Archive for December, 2008

6 month milestone
December 10, 2008


Smiley Jethro

Jethro is just over 6 months old now, and that calls for a look at my experiences, Angie’s experiences (as I perceive them), and Jethro’s development during that time.

When I started writing that line, it began, “Jethro is approaching 6 months now…” which just goes to emphasise how little time I have to write anything these days. By the time I finish this review of the last 6 months, Jethro will probably be 2 years old — but I’m not going back and changing the beginning again.

The last time I published something substantial on Paternity Ward was just after Jethro was born. Since then I just haven’t had much time (and in cases where there was time — no energy) to write a meaningful discourse on what has happened. Pushing out some photos was easier, but even that felt like an effort.

Without doubt the last six months have utterly changed my life, and I’m buggered. I really feel for Angie because she’s had to deal with the last six months and the nine month before that. How she manages to hold a coherent conversation with me, I really just don’t know. I feel like I’m babbling and drooling a lot at the moment (a little like Jethro is, except his excuse is teething). I certainly make nonsensical noises on a regular basis — that smile it elicits from my son strongly reinforces the behaviour. Soon I may not be capable of speaking any English at all, which I doubt will be good for Jethro’s development.

I’m not really going mad, and although I complain about my fatigue to anyone who is willing (or obliged) to listen, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I can easily see why people have more than one. I can also easily see why many people wait a respectable period of time before doing so.

It is also good to report that I rate myself as a competent parent. This couldn’t really be said about my earlier parenting experiences. Mostly I felt out of control and certain that I wasn’t doing anything right. When Jethro cried, it seemed to be the same generic cry. The paediatrician had explained to us that the cry could mean one of four things — feed me, change me, put me to bed, or wind me.

The First Few Weeks

It seems pretty damned simple. Four possibilities. You don’t even need to use both hands to count them. Just follow a systematic procedure of trial and error and the problem will be solved, right?

Feeding in the early days

Feeding in the early days

Things went a little like this: Jethro wakes up screaming, as if fire-ants are biting his feet, but actually he’s just hungry. “He must be hungry” was always the first guess, and was usually the most reliable source of restored tranquillity. No more banshee wails. Just gentle, soothing, suckling sounds. Halfway through the meal, it was prudent to switch out the nappy for a clean one, side-stepping some of the uncertainty that struck soon after.
Then his immature digestive system turns the infant milk-based formula into gas, bloating his little body and making him Angry. Crying ensues.

Winding by the pros, and it still doesn't look comfy

Winding by the pros, and it still doesn't look comfy

Winding a baby is an acquired skill. There is nothing obvious about it. One flings the infant over one’s shoulder/knee and goes about beating its back and/or bottom in a vigorous manner until the infant burps or farts, and if one is really fortunate, vomits. It seems abusive, and yet is not.
Winding a baby is an arduous process. One often goes about beating the child’s back for between 30 minutes and an hour, and just when it seems that successful winding is yours, and you can put the baby down and go back to bed — the wailing ramps up again.

Our first major worry with Jethro was when he got constipated. We were giving him iron fortified formula, and according to the books, this can sometimes lead to constipation. A constipated 3 to 4 week old baby is not a happy little creature, and when young babies aren’t happy they cry.

Feed, wind, sleep, nappy. The four noble truths to baby nirvana, except now, none of them work. Even worse, it isn’t immediately obvious that constipation is the problem. Off you go, thinking the problem is wind and using the solution to wind — beat it out of him. After a considerable amount of time has passed with no baby contentment apparent, you remember that you haven’t changed a shitty nappy for a few days. You figured he’d just been leaving them all for his mother (good lad!) but now you aren’t so certain. As it turns out, Mum had made similar assumptions about the baby’s toilet regularity.

In case you are interested, the solution to really young infant constipation is a drink of water (with a teaspoon of brown sugar) and an application of Vaseline to a strategic area, using a cotton-bud.

The first few weeks at home we kept a feeding log, where we’d note the time Jethro finished drinking and how much of his bottle he drank. The hospital had done this, although this was because the nurses worked shifts and the previous shift needed to inform the subsequent shift about what had gone into (and what had left) any particular baby.
Angie and I had one baby, but we were still working shifts. We were parents-in-training, and the log helped us feel in control. We’d both mastered writing a long while back, so writing down numbers that related to our parenting a activities was reassurance that we could do something right. The log also helped because we didn’t get a lot of uninterrupted sleep at the time, and with us alternating feeds it was difficult to remember when we’d last fed our child.

Now that we’ve got the hang of this

Bashing action shots

Bashing action shots

It’s bizarre to consider how far we’ve come. The tiny little creature who started off weighing less than three kilogrammes now weighs almost eight.
He can sit unsupported. He’ll be crawling soon (gulp). He smiles and laughs at almost everything. He goes to a crèche where he charms everyone he encounters. The days of guessing what his problem is are mostly over. He doesn’t cry like he’s being savaged by wild animals unless something serious is wrong. Hungry Jethro just whinges a bit, and gets a little grumpy. There is no catastrophe because he knows he will get food.
His food is solid a lot of the time now, and meals with Jethro are messier than when he was only drinking milk.
He tries to grab everything in reach and, if successful, either attempts to chew it or whack it into something else. He is developing into quite a basher — something his cousin Callum was. I worry about the longevity of the ornaments in my home.
He really loves bathtime now.


We were told that bath time was a relaxing time for babies, and that our baby would be calm after a bath and easily drift off into a deep sleep. More lies. There are a lot of pregnancy and parent expectation lies out there. Be careful. and trust no-one.

Can sit in the bath now

Can sit in the bath now

The bath itself was just fine. Jethro really enjoyed being in the water even when just a few weeks old. The problem was that there was no way to get him out of the bath completely dry and clothed — unless we didn’t put any water in the bath. Since June is not the warmest time of year in South Africa, and South African homes have no central heating, Jethro become quite upset as soon as we plucked him from the warm bath water. Angie and I teamed up to get him immediately from the water to fluffy towel ensconcement, but it did very little to keep him content. The screaming he made and the red colour that came to his scrunched up face as we dried and dressed him never seemed all that restful to me.

Things are much better now. He splashes and just goes nuts with his floating bath toys, totally loving every moment. He’s fascinated by flowing water — can’t quite seem to understand how such a phenomenon is possible when I pour a long stream of water on to him from a cup held up high.

A day in the 6 month-old life

For some reason, Jethro still isn’t sleeping through the night consistently. He’s pulled it off twice so far, but seems to have lapsed back to waking twice a night, demanding something to drink. This is a little frustrating, but hopefully will come right soon. We’ve got him in a good routine.

Lick attacks are entertainment

Lick attacks are entertainment

A day in the life of Jethro proceeds roughly like this.

5:30 a.m. Jethro has had enough of this sleeping nonsense, and no he doesn’t just want a drink. He wants entertainment!

5:45 a.m. Angie or I (usually Angie) drags our resisting body out of the bed and shuffles it to Jethro’s room, whose gurgly nonsense talk (or perhaps we adults are just too obtuse to understand him) has gradually become more insistent.

6:00 a.m. Jethro sits on the bed, playing with some toys, or his Dad, or pulling the fur of one of the dogs, or is defended against lick offensives by Kelty dog.

6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Mum leaves for work, after having mysteriously succeeded in preparing bottles for Jethro, packing his bag, and leaving out clothes for the day, and feeding the dogs. Dad gives Jethro a bottle, dresses him in the provided clothes, and packs him into his car-seat and then into the car.

7:30 a.m. Jethro is delivered to Tiny Town creche by Dad.

7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Jethro rocks the party at creche. They feed him porridge and the food we provide, play games with him, change his nappy, and give us a report. A check list indicating times of feeding, times “Number 1’s” and “Number 2’s” were dealt with, and notes about anything else of interest. Every one at the creche is “Teacher Cathy” or “Teacher Susy” or something along those lines. I find it weird, but the people are nice and Jethro seems to enjoy himself.

2:00 p.m. Mum picks up Jethro, after working a challenging half-day, takes him home and still manages to find te energy to keep him entertained until 5 p.m.

5:00 p.m. Dad gets home, and feeds Jethro supper solids.

5:45 p.m. Bath time!

Between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Bed time, occasionally featuring Story Time! We really need to make story time a more permanent feature, but every day is a long day these days.

Some point in the night — wakes for a drink, then straight back to sleep.