The next morning I went in to find Marjolein holding a solid-looking Falco and looking slightly dazed. The new parents across the room were a text-book dysfunctional family and she had been supplied with graphic details of their horrific home-life and the birth of the baby by its grandmother. We checked out amid scenes of recrimination, white-lipped nurses and desperately reasonable doctors. Naturally in a hormonally challenged state Marjolein was on the point of forcibly fostering the futureless child by the time we left.
The boys welcomed Falco home as a novelty (Daniël checked him for noses, ears etc.) and as a new possession (with VERY limited play-possibilities) with surprising and surpassing kindness and gentleness. They undoubtedly picked up on strong parental-protective vibes from us both, but they also seemed generally pleased with Falco, treating him more as a complex new present for them both (like the car…) than as competition. Of course we had ensured that neither of them has visibly “lost ground” due to Falco.
Once home with the baby the familiar routines started up again, with the added complication of two active boys. Inevitably I ended up with more of the boys and less of the baby, but that was what I had expected. I had in fact expected Marjolein to be pretty beat-up for the first three weeks, so she needed less care than anticipated. The home-help was better and worse than expected: she was a sight more competent and pleasant than the lazy old bat we had for Daniël, but considerably inferior to the obstetric/domestic whirlwind who got us started (and saved our lives) with Matthijs. The home-help places have a big thing about being their only “to help the mother and child”. Well I am really sorry, but in households were pappa is less involved in cooking, cleaning and washing than I am I dare say they end up doing a good deal of housekeeping. The current lady was ok-ish and did look after Marjolein well, and cleaned the occasional toilet, as well as some ironing but she also seemed to spend aaaaaages filling out forms. I was not swept off my feet.
Breast-feeding seemed to start out well, but when Marjolein’s milk really came on Falco did not seem to get a good “bite” and when Marjolein cup-fed him some milk he drank 80ml plus. He also produced very few nappies, so the conclusion was that though he spent a long time on the breast (almost an hour at times) he was not drinking properly. Naturally this was also wearing out Marjolein: she was doing practically nothing but breast-feed. Marjolein had promised herself that she would give it a damn good try for a week and then draw conclusions. The conclusion, with some tears, was that Falco would be better on the bottle, so we moved over to bottles with mixed mother-milk and artificial feed. He drank these avidly and started producing full nappies at regular intervals (oh joy, oh rapture). Making the decision was a weight off Marjolein’s mind (she was also in the post-natal dip at the time): she was much happier when she was sure that Falco was getting everything he needed. It was a relief for me too, I would have hated to see them go back into hospital.