A bit late but I had to add this.  Louis CK perfectly sums up how I feel about introducing children to mobile phones.  The guy's a genius.
 
 
In a week of achievements, Ava has finally become an Australian citizen!!  No longer stateless, we picked up her citizenship certificate yesterday, which means we'll be able to start her passport process and eventually, take her home!!!

The citizenship process wasn't as difficult as we'd expected, but that isn't saying much.  We had very low expectations from the start.  The application was processed by an external company, and the process was relatively smooth, if not time-consuming and cumbersome, as are most official processes here.  We even got our photographs returned to us! 

In other news, Ava has finally regained her birth weight!  Feeding hasn't come as easily as we'd hoped, so little Ava has stayed a bit more little than we'd liked.  She's still perfectly healthy, and is of course, pooping like a champ, she's just a little leaner than expected.  Several of our friends have told us about how they were in the same bag, which is incredibly reassuring.  They're supposed to regain it in the first 2-3 weeks, but as we've found with almost all standardised information, it means absolutely nothing to anyone. 

Ava also managed to have a little play date with her new best friend, three-week-old Isabella.  More than anything it highlighted to us how much work it would be to have twins!  Funnily, people did ask us if they were twins, even though Ava is twice the size of Bella - and the looks we got when explaining that the girls are three weeks apart were priceless...

This week also saw one of Megan's former colleagues drop in for a surprise two day visit, which was an awesome bit of relief for her.  To be able to relax with her mate was great help to her sanity.  They could watch their girly shows & gossip about boys, which was great as I could get on with life and the girls could take care of themselves!  Win-win!    It also meant that Ava had heaps of time spent with others and is growing up to be more & more social each day. 

Hopefully it translates into good things to come for our little girl.  She has a lot coming up, too: more visitors, and hopefully a trip away to watch some more rugby!
 
 
[WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT]

Last night we had an incident...  Our first real incident. 

After a long day of treating ourselves, we couldn't get Ava to settle.  She'd been fussing & crying for a good few hours, which is completely out of character for her.  She seemed only happy when she was feeding, which we clearly couldn't keep up - not at her rate.  Something wasn't right at all...  And after a while of eliminatig posibilities of what could be upsetting her, it occured to us.  She has only just started going regular poops, and making decent weight gains, but she hadn't pooped for the last few days.  While the feeding might've soothed her, it was giving her a massive tummy ache! 

So there we were in our pjs, desperately tired, urging her to poop.  Not the ideal way to cap the amazing weekend we'd had with her. 

After a bit of tummy massage & a few tricks the doctors showed us, out it came.  Initially, slowly, like squeezing toothpaste from a tube, then, it erupted.  All over the place.  Usually when I see those banal comedies about a fish-out-of-water dad with a rectally-incontinent baby, I switch off.  Now, though, I know it to be true.  I was as impressed as I was sickened...  Poop was flying everywhere - she was getting some amazing range, her aim wasn't too bad either...  I was laughing maniacally at the whole situation (mainly the state of Meg's clothes), but at the same time I wanted to cry for the pain our baby must've been going through. 

We finally got her (and Megan) cleaned up again, got everything else washed and everyone was able to settle down and sleep.  Now, though, I'll forever have nightmares of the atrocities she's capable of...

 
 
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Tonight Ava was lucky enough to step out into the big wide world & meet her local extended family - the Philippines rugby community. 

She hadn't ventured so far previously, and the big trip (4 1/2 hours) took a bit of a toll on the little one - so many new faces, sounds and smells!  Lots of mates keen to see her on her first visit to the home of Asia's favourite rugby club, as well as a few other new arrivals keen to make acquaintances. 

She was very well behaved (I'm told), and seemed to like spending time meeting new people.  Not that we're handing over the car keys yet - but it's a positive step & we'll definitely be getting out a bit more now that we know what to expect (I think we only had two nappies to change, as well a few feeding sessions).  Hopefully now we'll be able to take her to more rugby games and I won't have to explain all the rules again. 

Fortunately, dad had a win so everyone can sleep easy tonight.  And after a long trip like that, everyone's off for a well-earned rest!

 
 
PictureThe well-intentioned offender
Recently Megan has been stressing out a little about the things that could be bad for Ava.  And this isn't a bad thing at all - but it does provide some amusing times.  I've written before about some of the more ridiculous products available, preying on new parents' insecurities, and we've been conscious about not buying into the silliness of it all.  One thing, however, has been the source of some fun recently.  Meg bought a steriliser.  

While neither of us wants to mollycoddle our baby, we agree that it's a good idea to keep things germ-free, especially in a place like Manila where infections abound (i.e. hand, foot and mouth disease, respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, etc).  Also Bruce is getting much more confident around her, and while he's mostly clean, he does have some pretty dirty personal habits....  So periodic sterilisation is probably a good policy, generally. 

The fun started last night when she started to sterilise whatever she could find - primarily the bottles, teats, etc - that is supposed to go into the baby's mouth.  From there, it escalated somewhat.  The good bits started when she took the various bits & pieces out of the steriliser - what to do with them afterwards?  I did suggest that she also sterilise the paper towel with which she wiped the condensed steam off with, which was met with a moment of total confusion before she realised that I was being completely facetious. 

The conversation immediately turned farcical, from "we should also sterilise this" to "are you sure we can't just sterilise the baby"...  While it's great to be vigilant and actively try to prevent infections, there's only so much we can do without becoming those parents.  Ultimately, she's going to eat a fist full of mud somewhere, or pick up some other kid's flu or something, but for now, watching Meg try to avoid touching anything with her hands is some pretty good entertainment. 

 
 
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We made it to a month! In spite of our initial predictions of everything going normally, we've scraped through...  Or maybe it did all go normally?

Whilst there's nothing at all 'wrong' with our little angel, there isn't much that seems to be going perfectly right either.  And the more I experience, hear & read, the more I believe that this is the way it's supposed to be.  Everyone's happy and healthy, which is all I could hope for. 

There are a few things I wish I'd known before all of this, however. And I guess there's really no way of knowing, other than doing it all ourselves.  The top few probably are:
1. Breastfeeding is bloody difficult.  Every bit of advice that we've heard has conflicted to the point where now nothing makes any sense.  In the words of one of my very eloquent French friends, mother to three gorgeous little kids "this is all horseshit".  Sounds much classier with a French accent, right?
The one singular piece of consistent advice is "do what you feel is right", which seems to be working well enough.
2. The mucky bits aren't so bad.  Really, gents, they aren't.  The nappies don't stink as much as you'd think, and when it's your own tiny baby that needs its butt wiped, those immature thoughts about pee & poop disappear. 
Even at the hospital, if you get the chance to check out 'the business end', go for it!  When are you ever going to get that chance again?  I never got to.  Man up & do your melancholy duty.
3. The crying.  Oh the crying!  Now there's something I didn't expect.  Our Ava has been amazing since the beginning, with such cute little cries and so little fussing...  Now, however, she's turned into a banshee!  I've never heard such desperate, soul-piercing wails!  And all from something that weighs less than 4kg - it doesn't make sense! 

Above all, when she's not pooping or peeing, draining her mother of nutrients, or screaming the house down in a blue fit, she's the most amazing little thing and I wouldn't change any of it for the world.

 
 
This afternoon, Megan had herself a strange experience while going to the supermarket.  While I was at home trying to rest (read: trying desperately not to die from not sleeping today) she went out to forage for dinner supplies.  She took Ava with her, in a new pram that one of our friends has lent to us. 

Now seeing a lone woman with a baby isn't a novel sight, even here in the ultra-Catholic Philippines, but seeing an expat woman on her own with a baby obviously is...  Our decision not to hire a yaya (nanny) seems a bit of a shock to some of the locals in our shopping mall; many staring quite obviously at her doing the shopping all on her own.  Back home, in some areas, seeing both parents with the child is a rare occasion, but this cross-cultural paradigm shift that Meg had perpetrated was indeed very amusing to all around. 

Shoppers cooed over Ava, and seemed bemused that we didn't have any hired help.  When Megan had her hands full of groceries and Ava cried, they looked on as if to say "why doesn't someone pick up that child?"  It occurred to us - it's so rare to hear a baby's cry here!  We live in a fairly affluent area, and simply hadn't noticed that the babies here don't cry.  They're always consoled before they can kick up too much of a ruckus.  Some of the passers-by even asked her where our yaya was, seemingly stunned that we haven't got one, and even more shocked to find out that back home, we generally don't use nannies (she described the look as somewhere between surprised intrigue and pity). 

Logistically speaking, the trip was another strange combination of the good and not-so-good.  Our security guys always go out of their way to assist us, be it hobbling out of a car on crutches or carrying luggage to our doors when we return from the airport.  Today, as they saw Megan coming, they switched off the overhead air conditioning units as she passed, so that the cool air would not blow into the pram.  They're amazingly sweet to us.  The general population is usually great, too, especially when they see that we have a baby with us.  Sometimes it's a bit hit-and-miss, as is anywhere, but the locals all jump out of the way when they spot us coming, especially in tight spaces.  Now if you've ever been to Asia, you'll know that this does not apply to elevators.  Ever.  It seems with elevators, it's the quick & the dead...  Even if you've got a shiny new baby in a massive pram, and your white skin makes you stick out from the crowd like a pimple on a bum...  Escalators are very similar.  Why this phenomenon exists, I have no idea & will be forever wondering, but it's true, I swear! 

I'm looking forward to seeing the reactions when Ava & I go out walking on our own.  I can only imagine that it'll be a similar scenario.  There aren't too many white folk around, and the majority of the ones that live here usually have local wives, so our blonde, Caucasian baby is a bit of a novelty.  Of course, we think she's amazingly special, and when strangers react the way they do, it gives an extraordinary feeling of parental pride in our little girl. 
 
 
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Today we got the chance to get out & celebrate a little; our friends have just had their own baby girl, it was Father's Day back home, and we really needed to get out of the house. 

Of course it didn't all go totally to plan, but it was a very enjoyable afternoon.  I think I've come to accept the fact that I will never again be able to guarantee punctuality, and Ava will most likely need feeding at the most inconvenient of times.  It will probably be another 20 years before we get to have a proper meal all at the same time, in the same place, with everyone being happy...  Never the less, Ava caught some sun & we got to have a nice lunch with our friends, even if it was a lot shorter & far less boozy than our usual lunches.  My first Father's Day was a pretty good one!

One thing that has got us concerned, however, is Ava's weight.  She still hasn't regained her birth weight, which makes us nervous, and of course raises other questions about why she hasn't done this.  So far she's a happy, healthy baby.  She wakes up right on time for feeds (if not a bit more frequently than we'd like), and she's not screaming the house down (most of the time).   She doesn't want for anything, and feeds more often than anyone else in the household, so why isn't she gaining...... 

It has made us question the value of all these late-night feeds & all the pain that Megan's going through.  Should we give up on breastfeeding?  Should we start her on formula?  Would it make a difference?  Should we have put her on formula earlier?  Have we wasted the last few weeks through trying to breastfeed?  Have we given her enough nutrition?  Have we set her growth back by not starting formula earlier? 

Of course all babies are different and there's no quick way of determining whether or not there's anything wrong with her development.  Unfortunately this is one of those things that we just need to wait out.  We have found some heartening links, though, which make it not feel so bad (of course, out of all of this, I'm the one getting away the easiest).  Here and here are some kind words written by other mothers about the pains & torments that they've all suffered, and the glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel that makes it all worthwhile.  It's still difficult to see at the moment, but I'm sure with enough patience and perseverance, we'll all get there in the end. 

Ava is slowly putting weight on, little by little, and seems to be getting much longer.  Hopefully it means that she'll start growing bigger soon, and we can relax a little.  I'm confident that she'll be ok, but at the moment it's a nervous little wait...