The other dada (or: when, oh, when will she call me Mama?)

On the other hand, at 14 months, Anya still doesn’t call me Mama! For the last six months, I have been dada (along with the other dada). She knows the difference, she’ll point at the right one of us in response to our ‘names’ but she calls us both dada. If she sees a photo of the two of us together, she we’ll point at K. and say ‘dada’ and point at me and say ‘dada’ while signing milk. She gets it… she just doesn’t bother using the other title. To be fair she also calls random people on the street dada, quite often. We figure it is just her word for person… although I will say she says it with way more zest and enthusiasm when greeting her dad from work. ‘DAADAAAAA!!!’

play

This is quite an emotional subject. I mean we all melt (I can only assume) at the sound of our own child calling our name, especially for the first time. Apparently it is common for this to happen, for a baby to pick one name (either mama or dada) and call both parents that for a time. Thankfully I have met plenty of other moms who say the exact same thing happened at their house – it was dadadada all the time. Once, I even ran into somebody I didn’t know at the shop and her kid was saying ‘dada’. I said that is my daughter’s favourite word, too. She got really quite upset as she told me her baby only said ‘dada’ and not ‘mama’ yet. I rambled off something about evolution and the necessity to ensure the baby bonds with the father first, hence why most moms encourage their babies to say ‘dada’ early on, not to mention that in all languages the word for father is composed of some of the first sounds that babies naturally babble by themselves – even deaf ones – such as baba, papa, dada. Most dads I know will gleefully claim any of those as their ‘name’ if they hear the baby saying it… or at least the mom will claim it for them. There is also research that proves (?) first babies look more like their fathers, again, an evolved trait biologically engineered to keep dads around for longer – especially when things get tough and mothers really need their support. Anyway, I digress, the point is it kind of hurts when your kid doesn’t say your name. Does he/she love dada more?  I got over it. I have rationalised it away, as you can tell, and I figure she’ll say mama sooner or later and in the meantime her dada gets to enjoy all the attention, fun and closeness of hearing Anya shout for him when he arrives home from work everyday.

I’ll share an early secret with you, though, Anya has started saying mamamama a lot (a bit like when she was first learning to babble it) and she looks at me for a reaction (maybe ‘cos she knows that sound will get a reaction) but it fills my heart with joy and my spirit with hope. Could it be soon?

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Interesting read

Sharing some inspiring reads I have recently stumbled across:

On the importance of ‘make-believe and pretend’ play (versus toys): http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19212514

On developing compassion and empathy (versus bullying behaviour): http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/fighting-bullying-with-babies/?src=tptw

Enjoy!

Treat-days: how I find my mamma-sanity

Pedicure Day

Image by Rachel D via Flickr

Sundays have become treat days.

As you know, for many months (I can’t remember now, four? six?) I had no time off, as such, to do things just for me. I was with my daughter 24/7. This was for a number of reasons. I was (and am) doing baby-led-breastfeeding – that is, on cue – and during the first three of four months that meant Anya was on my breast often for 50 minutes out of every hour! (yeah she liked to suckle!!). I guess that plus recovery from the cesarean and the fact that I got little consecutive sleep meant I didn’t have much energy, anyway. This was all compounded by the fact that at the time I knew almost nobody in my local area and the people I did know in the wider Bay Area were mostly not baby people.

Anyway, my first real outing, of time for myself, was to go to dance-aerobics class. I loved it! But unfortunately I am so out of shape that I would come out red as a beetroot and as parched as a desert flower and twice the class was followed by a migraine (due to the dehydration which I just could not drink enough to keep at bay, it would seem). So, I have decided to give my Sunday dance classes a miss for now. I am still walking lots and I’d like to do some more exercise but something gentler for now, like Yoga, perhaps. Meanwhile, I wanted to take advantage of my hubby’s kind offer to take care of Anya for a few hours while I do something just for me on a Sunday. So it is that the last few Sundays have become treat days!

So far I have gone for a massage, gone to the cinema (to see Avatar in 3D – yeah! – sounds corny but I loved it) and gone for a pedicure, my first ever, actually. Oh, yes, I like this new life!!

Bond with your baby, find yourself

I had an attachment parenting ‘aha moment’ today. Anya is teething again, second tooth. We woke up a lot last night, together, and she has been quite clingy or needy today… and yet I woke up feeling grateful for the opportunity to bond with her so deeply, to give her something (my time, energy, love and milk) when she needed it. I felt closer to her, proud of myself (for sticking with it rather than medicating her or putting her in a crib in another room for her to ‘cry it out’, which I understand may be necessary for some parents at some time, but I was able to do without yesterday). I also know that night-feeding has been linked to IQ (perhaps inconclusively but hey I am a momma-blogger not a PhD student writing her thesis). I think I read that it was correlated in ‘The Fussy Baby Book‘ by Doctor Sears. It kind of makes sense and tallies with two other known facts: 1) breastfeeding boosts IQ (this doesn’t mean everybody who breastfeeds is smart, it just means you’ll have a few more IQ points than your ‘starting score’ – whether it was higher or lower, according to your own genetic inheritance); 2) babies wake up more and need more attention and nurturing from you when they are going through developmental leaps (hmm… reference…I think I first saw that in the ‘Magical Child‘ by Joseph Chilton Price but many childcare experts mention this). And, boy, is she going through a developmental leap. Anya seems to be ‘growing’ on all fronts, learning how to move independently, understand communication, signal her needs (through sounds, gestures, etc.) and even developing a sense of humour! And, as I mentioned, she is teething, so there really is a lot going on for her right now. It seems only natural that she might need a little extra reassurance from mommy, no?

The shift that occurred in me, that I am trying to relate to you, is perhaps a subtle one. I already believed in attachment parenting but somehow it was all happening from the neck up for me, at least with regards to co-sleeping. Yesterday I felt it in my heart. It wasn’t just that this whole approach is a ‘good idea’ but that I really felt it in me. I felt myself surrendering to what is, no longer trying to escape to facebook, to blogging, to housework, to a job, to… in that moment, for that night, I was just a mommy with infinite time to be, with infinite energy for my little baby whom I love.

I didn’t focus on the negative or the lack – the tiredness, crankiness, lack of energy and creativity for other projects or time to travel or hang out with my friends. I just soaked in the bliss of being there for this little creature. I allowed our higher purposes to meld, if you like, or as K and I often say, we ‘shoaled’. You know, like fish who communicate wordlessly to find a shared pathway. We found the point at which my needs meet her needs, they touch. If there is only One (one Truth, one Consciousness, one Soul) there can be only one solution for both of us. I see that. What serves me, truly, must also serve those around me, the Planet, my daughter. Does that make sense? This is hard stuff to talk about, to put into words…

I think it also helps that my mom is here. I am less shattered than I usually am. I am more on top of things and less running to stay still. I have more energy to love… okay that is rubbish of course, the love is always there in the background but having that little bit of extra energy in the system (the household) allows me to really step out and see the big picture, gain perspective. For this I am truly grateful!

… And on this same note, here is an interesting article linking attachment parenting to the environment. I had not thought of it that way, particularly, but it is all connected. One Soul.

The have-babies and the don’t-have-babies

Playing with Daddy

I met up with an old friend the other day, you know, somebody from my pre-baby, fabulously fun, outgoing London life. I was terrified we would have nothing to say to each other anymore. My life is all baby and his is, well, all not-baby.

A divide is formed, line strong in the sand: those who have babies and those who do not.

Isn’t it so true that once you have babies some of the most important things in your life are going to be plain goble-dee-gook to those without children? They come meet you and say ‘let’s go for a night out’ or ‘let’s go on a road trip’ and you may or may not go but chances are the answer isn’t as quick or as automatic as it once was – as they stare on wondering what the big deal is: “Can’t you just leave the baby with someone?” Now, there are other considerations to factor in, other ‘responsibilities’ as people so often, so heavily put it. In my case, with the ‘natural breastfeeding’ thing I’ve got going, chances are I won’t be joining in (road trippin’ or dancing through the night). I am fine with this. This is my new life. Do they get it? Could they possibly?

And do they care that your baby just learned how to belly-crawl… “it isn’t even a proper crawl yet?!” How many times have I been asked if she can talk or walk yet over the last few months? She is only 7 months old I think, despairingly. Then I remember the old me, the one who wouldn’t have had a clue when babies learned to talk, draw or stand on their heads. It was all a far-away, confusing infant blur to me.

On that note, I also have an urge to go back in time and really listen to my friends who had kids before me. Back then what they had to say was, well, goble-dee-gook. I had NO IDEA what they were going through, none at all. I should have offered to come round with food, to do a load of washing, to just help out some way. I also should have really taken in how hard they were telling me it was going to be. Somehow I always managed to blank that part out… but all is good now. I learned the hard way but I learned and now I am a have-baby, a happy one, too.

And in the end I went out with my friend and we had a fine baby-free lunch. My first one, I realised. I know, most moms pass this milestone much before I have, but because I don’t pump and don’t know that many non-mums around here anyway, most of the time where I go, Anya is sure to follow. And that suits me fine… but it was really nice to go and catch up with my old co-conspirator, too. Daddy cared for Anya. And we, the lunching grown-ups, found to our surprise that we have one of those friendships that grows as we do. The line in the sand melted as life lapped up on the shore, sea-like.

*NB photo was sourced online through creative commons. It is by fred ross lord

When the sucking is good

A few weeks back (at around three months), Anya suddenly took a leap in her ability to breastfeed at speed. She became a much more efficient little sucker so that now she can empty one breast in about five minutes when it used to take close to, oh, forever (fine, okay, about 45 minutes then she’d drift off and… yeah, no: forever)!

Hoorah, this is great for me (and her). She no longer lives permanently attached to my breast. We have more time in our day, now. Phew.

What cesarean babies miss out on

Here is a hotch-pot of things I have heard or read about cesarean babies:

1) They often find it harder to breastfeed (not having benefited from the release of pro-nursing hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin, plus they may come out still stunned from the pain medication, which can reduce the suckle reflex).

2) Cesarean born babies need to be held more. The theory I read – in one of Ian White’s books – is that because they didn’t get that final massage, as they descend through the birth canal (which also expels the excess water from their lungs), they are born with a higher than usual need for touch and massage, to make up for it.

3) Cesarean children are up to 8 times more likely to develop allergies and intolerances, especially if the mother has a tendency toward them. I couldn’t find the original article where I read this, so I googled it. Oh my! There are simply loads of references and research that pop up in response to this search criteria. It turns out this is old hat: cesarean babies are more likely to have allergies. The reasons why seem up for grabs. The article I originally read put it down to babies being exposed to beneficial bacteria found in the mother’s birth canal that helped their incipient, forming immune system. Here is one of the many articles I found in this most recent search: http://www.sheknows.com/articles/804431/cesarean-deliveries-may-increase-allergy-chance

We didn’t feel we had a choice as to mode of delivery… but I still find it interesting to note the differences. Perhaps by being aware of them I can act to counteract some of the down sides of being born cesarean. For example, I can make sure I give my little one lots of skin-to-skin contact, massages and breastfeeding, the latter because it is positively correlated to low allergies and intolerances. Maybe the one can help cancel out the other :) I was lucky with breastfeeding. I credit both my midwife and my yoga teacher for giving me tips that helped that (see ‘Anya’s Birth’ for more details).