You are, this very minute, 5 months old. Isn’t that amazing?
You are the delight of our lives. You laugh and smile and cry and scream and fuss and yell and squeal and we love you every minute. You live in Canberra now, in a tiny town-house with a staircase I hate and a balcony I love. We’re settling in, your parents and your fur-sisters and you, and I wonder what you remember from the last few weeks. Do you remember all of your things disappearing into boxes? Do you remember the awful flight, when the air pressure hurt your ears and you screamed and screamed, nothing we could do to comfort you? Do you remember the hotel we lived in for nearly 3 weeks? The trip to Parliament House, the bus rides, the houses we inspected, the vegan cafes? Or do you just remember being with us, is that all you know? Our smell and touch and sound and the taste of your milkies?
You’re a very clever little thing; you’re already mobile, squirming and grunting your way to where you want to go. You often conk out before you get there though; with arms and legs flailing you squawk for your Mumma to save you. I scoop you up and tell you you’re ok, until you’re ready to start your journey again. You haven’t much interest in trying to sit up – you’re always on the move so I’m not surprised. I said weeks ago that you would crawl before you could sit.
One of your little quirks is that you like to put your thumb on things. Anything new to be investigated is met with an out-turned thumb, pressing down and twisting, your fingers grasping at nothing. You have also recently discovered your inner dolphin, not long ago your vocalisations were limited to an ‘aaaaah,’ and a ‘glllll,’ now the sounds emitting from you are wide and varied with creaks and squeals and squawks and long high pitched sighs.
Just in the last few days you’ve started to kiss us. And when I say kiss, I mean you open your mouth and slobber on our faces, trying to mimic what you see us doing to you and each other. I realise that at this age it’s not out of affection you’re doing it, merely a desire to act like the big people around you, but it’s still pretty special. Especially when combined with a chortle, a grin, and a bucketful of drool.
You have so many different smiles now, and you’re so expressive with your eyebrows. When you’re shuffling and pulling yourself around you look up every few moments, giving me a smile and a raise of your brows, a little look that says, ‘is this ok Mum?’ It is ok, but it’s also not. You were my little worm for all of 3 minutes, you’re already off trying to conquer the world.
You’ve changed a lot in the last month my little squeaky babe, I’m excited to see where the next month takes us.
You are, right this minute, 4 months old. Isn’t that amazing?
Ten minutes ago you were 4 minutes old, taking your first breaths after a scary entry into this world, your Mumma and Daddy staring into each other’s eyes, eagerly listening to your squeaks and snuffles after what felt like a lifetime of silence.
Five minutes ago you were 4 hours old, all I’d seen of you was a peek as you were whisked you away from the operating room, my only comfort knowing that you were with your Daddy, and that I had pumped some milk for you while I was pregnant.
Two minutes ago you were 4 days old, and I carefully and slowly carried your bundled up self from my cramped hospital room and into the open air. We were nervous and excited to have you, finally, in our house. Our Secret, our Blobby, our George, our Juniper.
One minute ago you were 4 weeks old, you were still resisting breastfeeding and your receding hairline looked a little funny. I was very sore from the surgery I had so that you could be here safely. Your Granny was looking after your Daddy and me, so that we could look after you. We loved you more than we loved ourselves and each other combined, but it was hard.
Suddenly, BAM! You’re 4 months old and it’s not so hard any more.
You’re a big girl, such a big girl. You’ve been gaining a kilo a month, and now weigh a hefty 8kg. Everyone who holds you loves to pinch your chubby thighs and nuzzle you under your chin. It’s a little bit silly, but some people think it’s only cute for babies to have thighs like yours. Don’t listen to them, my chunky love, love your body unconditionally, never let anyone dictate how your body should look. I will be your role model and show you how much I love my own chunky body. Every body is perfect in its own way.
At 16 weeks you turned into a roly-poly bug. On New Years Eve, you suddenly decided it was time for you to roll over. You had been half rolling over, back and forth, for a few weeks, but that night you were determined to do it! You insisted on floor time, you stretched, you reached, you tried to pull yourself across, grunting the whole time. When you did it your Mumma and Daddy cheered and you gurgled with approval. Not satisfied with your new trick, you immediately started to try to army crawl.
You seem unfazed as everything in your first house has been disappearing into boxes, ready to be packed into a truck and moved to your second house. We’re moving, you, me, your Dad, and your 3 fur sisters, all the way across the country to the nation’s capital, Canberra! You’ll always be a Perth girl, your Daddy wouldn’t let it be any other way, but it’s time to start a new adventure. I wonder how you’ll feel as an adult, never knowing your first home. Will it even be still standing? The way the walls are crumbling, I doubt it. I lived in my first home for nearly 18 years, it’s a safe haven, somewhere I feel perfectly comfortable. I hope that I can provide that for you one day, even if it’s not your first. Of course, home is where the heart is, and yours is firmly within mine.
I am beyond happy that this new phase in my life won’t be just as a couple, but as a family, and it’s all because of you, my squirmy worm.
Suddenly I blink and it’s January 4th and Christmas feels like a distant memory. June’s first Christmas meant more to me than I expected it to. I kept bursting into tears at the sheer perfectness of it all, every Christmas for as long as I can remember I’ve thought about what it would be like when I have children, and now it’s here. What traditions will our new family build, what will we take from either side of our families? So many possibilities.
I almost love Christmas Eve more than the day itself, I love the excitement and preparation, the baking of mince pies, the last minute sewing, the way Matt shuffles me out of the bedroom so that he can wrap presents, while I sneak into to the spare room to wrap his. We hang the handmade stockings, watch TV shows from my folder of Christmas specials, and I sing and sway to carols all day. We stay up until midnight, opening a present before bed. Not having Matt rush off to work at midnight is a novelty in itself, we all get to snuggle up in our family bed, June gets a million kisses and she dozes off, we tell her that while she dreams Santa will bring her presents.
I wake before Matt and feed June back to sleep. I lay in bed and watch them both sleep. My beautiful daughter, who took so much genetic material from her beautiful father, they are mine and they still amaze me. We wake and open presents; a vintage train set, a giraffe book, a soft stuffed orangutan. Breakfast in bed, fresh summer fruits, fruit toast, fruit mince pies. All so fruity. Time for a family nap and then a quick visit to see June’s Grandad and Aunties.
Matt prepares the Christmas dinner while I lay with June as she snoozes. Spinach pie, a vegan roast, lots and lots of vegetables. Cherry ‘cheese’cake for dessert. The perfect end to a quiet and perfect day.
I love my family and I love Matt’s family, but being a part of this new family is a bliss I never imagined.
Now you are now, right this minute, three months old. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to watch you learn and grow, and it’s hard to believe you’ve only been here 3 short, but long, months. We thought you were a delight at 2 months, but the last month has seen you develop your sweet personality even more. You are so sweet, demanding, determined and, as I’m sure I’ve said before, feisty!
This month you started to recognise your Dad as a familiar and trusted person. When he gets home your face brightens and you love to chat to him about what you’ve been up to. You earnestly ooooh and aaaah at him, grinning when he responds to you. I enjoy watching these interactions almost more than when you chat to me in the same way. You are so close to rolling over from back to front, you might even do it tonight, after this post has been drafted for your birth minute.
This week you discovered how to use your hands. You knew they were there before, but now you know how to make them do things! Some of the time, anyway. You bat the mushroom on your bouncy chair, grinning as it makes the owl swing. You’ve also worked out how to use them to shove things in your gob. Everything you grasp onto gets a good dose of slobber, including toys, our hands, clothes and a leaf. I know this is just the beginning, I’m sure I’ll be fishing things out of your mouth for a long time to come. I just hope you don’t take after your Auntie Lucie, she once ate a snail and your poor Granny had to scoop it out.
Your favourite place to sleep is where you are as I type this, with your face against my chest or over my shoulder, your body stretched down mine, your teeny toes resting on my thigh. Sometimes I wrangle you into a wrap so I can have two hands to type while you sleep, but sometimes, well, most of the time, I just breathe you in. I know this time is fleeting, so I savour every moment.
Your 4th month might see your Mumma a little frazzled, but I think that you will be my saving grace. You see, you, me, your Dad, and your 3 fur-sisters are moving! We’re moving so far away, to Canberra from Perth, and I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of packing and planning that has to be done. We might not leave until after your 4th month birthday, but so much has to be done before then. The good thing is that it will be a new start for our little family. Your Dad won’t have to work 7 days a week, he’ll be home with us every weekend. We’ll get to explore a new area, make new friends, and settle into a nice routine. So I’m sorry if the house is a disaster, that we’ll have to temporarily stay in strange places, and if I’m grumpy or stressed. I promise I’ll never take it out on you, and it really is for the better.
I hope you’re ready for our next adventure, my love, it’s going to both exciting and scary!
My Mum went home last week. She lives on the other side of the country, so we were so lucky that she was able to stay with us for 11 weeks! In the first few weeks, when June wasn’t feeding well and I wasn’t healing well, it was Mum who kept the house going. Matt is totally hands on with Juniper, in the first few weeks at home he did most of the feeding while I expressed milk for the next feed, so we were equally exhausted. Mum wasn’t here to help with June, she was here to help with me, and that’s exactly what you need when you have a baby. She wasn’t here to change nappies or give baths or give me advice on how to be a mother, she just provided us with support to keep things afloat. Clean dishes appeared when we needed them, loads of washing appeared on the washing line, healthy food materialised in front of me, and when I was at my lowest points and needed to cry, she was there to rub my back or hold the baby so I could go and cry in the shower.
After we were settled she was just here for a holiday, with the perk of hanging out with her granddaughter! I’m not sure she’s ever been on a real holiday before, and I think she needed the time away from ‘real life,’ as much as I needed her here. She took over my sewing room, putting it to better use than I had for months, churning out wonderful outfits for June. Once I have the time I’ll teach myself to also sew baby clothes and I hope that we can sell things together at a market one day.
I really admire my Mum, I hope that I can follow her example as a mother. She knows when to be a mother, and when to be a friend. She knows when to let her children go, and when to give advice. She’s creative, empathetic, intelligent and kind.
I think that one day we will have a granny flat in the bottom of the garden, a little place perfect for June’s Granny.
Juniper has been here for 11 weeks, and we spent the first 5-6 struggling to breastfeed. It’s not unusual for breastfeeding to take several weeks to establish, but not many people talk about their struggles. It may be that at the time you have no time to talk about it, and in hindsight it didn’t seem that bad, or it may be that it is perceived as a failure and something to be ashamed of. Whatever the reason, when it seems like everyone else has a wonderful and easy time with it, it’s natural to wonder what is wrong with you. Chances are there’s nothing wrong with you, it just might take some time!
I will write out our breastfeeding journey in full, but for now, here is what got me through those weeks.
1. The magic of milk.
We all know ‘breast is best,’ but it pays to remember why. I’m not too sure about the idea that we were ‘designed’ for anything, but if God really got down to it he would have definitely been very busy in the kitchen, designing a recipe for the perfect nourishment for babies, because this stuff is magic! Easily digested, everything they need (except Vitamin D, oops), and what really sets it apart from its formula counterpart, antibodies! Magic and wonderful antibodies! They protect Juniper from illnesses that I’m exposed to, and that’s a pretty darn good reason to get it into her, any way I can!
The magic of milk was only a motivation to keep pumping though, at one point I had resigned myself to a few years of pumping and bottle feeding, but there were other factors which pushed me to keep trying her on the breast.
At the moment Juniper either sleeps next to my bed or in it, so night feeds only require me to point my nipple at her and wait for her to finish, then we both fall straight back to sleep. After the weeks of struggling, the ease of this still amazes me. Wherever I go, I’ve got her dinner on tap. There’s no waiting for formula to heat up, or breast milk to defrost, you just unclip the bra and you’re off!
Oh my goodness, I am lazy. Any shortcut I can make, I’ll be there. Spending weeks finger feeding with a tube, then feeding with a bottle, showed me that neither Matt nor I are cut out for bottle feeding, either with formula or expressed milk. Expressed milk is a little easier, you can feed it at room temperature and you don’t have to sterilise anything. But with both you still have to wash things, really well too! Ain’t nobody got time for that!
My milk is free! The most complete and best food Juniper could ever hope for, and it’s free. Amazing.
I’m not ashamed to say that there was an element of pride in my determination to get her feeding properly. I’ve read several books about the history of breastfeeding, and about breast milk in our culture. I’ve written essays about it, dammit! I was not giving up!
I haven’t written about it yet, but the birth of Juniper was a very difficult experience for me. I struggled with feeling like my body had failed me, both during the pregnancy and the delivery via emergency caesarean section. I needed to keep trying, I needed to feel like my body could do something right. Through our breastfeeding journey I’m relearning that my body is strong and capable.
7. It Feels Good.
Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, the ‘love hormone.’ It’s the same chemical which is released when we hug and kiss and *ahem* do other things. Breastfeeding makes you and your baby feel damn good! It didn’t in those first week, but I knew that if we could get it right that it would give us both a lot of joy.
These days the easiest way to turn a cranky June into a happy June is to stick her on the boob. She feeds when she’s hungry, she feeds when she’s upset, she feeds when she’s tired. It’s a fool-proof way to get her to sleep, and I really don’t care if the ‘experts’ want to tell me that’s wrong, that she’ll get dependent, that she’ll never sleep by herself. She’s a baby, she doesn’t need to learn how to self-soothe just yet; she needs her Mumma. Providing her with comfort now will help her to be a confident toddler, child, and adult, because she will always feel safe. In the meantime, solving all of Juniper’s problems with the ‘magic boob’ is almost too easy! When we were struggling to latch, and she would scream at the sight of my nipple, I thought about how much I wanted her to find comfort in my breast, and that thought is what pushed me to keep trying, night after night.
It’s strange that this struggle was only 5 weeks ago, it feels like a lifetime. In the midst of those weeks it felt like forever, it felt like my entire life had become a constant cycle of desperately trying to feed a screaming infant, feeding her expressed milk, pumping more milk for the next feed, and sleeping when I could. To make things more difficult I had complications with my wound, so I was also in a lot of pain. I felt blank and exhausted and helpless and frustrated. But there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. We both fought so hard to reach this point, and I really cherish our breastfeeding relationship now. I hope it continues for many many more months to come.
You are now, right this minute, two months old. I actually think that you believe yourself to be two years old. Or perhaps even twenty. You are feisty and determined, and clearly have things to do and places to be. I had to laugh when I was reading what to expect at three months, that you may be able to hold some of your weight when held on your feet. Well you, my love, clearly haven’t read the books. I hold you on your feet and you push up, your big round thighs holding you steady. You grin and wave your arms; you’re happiest on your feet, and I think this is because you are quite sure you’re not a baby. I almost feel like if I let you go you’d go trotting down the hallway, out the door, and off to university.
You do not like to be confined or wrapped at all. You’ve refused to be swaddled since you were two weeks old, and you hate being in your car seat. I can only wear you when you’re asleep, because when you wake you kick your legs, throw your head back, and demand to be free. It’s almost like you’re telling me that you spent months cooped up within me, and now you’re making up for lost time. I hope that in the coming weeks you enjoy being worn again, because I love to feel you so close, knowing you’re safe and secure.
I always feel a bit odd watching people hold you, they cradle you carefully, making sure your neck won’t drop. You’ve been taking care of that since you were two weeks old, when you could hold your head steady and stare at the bookcase for minutes at a time. I hope this love of books doesn’t fade, that your interest in the shapes and colours of the book spines translates to a love of words and pictures.
You first smiled at five weeks, and with those first grins and smirks my attitude changed. Once you were engaging with me nothing felt like a chore – you were not just a helpless slug needing attention but a person, telling me what you needed, grinning at the sight of my nipple, demanding your nappy be changed. It’s perhaps no coincidence that this was when we finally worked out how to breastfeed. You’re talking now, more and more every day. Nothing makes me happier than waking up with next to me, grinning and cooing, ready to tell me all about your plans for the day. I talk back and your eyes open wide with amazement at the range of sounds I can make. ‘Ba-ba-ba’ is your favourite today, you practically burst with glee as you intently watch my lips, trying to determine just how I’m producing the sounds.
You will always be my everything, but one thing you will never be is my ‘princess.’ Because what is a princess? Someone born into not-much-power? Or married into it. Someone needing to be rescued, waiting for her prince. Someone mild, delicate, and passive. But oh no, my dear, not you. You are already solid, strong, active and determined. You will be the one climbing down the tower, you will wake yourself from the slumber, and you will keep your voice, the most precious gift you have, and stay happily in the ocean.
As much as I delight in all that you can already do, I wouldn’t be so sad if you decided to slow down a little. You’re my baby after all, and there really is no rush. You have a lifetime to conquer the world, but for only so long will you need me like you do now.
I hope that you will always have such a fearless and adventurous spirit, but know that I will always be your safe haven.