The ninth month

Dear (not-so) little E.,

Today you are three-quarters of the way through your first year. And while I’ve wrapped my head around the idea that you are much closer to your first birthday than you are to that day of your birth, it is slightly mind-boggling to think that as of tomorrow, you will be closer to twelve months than to six, because it still feels like it was only yesterday you started sitting up and cutting your first teeth. And yet, here we are. You have six teeth now, and it’s rare for you to sit still for very long- you’ve got so many other things demanding your attention. Your well-baby appointment isn’t for a few days yet, but we can’t wait to see how much you’ve grown. You’re into twelve month clothes now, and while you’re still pretty long and lanky, there are some adorable baby folds around your wrists and thighs that I love to nibble.

This was the month you got moving in a big way. We’d been saying since Christmas, “He’s so close to crawling”, but you teased us all for a few more weeks. You spent a lot of time doing what we called your yoga poses- you have a superb downward dog, although you would often use an unorthodox variation where you rested your head on the carpet, and looked behind you to see what was going on. Sometimes you would even lift up one of your hands to dig out a toy that was stuck near your legs. You pushed around backwards on the hardwood floors. You rocked back and forth on your hands and knees endlessly and made excited noises. You would propel yourself forward after rocking, but then immediately end up flat on your belly as you hadn’t figured out how to move your knees to follow where your hands wanted to go. And then, just before the halfway point in the month, it clicked. For the first two days it was as if you could only crawl if something really exciting (the cat food, the laptop cables, the power outlet) was just out of your reach, and you just instinctively went for it. It looked like you couldn’t consciously control what you were doing. But on the third day, you cracked it. I watched you very deliberately set off around the couch in the living room. You were so proud when you stuck your head around the corner to surprise me!

Now it’s hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since you’ve been crawling. We’ve spent a lot of time making the main floor of the house safe for you to explore. The cats are somewhat traumatized, but they’ve figured out where their food and water have gone, and they like having their cat tree up in my study. It took them a few days to realize that you could no longer be relied on to stay in one place, and they now give you a much wider berth (much to your immense frustration, as all you want to do is grab their fur, and if they’re in the room you inevitably try to crawl over to them, panting and shrieking with excitement the entire way. This is just a thought, my darling son, but if you are trying to sneak up on them, you might need to work on the silence of your approach). We don’t want to spend our days telling you not to touch something, so we’ve worked hard to make a space that lets you practise your new skills. We’ve put doors (with latches) on our bookshelves, except for one, where we’ve put your books on the bottom three shelves. You already love to crawl over there and sit and pull down the books and open the pages and chew the spines. We’ve put plugs in all the power outlets, soft corners on the coffee table’s sharp edges, latches on the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, and a gate at the bottom of the stairs. I’m sure there will be other things we have to do as you become more mobile and your reach increases, but it seems to be working for now.

You love going for a tour of the property, as I call it, in the morning. We’ll start near your toy box, and you’ll pull out a few things, but inevitably you’ll soon decide you’d rather get moving. Then it’s over to the couch, where you’ve just started to pull yourself to standing in the last few days, where you’ll bounce up and down a bit and chew on the cushions. Then it’s time to check out the coffee table, the wicker chair, and then the bookshelf. After pulling off a few of your books, it’s a good time to poke at the only obvious power outlet (properly covered), and then there are two heating grates to bang on, and curtains to look at and wonder how to reach. Next you’re near the table, so you crawl around under the chairs before checking out your exersaucer (which you basically now refuse to sit in), and then your high chair. At that stage you either come back to the couches, via a close exploration of the cat scratching post (which is sturdy enough that it hasn’t yet had to be moved), or you crawl up the small ledge into the kitchen. That ledge caused some grief early on, as while your Daddy and I were debating where to hang the pressure-mounted gate that we bought to go between the kitchen and the living areas (as sometimes we need to keep you in one spot or the other) when it was not in use, you crawled over to see what we were doing and face-planted off the ledge. You cut your top lip, and your Daddy and I both felt horrible. The next day you and I spent some time practising climbing up and down the ledge. You climb up into the kitchen all the time now, but I haven’t seen you head back down into the living room, so we’ll have to keep a close eye on you until we’re sure you remember what to do.

When you’re awake, you are busy, busy, busy. When not making laps of the main floor, you like to practise pulling up on the furniture, or on your music table. You can also pull up in your crib, although not if you’re wearing your sleep sack (another reason why your Mummy likes it so much!), so this month your crib mattress went down again to the lowest setting. You will chase toys across the room if they roll away from you, and if they go under the couch you’ll flop down onto your belly to see where they went. You absolutely love banging toys together, and if you’re holding two things that rattle, you’ll wildly flap your arms out in front of you to make them shake- it looks like you’re trying to fly! Your toys don’t keep your attention for very long these days, but you’re easily amused just by going for another explore. You also love standing up on the couch and looking out the window. You bounce up and down and chatter to me about everything you’re looking at.

Given your new mobility, this month saw the end of baby naked time, but we find you get through to the end of the day without too much fussing now, even when you are very tired. You’ve also started having dinner around 5 or 5:30, and that helps you stay entertained until it’s time for your bath. You still love your bath, although it’s hard to keep you from a) crawling, b) trying to pull up, or c) reaching for the faucet. You love to splash and play with your stacking cups, your tugboat, and your duck (Darryl, or The Emperor of the Bath, as Daddy calls him). You still try to eat your toothbrush, so getting all those pearly whites clean is a challenge!

You were very lucky in that you had your Granny visiting for much of the month. Even though you had a fair amount of separation anxiety this month, you still thought she was pretty amazing. I would be up in my study getting some work done, and all I could hear were endless giggles and babbling and shrieks of excitement as she played with you all afternoon. It really was most unfair of you to then burst into tears every time you saw me, as if you hadn’t been having any fun at all! All your other grandparents came to visit as well so they could see your Granny too. Basically the whole first half of the month was an extension of Christmas, and you were noticeably out of sorts when your adoring public vanished, and it was just your Daddy and I again. Luckily you started crawling the day after your Granny left (in an impeccable sense of timing, she was probably still over the Pacific when you finally got moving), which cut down on your frustration.

While your relatives were visiting we spent a night out of the city and you went on your first snowshoeing expedition. I don’t think you were too impressed about being out in the snow, as it was a little windy and wet, but you were a good sport. Your Grampa just said over and over again, “I can’t get over how much this kid smiles!” It’s true. You are more shy than you used to be, and you can be a bit fragile when you first wake up from a nap, or when we first go into a new environment, but for the most part you take everything you come across in your stride, and you still smile at the people you see around town. We’ve managed to get out quite a lot this month, as it’s been an unseasonably warm winter. Most days you’ve been comfortable in your fleece, a hat and mitts, and the bundle me in the stroller. Yet all the other babies we pass seem to be stuffed into enormous snowsuits and buried under blankets. Either you naturally run very warm, I’m terrible at gauging how heavy to dress you, or those other babies are cooking.

You spent much of the month babbling up a storm, but you’ve gone a bit quiet again in the last week or so. I have a theory that it’s because you’re now so focused on crawling and pulling up- you don’t want to take the time to express yourself with anything more complicated than a shriek. You’re not a very noisy baby generally- if you’re playing, you tend to concentrate on what you’re doing, and you’ll be perfectly quiet except for the odd ‘ooh’ here and there when you do something particularly interesting. One thing you did spend a lot of time saying this month was ‘mama’. For the longest time I thought you were just using it indiscriminately, and, to be honest, you still do say it a lot when directed at some random things (like the cats, or your father), but you also most certainly use it to mean me, usually when you’re upset and want to be picked up. You lift up your arms and call out ‘mamamama’, and I swoop down to gather you up and cover you with kisses. You give kisses now if asked- big open-mouthed embraces that often end with an exploratory lick or suck on your recepient’s cheek. You stopped waving ‘bye-bye’ partway through the month but then started it up again a couple of days ago. I love noticing how you will focus on something, and then suddenly lose interest for days or weeks at a time before returning to it again. There’s a clear sense that you work on mastering a skill and then put it aside as the next new thing comes along.

Sleep continues to be a challenge. You spent much of the month teething and, once again, this resulted in super-short naps and disrupted nights. Tooth number five wasn’t too much of an issue, but tooth number six took a long time to come through, and obviously caused you a great deal of discomfort. We went through quite a lot of baby ad.vil until it at last cut through the gum. Now that it’s through, your naps have mostly lengthened out again. The change this month was that you dropped the third nap. It doesn’t matter how early you get up, or how short your naps are, you absolutely refuse to go down for a third time. This made for some long days this month when you were up at 6 am and took two 35 minute naps. Just recently we’ve started experimenting with having you put yourself to sleep for naps and at bedtime. We made some progress but there have been some setbacks as well.  You don’t seem to be quite ready to not have us hold you on your side in the crib while you put yourself to sleep. You still like to hold on to my forearm as you drift off, but you’ve also started to hold on to the stuffed monkey that lives in your crib.

Even without the excuse of teeth, your nights haven’t improved from last month. You still feed twice (or three times on a bad night), and you continue to try to push that first feed earlier and earlier. We’re holding the line at 11 pm, but this now means that sometimes you wake up as early as 10 pm, and your poor Daddy has a terrible time trying to get you to go back to sleep. Your second feed is around 3:30 or 4 am, and then if we’re lucky you’ll go back down until 7. If we’re unlucky, you’re up for the day at 6, even though that means by 7 or so you tend to be regretting that decision. Your night feeds are consistently the best feeds you have, so I’ve been reluctant to cut them out, even though your Daddy and I would both love to get more sleep. You seem absolutely starving at both feeds, but we’re not sure what we can do to fill you up any more during the day. You keep cutting back the length of your pre-bed feed, and you’re often not all that interested in whatever solids are offered for dinner.

Nursing certainly has become a bit of a challenge this month. You are so easily distracted- even the cats walking into the room and treading on a creaky floorboard will cause you to pop off and lose your concentration. You’re also utterly unwilling to feed unless you are ravenous. If I try to offer a nursing session any earlier, you either pop off again right away, cry and push away, or bite me (ouch!). You never want to nurse when you first wake up (you’re still full from the second night feed), and some days if you have a big breakfast, you will still be full and it will be after your first nap before I’m able to convince you to have a good drink. And if we’re out of the house, forget it. I think you’ve gone more than seven hours on a couple of occasions without nursing. You were very hungry by the time we got home, but you refused the breast every time I tried to offer it when we were out. On regular days you often go four hours between nursing sessions, and when you do nurse, you’re ready to get on with things after five minutes. I really want to nurse into your second year, even if you haven’t outgrown the MSPI issue, so I’m hoping you won’t try to self-wean just yet. When you do settle in for a nursing session, it’s still one of our favourite parts of the day. You play with my clothes and stroke my skin, while I cuddle you close and enjoy the quiet moments.

You’re still having all sorts of fun with solid food. The only problem this month is you’ve started to become so excited that you’ll shove food in your mouth willy-nilly, and we’ve had a couple of scary incidents where your Daddy or I had to pull food back out when you became obviously distressed. Your pincer grip is so good now that we’ve started just giving you food in small pieces rather than chunks or sticks, and that has helped cut back on the choking risks. You’re on a bit of a carbohydrate and meat kick at the moment. You love sausages and eggs and pita bread. Vegetables are meeting with less enthusiasm- even the orange ones. Fruit is still popular, although you’re less keen on bananas. You’re not afraid of food with lots of flavour- you’ve had dahl and some spicy split pea soup, as well as pasta sauces, and you don’t seem to mind the chili or the other spices.

You absolutely want to be eating whatever it is that your Daddy and I are eating. Early in the month we were sitting around eating some chips with your Granny, and you were so clearly offended by the absence of anything for you that we couldn’t help but laugh (and your Granny and I agreed later that we’d both felt quite guilty munching away in front of you). So now we don’t have a snack without also getting out a small bowl of mixed puffs (puffed corn, kamut, rice and a Cheerio-like cereal with no sugar/salt) for you. You love sitting with us and picking up one piece at a time. If I’m eating an apple or a banana or a pear you want to come over and have a bite or two. You can’t be bothered to use your sippy cup, but you love drinking out of the small IKEA tumblers we bought for you. You’re not ready to hold them yourself yet, but if we steady them for you, you have no trouble at all. The other morning at breakfast I’d made you french toast, but I was just eating scrambled eggs. You protested loudly when you realized that I had something different. So we both had scrambled eggs and french toast. You also wanted desperately to have a spoon when we were eating dahl. You can’t manage spoons yet, so I tend to pre-load them and then hold them out to you. You will grab on to the handle and help me guide the food to your mouth. You are so precise when you eat. We were visiting with friends for brunch and they couldn’t get over how neat an eater you were when compared with how their boys had been at your age. We have a great bib (it’s like a painter’s smock- it has sleeves), and that, coupled with your neatness, means we’ve only had to change your outfit after a meal maybe twice. And you’ve never been so dirty you needed an immediate bath, even though you still always feed yourself.

You are quite the character. This month you started to really experiment with sticking out your tongue. You also still love to blow raspberries, and if you feel you’re being ignored, you’ll call out or blow a raspberry to get more attention. You love playing hide-and-seek with me around the couches- you always get the biggest smile on your face when you come round a corner and triumphantly find me. You also have fine sense of the ridiculous. One day I put the elephant head from one of your toys on top of my head like a hat, and you fell about laughing. Other things that appear to be intrinsically amusing are your auntie L’s hat, the smoke detector’s alarm, and all the crazy things your Daddy does. You like to stand at your music table and dance along with the music- you wiggle your bum and bounce your knees up and down. You squeal with laughter when I munch on your toes every morning as I get you dressed.

I love that when you’re hanging out with your Daddy during the day, and he brings you upstairs for a diaper change, you get so excited when you walk past my study door and you see me at my desk. Your smile takes up your entire face, and you kick your legs with excitement. It always brings me out from my books for a quick cuddle and a kiss. I love how you sit up in the crib every morning and raise your arms to ask to be picked up. I love watching your single-minded determination that maybe this time you will manage to grab the elusive cats. I love watching you figure things out- how to stretch up a bit higher to reach something, how to open and close doors, how to pull toys out of the toy box, and drop them back in. Every day you make more of your world make sense. I’m sure the next month will bring with it even bigger adventures.

Love you always, my most beloved son.
Mummy

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2 Comments

Filed under Baby, Letters to E.

2 responses to “The ninth month

  1. Oh, T – he sounds like such an amazing little boy. And you sound so very happy…9 months sure flies by, doesn’t it? So glad that you are all enjoying life so much…

  2. Sarah

    I love it all :). Every month I think THIS is the most fun month ever! And then the next month is even better and I can’t imagine anything more fun than that. Just think! Walking and talking are right around the corner!!!

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