from the changing table, handed the Spud to me and sat in the corner, rocking. He may need therapy.

Lesson learned: eating lots and lots of stinky cheese may get things moving, but you'll wish it hadn't.

In other news just in:

Spudly tells us exactly what he thinks of his eskimo suit. Note configuration of left hand. (I swear on all things panda-y that this was not a set-up)

Spud has also embraced the concepts of Reaching For Things, Enjoying The Pram and Throwing Up On Every Item Of Clothing.

Next stop: Mensa.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Painting With Light

Back here I mentioned that one of the things I wanted to do with my Hour-A-Day was to mess around with my photography. I may not have mentioned before, but I'm Rather Good with the old camera lucida. Since I moved to my current abode 6 years ago I havent had a darkroom ,so my photography has slipped by the wayside. Its time to rectify this situation.

I recently read Portrait In Sepia by Isabel Allende. In it, the heroine of the story discovers her love of photography. Her description of what photography means to her rang so true with me that it prompted me to get my shit together and return to the medium that allows me to express what excites or moves me in this world.

If you observe an ordinary object or body very closely, it is transformed into something sacred. The camera can reveal secrets the naked eye or mind cannot capture; everything disappears except for the thing that is the focus of the picture. The photograph is an exercise in observation, and the result is always a stroke of luck... The camera is a simple apparatus, even the most inept person can use it; the challenge lies in creating with it that combination of truth and beauty called art. That quest is above all spiritual. I seek truth and beauty in the transparency of an autumn leaf, in the perfect form of a seashell on the beach, in the curve of a woman's back, in the texture of an ancient tree trunk, but in more elusive forms of reality. Sometimes, working with an image in my darkroom, the soul of a person appears, the emotion of an event or vital essence of some object; at that moment, gratitude explodes in my heart and I cry. I cant help it. Such revelations are the goal of my work.

With the purchase of a rather cool digital camera, and now a decent computer with decent software, I dont need to closet myself away in a darkened room for hours at night to be able to produce my art. I can sit in my loungeroom, with the wood fire going and Spudly at the boob, and exercise my creativity while being sociable at the same time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Spudly's Rockin' Rocker

Here he is. Introducing the fastest feet in the Antipodes:

It takes a minute or so to load. Be patient, people.

Friday, June 09, 2006



Guess who got a ticket.

*wipes drool from chin*

Monday, June 05, 2006

Holy Guacamole, Batman!

Weigh-in day. Time to see if the formula is working.

530g (18.7oz) in one week! TEN TIMES his previous weight gain. He's gone from below average to above average weight.

The Domperidone, or, as I like to think of it Dom Perignon, is working a treat to increase my supply. It pours out of me during feeding, and today I managed a whole feed and then expressed another 50ml (20z) which just never happened before.

What does he weigh now, you ask? 4.8kg at 8 weeks 4 days.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bits n Pieces


I made myself an appointment with the Mental Health Midwife last week, certain that I was in fact the only woman on the planet experiencing life with a newborn. Yesterday was time to go and spill my guts on what life with a 4kg spud is like, and why I feel like a failure.

In addition to telling me to stop being so damn hard on myself and start treating myself the same way I would a friend who was going through all this, my midwife has given me some homework. I have to make a list of all the things I'd like to do with an hour to myself per day. A whole HOUR! Just for me. With no baby and no husband to get in my face. Woohoo!

So what do I want to do with that hour?
  • Shower. A long one. Long enough to shave my legs, coz the Amazon called and they want their forest back.
  • Lie in my hammock in the sunbeams (if we ever get any again) and read a frivolous book or crap mag.
  • Lie in hammock and drink wine or somesuch.
  • Go for a walk somewhere picturesque.
  • Mess around with my collection of shells and beads and make some perdy things.
  • Mess around with my photography.
  • Sleep.
  • Sort out my wardrobe into "can wear now" "can wear later" and "get over it, you'll never be a size 10 again" piles.
  • Then realise I dont have a thing to wear and go op-shopping for divine new yummy-mummy attire.
  • Ring people. On the phone. And talk to them. Actual people. That I actually like.
  • Potter in the garden. Though at the moment this would entail a flame-thrower to find said garden and then a slasher to make it accessible enough to potter within.
  • Make yummy baked goods like a 50s Domestic Goddess.
What other things might I accomplish in one hour of baby-free time? Everything else I can think of is kinda longer term stuff like, I dunno, renovating the bathroom...

Bosoms Akimbo

The bosomry issues continue. I gave up on the Fenugreek because it gave me nosebleeds. I tried the anti-nausea drug Maxolon, which has the side-effect of increasing milk supply. I gave up on that when it made me so tired I could barely sit up. In addition, it gave me...umm...digestive issues. After a week I think it started to work, but I literally didnt have the energy to feed, which kinda defeats the purpose. Yesterday I was given a script for Domperidone, another drug like Maxolon. I wonder what the side effects of this one will be?

So far, I've been giving Spudly 60ml (2oz-ish for those of you living in the time of Charlemagne) of formula after each breastfeed, and I've been trying to space the feeding to three-hourly. Its working more or less. What is DEFINATELY working is the formula. We have a different baby. He's chilled. Totally chilled. Falls asleep after feeds. Might wake up again but doesnt scream. Instead, he smiles and coos and gurgles and is divine. And he still sleeps 6-8 hours at night.

However much I wish I could provide him with everything he needs myself, you cant argue with a contented baby. Well you can, but then you'll just upset him and he'll vomit on you.


Spudly has started to discover his hands. He clasps them together in front of his face and stares intently at them, moving them around and quite clearly trying to figure out what they're supposed to do. He's also started mimicing our facial expressions, and talking to us. He actually said "coo" the other day!

He's a freaking genius!
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