A guardabarranco came, and went
The guardabarranco stayed for a long time. An unusually long time, so close to the house. He watched us from his perch as if saying, ‘Look at me, look at me!’ Then it flipped around so we could admire its two long back feathers with their bare shafts each ending with a fan of short turquoise and black feathers. The guardabarranco, or turquoise-browed momot, is the national bird of Nicaragua and it must know that it is spectacularly beautiful.
It is not endangered, and yet spotting one has the same magical effect as spotting a pod of dolphins back home in Fingal Head. They hail the unspeakable beauty of Nature, the purity of the air and water, all the while reminding us of the precarious and fleeting quality of it all. The bird was soon gone.
The twins are already one month old. With wide eyes they respond to our voices, they enjoy music, any music, be it classical, reggae, salsa, depending on the time of day and whether it is sleep time or awake time. They are also soothed by my lullabies which of course includes Larivier Tanye, this age old song, which has its origins in the songs of the slaves. It tells the story of a child coming by a very old woman fishing in the Lataniers River. What are you doing there? the child asks, old people like you should stay home. To which the old woman replies that she has to fish because she is very poor. Mwa bien mizer, me mo ena tu mo kuraz. ‘I am very poor, but I have all my courage (strength).’ Way way, me zanfan, Fo travaye pu ganye son pen. ‘Way way my children We must work for our daily bread’. This lullaby has a special place in the hearts of all Mauritians, having been sung to every baby born on the island.
The effect of the meditation music that is played to them at bedtime however is not as long lasting as intended. Recently the nights have been torrid with the girls behaving as if the day is meant to start around 2AM. Local folklore has it that they take day for night and night for day because they were born around noon.
Amelie Rose is the more placid of the twins. She is sweet and gentle in every way, and her soft pitiful wailing voice has a way of piercing straight to your heart. She also knows just when to crack that dimpled smile. Of course all the books tell us that babies don’t smile until 3 months old, but a smile is a smile, even if it is induced by the blowing of wind.
Alice Claire is more recalcitrant. She has a need for constant physical activity manifested by wriggling like a worm. When spoken to she grimaces like a little monkey, frowns, blows kisses, throws her arms up in the air and rolls her eyes in her head as though saying ‘Whatever’. Her communication repertoire usually ends with a little smirk, and she has us in hysterics. All the energy spent in utero kicking her mother’s ribs explains why she was born the smaller of the two. But Alice has quickly caught up.
Last night she had a growth spurt, howling like a banshee, wanting to be fed all night and refusing to settle. In a moment of panic I misunderstood that Alice had sprouted a growth. Where I wondered, on her little body? As you do in moments of despair, when there is no help at hand, you google. And this is how her Mum soon joined an online forum of similarly panicked mothers airing their concerns about hysterical, unsatiated babies. Growth spurts are normal and can occur at any time, the main symptom being a ravenous appetite, and the only solution being feed, feed, feed. Six hours and eleven ounces of Nan’s premature formula later (huge for a baby whose stomach one month ago could only hold one ounce), Alice is resting peacefully.
We are now anticipating Amelie’s growth spurt, reassured only by the thought that it would have to be more subdued.
As we yearn for more sleep, we are acutely aware that the brief moments spent with them will soon be memories. While anticipating the babies’ needs and fulfilling their wishes, we are trying to pack in quality time in the few weeks that we have left together before heading back home to Australia. As I hold them, curled up in a foetal position on my chest, I commit to memory the feel of a little hand wrapped around my finger, tiny feet in the palm of my hands, a soft head resting on my shoulder, and their indescribable baby smell. Every moment is intensely lived as I wish for the return of the guardabarranco, and for the joys that we are living to endure forever.