It's been over two months since my last post. Initially, I didn't post anything because after we returned from our holiday in France, it felt like nothing really happened. And I mean this in a good way. We got back in early September to the beginning of Spring in Joburg. To me, though, the advent of Spring in Jozi has always felt a bit like the beginning of summer. The weather usually shifts in to the kind of weather where you can suddenly do summery, outdoor things.
And so The Princess and got back into our rhythm of going for walks, going for coffee at Tasha's, sitting in the garden on a picnic blanket surrounded by her toys. The Princess learnt to sit in France and suddenly a whole new phase began. She also had her very first taste of solids at about five and a half months. This took the form of a picnic in the garden, with The Princess in her Bumbo seat as I hadn't yet purchased a high chair. The Husband especially came home from work at lunch time and fed her her first few mouthfuls of pureed butternut. She ate fairly well but did seem a little confused by the whole affair. It felt as though she was looking at us going: what is this stuff and what must I do with it?
I also stopped breastfeeding just before going onto solids. I never did blog about my nightmare early experiences with breastfeeding. I think it must be the most wonderful thing when it works well, but The Princess and I didn't quite take to it like ducks to water. As a result, she always had to be topped up with formula. I eventually came to accept what the Sister at my Baby Clinic told me: "Some girls are milk cows and some girls are meat cows." I'm not too sure what a meat cow girl produces, but I'm either that or I'm neither because I certainly didn't prove to be a milk cow. Topping up did have its advantages, though. No matter how hard I tried to get my head around it, I was just never one for breastfeeding in public. I do now understand how hard it would be not to breastfeed in public if you're breastfeeding exclusively, so I'm not against it on principle, but I just never quite felt comfortable with it. Topping up meant that we could go for lunches with The Princess on the weekends, take a bottle and The Husband could proudly feed her while we chatted to our friends. Topping up also meant that I could run errands or go shopping and leave The Princess at home with her nanny and if I skipped one breastfeed once in a while, it was no big deal. I certainly never had enough milk for any major discomfort to arise from skipping a feed.
When The Princess was about to turn seven months a few weeks ago, a friend called to ask if I would mind speaking to a colleague of hers who was battling with breastfeeding. I called her up and began by congratulating her on her son who was a week old. She, in turn, congratulated me and wanted to know how old The Princess was. When I replied that she was almost seven months, she said, "Ah! I can't wait for my son to be seven months!" Of course, in hindsight, the precious newborn phase where they curl up in the nook of your neck and sleep like little angels, passes by so quickly that one shouldn't wish this time away. But I remember feeling exactly the same way. For the first three to four months at least, I would look at mothers with babies older than The Princess. They'd be pushing them around Sandton City with the babies strapped into the built-in baby seats on the top of trolleys and the mothers would look so serene, that I could only put this down to an older, and therefore easier and less needy, baby. I think I probably even thought this about babies who were the same age or maybe even younger than The Princess, but I had to find some sort of explanation for the constant inner panic that I felt – probably for the first five to six months.
Of course, now I realise that it's one's age as a new mother, rather than one's baby's age, that helps to introduce some calm after many months. I'm sure there are many exceptions and that some women take to motherhood with very little anxiety or stress. But I suspect that most women take some kind of strain as first time mothers and that this only improves with time.