Thursday 26 June 2014

Junior and Juniorette

"She's such a good baby, but then, girls are easier than boys."

"So nice to have one of each."

"Oh, she's gorgeous!"

Whether I want to or not, whether it means anything or not, it is hard not to compare Junior and Juniorette. The differences have been striking so far. It started in pregnancy. I always feared that I would suffer horrible morning sickness and vomit continuously; experience odd food cravings; and have strange mood swings. In reality, my pregnancy with Junior was very easy. I barely had any morning sickness and I never vomited. The only time I had trouble facing food was the first week I knew I was pregnant: S and I were on holiday in Rhodes and all I wanted was bland grilled chicken and salty chips. At ten weeks, my appetite came on with a vengeance and I ate all day long, but my body wanted good, nourishing foods like cheese, yogurt, fruit, meat, eggs, and nuts. As for moods, aside from stress at work, I felt perfectly fine. I got to know Junior's fetal movements and rhythms and I counted down the weeks in amazement at the changes happening inside me. The most amazing and welcome change was the disappearance of my monthly migraines. They did not return until he was nine months old - I had eighteen blissful migraine-free months, and didn't enjoy the hormones and headaches when they came back.

Juniorette's pregnancy was harder. At first, I thought it was just an extra bad migraine. Three days, four days, five days... At six days, nauseous and dizzy (but still never vomiting), it occurred to me to take a pregnancy test. I wasn't expecting a positive result, but at least I had a reason for feeling so out of it. The nausea abated every few days, then came back. I waited for it to taper off, but it didn't. I had migraines nearly every week of my pregnancy, usually on the weekend. They're still happening now, although they seem to be fading back to a more normal monthly pattern. I did my best to eat well. Junior is a good eater and I assume there is some correlation to the kinds of foods I ate while I was pregnant with him. Poor Juniorette, then - all I really wanted while I was pregnant with her was sweets. Chocolate. More chocolate. Sweet, sweet chocolate.

It was a harder pregnancy emotionally, as well. I found myself doing that crying-at-sappy-adverts thing that I Don't Do. I was more scared, more anxious, less mentally prepared. At first, I worried that I would miscarry. I even willed my body to reject the pregnancy quickly if it was going to end in miscarriage, just to stop things before they went too far. I was relieved and astounded at twelve weeks, thirteen weeks, fourteen weeks... I started to think of the baby as the One Who Lived - s/he was determined to survive, to thrive. At the same time, I felt less connected to the baby somehow. I felt kicks earlier than I had with Junior, but they never seemed to come in the same place or at the same time of day. I felt guilty for even thinking these thoughts. Initially, I convinced myself that I wanted another boy. I was used to Junior by then, and we already had plenty of boys' clothes. When we found out she was a girl, I worried about her entire future in a way that has never bothered me for Junior: the pressure for Juniorette to be pretty and skinny, to wear pink and aspire to be a princess or ballerina. The expectation that she could bend traditional gender roles, but still the reality that she'd face flowers and butterflies instead of rockets and dinosaurs.

Then she was born. Again the differences. Two hour active labour with no pain relief. Easy, quick breastfeeds with a good latch - but she prefers formula anyhow. More efficient feeding. Better at sleeping. Hates being swaddled. Likes being held, but will fall asleep on her own. She doesn't cry much, although her cries are virtually indistinguishable which makes it harder to know what she needs. She is more mysterious (possibly secretive?) that way; Junior wears his heart on his sleeve and has always been able to communicate what he does and does not want. She is calm, observant, tolerant, and happy - her little smiles are lovely rewards.

About the only thing they have in common so far is the physical side. She's smaller, more compact, and shorter than Junior was. But she's strong. She has good head control. She likes to stand - we call it her meerkat stance. She can move herself by kicking with the backs of her heels. She has nearly rolled over and she is not even twelve weeks old yet. She is beginning to bat at objects and is practicing gripping things. Will we have another early crawler/walker on our hands? It seems likely.

So then, where does that leave us? They're different, but similar. This shouldn't be surprising - they're siblings, after all. Are girls really easier than boys? Not according to my husband, who points out that Juniorette will be a teenage girl someday. Is there any point in comparing them? No, but it's inevitable.

Most importantly, am I now an expert since I have one of each? Far from it. Is she gorgeous? Of course, as is Junior. For my part, I am lucky to have two great kids who are growing and developing daily before my eyes. So very, very lucky.

Friday 6 June 2014

2 months

After the blur of Juniorette's first month, we had time to relax and enjoy the improving weather.



My mom and I began Juniorette's art education with a trip to the Tate Modern to see a beautiful exhibit of Matisse's paper cut-outs. I had never seen the original artwork for Jazz next to the prints; the level of detail and colour was amazing. But Juniorette was almost as popular as the art. We had smiles and compliments from many of the other visitors.


At home, Juniorette became more engaged and alert. Like her brother, she has had good head control from birth and she enjoys "standing" to get a better view (we call it her meerkat stance).


She also loves her hands, though she keeps her fists curled in tight little balls. While we have given her a "binky" (dummy/pacifier), she seems equally happy to suck on her fingers.


One early rite of passage was taking her to the American Embassy to register her birth and apply for her passport (we had already applied for her British passport earlier in the month). They have relaxed the rules a bit since I went for Junior's passport, and S was also able to come with us this time. We were able to bring our iPhones inside, we brought Juniorette in the Ergobaby carrier, and the queues were shorter, all of which made it a much easier experience than the first time around.


Meanwhile, my parents were extremely helpful keeping Junior entertained.





But before we knew it, it was time for them to go home. All in all, we had ten weeks of a full house filled with three generations from both sides of our family. I am so grateful that we had help and support for Juniorette's arrival, and also pleased that Junior had quality time with his grandparents. We miss everyone already!