Sunday, September 24, 2006

A day in the life

Posting on this blog has become more and more difficult as Charlie becomes more and more people and less and less like something that landed in Area 52 and has been stored in a bunker by the US government (see photo, above). I recently read a column written by a new dad saying that newborns are like aliens and there's something to be said for this point of view.

Charlie arrived on the scene complete with a Thousand Yard Stare that seemed to see everything and nothing. You can imagine anything going through his mind - wide eyed and silent, solemn and somehow aged looking he seems to hold all the answers to life and to sit in judgment of everything. Until, of course, he wails in rage because he has a dirty nappy.

He's been like that for the last month and because the periods of time in which he's awake have been relatively short, that's the only way we've known him - the alien buddha baby. Now, however, he's awake a lot more and is becoming a little less alien and a little more like somebody's baby. Not like my baby, not yet, I don't think, although perhaps... but definitely like a baby.

I never actually had a picture in my head of what my baby may look like, if I ever were to have a baby (which clearly I have) however that doesn't stop me from thinking, sometimes, that he doesn't quite look like what I expected. Not that I was expecting anything, you know. Anyway, some days Charlie looks like my baby but some days he still looks like a bit of an alien. The best way for me to deal with this is to love him even when he's an alien because I just can't be certain when he's going to morph back into my baby. So I take it day by day and day by day he returns my efforts by focusing a little more on things, by looking around more, by nearly smiling when he's pleased, by showing some enthusiasm for his favourite things - the left one, the right one and whatever surprise is in that bottle.

Day by day it goes a little like this: Assuming the day starts at midnight, normally Charlie begins it by sleeping but swiftly wakens demanding food. It's a good idea to give it to him as if he's lulled back to sleep he merely wakes at 1 or 2am and is impossible to get back to sleep. So, I feed him in the nursery on the sofa with the lights fairly low. He then plops back to sleep often without the pleasure of a burp and is soundo until between 3am and 4am. This heralds the Battle of the Boob in which the distraction of a filthy nappy means that while his head is diving towards the boob at warp speed, his arms and legs are protesting the nappy situation. And so, being half alien with no control over his human arms, they beat against the boob and push him off it and his little legs thrash and his neck arches and after a few tries he bursts into tears of rage and frustration and so I change him - and, as a good feed loosens the bowels (surely you all know that by now) I end up changing him again.

Between 4am and 5:30am he falls asleep for the third time (the first two times he falls asleep until I put him in his moses basket which wakes him up instantly - and because waking up in the night means that he's hungry, he thinks he's hungry and we go through the whole scenario again, only shorter. Eventually I put him back on the boob with a sigh and he falls asleep with the same sigh... only smaller. Once he no longer wakes up in his basket, I carry it back into the bedroom, slither back into bed and, after checking his breathing once or twice, I too fall asleep.

Sometime between 6am and 8am he wakes up and if I'm lucky, D feeds him a bottle of expressed milk and I snore on until 9am or 10am when he wakes up again. This time he wakes me up and I sit up, reach into the basket by the bed and pick him up and feed him in bed. If I'm lucky, his Dad has padded him properly and he doesn't pee down his leg onto the pillow. Then, if there's nothing to do and nowhere to go, I change him, lay him on his blanket on my mattress and lie down beside him and we sleep for an hour or more, absolutely soundly. Once in a while I wake up and peer at him and sometimes he's staring back and sometimes he's sleeping. Whatever the situation is, he always hates it when I get him up, he wails and wails.

Following this it becomes like an episode of the keystone cops in the flat. Firstly, he normally need a major change of everything and secondly, he's slept longer than he should hae done and he's absolutely starving so he's particularly fractious during the change period which makes it nearly impossible. At this point I have also to get dressed, put in my lenses, do the laundry, have breakfast, drink a glass of milk for my mother, fill in a passport application or my income tax or pick a number of things I haven't done yet and because it's the afternoon, changing him and feeding him make him particularly wakey and he needs company so I have to have him with me on my travels around the apartment or listen to him wail in frustration and loneliness while I sneak into the loo to comb my hair - so I do nearly everything one-handed.

Once I've approached completion on 75% of my tasks (the final 25% normally being my taxes) I give up and sit down with him and we do something like listen to music while I make his hands dance (he seems to like this) - by doing this we've discovered that he likes Johnny Cash but he doesn't much care for Abba. So far. Yesterday I walked him around the apartment looking at things. He stared for ages at the bookshelf, particularly when I took books out and put them back again, he couldn't quite figure that one out. Today he stared for ages at himself in the bedroom mirror.

Sometimes he decides he's sleepy after all and I lie him in his cot where, if he wakes up, he can watch one of his mobiles go around for a while. So we go until we land up around 5:30pm (or if we're really bad and have let things slip, 6pm) where he either wakes up starving or I wake him up to tell him he's starving and we repeat the 4am experience including the boob battle. At this time of day however he's normally more awake and therefore makes much funnier faces as he prepares to latch on to the boob. My favourite is the one where he screws up his little face, furrows his eyebrows in concentration and dives for the boob with his mouth open like an angry little politician - sometimes so quickly that the hand I use to support his head can't keep up and he gets there without my help. Sometimes he misses and reaches his head back again making several different open and shut cross-eyed faces while he rearranges his expression which normally makes me laugh so hard that he can't latch on because I'm moving.

After that I run about 4 inches of warm water into the bath and put him in it for a float. He loves this more than nearly anything. I have one hand under his head and the other under his chest or his bum and I swoosh him through the water while he looks around with his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open making little 'ooh' noises with his breath. He hates being taken out and by the time the towel is wrapped around him he's had one good wail, at which point he realises he's actually warm and dry and shuts up. And we feed again until he gets sleepy, or gets full and stops eating.

At that point it's either a nap or a sit in the livingroom with Mum and Dad while he stares at everything. Normally he falls asleep at some point and we put him in his basket in the cot. This frees us up for our own dinner until he gets a bottle of formula at around 10 or 10:30 while I express a bottle full for D to give him in the morning. He then falls asleep for the rest of the day and the cycle starts again.

Every day he's awake a little longer, every day he eats a little more, every day he looks around a little more, reacts a little more, nearly smiles a little more and needs changing a little more. Every day his clothes get a little tighter and his head a little stronger. Every day he's a little more human and that alien stare is a little further away. Every day he's more like my baby. I think.