Achieving Happiness

August 16, 2008

As she sleeps

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:13 am

Sometimes Kimiko screams in her sleep. She sounds like a Pterodactyl or some other prehistoric bird of prey; sometimes she sounds like a baby elephant crying out for help from its mother like in an old episode of National Geographic I once saw. It’s a sound that one doesn’t expect from such a small body.

I confess to worry. It causes me no small level of anxiety that Kimiko is sometimes restless in hersleep. I check her bed; I make sure she’s clean and comfortable before she’s laid down; Kim and I have agreed to tone down all noise especially our own voices at least an hour before Miko’s sleeptime. None of these seem to matter because inevitably, in an hour or so, Kimiko will begin to toss and turn, and issue an occasional squawk in which one cannot help but detect anger or distress.

Sometimes Miko’s small hands will turn into small, angry fists, hitting, punching the air one after the other; and then her feet and legs will lift and begin kicking. There have been times when I have actually seen her assume the position of certain Kata fighting poses, and while it’s cute, it’s also worrying because gad, she’s a baby – why is she doing Karate?!

I’ve read that babies do dream — even in the womb they’ve been said to dream, hence the sudden jerky movements or intermittent rolling motions. But the word used is dream, and not nightmare. I worry that Kimiko sometimes has nightmares, and I wish there was a way I could know what they are so I could help her deal with them (like talking to her about them. When I pick her up sometimes she has tears in her eyes, but she didn’t cry out; she makes mewling sounds like she’s in pain or emotionally hurt. Sometimes, too, in her sleep her face looks stern or even angry, and it baffles me no end what it is that has caused her in her innocence of the world and its history of human tragedies and betrayals to look so upset.

I wonder if she has prescient dreams about the future of the world under the continued rule of imperialism- the endless deterioration of life, its value and worth when weighed against immoral wealth and greed for power. Or her infant consciousness has already somehow achieved an awareness of how thousands of children and babies like her die or are indirectly killed daily though neglect, through indifference, through grinding poverty and the brutalities of war or even the brutality of criminal acts prompted and nurtured by a twisted society. Maybe she has seen the faces of monsters like Jovito Palparan, George Bush, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family, Eduardo Ermita, Raul Gonzalez and Norberto Gonzales; and as she learned the shape and contour of these monstrosities she also tapped into the knowledge that the country she will soon learn to call hers is being torn apart and corrupted by them, the narrow and poisonous economic and political interests they support, and the vicious armies they command.

I wonder. Stranger things have happened.

In the meantime, my mom has more pragmatic ideas. She says it could be that Kimiko continues to suffer the remnants of my own feelings of anger and upset when I was still pregnant. Kim and I often had arguments when she was still inside me — we argued about how we were going to raise Kimiko (where she’ll go to school; the friends we would let her have; the clothes she would wear and the food she would eat, etc etc. As Kim and I insisted to make our opinions on these matters heard, we also revealed more of ourselves to each other and saw all the more how different we still are despite the similarities that brought us together. Anyway, the conversations sometimes deteriorated into arguments because I am never one to back down when I believe I am right and Kim is just plain stubborn and contrarian). Kimiko must’ve absorbed these negative feelings, so now, well, the nightmares. Also, she’s such a serious baby — she smiles sparingly, often she looks like she’s thinking, weighing things down, and she’s disappointed with what she’s discovered.

Kim and I must live up to our baby’s expectations and be worthy of the gift that she is! Whatever the reason for her bad dreams, whether they be caused by awareness of real or imagined monsters, we must protect her against them — especially against the real ones. Oh what a wretched world she has been born to, where beauty and innocence are destroyed daily, and the path the struggle to attain justice takes is bloodied!

Hay naku, anak — ngayon pa lang tuturuan ka na namin ng tatay mo na mangarap ng isang magandang lipunan; lumikha at bumuhay ng pag-asa ng mas nakakarami na silang sa ngayon ay inaapi! (At pipilitin na rin namin ni Tatay na hwag nang magtalo gaano sa mga bagay na hindi naman talaga dapat pinag-aawayan).

August 12, 2008

Kimiko Thimbletack

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:02 am

Kimiko turned four weeks last Saturday; and it’s also been four weeks since I got this 4-inch cut on my abdomen. Everytime I feel like complaining about the pain of the surgical incision –it’s healing fine, but it’s hell bathing because I have to cover the wound to keep it from getting wet and risk getting an infection — I remember that if I wasn’t cut open, Kimiko wouldn’t have gotten out.

All my life I’ve read about the sacrifices mothers make for their children, the devotion of mothers, the strength required to love and care for babies; but it’s only now that I’ve been able to appreciate what all that meant. No, it’s not at like I think that I’ve become Supermom simply because I gave birth; what’s happened is that I love and appreciate my own mother even more because now I fully understand what she went through when she had me: she also had to get a C-section so I would survive.

Kimiko takes up most if not all of my time and attention now; it’s the first time that I’ve dropped everything else in my life to focus on one single thing/person, and often it surprises me to realize that I am capable of doing it. So far I haven’t been bored or angry or frustrated with my new work; but I will admit that I am often afraid that I will make mistakes and Kimiko will suffer because of them. I look at her and all my exhaustion fades away: I feel renewed with every smile she makes or happy squawk– she has such a beautiful smile (she has dimples, and her chinky eyes turn into delightful slits)– and I feel that everything is well worth it.

I don’t want to romanticize my new experiences. I am often tired and 90% of the time I am eaten up by anxiety and worry that something wrong might happen (I check in on her while she lies sleeping inside her bassinet, holding my own breath as I try to see whether she still has her own; I watch closely — a paranoiac mother– and monitor the rise and fall of her chest and every movement, twitch, spasm of her little legs and arms). I miss going out and staying up late after spending hours in conversations with good friends over tea and cake; I miss staying up late to watch movies in actual theatres instead of bootleg DVDs here at home; and, heck, I even miss all the stress and frustration that come with work (hahaha!). I miss doing a lot of things.

But when I’m with Kimiko, when she smiles and her brown-black eyes are large and round like marbles and she looks straight at me, gad, I forget about the rest of the world and I am so focused on the here and now and this amazing, tiny human being in my arms. It is possible to lose one’s self in another person, and in my case, I am lost in her (sorry, Kim, haha).

So what are my days like? It’s the first line of an old China Crisis song – “Everyday the same…”; but there are so many permutations of the same handful of themes which in my head I have categorized as Sleeping, Diaper Duty; Laundry; Playtime; Mealtime; Bath time and Kimiko Thimbletack. Each day is the same in essence, but the details vary. The only unchanging variables are that it’s me with my baby, and it’s an endless adventure.

Sleeping means, well, sleeping. I have been so lucky so far because Kimiko is so considerate: she keeps her own nap and time schedule, and she sticks to it. She can be relied on to wake up every hour in the daytime for 15 to minutes at a time to breastfeed, and then go back to sleep. The only slight deviation from this is when she feels like playing a little after feeding and burping. At night she drifts off at 8:30 or 9:00pm (or when she really wants to play with her tatay despite her drooping eyes, 10:00pm) and then wakes up at 12:30 or 1:30 because her diaper is wet and she’s hungry. Between her being asleep and awake, I get as much as six hours of sleep a day, and that doesn’t count the catnaps in the afternoon.

When it’s hard to get her to sleep (she sometimes fight off her sleepiness because she wants to play), we swaddle her. The baby in the picture here looks a bit like Miko, and she’s in a Kiddopotamus swaddle, which is what we use.

Diaper Duty means checking and changing her nappy if and when it’s soiled. I’m the only one on duty because Kim has an almost pathological fear of baby pee and poop. Oh he buys the diapers by the dozen, and he can be relied on to fetch the changing caddy and the warm water and also to stuff the stuffed nappy in the garbage bin — but to ask him to actually to take off Miko’s dirty diaper and change it with a new one is beyond his power: it’s like Kryptonite to Superman. Whenever I ask him to examine the poop to see if there’s anything unusual about it (color, smell, texture) so we can monitor if everything’s ok with Miko’s digestive and excretory works, Kim’s face scrunches up so tightly it looks like crumpled paper, as if I’d just ask him to clean out the Quezon City sewage system.

Generally Kimiko tolerates dirty diapers; but she cries out in short shrill bursts when she wants to be changed: sometimes I forget to check so when I’m putting her back in her bassinet after mealtime or her burping session, she wails. That’s a sure sign that she wants to be changed.

Actually, Kimiko is a noisy pooper: the poop makes a tremendous cannon-like blast when it comes out and EVERYONE just knows that the nappy is history.

Laundry entails washing Kimiko’s shirts, lap diapers, bibs, mittens and occasional towel, blanket or swaddle. I’m allergic to laundry detergent (the skin on my hands and tips of my fingers turn red, crack and peel), so it’s hard to do the wash so Kim and my clothes go to the adult laundry. we separate Kimiko’s clothes, and it’s a good thing that baby clothes require very mild detergent (there’s a baby laundry soap called Cycles, and its smells nice), and that Kim bought a washing machine (hurrah!).

Just this morning I did a load of Miko’s clothes — mostly the ‘new’ hand-me-downs from Dr. Beng (thank you, thank you!) and Ka Ricky (thank you ulit, dami-dami!) and I wish the camera had new batteries so I could take pictures of the clothesline: hanging from it are more than two dozen teeny shirts and they’re a warm and happy sight floating and fluttering in the breeze and early morning sunlight.

Kimiko’s Playtime varies depending on whom she’s having it with. If its with me, it means ‘reading’, singing nursery rhymes, massage-exercises, and goofing off with the toys I bought off E-bay. Miko can ‘read’ the black, white and orange pictures in her Olivia books and the images I downloaded from the internet had developed as photos.

If Playtime is with her Tatay, it means being thrown up in the air, rocked to and fro at full swing, watching classic Sesame Street scenes on the computer and being exhorted to walk and talk (“Big girl ka na! Walk ka na! ‘Salita ka na! Kaya mo yan!”)

It’s a skill squeezing in Mealtimes; at least my own meals (I have to cook for myself, and when I eat, there’s no dawdling because Miko might wake up any minute). Kimiko’s Mealtimes are no problem at all – she hollers and I’m there. I also try to express milk whenever there’s a chance (the breastpump is my new bestfriend) so when I’m too sleepy to breastfeed (and risk suffocating Miko if we’re prone on the bed; or dropping her, if we’re sitting down) we could just pop in the bottle (thank goodness she never had nipple confusion like the babysites warned).

To say that Miko drinks a lot of milk is too mild a description. The statement should be written down in caps: MIKO DRINKS A LOT OF MILK would be better. She makes grunting and smacking noises when she first latches on, and when I talk to her while she feeds, she makes ‘eh-eh-eh’ sounds, and it’s almost as if she’s answering me. Kim says that the ‘eh-eh-eh’ means ‘DO NOT DISTURB, Baby Busy.’

Scariest of all is Bath time. I fear giving Miko her bath on my own, so Kim helps me. He carries Miko while I pour the water, apply the shampoo and baby wash, and wrap Miko in the towel afterwards. Miko seems to enjoy bathing. We put her in a baby tub, and the water’s warmed just right, and she doesn’t make a sound of complaint when I pour water on her head and body. Her eyes get all googly-big and she has this ‘I like this, but what exactly is happening?’ look on her face.

We already can’t resist her on an ordinary day; but on bathdays we could just eat her up because she smells so delicious (yeah, we’re turning into regular ogres).

As for my own bathtime, it takes 5-7 minutes tops; again, because I don’t want Kimiko to wake up hungry and am not there (am still praning at this stage…).

Kimiko Thimbletack is what I call it when Miko cries loud and long when she does wake up hungry and there’s a delay in the milk delivery (meaning am not ready to feed her). Thimbletack is the Brownie in the Spiderwick Chronicles book and movie: he has plump cheeks and round eyes, and he’s mild and friendly and even a bit of a nervous nancy ordinarily, but when he’s angry he turns into a small monster who can only be pacified with honey.

Miko can only be pacified with milk.