I find it absolutely astounding to believe that it's been 100 days since our little miracle entered our world.
In that short time we have learned so much. So much has happened. To try to describe the road we've taken is impossible.
I still remember clearly Megan's face as she lay on the operating table and Ava was presented to her for the first time. Megan's belly still cut wide open and Ava still struggling to breathe. I still remember being scared out of my mind at the realisation that she was finally here, with us. And I remember how no one believed me when I said "it's a girl"!
Bringing her home for the first time was amazing. Being able to bring her back to her first home, surrounded by the people who love her, was such a wonderful feeling; the start of her journey out into the big wide world!
Then of course, came the sleepless nights while we battled with breast feeding as nothing seemed to satisfy our starving little sweetheart. All the hours of waiting & wishing for her to start growing... Looking back, all of that seems so distant now. I guess like most things, we remember the good bits and somehow block out the bad. Ava was so small for so long, but looking at her now it's hard to think that she was so ill. Having such a poor start has made us appreciate every perfect little smile, every gorgeous little giggle.
We've even got a little routine worked out (well, it's not much, but it's working for us - for now). She's sleeping soundly, and isn't making too much fuss of a night time. She's started to poop regularly too, and it's not funny colours, and (thank whatever Gods may be) not explosive... She's become the happiest little thing in the world, always smiling, laughing & cooing, trying her hardest to grow up as soon as she can.
Even Brucey has warmed to the prospect of having a little sister in the house.. I'm not sure he's 100% happy with the idea yet, but I think he's come to terms with sharing our attention and is getting more playful around her.
The last 100 days have gone by so quickly. The whole thing has been a blur. Almost none of it has gone to plan, but I don't think that anything was ever going to go 100% smoothly. I love the little girl that she's become, though. Enduring the struggles that she's come out of in her tiny life has made her into the wonderful little baby she is, and I couldn't ask for a more amazing daughter.
If our first 100 days is anything to go by, the rest of her childhood will be fairly turbulent, with a lot of high points, as well as a few downs. What we know is that she'll be able to get through so much, the rest of her future is already looking amazingly bright.
Beautiful, baby-friendly Brisvegas
Having just got back from our first trip home with our baby, a lot of things have become apparent to us. The one overarching thing being that babies are everywhere back home. In the supermarkets, the malls, the parks, the restaurants, in peoples cars, in hotels and parking lots - everywhere! Of course, we were more likely to notice this phenomenon now that we were looking for it - with a baby of our own. It struck us as odd, though, that we'd also noticed this in Sweden when we were there last year (before the pregnancy). Then we wondered that if it was a local custom not to take babies out in public so much here...
Census data tells us that in 2011 there were 24.62 babies born per 1000 people in the Philippines, which had a population of over 92 million. At the same time, Australia had a population of around 22 million, and a birth rate of 13.4 babies per 1000 people. If we extrapolate those figures, there should have been 2,265,040 babies born in the Philippines, while in the same year Australia had about 294, 800 births - around one tenth of the babies. So when the entirety of Australia's babies were potentially here in the greater Manila area, why didn't we see them?
The two theories that I have are: that we live in a low birth area; and that locals here aren't so open about their babies as we are. Ultimately I think that it's a combination of the two - we live in a wealthier part of town, so not so many babies are born, but also, people tend not to bring their babies out as much as Australians do. And this seems to correlate with the strange looks we get from locals here when they hear Ava crying.
The main indicator though, seems to me, the availability of baby changing facilities in public places. It seems that taking our bubs out is part of our culture and we've put measures in place to ensure that it stays that way. Every shopping centre has a baby room on every floor - and not just a change table in the men's room, it's a fully fledged parents' room. Change tables, nappy bins, arm chairs, a toddler area with toys & a TV... It was so different from anything we'd ever experienced living in Asia. It was a godsend for us new parents.
Our trip to Singapore had been slightly better, with malls offering baby change facilities, but they were a quarter of the size and grandeur of the Aussie ones, but as with everything Singapore, they take their cues from the Brits. So the question remains, why is it so difficult to take babies out in so many Asian countries? And does this apply to just Australia, or does it occur in other Western countries?
Anyway, that's not something I'm going to be able to answer, so for now I'll rest easy knowing that whenever we get back home, our baby will be (mostly) welcomed wherever we go.
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...
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.
Well we've made it to week two and no one has died.... That might sound a little tactless, given the current situation in Manila...
With all the rain & flooding, we've been almost trapped in our building this week. Meg's father made a surprise appearance for a few days, which was great. He managed to shower little Ava with gifts before fighting his way trough the water to make his flight (on the second attempt). He was able to pick up a set of baby scales from a nearby medical supply store, which thankfully means we don't have to head to the hospital to check her feeding, etc. We had to make a trip in on Monday, when the rains were at their heaviest, when almost all of Manila had shut down, and when our car was coding... The result turned out fine - she's healthy & feeding well, but must be in the middle of a growth spurt, as she has gone a couple of days without pooping (I realise the irony of my last post now).
Bruce has taken a real shine to our new addition, acting very warily around her, and never overstepping his limit. He obviously knows the new little person is to be treated very delicately, and isn't reacting too badly to the change in focus of our attention. It's a bit soon to be letting them both play together, but I've got a good feeling that they'll be great mates!
We're about to lose our grandparents this weekend, so afterward will be on our own. It'll mean less sleep, but hopefully from now we can start to get into a bit more of a routine as Ava has got much better at sleeping at night between feeds. The days are getting better, and our swaddle wraps are getting a workout. I'm sure it's going to continue to be a struggle before it gets too much better... I'm looking forward to it though!
Sorry. It had to happen. One of the most consistent things I've been asked is about nappies...
So far, it really hasn't been so bad. Yeah they happen. And before having a child of my own, I never wanted to touch the mucky things. I'm not amazingly keen to touch them now, either, but they're much less scary when it's your own baby.
With feeding just starting to happen properly, a lot of focus is now on the contents of the nappies - is it wet? Is she hydrated? Is she passing anything? What colour is it? How much is there? What consistency is it? When Megan's out of the house, this means taking photos & sending them to her to ease her worry that feeding is going well. She also seems to think that I don't trust her when she changes a nappy, often leaving them out for me to discover, and then asking me what I thought of our baby's efforts... Silly me, before now I had just been throwing them out!
Fingers crossed that we'll have more colourful poop news for you in the coming weeks... I can't wait...