Category Archives: P.- the first year

The twelfth month

SO late again. Sigh.

Dearest P.,

Happy birthday! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. It feels like only a few months ago I was still slowly walking your brother to school with my enormous belly. All the other mums at school have said that to me as well. They all knew that your birthday was coming up because they remembered meeting you as a newborn last June, but they keep being caught off guard when they see you in the playground. For some of the mums it’s the first time they’ve really seen you, as usually you’re tucked up in the carrier, and they can’t believe how big you are or how much you can do. You crawl around at top speed, cruise holding on to the play equipment, and do your best to keep up with your brother and his friends.

You had a busy month! You started the month cruising with a lot of confidence. Most days I’d find you doing the circuit around our living room (from coffee table to big couch to toy shelf to chair to bookshelf to coffee table to little couch). You often would only hold on with one hand and sometimes you would just lean against the couch with your back to keep your hands free to hold on to things. In the late afternoons, when you were feeling clingy you liked to stand and hold on to my legs when I was in the kitchen making dinner (which usually led to me putting you in the Ergo on my back to keep you out of harm’s way). By the end of the month you’d mastered standing without any support for ten seconds or longer. And, right at the end of the month, you had a banner day where you not only stood up from the ground without support for the first time but you also took three steps between your Daddy and me! It will be interesting to see how quickly you start walking now that you’ve figured this out, as you’re so obviously desperate to keep up with your brother.

You’re very interested in climbing. You race up the full flight of stairs and then you love to crawl down the hallway at high speed to my room to unpack my night table. You’re trying to climb up onto the couch (and the coffee table)- you can’t manage it when the cushions are on, but you put your leg up to try, so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. You did learn this month how to get down from the couch safely, and since standing up on the couch looking out the window is one of your favourite things to do, any time you climb down you almost immediately start fussing to get back up again. You’ve also started trying to stand up in the shopping cart, even when strapped in, which makes grocery shopping a bit more exciting. I have to keep a close eye on you, especially now that you’ve realized you can reach things on the shelves. I didn’t realize you’d figured this out until I turned around from choosing a cucumber to find you eating a Roma tomato! You were deeply pleased you’d picked it out yourself and you were most distraught when you eventually dropped it in the cheese section and I refused to give it back to you.

Early in the month you started giving kisses (which were mostly big, open mouthed bites), but only to me- I loved the special cuddles! By the end of the month your kisses were becoming a bit more refined and you’d also started giving lovely hugs where you really leaned in and snuggled with the person holding you. When you get dressed in the morning you’re able to help me by pushing your own arms through the sleeves of your onesies. You’re starting to imitate people around you- you saw one lady using a hand sanitizer dispenser and you mimicked her by rubbing your hands together. You will rub your ears if asked where they are and you love to try to put your hat on your head (although it’s even better if you can try to put your brother’s hat on your head!). You also love to try to wear my sunglasses if you can get your hands on them (and you will take them off my face if you can reach). When we’re driving in the car you love to interact with us. Even though you’re rear-facing, we can still see you in your mirror through our rear-view mirror. You will smile, blow raspberries, and play peek-a-boo with your blanket bunny. It makes long drives so much more fun!

The big leap this month was in communication. You started to point really clearly and you’ve also mastered using your index finger to poke at things.  By mid-month you could point with intent- you would point at something and make a “dere” noise if you wanted it (such as a box of Cheerios on top of the fridge that we thought you couldn’t see- you don’t miss much!). You also realized that everything has a name, so we spent much of the month labelling objects for you as you pointed at them or held them up for inspection. Often you would hold up one item, listen to us as we named it, then hold up another, and then go back to the first one again to check to see if the name had changed. You’re starting to anticipate with the books that we read- every night we read The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton after you’ve finished nursing, and when we get to the last page and I ask you what the animals do you rock back and forth on my lap in expectation of the final line where they “rock and rock and rock to sleep”. You’ve figured out how to click your tongue against your teeth. Your brother thinks this is the most annoying sound in the world, but you love doing it because your Daddy or I will nearly always click back.

You’re now better able to tell us what you want at the dinner table. By the end of the month you had started to occasionally use the “more” sign (rather than just signing “milk” frantically with both hands). You’ve clearly decided you don’t need to use “all done” as when you’re finished you pull your bib off and then start to play peek-a-boo with it (or drop it over the side)- it’s very hard to miss your point. You tried cow’s milk this month; you weren’t too interested in it because you’re still nursing so much, but at least it didn’t upset your tummy. You also don’t care much for yoghurt or cheese- you’d much rather be eating fruit or oatmeal or pasta. Strawberries are still your absolute favourite fruit but bananas run a close second. Sometimes after breakfast you decide you’d like to have a quick nurse. You’ll sign “milk” and then push away the water glass if I offer it and then, if I say, “Do you want milk-milks?” you give me a huge smile. Usually you only want to sit on my lap and nurse for a few seconds before you’re ready to get down and play again, but it’s clear you like the chance to connect and cuddle in our busy mornings.

When you get down to play, you almost always head right for your ball basket. Balls are, without a doubt, your favourite thing at the moment. You love dropping them, throwing them, taking them out of the basket, putting them back in again, showing them to us, crawling while holding them, etc. The blue ball is your favourite, so it tends to be the one that takes me the longest to find again every evening when I’m putting them all back in the basket after you’ve gone to bed (if I try to put them away with you “helping” you take them out as quickly as I put them in). You get hugely frustrated if you put a ball on the couch or a chair and it rolls to the back and you can’t reach it yourself. You’ll squawk and fuss and point until someone (often your brother) comes and rescues it for you. You’re able to stack one block on top of another, but you rarely choose to do so- you’d much rather watch me build towers and then knock them down. When we come inside and I put you down on the floor the first thing you do is try to unpack my purse- you love to play with my keys and take all the cards out of my wallet, so much so that we even made you a wallet of your own with old gift cards and expired loyalty cards. I keep it in the diaper bag for restaurants and waiting rooms but you don’t like it nearly as much as my wallet- I think you know it’s somehow not the same. When we’re outside your favourite things to do are to go on the swings (you get so excited if you can see the swings you kick your legs as soon as I pick you up) and to play in our back yard in the water table. You especially love to play with the water table if your brother is playing too, although you get very frustrated that he’s big enough to hold the hose and you’re not. You spend so much of your life frustrated that your brother is doing something and you’re not. The best example this month was when we were visiting Grandpa in the hospital. He was giving your brother a ride around the ICU in his wheelchair and I was walking along next to them holding you. You fussed and squawked and pointed and expressed your displeasure at being excluded in no uncertain terms. Finally Grandpa set his chair’s speed to its lowest setting and I held you on his lap while we made a very slow circuit. You were so pleased- you had the biggest grin the entire time and you sat perfectly still. I think you knew you were getting to do something special (you then also wanted to use the remote to control Grandpa’s hoist after you saw your brother doing that too, but I drew the line at that).

On the sleep front, we’ve finally made some progress. It took a week or so of Daddy going in to settle you if you woke up before 3 a.m. but eventually you seem to have accepted that the open milk bar is down to one serving per night. Most nights now you sleep from 7 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. before waking up for a nurse and a cuddle. Then you go back to sleep until around 7 a.m. I suppose we could make an effort to cut that final feed but since we’re going to spend most of your next month overseas we didn’t really see the point. You still need two naps a day but you’ve pushed the second nap later. You don’t want to go to sleep until you’ve been up for at least three hours, which has been a real challenge with having to pick your brother up from school. The summer will be easier, but I’m hoping you’ll be ready to switch to one nap some point in the next couple of months as you’ll have to be on one by September. You’re still happy to fall asleep in the car. We had one unexpectedly epic drive this month- we were driving to Grannie’s and it took much longer than usual because of traffic and an accident on the highway. You were so good- you barely fussed at all. After dinner you fell asleep easily and slept the entire rest of the way (unlike your brother who resolutely refused to go to sleep even though it was almost 11 p.m. by the time we finally arrived).

We didn’t have a very big party for your birthday, but we did have your Auntie L., Uncle A. and your cousin Spud over for lunch. We had barbecued prawns and chicken, oven-roasted lemony potatoes, and a summer salad with strawberries and avocado. Your brother helped me make orange cupcakes with chocolate ganache, the same recipe we made for his first birthday (because it is dairy and soy-free but still delicious). Unlike your brother (who ate his entire cupcake at his first birthday party), you didn’t like the cupcake at all! You ate two or three bites, making faces every time, and then you just mashed it into your high chair tray.

You had your twelve month appointment but we delayed your vaccinations until after your trip because you had a bit of a cold and we didn’t want to make you even more miserable before putting you on an airplane. You were 77 cm (30.5″) which means you’re now on the charts for height, but I didn’t find out the percentile. You were 19 lb, 11 oz, which is still the 25th percentile for weight, and your head circumference was 47 cm. You also had your follow up appointment with the neurologist who confirmed his impression from the first appointment- although you do still noticeably prefer your right hand, the asymmetry isn’t anything to worry about. You’re just likely to be very right handed. You added one more tooth this month (on the top at the right, next to the big middle ones), bringing your total to 5. It’s definitely not a gummy smile now when you grin at us!

Your birthday was bittersweet. I’m excited to watch you grow in the coming year- it’s no secret that I love the toddler years more than infancy. At the same time, you are my last baby, and your firsts are also my lasts. I know you want to walk (and run!), but I’m in no rush. You are balanced between baby and toddler, and I’m going to soak up the late night snuggles, the soft pats at my breast as you nurse, your wispy hair with its one curl at the back, and the smile on your face as you crawl towards me as long as I can.

Happy birthday, my darling girl.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

Microblog Mondays: Firsts and Lasts

My first baby had his first sleepover this weekend.

He was excited and nervous and worried about saying goodbye to me, which basically sums up E.’s reaction to most new things.

Q. and I weren’t sure if we were going to have to go and get him, but he had a fantastic time.

My last baby is in her last week of being a baby.

Every time E. does something new I’m reminded, again, that we will get a second chance to experience those firsts.

And every time P. does something new, I am reminded, again, that her firsts are also my lasts, for she is, truly, our last baby (despite E.’s insistence that we should have a third child because he’s “not done being a brother”).

She is the baby we never thought we were going to have, so every one of her firsts brings with it this complicated mix of emotions.

Gratitude. Grief. Nostalgia. Anticipation.

I am excited, so excited to see the little person she is in the process of becoming.

But it is bittersweet.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays, P.- the first year

The eleventh month

A bit late but I’m under pressure to make sure I get it done before P. actually turns one!

Dearest P.,

This is so bittersweet. I have loved watching you learn and grow this past year, but now that your first birthday is just around the corner, it’s hard to accept that my last baby is almost no longer a baby at all. I’m not sad for you, because I know you’re so much happier now that you can do so many more things, and you’re becoming such an active member of the family. I just know that this really is the very last time I will get to watch a child of mine grow from a tiny, helpless infant, to a real little person. This year seems to have gone by so quickly.

This was a big month (again) for you! At the start of the month you were confidently pulling yourself up on everything, but you weren’t yet ready to move your feet. That soon changed and by mid-month you were starting to cruise around the furniture. As you became more confident standing you started to experiment with going up on your tiptoes and stretching out your arms to increase your reach, so another round of baby proofing (particularly with the magnets on the fridge) was required. You’re still not interested in taking any steps- you’re much too fast when crawling- but you have started to stand without holding on to anything for five or six seconds at a time. You love to crawl underneath the chairs to find one of your balls when it’s escaped and you’ll very carefully crawl underneath the coffee table to get to the other side if you can’t quite reach what’s on top of it. One day you pushed one of your brother’s little chairs all the way across the kitchen and I realized it was time to get out the yellow and green ride on car that your brother used. Over the course of the month you went from needing to be put on it and pushed around, to crawling along on your knees pushing it, to being able to get on it yourself, to being able to push yourself around slowly if you sat on it backwards. You can also walk along behind it holding on to the bar but at this point you prefer to ride.

This was also a month for climbing. Emptying the dishwasher has become even more of a challenge as you’ll climb up onto the lowered door and then sit up there, triumphant and deeply pleased with yourself, and “help” me by unpacking the cutlery basket. You always manage to find the sharp knives first- I don’t know how you do it. Most mornings now I take out the cutlery basket as soon as I open the door and put it on top of the counter. You’re not at all pleased, but it is much safer.

The other major safety change this month was we now have to shut the gate at the bottom of the stairs. We discovered this had become necessary one day early in the month when I went upstairs to put a few things away, heard a noise on the stairs, looked down and discovered that you were five or six stairs up already! I went down the stairs very slowly and carefully and scooped you up as soon as I could, but you sure gave me a fright! By about midway through the month, after several (supervised) attempts, you were able to climb up all fourteen stairs to get to the very top. The first time you did it your brother was sitting at the top cheering you on with every step and he still gets a big kick out of watching you rush to catch up to him.

You can also now climb onto the couch if one of the cushions is pulled off onto the floor. You love being up there and looking out the window, but your favourite couch activity is when E pulls off all the cushions and puts them on the floor to make an obstacle course. He’s busy jumping, crawling, and wriggling, and you’re right in there participating, rolling around and giggling. You may not have any idea about the order of the obstacle course (which frustrates your brother to no end), but you know that you’re playing with him and that makes you so happy.

As I’ve said to your Daddy more than once this month, we’re officially in the “living with Yoda” stage. Your favourite thing to do is to unpack, pull down, or tip over anything you can possibly reach, all day long. Folded laundry in a basket elicits shrieks of excitement as you barrel towards it, and bags of groceries are equally enticing. You also love to pull all the cloths and tea towels down from the door of the oven. You sometimes then put them on top of your head, just like your brother used to do, but you’re not as into “blind crawling” as he was.

Your wave is now open handed and is no longer identical to your “milk” sign, which is a good thing as you’re still trying to use your “milk” sign to mean anything from “I’d like to nurse” to “Can I have my water” to “I need help opening this lid” to “Can’t you see I need something right this instant, Mummy? Figure it out!” (which is when you frantically sign “milk” with both hands while squawking in frustration). You will put your hands on your head if asked where your hair is (although you still don’t have very much) and you can give high fives. You love to blow air out of your mouth (not raspberries, although you love doing those too), but we haven’t had any luck getting you to blow bubbles yet. You hate diaper changes and having your face washed, but with the exception of those two activities you’re almost always very cheerful. You also like to assert your own autonomy by staring us right in the eye while dropping food over the side of the high chair if you’ve decided it doesn’t look nice.

You love to put things into other things and then take them out again, so your favourite toys are your brainless elephant, your shape sorter (you can get some of the easier shapes in if we line up the sorter for you), and the seat of the ride-on car, which lifts up to make a handy storage compartment for various treasures. You can find “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” and “Baby Beluga” on your bookshelf and will hold them up in the air if you want them to be read (although most of the time you still close the book after a few pages). You still want to do absolutely everything your brother does. If I bring him home new books from the library you’ll sit next to him and “read” them too (they’re usually upside down).

This month we started a baby music class. You were a little apprehensive the first time we went but now you absolutely love it. You sit and bounce up and down in time with the music, chew on all the props, and watch what the other babies are doing. You’re still enjoying your one day a week with your babysitter, although you crawl frantically towards me signing “milk” as soon as I walk in the door since you do still love late afternoon cuddles and nursing. There was one day where I stayed in the house longer than usual and you were obviously confused and upset by the change- you like your babysitter, but you didn’t want to be with her if I was around.

We were so close to getting you through your entire first year without you getting sick, which I thought was incredible considering your older brother must have been bringing all sorts of new germs home from school, but our luck ran out this month as you came down with your first cold. You had a very runny nose and a weepy eye for a few days. You still managed to sleep fairly well but it was obvious you weren’t your usual cheerful self. You very nicely shared your cold with me so we had a few days where once we dropped your brother off at school we did very little else.

At the start of the month you went on a  real streak of getting up for the day somewhere between 5:20 and 5:40 a.m. Although this meant you were only waking up once to feed in the night, after nine or ten days of this your Daddy and I were utterly exhausted. We decided to try pushing back your bedtime to 7 p.m. This almost immediately solved the issue of you getting up too early but it meant that you started getting up twice a night to nurse again, which we felt was unnecessary at this point. So at the end of the month we started sending Daddy in to give you a cuddle and put you back to sleep when you first woke up in the night if it was before 3 a.m. We had some success but it’s too early to tell whether it’s going to be a permanent change. One of the reasons we were so desperate to fix the early wakings is that if you wake up too early there’s absolutely no chance that I can give you a cuddle and nurse you back to sleep in our bed. If you come into our room you get ridiculously excited- your Daddy says it’s like being in bed with a kraken. Even in your sleepsack you’re able to thrash around and climb all over us. If it’s the weekend and your brother comes in too it’s like being in a whirlpool. We’re definitely not going to be one of those families where everyone has a big family cuddle in bed on the weekends- you two just get too excited.

You’re still taking two naps a day, but we’re now at the stage where I have to wake you up from your first nap by 11 a.m. to make sure that you’ll be tired enough to fall back asleep before we have to go get your brother from school. Now that the weather is (slowly) improving it would be wonderful if you would nap in the stroller as then we could go for a long walk in the afternoon while you napped, but, just like when you come into our bed in the early morning, you’re too excited in the stroller to sleep. You want to see everything! At home, when it’s time to put on your sleepsack, you like to stand up in the crib and have me put the sleepsack behind you. You then lean backwards into the sack and fall (supported) onto the mattress with a huge smile.

You’re very, very busy. Unless you’re sleeping or sitting in your high chair, you’re almost always crawling, standing, cruising, climbing, and playing. The time we have together while your brother is at school flies by.  I’m so glad we’re still going to have the summer together before I go back to work as I can’t wait to see what fun we’re going to have once you’re walking. Your cheeky grin makes me smile every morning when I come in to get you out of your crib. You are such a happy little soul. I love you ever so much, my darling girl.

Love,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The tenth month

Over a month late again! #secondchildproblems

Dearest P.,

This was a BIG month for you! There were so many changes and new developments. There are good things about every stage but I have to be honest- this stage is one of my absolute favourites. At the same time, it’s bittersweet because so many of the changes in you this month make it clear just how close you’re getting to your first birthday. You’re still very much a baby, especially when I look at you compared to your brother, but you’re definitely an older baby now and it won’t be long before I look at you and see a toddler looking back.

The biggest changes this month were physical ones. At the start of the month you were very confident when pulling up on to your knees, so we lowered your crib mattress to the lowest setting and moved everything on the fridge a little bit higher. It didn’t take too long before you started pulling to standing- using the couch, a laundry basket, the door of the dishwasher, Daddy’s legs- whatever was available! By the end of the month you were very confident standing but weren’t quite cruising. You will let go with one hand or the other but you weren’t ready to move your feet.

The other big physical change was you finally started to properly crawl rather than use your asymmetrical army crawl. Ironically you started to do this the day before you had an appointment with an OT to get the army crawl assessed. Needless to say when the OT arrived to find you crawling around and using all of your limbs evenly you were given a clean bill of health!

The combination of proper crawling and pulling to standing has meant that you’re able to get into a lot more trouble now. You’re much faster (which has been a bit of a shock for your brother) and your reach has greatly extended. You can reach all of the coffee tables and you can even get your fingers onto the top of the dining room table if you really stretch. E.’s had to move all of his toys either up to his room or down to the basement as you can reach every spot on the toy shelf in the living room. He also has to have his snack at the dining room table because if he eats it at his little table in the kitchen you come along and try to throw his plate on the floor. You’re still his biggest fan- you crawl over and pull up next to him so you can see what he’s doing every opportunity you get. He’s so big and you’re so little, but you’re desperate to join in. It melts my heart.

All of this newfound mobility makes giving you a bath a bit more complicated. It’s very hard to keep you sitting now as you always want to crawl around in the water, pull up on the side, or try to grab the faucet. If I leave you in the crib while I’m having a shower you immediately stand up and throw all your toys over the side (and then shriek in displeasure that they’re gone). Your all-time favourite activity is to pull up to standing and then unpack anything you can reach. You’re starting to learn that you can’t pull E.’s books off of the shelf (although you gleefully unpack your own), but you love to take down all the plastic cups and plates in the kitchen. If I’m tidying up you’ll come along behind me and “help” by unpacking everything again. More than once our evenings have ended with me putting away your books, only to find that you’ve pulled them all out again while I’m putting away the toys, and you then move on to the toys while I frantically try to get all the books on the shelf again.

Your personality is emerging a little more each day. I wouldn’t say you have a lot of separation anxiety, but it’s clear that you’re not comfortable in new environments with lots of people looking at you, and you find people who wear glasses with big thick frames to be a little scary. If I’ve been out you crawl towards me at top speed, fussing and complaining, as soon as I walk in the door, even if (as your Daddy or your babysitter tells me) you were perfectly content before you heard my key in the lock.

If we say bye-bye you look to the door to see who is going (and you’ll usually wave, although sometimes you only wave once the person has left). When playing hide-and-seek, if I ask you to find your brother you’ll crawl towards where he’s hiding. You can find “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” on your shelf and hand it to me. I think you’re asking me to read it, although it’s hard to tell because you usually grab most books and close them after one or two pages. One night I made the mistake of bringing a new book upstairs to read at bedtime (“I am a Bunny”). As soon as I started reading it you started fussing and wriggling and looking at the bookshelf and you didn’t stop until I read “Global Babies” and “Baby Faces Peekaboo” like we usually did.

I’ve had to concede this month that “dada” is a word. You say it a lot (I think probably because it gets such a reaction from us) and it’s not always in context, but it is pretty clear that you use it to refer to Q. when he’s around. You also have a “ma” sound that you’ll sometimes make when you want milk, especially when you’re up and calling me at night. You also continue to make the noise that sounds like “all done” in context, although not very often so the jury’s still out on whether we should consider that to be a word.

You don’t really need “all done” as a word at the moment, as you’re more than capable of making it perfectly clear that you’re finished eating. If we’re not quick enough to figure out that you’ve slowed down you’ll start to mash your food, or fling it off your tray using your hands like windshield wipers. Your most common “tell”, however, is you try to pull your bib off. We’re starting to impose some rules around eating- you’re all done with your cup if you start to try to put your fingers in it, and you don’t get food returned once it’s been dropped over the side more than once. You still sign “milk” when you want a drink of water, but sometimes you just go straight to a shriek of frustration. You like all the same foods that you did last month. Some days you eat more than your brother and others you barely eat anything at all. I’m sure it all evens out.

You still love that you can ask for milk. In the late afternoon, if you’re feeling tired or sad you like to sit on my lap with your legs on either side of my waist and your body squished up against my chest. We have a lovely cuddle while you nurse. If you’re your usual energetic self you like to do what I call “nurse dancing” where you stand next to me, put your hands on my leg for balance, and then wiggle and dance while nursing. Sometimes you settle in for a full feed but most often it’s many frequent snacks. I don’t really mind, although it is a bit frustrating when you nurse just long enough to get a letdown before you head off to do something else. I always end up with milk dripping everywhere. You still have proper feeds before each of your naps and before bedtime, as well as once or twice a night, so I know you’re getting plenty of milk.

There was very little change in the sleep department this month. Your bedtime is still 6:30 p.m., you’re still up a couple of times in the night, you still nap twice a day, your first nap is still close to two hours long, and your second nap is still almost always interrupted by having to go get your brother from school. You tend to go down fairly quickly for naps and at bedtime, unlike your brother who at this age would grizzle and chat to himself for twenty or thirty minutes (and who still takes an incredibly long time to turn his brain off and fall asleep at night). We occasionally hear you chatting for ten minutes before your second nap but usually there’s not so much as a peep once I leave your room. You get up for the day somewhere between 5:30 and 6:45 a.m. and we’d love for you to decide you could sleep a little bit longer (as 5:30 is really early when I know you won’t be able to nap until after we’ve dropped your brother at school). You sleep on your side and I’ve noticed that you like to hold your own hands as you fall asleep- if I put you down when you’re very sleepy (like when you wake up too early and you’re desperate for your nap), you’ll roll over right away on to your side, hold your hands, and close your eyes. It is adorable.

Much less adorable was your realization early in the month that you could grind your teeth together. I remember this phase (and how horrified I was by it) from your brother’s infancy. I was so relieved that it turned out to be a short phase- by the time tooth #4 came through at the end of the month you’d already stopped. That tooth was the first one where we felt you needed Tylenol, which makes me wonder if more teeth are coming soon.

You really enjoyed the warmer weather this month. Spring has been very very slow in arriving, but we did have a few nice days. One morning I spent a happy hour weeding the garden while you played in the travel crib (and tried to eat any pine needles that the nearby tree dropped in). You don’t realize it yet, but you’re going to be spending many, many hours out in the garden with me, so I felt it was a bit of an occasion the first time you came out to “help”. We had one gorgeous day where we went to the park and you got absolutely filthy playing in the sand (and “helping” your brother and his friend with their engineering project). You had the biggest smile on your face the entire time. The warmer weather also makes me look like less of a terrible parent when we’re out for a walk and you pull off your socks while sitting in the stroller (you have just as much disdain for socks as your brother did- your Daddy says it’s your Antipodean heritage).

I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next month. I love you ever so much, my darling girl.

Much love,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The ninth month

Dear P.,

Nine months! I feel like nine months is a milestone, not only because it means you’re now three-quarters of the way through your first year, but also because that’s how long (roughly) I carried you in my body. My midwives told me when your brother was little that I should take the view that it’s “nine months in you and nine months on you” (although I find that teeth and the advent of separation anxiety usually means a few more months with lots of snuggles and being carried around). One of the mothers on your birth club posted the other day that 9-12 months is her least favourite stage of the first year and I was completely gobsmacked. Nine months, for me, is the true golden age of infancy. You’re fun to play with, your day is predictable, and, best of all, you’re starting to realize that you can communicate with us and exercise control over some parts of your world. You’ve been growing and changing in leaps and bounds every single month, but there’s no denying that something really special happened this month, and I’ve loved watching it happen.

By the end of last month you were pretty stable when I placed you into sitting, and you started this month absolutely determined to learn how to get into sitting from when you were lying on your tummy. At first you were only able to do this if you could push off against our legs or the step up into the kitchen but after a week or so you had it mastered. You then immediately moved on to pulling up to kneeling. By the end of the month you were very confident kneeling (you didn’t need to hold on to anything to keep your balance) and you’d also pulled yourself to standing a couple of times using the stairs. Once you even managed to get your feet up onto the second stair! I thought we were going to have to start closing that gate but you didn’t repeat it. Getting up on to your knees has meant your climbing has improved as well- now you can climb right up on to the top of a sizeable Rubbermaid bin, reach down over the other side to pick something up off the floor, and then slide back down on to your knees.

You still choose to go everywhere using your asymmetrical army crawl. This month you modified it slightly so that you were pulling with your left arm (bent at 90 degrees at the elbow) and pushing with your right foot. This change allows you to carry something in your right hand, usually a shape from your shape sorter or a pair of your socks if I’ve been foolish enough to leave them lying around on the floor. It is, quite frankly, a most peculiar way to travel and your brother spends a lot of time demonstrating to you how much faster you could be if you would “do proper crawling” (as he puts it). You can be pretty darn fast if you’re trying to get somewhere you know you’re not supposed to be! If I put you on the floor of my room while I’m getting dressed, you’ll give the baby in the mirror some kisses and then, as soon as you think I’m distracted, you’ll set off at top speed down the hall towards your brother’s room. If I don’t immediately come after you, I can be guaranteed you’ll pull over the plant in his room and try to eat the soil (a plant which, may I point out, is in his room for the express purpose of keeping it out of your reach!).

There were some changes this month to your sleeping habits. I finally broke the habit of sitting in the room while you were putting yourself to sleep at naps and at bedtime. This was more a bad habit on my part, especially at bedtime, as I liked the ten minutes of peace and quiet I got while sitting in the rocking chair waiting for you to settle. You didn’t really need me in there, so it was a very easy change. More difficult, but no less important, was the change we made this month to your bedtime. Ideally you’d go to bed at 7 p.m. after we eat dinner, but this month we finally admitted that this just wasn’t possible if I had to wake you up by 2:50 p.m. to get your brother from school. We had too many dinners where you were just yelling in protest as I ate my food as fast as I could before we both abandoned your Daddy and your brother when I whisked you upstairs. So this month we experimented with you eating an early dinner by yourself around 5 p.m., and then going to bed by 6:30 p.m. It’s not perfect: I’m always forgetting I need to think about what you’re going to eat for dinner, and having our dinner that late does mean that your brother’s bedtime routine gets a bit rushed if he dawdles over his food, but we’re all agreed it’s a huge improvement. What really made us certain this was the right thing to do was when we were visiting your Grannie for a week and your brother didn’t have school: your afternoon nap was able to run later and you had no trouble with a 7:00 or 7:15 p.m. bedtime. I wish you could eat dinner with us, but that may have to wait until the summer.

You’re still up twice a night, usually around 11 and again around 3 (although this can vary wildly). I find if the second feed isn’t until 4 or a bit later you’ll sleep until close to 7, which is much more civilized than getting up for the day right at 6 (which is what you do if I see you at 3). I probably could now take steps to try to encourage you to drop at least one of these wakings, but I’m too tired to commit to it, and I don’t want to risk you waking up your brother. I’ve learned you’re a tummy sleeper now: on a few occasions I’ve had to go in to wake you from a nap when you’re still in a very deep sleep, and you’ve been lying on your tummy with your face pressed into the mattress. It’s quite nerve-wracking to see, but you seem to be comfortable! You did set a new record this month for sleeping: 11 hours straight (6:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., including me checking on you in a panic at 4:45 a.m.). You then nursed at 5:30 and woke up again at 6. I assumed you were going to get up for the day, but you just nursed again and then fell back asleep until after 8- 13.5 total hours! Sadly no aspect of this feat has ever been repeated. I guess you were growing.

It’s very rare now that you wake up in the early evening. One night you did pop up at 8:30 p.m. Your brother was still awake and, once you started crying in earnest, he started singing the “We’re ok, P.” song with the verse “Mummy’s going to come up soon, Mummy’s going to come up soon, Mummy’s going to come up soon, and then you’ll have lovely milk!” I don’t normally nurse you if you wake up that early but he was being so kind and loving I didn’t want to disappoint him.

You are so very lucky to have such a wonderful big brother. He is extraordinarily patient and gentle with you, and he’s been so tolerant of the continual changes we’ve had to make to our environment to keep you safe. Some of your favourite toys are the sensory bottles that he made for you, and you love to follow him into his snake house behind our couch (although you usually then get stuck and can’t get back out again without help). This month you had your first bath with your brother where you sat up and I didn’t have to hold you. E. was thrilled- he said he’s been waiting for this for months! He immediately invented a game of boats with the shampoo bottles that you could both play. When your brother isn’t around to entertain you, you like to hold one shape from your shape sorter in each hand and bang them together or shake them like mad. You always have a huge smile on your face when you do this. You’ve mastered the “brainless” elephant (as we call it); you love dropping in the balls and then you’ll sway back and forth with the music.  This month also marked your first time on a swing. You loved it! You had the biggest smile on your face and you kicked your legs with joy (just like how you kick them when you’re eating something particularly tasty).

Speaking of food, things are finally getting easier. One day you ate an entire piece of toast with peanut butter on it for breakfast, which was the exact same food on which you had choked just a month earlier, leading us to largely stop the finger foods in favour of purees. It seems you just needed to grow up a little more and have a bit more time to practice as by the end of this month we were only really using purees if we were travelling (they’re just easy, especially since this month you learned how to hold the pouches and suck the food out yourself). You also learned how to drink from the Rubbermaid straw cup, which has again made travelling much easier. You’re very neat when drinking out of the IKEA glasses, although you do get very cross when I take it away when you start trying to put your fingers in it at the same time. Your pincer grip is excellent and you love sitting up at the table eating Cheerios when your brother is having his after school snack. You’ll try most things we offer you, but you have some clear favourites: hard boiled eggs, avocado, strawberries, oatmeal with cinnamon (made with large flake rolled oats as you won’t touch the baby oatmeal), and peanut butter toast.

There are signs, I think, that you might be starting to outgrow the dairy/soy intolerance. We’ve introduced it into my diet a few times without any ill effects, although when we did give you something with baked milk in it we felt you were still reacting if you ate it directly. We’ll try again in another month or so. In the meantime, I’m not quite as strict with my diet as I used to be, which has been a nice change.

Nursing has presented some more challenges this month. It’s been harder to get you to settle for a good feed unless it’s before your naps or at bed time. You often skip the first feed in the morning altogether (you’re still full from your feed at 3 or 4 a.m.), as well as the feed that came before lunch. That said, you’ve started asking to nurse in the late afternoon, rather than waiting for me to offer. At first you asked by crawling over, pulling down my shirt and sticking your head in my chest, but by the end of the month you’d mastered using the “milk” sign. You seem to use this as an all purpose sign for “drink” as you also use it at the table when you want a drink of water. When you first realized we understood what you were trying to communicate you went through a phase of asking to nurse, nursing for about ten seconds, popping off to go back to play, and then repeating this over and over again. Now the excitement has worn off a little bit and you will often settle for a good feed in the late afternoon (although you get up to some real acrobatics while doing so). It didn’t help that you cut your third tooth at the end of the month (your top right middle) as you never like nursing much when your gums hurt. I’m in a good pattern of pumping every day after you go down for your first nap as well as any time you skip a regular feed. You still love to nurse, even if you don’t always drink very much at one time.

Along with the “milk” sign we thought earlier in the month you had started signing “all done”, but it’s still inconsistent. You often signal that you’re finished by pulling off your bib or sweeping your hands back and forth on your tray like they’re windshield wipers. One day at lunch you very clearly said something that sounded just like “all done!” in context- even your brother noticed. We think that was probably just a coincidence as you haven’t repeated it. It’s clear that you’re starting to understand quite a lot. You understand the word “no”, even if you don’t always listen when I say it (especially when it involves not grabbing the cat as you just can’t help yourself). You also understand the question “Where is the cat?” and will turn your head to see where she is. She’s still your favourite member of the household after your brother. There was a lot of grabbing of her fur this month, but she brings a lot of it on herself because she knows you’re mobile and yet she still insists on sitting right next to you and bumping you with her head affectionately. I think on some level she likes the attention. This month you also started raising your hands to ask to be picked up and clapping. The sight of you applauding yourself after you’ve done something you think is particularly clever is adorable. You have a fake cough you use to get someone’s attention (usually directed at your Daddy or your Grannie), which is also adorable, but I think my favourite communication change this month is you started initiating peek-a-boo. You will “play” peek-a-boo with the baby in the lift-the-flap book by closing the flap to hide the baby and then opening it up really quickly and smiling and giving the baby kisses (which are still big vampire kisses). Then you’ll close the flap and start all over again. You also play peek-a-boo with me by hiding by the stairs and peeking out every time I ask “Where’s P.? Where’s she gone?”

You had your 9 month well baby appointment at the end of the month. You weighed in at 17 lb, 1.5 oz, which puts you in the 25th percentile for weight (although I was pleased that you’d gained almost a full pound more than your brother did between six and nine months, which I suspect is a result of your better nursing habits). You were 29 inches long, which means you’re still off the charts for height, so you’ve stayed long and lean. We’ll be moving you into 12 month clothes pretty soon, especially when you’re wearing cloth diapers. You’re also starting to look older- a number of the mothers at school have commented on this. You are still clearly a baby (especially because you still have almost no hair), but there are hints of the toddler you’re going to become.

We’ve had such fun together this month, my darling girl. You are such a cheerful little soul, and you take almost everything in your stride. I am so very glad you came to join our family.

Love always,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

The eighth month

Over a month late again! Sigh.

Dearest P.,

This has been a really big month! There’s been so much for you to do, so much for you to learn, so much for you to explore. In some ways you’re still the same happy baby you’ve always been and in other ways you’ve changed so much, often overnight! You’re now two-thirds of your way through your first year and the time is really flying.

This month you really got on the move in a big way. You spent the entire month doing your asymmetrical army crawl: you reach with your right arm and drag the left, and push with the right leg. It’s an unusual form of motion and that, coupled with your clearly dominant right hand when it comes to playing with toys, worried me enough that we took you in to see your paediatrician, who then referred you on to a neurologist. We had an anxious week or two, but in the end a head ultrasound and a physical examination ruled out any possibility of a stroke or something more sinister. The neurologist said that you were just very strongly right-hand dominant (and that I was very observant for even noticing the asymmetrical aspects of your development). You also had a follow up ultrasound to check your kidney (at the same time as the head ultrasound, which made for a very long morning) and received a second clean bill of health. We won’t have to check your kidney again until you’re 18 months old.

Your method of crawling is unconventional and a bit awkward to watch, but it clearly works for you as it got faster and more confident as the month progressed. From early in the month you could get your knees up under you or push off the ground with your hands, and you could briefly hold a low plank position. By about halfway through the month you’d mastered climbing up and down the little step into our kitchen, and your brother noticed that you hardly ever rolled anywhere anymore. By the end of the month you could climb over our thighs if we were sitting on the ground with our legs outstretched. You also finally learned how to sit! You’re not an independent sitter yet (in that I have to place you- you can’t get yourself into sitting from your tummy) but you were getting progressively more stable throughout the second half of the month. Sitting is a huge game changer- it makes such a difference in your ability to play with toys, interact with us, and just generally observe the world.

You very quickly realized that army crawling is far more precise than rolling. Since we’ve extensively babyproofed the main floor of the house you’ve spent many a happy hour crawling over to your shelves and pulling out your toys or unpacking all your books. But your favourite destinations are, of course, places where you’re not supposed to be. If we forget to put up the pressure gate near the front door you crawl over and try to eat the dirt and the road salt in the boot tray. If we forget to close the doors to the pantry you crawl over and try to eat the garlic skin or the onion bag. If your brother leaves anything on the floor, we can be sure you’ll find it (including the food that he drops on the floor under his chair). We often hear him repeating, “Not helpful, P.” as he runs over to rescue something you’ve discovered.

Eating has continued to pose some challenges. We sorted out the nursing issue- you nurse seven or eight times each day (including twice at night). As for solid food, by the end of the month you were up to a mix of self-feeding and purees. You have a pretty decent pincer grip now, although you do sometimes have trouble getting the food you’ve picked up into your mouth (you often use your other hand to help push it in). For most of the month we’ve managed to avoid any power struggles with purees by always using two spoons- you get to hold one, and I hold the other, and if you change your mind as to which spoon you want, we trade. You show enormous enthusiasm when it comes to your spoon, but most of the time you either fling it around so much that the food falls off, turn the spoon upside down, or stick the wrong end in your mouth. On the rare occasion when you do succeed at getting the spoon into your mouth when it still has food on it you look surprised!

This month we realized that you absolutely have to eat prunes on a daily basis to have any chance at all of keeping your system regular. We’ve started stewing them up ourselves, using our immersion blender, and then putting the resulting paste in the freezer in a ziploc bag. You seem to prefer them still partly frozen, so I’ve taken to advertising them as “Tasty tasty chocolatey frozen pruney bites!”. I don’t think this impresses you when you’re having a rough week and you see the prunes coming for the third time that day. They’re boring, I know, but they work (along as we keep your diet clear of apple, banana, and rice). You also absolutely loathe having your face washed after a meal (unless I’ve taken you directly up to the bath, in which case you don’t mind at all).

You’ve been learning about your own appetite. Some days you eat everything we offer you and other days you barely touch it. One memorable evening you ate an entire puree pouch at dinner (for the very first time) and then settled in for a giant milk feed right before bed. When you’d finished nursing I sat you up and I was just about to put you on my shoulder to rock you and sing your lullabies when you vomited up the entire milk feed and the entire puree pouch. It went everywhere. I had to call in Daddy to clean up the floor and the rocking chair while I changed every item of clothing I was wearing and gave you a full bath. It was spectacular, to say the least, and, given the puree pouch had been “pear and garden greens”, your Daddy and I kept making Exorcist jokes while we dealt with the mess.

In general, though, you’re pretty excited about food. When you’re eating something particularly delicious you will kick your legs and bang your head against the back of the high chair. You’ve also learned that eating is a social activity. One day I was eating an orange and you got very frustrated because you wanted some too! And, of course, eating has been helped enormously by the fact that you finally cut some teeth! You have your two bottom middle teeth now and you very quickly figured out that they can be quite useful when taking bites of peanut butter toast or pancake or strawberries. They both seemed to come through without much trouble, not even the nasty diapers that used to upset your brother so much, so I’m hopeful that this might prove to be a trend. I’m also relieved that the emergence of teeth hasn’t made any difference in the way you nurse.

You are such a cheerful little soul. Although I still get told all the time that you’re “very alert!”, probably the next most frequent statement I hear from the people you meet is “She’s so happy!”. It’s true that you have a smile for almost everyone and everything you encounter. When we take your brother to school each morning a couple of the other parents always come over to get their daily baby smile and you happily oblige. You’re always overjoyed to see your Daddy when he gets home from work, and your brother gets the biggest and brightest smile of all whenever you catch sight of him. It doesn’t matter how short your nap was or how many times you woke up at night, you greet me (and the rest of your day) with a big gummy grin. I can’t help but smile back.

You’ve always been an interactive baby but this month you really became your own little person who has a real role in any conversation. You can now stick out your tongue and blow raspberries (both of which I am quite certain you learned from your Daddy). You’ve also started waving, which is just plain adorable. When we were at the hospital the day of your ultrasounds you waved at everyone else in the waiting room and charmed them all. You babble endlessly and have a full range of vowel and consonant sounds. And you chortle and giggle all the time, especially when watching your brother who is still, without doubt, your favourite person in the whole world. When I’m in the shower he often climbs into the crib with you and I get out to find that he’s reading you one of your books or singing you silly songs that he’s made up. My favourite this month was one about whales to the tune of “Baby Beluga” which had a verse that started, “Deep in the ocean where the sun goes down,/ Where the blues and the killers and the sperms swim around”.

You still adore the (long-suffering and ever so patient) cat and this month you started giving her open handed pats (or smacks) rather than just grabbing fur and pulling her tail. You still have a ways to go before we can say that you’re being gentle with her, but I think it’s clear that you’re trying to imitate what we’ve been showing you.

Your routine hasn’t changed much this month as your day still revolves around your brother’s school schedule. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that you can sometimes stay up a bit longer between your two naps, and that often means that I have to wake you up from your second nap to go pick E up. I’ve mastered the stealth grab to get you out of the crib, out of your sleep sack, into your hat and your fleece bear suit, and into the carrier before you’ve really woken up enough to protest. You almost never go back to sleep again after all of that, but at least you don’t protest too much at being yanked so unceremoniously from your bed. This early wake up does make dinner a bit fraught as you’d really like to go to bed earlier than is possible if you’re eating dinner with the rest of us. We’re still figuring out the best way to manage this, and I’m sure we’ll find a good solution just in time for you to change your routine again! You get up for the day at some point after 6 a.m. (often only a very short time after 6 a.m.), and I’m still trundling down the hall to feed you twice a night (usually around 11:00 p.m. and then again around 2:30 or 3:00 a.m.). At some point we may have to think about encouraging you to drop those feeds, but we’re not ready yet, even if your Daddy is sleeping in the basement during the week.

Your two teeth have definitely changed your smile. Your hair is starting to grow in a little bit more, especially at the back, but you certainly won’t be needing a haircut any time soon! You’re so big and yet still so little. I’m so excited to see what you’re going to learn to do in the next few months, but I’m also in no rush for you to grow up. You’re so busy and curious now that it’s hard to get a cuddle. You always want to be carried facing out so you don’t miss anything, and even when you bump your head or scare yourself as soon as you’ve stopped crying you want to get back down and keep moving. So even though I am very tired and I’m making all sorts of silly mistakes because I’m so sleep deprived, I take a moment every time I feed you at night to hold you close and kiss your soft hair and feel the weight of your body as you cuddle up against me, safe, secure, and loved.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

On sleep, work, the baby, and balance (or haven’t I been here before?)

I find myself reminded on a daily basis that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

I am functioning, but only just. It isn’t even that P’s sleep is all that dreadful, more that she’s up twice every night so the sleep I do get is always fragmented into three blocks, compounded by her for the last week or so getting up for the day before 6 a.m.

Every morning I find the last line from Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable rolling round and round in my head (“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”)

I can remember being in a very similar stage at a very similar point during E’s infancy (I wrote about it here). The situation wasn’t identical, of course, but it was eerily familiar: I had a baby who was waking up to nurse twice a night, guaranteeing I couldn’t get a block of sleep longer than four hours, and I had a looming academic deadline. In E’s infancy it was the first chapter of my dissertation. This time around it’s the first draft of the book chapter for an edited volume.

We’re running a workshop for the volume in mid-July and all contributors are meant to have the first draft of their chapter available for circulation by the end of May. Given I’m one of the editors (and Q. is another- the book project is really his baby), there wouldn’t be serious consequences were I to miss that deadline. But that’s certainly not ideal.

When we first organized the workshop and mapped out the deadlines, I can remember thinking (this was before P. was born), “No problem. I’ll start reading and collecting sources in March and then I can write the chapter in May.”

I didn’t seriously believe, you see, that I could end up with TWO babies who would get up twice a night to nurse in the second half of their first year. Surely, I thought, by the time P was eight or nine months old she’d be sleeping better than E was. And then she was such a good sleeper for her first two months that she lulled me into thinking she’d be an easy baby.

Ha.

So here I am, with an academic deadline and a brain that feels like mush, and what really gets me is the whole thing is just so.damn.familiar.

Last time around, when I was assessing the impact of my long-term sleep deprivation, I noticed this:

I’m breaking things.

In the last month, I’ve smashed at least four things in the kitchen- a glass, a port glass, a plate, a bowl. I don’t think I’d broken four things, total, in the previous ten years. They were dumb accidents too- I’d reach for something on the counter and knock something else over instead, or I’d pick something up and drop it on something else. They were dumb enough that each time I remember standing there amidst the shards of glass or pottery, thinking, Really? I just did that?

Yep. I’ve started dropping things or being unable to properly hold them when I go to pick them up. It’s like I’m losing my hand-eye coordination.

And there was this:

I forget things.

I forget everything now, if it isn’t written down, and half the time I still forget it even if it is recorded somewhere. Given I’ve always been the memory of this family (Q. being a very clever man but a very absent-minded professor), this is quite disturbing. It makes me feel weak.

Yep. I forget appointments, plans, ideas, even words. A normal conversation in our house now looks like this:

Q. (wrestling with tangled cables): “We should set up a charging station for the mobile phones.”
Me: “Yes! I want to get one of those…things.” *gestures helplessly* “You know! The things with all the things that you can plug in.”
Q.: “A power bar.”
Me: “Yes! Fuck. I want a power bar for my desk downstairs so I can have a charging station for the iPad and my phone and my laptop.”

I have these kinds of conversations with E. all the time. My FIVE YEAR OLD fills in my vocabulary gap when I can’t remember challenging words like “gate”, “streetcar”, or “upstairs” (these are all real examples).

I invited some of E’s friends and their parents to come on a nature walk with us a couple of weekends ago and got the start time wrong. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the family who came didn’t mind being there thirty minutes early, but still.

I had to take P’s passport application in twice because the first time I went to submit it the nice lady behind the desk had to tell me that not only had I forgotten to sign it (which was easily rectified right there in the office), but I had neglected to get Q. to sign it as well (which was not).

I cannot emphasize enough how NOT LIKE ME these types of things are.

My sense of my innermost self is built on a foundation of BEING ORGANIZED.

I am the one who is always on time for everything. Always. Even with two kids.

I remember appointments.

I fill out forms correctly.

If Q. is the absent-minded professor in our family, I am the steel trap memory.

I know the sleep deprivation is temporary- E has taught me that much.

But its effect is enormously difficult for me to cope with, not just because it makes me bleary and fuzzy and short-tempered each day, not just because it means I cannot imagine how I am going to maintain the needed focus to do the research for this book chapter, let alone actually write the thing, but because it fundamentally erodes a not insignificant part of who I believe myself to be.

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Filed under Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, P.- the first year, Sleep, Writing