Friday, September 19, 2008

Revisiting babies and parenthood

Yesterday, I went to visit my good friends Isabelle and Joon at Gleneagles Hospital who just had their first baby. The baby boy is absolutely gorgeous and sitting in that room watching the proud parents awoke a flood of dormant memories. Both my kids were born in Gleneagles as well (one of the reasons Lesley-Anne wanted to accompany me last evening, she wanted to see the place where she was born).

This is a pic of when we brought Andre home for the first time (sorry for all the bad pics! Unlike my friend Lilian, I'm no lensman. All of the early pics are photos of photos).

As Isabelle was gingerly putting the baby down in the crib, trying not to wake him, I said: "Put him on his side" and as he started to stir, I said, "Pat him quick! Pat him!" True enough, he settled to sleep. The funny thing is, I had completely forgotten about all this, until I saw the baby. Then instantly I remembered desperately trying to get my own babies to stay asleep in the cot as my arms were breaking from prolonged carrying. I also remembered the incessant crying, the sore nipples from breastfeeding, the milk rash, the sleepless nights, the mountain of diapers. But also the indescribable love of having this teeny little human being that you created, warm and snuggly in your arms.

I don't know about other mums, but for me, the first 6 months are the hardest (ok, my kids haven't hit the teenage years yet so I may retract this statement in the future!) During this time, you and the baby haven't quite learnt each other's rhythm, and all he does is eat, sleep, poop and cry (in no particular order). The worst thing is the baby can't tell you want he wants or needs, so it's often a guessing game. I know they say after a while, you can distinguish between a cry for milk or a cry "because I'm wet" but maybe I was extremely dense cos I never figured it out. Isabelle and Joon were recounting how the night before, their son had a violent case of the hiccups and they frantically tried everything to stop it, until at wits' end, they asked the nurse what to do. She looked at them calmly and said, "Leave him alone." Ah... *lightbulb*

With Andre, the first 6 months were a blur. I distinctly remember one day looking at him on the sofa and realising with a start that he was 6 months old. It was like a dream, I couldn't have told you what happened in that half a year. As a new parent, you tend to want to do everything right, in fact you want to do everything, full stop. Then you soon run out of steam, especially when the infant's demands never stop. Isabelle and Joon are already learning this. On the first night, they rashly declared that they would have the baby in their suite at Gleneagles. It lasted all of 2½ hours. At 11.45pm, they waved the white flag. The exhausted father wheeled the baby in his crib all the way back to the nursery and told the nurse, "Here, take him." I know I'm being mean, but I couldn't stop laughing at that story.

But it does get better, infinitely better. When your baby starts to smile at you, laughs when he sees you, toddles towards you, holds your hand, calls you for the first time... all milestones that only a parent can appreciate. It takes all your willpower not to bore everyone, even people on the street, with a blow-by-blow account of how your child took his first step.

Here's Lesley-Anne at about aged 1½. In fact, I put off having a second child for a while because I was having so much fun with Lesley-Anne.

But of course you know eventually we did have no.2 and Andre turned out to be a completely different but equally adorable bundle of joy. While Lesley-Anne was contemplatively content, Andre was just a bubbly, happy child. Here he is on the right, he's about 2 years old here.

I wish we had blogs then (and that I had time to write one) because I'm sure there were many fun moments that I don't remember now. But I also am mindful that we should treasure every stage of their lives because it's always different and always exciting. Once when I was at a hawker centre, standing in line with Andre at a fishball noodle stall, the auntie in front of me turned back to smile at Andre and told me, "This is the best time. You may not think it now but when they're all grown up, you'll realise it." By golly, I think she's right. Lessons at the hawker centre, who would've thought.

One of my friends, Paul, is a brilliant artist and web designer. He is also my business partner-of-sorts and was the one who designed my Hedgehog Communications website. At one point, he was a full-time artist and he has his own brand of cartoon-type art. I commissioned him to do an oil painting of my kids:

It hangs on my living room wall, next to another painting he did for me, of a hedgehog. I think it really captures the essence and personalities of my kids. While we can't make time stand still, the painting will always be a reminder of who they were at this point in their lives.

Isabelle and Joon, if you're reading this, parenthood is the adventure of your life! I hope you will enjoy every minute of it.


Lilian said...

Ohhh, I love the painting, it truly captures the essence of both Lesley-Anne (all prim and proper) and the inimitable Andre.

I always tell new parents that the 1st four months are the hardest; the baby has not formed much of a personality yet, you're still trying to make sense of him and he you...but after that, the FUN begins. As a friend's father once said, no money can buy the joy you get from hearing a baby chuckle and laugh.

monlim said...

Lilian, I totally agree with you! PS, Paul takes requests for paintings, you can commission him to do one of your kids. He did this just via photos and my description of their personalities.

Lilian said...

Sounds good, I'll contact him through his website then. Tks.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Wow... I like the manga portrait!
Somehow, beyond being prim and proper, Lesley-Anne looks like she's exhibiting an inner strength filled with serenity to face the future (the wind in her hair). Look at the relaxed shoulders. Very nice!
And Andre... aw... so cheeky yet adorable ... something's up his sleeve again! So wanna squeeze his cheeks!

Hiya Monica,
you make me wanna hold a baby again...

Isabelle & Joon,
May parenthood add even more exciting flavours to your lives!

Alcovelet said...

Monica, I haven't met your kids, but man, does it look like he captured the spirit of your kids, especially Andre with that cheeky wink and pose!

On another note, the baby pics are soo cute. sigh.

monlim said...

Thanks all, there's just something about babies to bring out the fuzzy wuzzy, isn't there?

Paul is really good. If you want a pic of your kids you can contact him, I think he's still painting tho he might be busier now as he has a full-time job.

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