Farang Mama in Ranong

Apologies for the really really long gap between the last post and this one…and for taking so long to finally write a post myself, rather than letting Andrew write them all (which is always a little dangerous – that’s how stories of projectile poo end up here. Felicity will never forgive us!)

Then

The last four months have certainly been an adventure.

Now

From the first few nervous days at home, when everything was new and our little bundle seemed so fragile, through to now, when Felicity confidently asserts her position as the boss of the family, whether she’s making us laugh with her singing and chuckles, impressing us with her new skills, solemnly telling us little stories, screaming her head off, or (finally, finally…) sleeping peacefully.

It’s become very obvious recently that she’s really not a newborn anymore. At her four- month check-up last week she weighed in at 6.5 kg. Quite the little heffalump, particularly by Thai/Burmese standards.

If we hold her hands, she can pull herself up to sitting position. She can hold her own weight standing, and delights in doing so.

She’ll chew anything within reach, if it fits in her mouth, including her dress, her mosquito net, the nappy I’m about to put on her, the book we’re reading, the computer mouse… Not yet her toes. I’m sure she’ll find them eventually.

She loves going for a walk in her front pack, so that she can see what’s going on in the bustling, noisy world that is Ranong. She is, however, the centre of attention wherever we go, so I have to be prepared a) for just about every stranger we walk past to want to stop us, put their face up to hers and pinch her toes (not so bad) or cheek (very tempted to pinch theirs back); and b) for her to be completely tired out by all the attention very quickly. A highlight of any walk is saying hello to the neighbours on our way back, particularly Mr Rooster, Mrs Cow and her little calf.

Last week she was perfecting her rolling skills, from back to front. For a while there every time I put her down in the cot on her back I’d be summonsed back 5 minutes later to find her on her tummy looking a little confused, a little unhappy, and not quite sure what to do with herself next. Cute. Not conducive to sleep, however. Now she sleeps happily on her back or her tum, although the latter still makes me a little nervous. She has also perfected wriggling round so she is lying perpendicular in her cot, with her head as close to the bars as possible.

Until last week, she would lie awake in her cot for hours after I put her down for a nap, even though she’d clearly given me her tired signs and I knew she needed to sleep. You can find a million sleep books and websites offering advice on how to deal with a child that cries when you put her in the cot. Not how to deal with one that plays and sings happily to herself for an hour and a half before suddenly dissolving into an overtired, screaming little mess. It was a slow form of torture, listening to her coo away and waiting for the inevitable meltdown that I knew would come, it was just a matter of when… However, over the past few days we have had a breakthrough with our nap routine – we’re on to day four now of great naps: falling asleep within minutes and mostly sleeping really well. Long may it last!

I’ve been finding it pretty frustrating still not having the language (Thai or Burmese) to communicate with people around me, whether it’s the Thai ladies at the local market who fuss over Felicity and seem to be asking if they can take her home, the Burmese neighbours, or, in particular, the nanny of JP (the other child in our community) who is, like me, always home during the day just downstairs. We try…but my few words in halting Thai/Burmese together with sign language only get me so far before we’re in the realm of confusion and it all just seems too hard. It’s hard to avoid the inevitable comparisons to “how things would be” if we were in NZ – having friends pop round to visit; coffee with the ante-natal group; walking down to the local library for storytime; even just being able to exchange more than a few words with the man at the corner dairy – although I know this image probably isn’t a realistic one either, and life with a new baby takes some adjusting to wherever you are. I have, however, been slowly improving my “baby Thai”, mainly through simple repetition of the same conversation, as any encounter with a new person on the street is very predictable. I can pretty much rattle off the answers without waiting for the questions now! So this is how the conversation invariably goes:

Thai Person: (prodding companions and pointing) Ooooo, baby!
Me: Yes, she’s a baby.
TP: A boy?
M: No, she’s a girl.
TP: How many months is she?
M: She’s [insert correct number] months.
TP: Was she born in Thailand?
Me: Yes, in Ranong Hospital.
TP: Was it a natural birth, or Caesarean?(the first couple of people to ask me this used actions to demonstrate their meaning. I picked it up pretty quickly…)
Me: (Excuse me?) Ummm, natural birth…
TP: Good, good. And are you breastfeeding? (Again, actions…)
Me: (Wow, they don’t hold back…) Yes.
TP: (with approving smile) Ah, much better.

So obviously asking a stranger on the street about her birth experience and choice of feeding method is completely acceptable here! Very few people ask Felicity’s name, and if they do it’s obviously out of politeness rather than interest. ‘Felicity’ is just a few too many syllables. “Thai name…?” they might hopefully ask. Ah, no. Though at this rate I expect she’ll acquire one somehow, just so people aren’t calling her ‘baby’ for the next 18 months. [Postscript: in the couple of days since I wrote this, we have decided on a “Thai name” for these situations – ‘Nong  Suk’, which is apparently a fairly common and pretty nickname for a little girl and also translates as happiness, so it seems appropriate.]

In other news, I’ve been doing a little English teaching to a group of doctors at the local hospital, just for a couple of hours twice a week. It’s been fun – some adult interaction, plenty of laughs, good PR for MMR and I’ve even learnt a bit more Thai in the process. An added bonus has been the chance it’s given Andrew to spend a dedicated time each week looking after Felicity on his own – good Dada and daughter bonding time. That course has finished now, but there’s the possibility of more classes in the future.

I’ve been pottering away at the MMR website, when Felicity allows, and hope to get more of a chance to really work on that now that she’s (figures crossed) starting to sleep better during the day. I’m also hoping to be back tutoring our online students soon – they’ve had a big break from ACU classes over the past two months, but are starting a new course this week.

Last but certainly not least, a big part of the last four months has been experiencing the joys and challenges that a new baby presents to our relationship – seeing Andrew be an amazing Dad to Felicity is so special and he really is everything I always quietly hoped the father of my children would be, and then some. But the sleepless nights, the frustrations of a baby who won’t nap, the constant demands on my attention, not to mention the general housebound-ness and feeling very far from home…this all contributes to a wife who I’m sure has been not quite the carefree woman he married! So thank you my dear for your love, your patience and your support – you’re a star.

4 thoughts on “Farang Mama in Ranong

  1. Good on you Nuala, you sound like you’re doing so well with adjusting to being a mum. The first few weeks and months are the hardest and rest assured things will get easier from here as you realise that you do really know what you are doing. !! If you have time and reliable internet access, you could always try a ‘virtual coffee group’ for adult interaction – there’ll be plenty out there (I tried http://www.coffeegroup.org I think but that address doesn’t seem to be working….).

  2. Well done Nuala and Andrew. You are wonderful parents and Felicity is blessed to have parents like you. I wish we were a bit closer to help, but it has been an absolute pleasure watching felicty on skype. We can’t seem to get enough of her.

  3. Reading in awe… 🙂 been thinking muchly about my favourite Thai Moraes troop and enjoying every little Facebook status update of Felicity’s latest tricks. Hats off to you two and the boss 😉

    Very much want to come and spend time with you guys – God bless you.

    Much love,
    Luce live from JoBurg (& JP, but he is asleep in South Sudan right now…and so should I be…asleep that is, not in South Sudan)

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