Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The past 2 months, part 1...

The past 2 months have been a whirlwind of activity. We have traveled around Kenya and made every effort to see all the "touristy things" that we don't want to miss out on before we head back to the U.S.A.

Jason's work had an all-staff retreat in Naivasha and Flint and I tagged along and spent the week at the Lake Naivasha Country Club. The club is a very pretty parcel on the shores of Lake Naivasha, where there are hundreds of different birds, hippos, and monkeys. The accommodations were very nice and I very much enjoyed wandering around the vast grounds and watching the wildlife. Here are some of the animals that Flint I observed while Jason was hard at work in meetings all day:

The town of Naivasha is quite small compared to Nairobi, but is charming and nicely located very close to the lake. I will say though, that both Jason and I had a very uncomfortable arrival at Naivasha. As we pulled through town, Jason noticed a bunch of people running across the road in front of us, and those people being followed by more people. We slowed to avoid the people on the roadway, just in time to see a group of people circle one man and begin beating him. He was very badly hurt by this crowd, which all seemed to surge to get a chance at him. A few weeks after this incident, we were talking to a friend (expat) who lives in Naivasha and works as a MD and she informed us that at the hospital she works at, there is a diagnostic code for the injuries that the man sustained (if he lived). She informed us that the diagnostic code is "mob justice."

Before Leaving Naivasha, Jason and I decided we would take a trip to Crescent Island. Crescent Island is a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Naivasha and was reported to have abundant wildlife that are protected, free of predators and therefore able to be walked among. This sounded idyllic. In fact, when we arrived we were met by an old British expat woman who we found to be quite in love with the animals and at odds with the people of Kenya. We asked her how she came to live in such an incredible place and she informed us that her husband and her had tried to purchase the land back during the big land grabs (my words), and that when they couldn't arrange the finances to allow it, they lost the opportunity to buy the land. She stated that the land is owned by one of the Kenyan tribes now (as it should be...again my words) and that they allow her to live on the land and care for the animal preserve. I thought this was mighty nice of the tribe considering the low employment rates and poverty of many Kenyans. She then told us how much had changed in the land over the last few decade, including a nearby "slum" (which is in fact, a town) and then making the statement that "these people needed to be eradicated." At this point, having already paid to see Crescent Island, Jason and I both departed this horribly offensive, ungrateful, hateful woman and made our way to see the animals. As we arrived in the preserve, we noticed a distinct lack of animals..except for some horses and domestic sheep. We made our way down towards the shore and noticed a very unpleasant smell. As it turns out, many of the animals were dead and rotting where they had died. With the animals trapped on this peninsula and a lack of recent rains, many of the animals had perished. We saw dead animal after dead animal..some dead for seemingly weeks (by their degree of rot) and others newly dead. The smell was very bad and with no predators or scavengers around, everything was lost and wasted. The animals that were still alive appeared to be extremely thin, and very unhealthy. Crescent Island held a great sadness for the poor treatment of the animals trapped there and for the disregard to the necessity of the full food chain. After walking for about 45 minutes and seeing mostly dead animals, I said "no more" and we turned around. Despite this, the views from the top of Crescent Island were beautiful. I will also say that Im really glad we were able to pay resident rates for this huge let down of a place. As for the sun-dumbed british ignoramus, I hope that she continues to spout off her garbage and is removed from her position as caretake of the preserve.
Here are some pictures from Crescent Island. I am including some of the dead animals in case anyone disbelieves the degree of mistreatment of the animals.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Teaser blog post..

Okay...yes the hype is true. Being a mom is a full time job, and a job that has kept me from blogging. There is much to share from the last few months which I will try to add over the next couple days.


For now, enjoy a pic of Flint taken by my friend Julia while she and my friend Angela visited us in Kenya. Angela was holding him, which is no doubt the source of his merriment at that moment.


I can't believe how lucky I am to have this happy, healthy, fun, curious, cute, baby boy added to our family.


More to come...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Two months old tomorrow...

Tomorrow Flint will be two months old and so far he is earning an A+ on his developmental milestones. The 2 month milestones include:

-Beginning to smile at people...check
-Can briefly calm himself (ex. brings hands to mouth to suck)...check
-Tries to look at parent...check
-Coos and gurgling sounds...check
-Turns head towards sounds...check
-Pays attention to faces...check
-Begins to follow objects with eyes and recognize people at distances...check
-Shows boredom (cries/fussy) if activity doesn't change...check
-Can hold head up and begin to push up on tummy...check (though he often dislikes tummy time)
-Smoother movements with arms/legs...check

He is also hitting some of the 4 month milestones already, such as:

-Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
-Begins to babble
-Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears (he copies Uh, Ooh, and Ahh sounds)
-Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired
-Responds to affection
-Reaches for toy with one hand (for the first time today)
-Follows moving things from side to side
-watches faces closely
-Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface (and he supports his own weight with us stabilizing him)
-Brings hands to mouth

We're super proud of our little guy and so excited by all his new skills. Every day brings new surprises and advancements. His smiles are much more frequent and are maintained for longer periods now. Twice now I have heard the start of a chortle with a smile...laughing is right around the corner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Has it really been 6 weeks?

This upcoming Friday will mark 6 weeks since Flint joined our family. I can't believe how quickly time has gone, or how much there is to update on the blog. I have never been busier, or more exhausted, or more thoroughly content with life than I have been over the past 6 weeks.

So here's a run down of what parenthood has entailed so far. After arriving home from the hospital, Jason and I were tired and yet so fulfilled with the love in our new family. Jason took a month off work and we spent every moment together caring for ourselves and for Flint. Flint was nursing very well, perhaps a bit too well because around 7 pm he would start nursing and would not stop until around 4 am. Every time he would begin to fall asleep or stop nursing I would try to put him down to bed and he would perk right back up and demand to be fed more, he would nurse frantically, eventually slowing down and then the whole scenario would repeat. Jason spent many nights sitting up with us and we began watching old time silent movies in the night while Flint engaged in "cluster feeding." In hindsight I know that he was working hard to tell my body to produce more milk. At the time I questioned whether he was nursing for comfort vs. food. I was also in intense pain from his constant nursing and starting to scab and bleed from his marathon feedings. Ouch!

Based on a belief that he was nursing for comfort, and a deep desire for more rest and less pain, we found an article that indicated that pacifiers may not have a negative impact of breastfeeding and may actually help promote nursing. Sounded we bought a pacifier, and that night after about 5 hours of cluster feeding I stuck it in Flint's mouth. At first he wouldn't take it, but eventually he did and we all fell asleep. We woke up about 2 hours later and Flint would not nurse. At all. I tried everything I could think of to get him to eat, and he would not take the breast. Every time I tried to feed him, he would scream and push my breast away. On the few occasions when he would take the nipple, he would not latch or suck. This was right around Thanksgiving (not celebrated in Kenya obviously) and lasted for several days. After the first day of refusing to nurse he began to get dehydrated and we got him some pedialite, some gripe water, and some infacol. The pedialite really helped with the dehydration and he perked up quickly, but he was still not nursing. Because this happened over a weekend, there was no medical clinic to consult with unless we went to the hospital, which we were reluctant to do for several reasons. First, the hospital would not have a pediatrician available. Second, they would likely push for formula by bottle (as they had at his birth). Third, they would likely poke and prod and cause pain, with the only benefit being rehydration, which we were managing with pedialite. Lastly, we do not find the medical care here very good and did not wish to expose our new infant to a third world ER full of very ill people. So instead we got some formula and fed it to Flint by eye dropper along with the pedialite. This seemed to work for him and he regained his hydration and was less frantic, but was still refusing to nurse.

At the recommendation of a mom on the Kilimani Mums Facebook group, I made an appointment with a local lactation consultant in a last ditch effort to be able to breastfeed. Jason, Flint and I went to the appointment and within 15 minutes Flint was nursing again. My milk supply had gone down a bit, but Rebecca showed me how to manually express milk, how to properly latch Flint (I thought I was doing it right...but alas no), and how to motivate him to keep sucking. Initially we did this with a naso-gastric feeding tube, which we ran along my nipple into his mouth. We would supplement a bit of milk through the feeding tube whenever he would stop sucking and the flow of milk would encourage him to keep sucking. Within 24 hours he was back on the breast without the assistance of the feeding tube, and my milk supply was already starting to increase again. Over the past few weeks my nipples have healed, pain has subsided, and Flint has finally started to gain weight. At his 3 week appointment he was just at birth weight, and after help from Rebecca, at 4.5 weeks he was 1 lb over his birth weight. A full pound in 1.5 weeks back on the breast!!

Our miracle worker, Rebecca, really helped us to be able to breastfeed. We can't recommend her highly enough to any women in Nairobi struggling with lactation. With a national breastfeeding rate of around 2%, she should be deemed a Kenyan national treasure for her knowledge and expertise. Beyond that, she is very kind. Here we are together with Flint:

Since Flint has been eating well, life has been tiring but very good. He is a very mellow baby and is very good at conveying his needs. We have learned to understand which cues or cries mean food or diaper or cuddles or physical discomfort and are getting pretty good at meeting his needs in a timely and consistent way.

This past 6 weeks have also marked some very rapid changes in his developmental abilities. Flint now tracks objects with his eyes, and turns his head towards familiar voices. He has started to make cooing noises and attempts to "talk" to us by moving his mouth and tongue, trying to mimic our mouth movements. Sometimes I put my lips to his cheek when I am whispering to him and he will turn his head and put his lips on mine and try to move his mouth with mine while I talk. This is very neat because I believe he is learning through feeling how to form words and sounds. Shortly after he started doing this, his vocalizations really started to increase.

His favorite songs right now are "The River" by Garth Brook, which I sing to sooth him, as well as the ABC's, anything his dad will sing to him, and "The Ant's Go Marching." Flint likes when I sing the Ants song slowly, march my fingers on his stomach gently, and pause at the part when I say "hurrah" and give him a chance to try to make a "hurrah" sound. Often he will move his mouth or produce a sound similar to Hurrah when I pause and every time he seems so awed and surprised by himself. It's adorable and I will try to catch it on video to share on the blog.

He is getting better and better at reaching for things and often grabs my hair, or fingers or breast while he's nursing. He has started to suck his hands, and is also starting to produce excess saliva..which he prefers to drool on my shoulder. His head control has come a long way and he often hold his own head up for extended periods of time. Also, if we stabilize his body, he will often push up with his legs and stand fully upright supporting his own weight. It's so impressive how strong he is, and he loves it when we make surprise faces when he pops up into a standing position. I'll try to get that on video too.

The single best development so far though, has been his smiling at us or in response to us. His smiles are still rare, but so treasured when they appear. The other day I was nursing him and laughed at something, which caused him to jiggle on my tummy. I looked down just in time to see him pause in his nursing to crack a huge grin. He has a great smile, full of dimples and joy. I am so looking forward to the laugh that goes with it.

In looking back over the past 1.5 months, I can honestly say that I have never felt more fulfilled and content in my life. I can't imagine anything more important than spending time with our son and seeing to his needs. I can easily stare at him all day long and never loose the awe I feel that Jason and I created this little person...with a bit of help. I feel that everything else dulls in comparison to being a parent, and I am so thankful for him in our lives.

Many people have asked about how we chose Flint's name, and I have been meaning to share with everyone why we chose Flint Declan.

Jason and I both agreed that we wanted to include an element of nature in our child's name. This both honors his American Indian ancestry on the paternal side, as well as honors the earth that sustains us. We both love the outdoors and nature and hope that our child will have an appreciation for the natural world as well. When we thought of the name Flint, we both liked it right away. We appreciated that flint (the stone) and it's ability to make fire greatly impacted the development of the human species, and was used in some of the earliest tools developed by human kind. We hope that Flint will grow up to offer valuable contributions to society as well. We also hope that Flint will always know that when he comes up against something hard in life, by giving a bit of himself he can bring light to anything.

Flint's middle name, Declan, is in honor of his paternal grandmother and her family name "Decker." His paternal grandmother's family line has Celtic origins and Declan further honors this lineage as it is a Celtic name, originally meaning "full of goodness." From everything I have been told (and the example his paternal grandmother makes) I know that the family line he is named for is, in fact, full of goodness. Jason often speaks of the great impact his grandfather had on him and what a wonderful man he was. From the pictures I have seen of Jason's grandfather, it's clear where Jason got the genes for some of his looks and his size. When Jason proposed to me, he offered me the Decker's wedding ring as my engagement ring. I have worn this family heirloom with pride ever since, and we were thrilled to name our son after this part of our family.

And now, for what you've all been wanting to see:

Sleeping Flint:

Dreaming Flint:
 Snuggly Flint:

Peek-a-boo Flint:

Happy and stretching after a nap:

Mmmm, nom nom:





Play time!:

Flint demonstrating his good grabbing skills:

 So peaceful:

Daddy helps Flint with his first Hanukkah present from Grandma and Grandpa:

Daddy and Flint:

Someone's a bit stinky:

"Was that me?"

Cuteness definitely makes up for stinky:

Well, Flint is waking up from a rare nap, so that's all for now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our newest family member:

On November 9th, 2012 at 10:23 pm EAT (East Africa Time), we welcomed the newest member of our family in the the world. Our son, Flint Declan Madrano captured our hearts from the moment we lay eyes on him..and he simultaneously urinated on us. It is amazing the love that we felt from him from the moment we got to meet him.

During the past week since he was born, we spent several days recovering from a traumatic and unwelcome cesarian section delivery in the hospital. The hospital experience was very poor for us and for Flint, and I have not decided yet if I will blog about what we experienced. Perhaps I will at some future date. 

For the time being, I am so consumed by the love and joy I feel for my son and for my husband and would prefer to focus on that. Leaving the hospital was a tremendous relief and Jason and I felt thankful to be back in our apartment with Flint. I find myself staring into his face for hours on end, marveling at this amazing life that we have created and will be responsible for protecting and nurturing. The other day as I was looking into his post-breastfed, sleepy face, I began to think about the life he would live and wonder who he will be. It occurred to me at that moment, that it is very likely that in the last couple year or within the next couple years, another baby will be born with whom Flint may fall in love with and start his own family one day. To think about all the people he will cross paths with, and to imagine how their lives are starting out or progressing was pretty neat.

I hope that he always knows and experiences love, that he develops confidence in himself, and that he always chooses for himself the path that matches his values and interests whatever they may be.

Jason put together the birth announcement while I recovered in the hospital. He did a mighty fine job of it, if I do say so myself:

He he is just seconds after arriving into the world:

His initial weight was 3.045 kg, or 6.75 lbs roughly. He was 47 cm long. 

Flint is posing next to a photo of Jason when Jason was the same age..a few days old:

All babies born in the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi are entered into their "database:"

Here Flint demonstrates some of his facial muscle maneuvers:

Yawns are contagious, even at 1 day of age:

Dad and Flint share eye contact:

The nipple goes here, mom:

Flint loves the swaddle and a full tummy: