Monday, April 27, 2009

Six Months

Dear Peeper,
You are six months old today. You are also six weeks post-op, and have officially completed the "recovery period" from your open-heart surgery, and now have no more activity restrictions.

Mommy threw caution to the wind and "flew" you a bit last night, and you loved it. When we did this before you surgery, you seemed happy enough, but this time, you laughed and laughed.

I wonder if you remember doing it before? I wonder if you missed it?

The "flying" might be a bit riskier for your ground crew now than it was back then, thanks to your new post-op habit of spitting up, but seeing that smile on your face, and hearing your laugh makes it well worth the risk.

Actually, I hesitate to type this out loud, but you've only spit up a tiny bit today, whereas you've still been doing it multiple times a day - and often a lot at a time - pretty much since your surgery.

Wouldn't it be great (and kind of funny) if you were suddenly done with that, and we could just say "She spit up a lot when she was recovering from surgery. . . ."

I'm not going to hold my breath for that, though.

Getting the discussion of your other bodily functions out of the way - your poop is looking great since I cut the rest of the dairy products out of my diet. Over the past couple of months, you've move from, um, moving pretty much every time you ate, to every few hours, to every day or two.

But when you do go, it's spectacular!

I don't think it's giving you any pain or difficulty anymore, because it always seems to catch us by surprise, but it's obvious you've been saving up, because there sure is a lot of it!

But it looks great! A consistent, beautiful, text-book mustard color, no blood, no big production of making it come out, no problem.

(I know, I know - stereotypical new mom, obsessed with baby's poop, but we've had issues, you know. It's important.)

So - good news and bad news - the dairy seems to have been the problem.

The doctor that we talked to before said that I could try adding it back to my diet when you hit six months, but I'm surviving just fine without it, so I think I will wait at least another month, until you are gestationally six months old, and then maybe we'll give it a try, and see how you handle it.

On that subject, we will discuss solid food with the doctor at your well-baby appointment on Wednesday, but unless he tells us you've got some sort of deficiency that will only be remedied by smooshed bananas, we're of a mind to hold off just a bit longer, likely to seven months.

Especially given that we know you have one allergy, I'd feel a little more comfortable giving you that additional time to let your little digestive system mature before messing around with it.

I've been researching the hell out of this, and on the one hand, all the reading I'm doing is really making me start to look forward to watching you experiment with the new tastes and textures that solid foods will bring, but it's also reassured me that you'll be just fine waiting, and might be better off.

As far as the "readiness for solids" checklists go, you're kind of so-so.

You definitely have complete control of your head, and sit well with support, but not without it (different sources say different things there).

You are reaching and grasping and putting things in your mouth, but not in a very coordinated way at all.

You are slobbery (but not enough to have any kind of a "teething rash" yet) and definitely enjoy gnawing on things, but don't particularly seem to be having any gum pain yet, and I don't think I can feel any teeth under there yet.

So, I definitely think you've started the teething process, but I don't expect that we'll see any actual teeth for quite a while.

I'm not sure where you stand on losing your tongue-thrust reflex. It still seems like you stick it out quite a lot when something goes in your mouth - but are you just licking those things? That's on our list of things to ask the doctor about.

Here's the list:

  • Remember to find out what percentiles you're in for height/weight, both for actual and adjusted ages
  • Solid readiness - gut closure, tongue-thrust, etc
  • Teeth - can he feel anything under your gums?
  • Fine-motor skills - should you still be whapping yourself in the face so damn much?
  • Sun protection for summer - what sunscreen is safest for wee tots?
  • Surgical incision - check healing, when/whether to put vitamin E or something like that on it; that one tiny stitch working its way out at the bottom - can he do something about it, because we're chicken!
  • Spitting up - any ideas why surgery caused such a change in frequency?
  • Swine flu - what the hell?! Do you need a shot? What about the fact that I'm planning to take you to Texas in a few months?
[Hey Interwebs - Have I forgotten anything?]

So, what else are you up to these days?

You are still looking like you'd really like to roll over from back to stomach, but still haven't done it yet. I figure that when you finally do, you'll be really pissed off about it, though, because then you'll be on your stomach, and you hate that.

I do make you do some "tummy time," but it generally involves you crying until you either roll over onto your back, or until I can't stand it anymore and pick you up.

But you looooove to stand up, and have been supporting your weight standing (and lifting yourself to standing, using your legs, just holding on to our hands for balance) for quite some time now, so maybe you'll just blow off the crawling thing and go right to walking.

(Or, maybe in a month or two, we'll be laughing and laughing about all those people who implied that you might never learn to crawl if we didn't put you on your stomach more, as we chase you around the house and try to keep you from eating gobs of dog fur out of the carpet.)

[Note to self: Must vacuum more often when Peeper learns to crawl.]

You're also making progress toward sitting up. We practice that several times a day, and you've definitely got the strength (you no longer just fold up and crumple forward, like you did a couple of months ago), but not the balance (you do tip over).

But, you've gone from maybe teetering upright for two or three seconds (which was photo-worthy a couple of weeks ago) to staying vertical for several seconds, before you start to keel over.

A couple of times, I've even seen you right yourself when you've started listing in one direction or the other!

I figure you've still got several weeks to go before we're comfortable saying that you are sitting up, but you're definitely on your way.

You still enjoy talking, and have added quite a variety of squeals to your repetiore in the past few weeks.

Often, when I get out of the shower, I hear you in the other room, and thing "Oh, crap, she's crying," then I realize that you're just squealing at Mommy and whatever silliness she's got going on at the moment.

You're not yet imitating or repeating sounds (the milestone chart tells me that's the next stage to expect) but you do very often say something that is somewhere in between "Hiiii!" and "Heeeey!"

You usually say it "to" something or someone (or somepet) that you're interested in at the moment, but it's not quite consistent enough for us to declare it a "word." I am trying to reinforce it as though you meant it as one, though, so whether it is now or not, it might eventually be your first word.

(Yes, I do know that saying that to all the world at this point pretty much guarantees that you will never make that sound again, and that your first word will, in reality, be "fuck." Pronounced with perfect clarity. To an eighty-seven year-old nun. With perfect hearing.)

Of course, as you say it, you will be grinning at her with the most precious grin ever, that just screams "How damn cute am I!?"

Because that's what you do when strangers talk to you. And, of course, I love it.

I only wish that I could actually see your face when I'm wearing you in the wrap, and didn't have to rely on them saying "Oh, there's a big smile!" to know that you're charming them.

Unless, of course, they want to hold you, then it's a whole 'nother story.

You're not so much about hanging out with anyone but me and Mommy. And with good reason - as much as we've taken you out and about in the world, we've been very careful about not passing you around willy-nilly, to protect you from germs and such.

(Dog slobber germs, restaurant floor germs, backyard dirt germs? That's all good; we're building immunity. Strangers touching your hands and breathing in your face? Get away from mah poor sick bay-bee! I'm a new mother; I do not have to justify my neuroses.)

And you know what? You're six months old. You know who your moms are and you prefer to be with us. I think that's actually a pretty good thing.

You've got plenty of time to hang out with other people when you're an obnoxious teenager; I'm really not too concerned about it.

(Except when it's people who you really ought to be happy to be with, and it kind of hurts their feelings when you cry, and then it really stresses Mama out, and having a stressed-out Mama is not the way to make you any happier, so yeah, it would be nice if you could at least pretend to be okay with them for a little while. Pretty please?)

As you may have noticed, we are not at all of the "put the baby on a schedule" philosophy, and we're quite happy to play loosey-goosey with things like meals and naps.

You nurse when you say you're hungry, then you generally fall asleep. You might stay asleep for thirty minutes, or for three hours, one never knows.

You do generally take at least a couple of good naps - an hour or more, and usually one or two long naps - two or three hours, as well as several cat-naps, over the course of the day.

I think. I really don't pay that much attention to it. I hope there's not going to be a quiz.

We've sort of learned that if our schedule is flexible, we should wait til you wake up on your own to try to go somewhere, rather than waking you up mid-nap to take you out and about.

(The hard way.)

I have also learned that if you wake up crying, it's a safe bet that you are not done sleeping, and I can offer you some goody (maybe after a diaper change) and you'll go right back out, and stay asleep for a good while longer.

If you wake up just blinking your eyes, looking around, and smiling at me, you are done sleeping, and I'm not going to get you to go back down for "just a few more minutes," no matter how convenient that might be for me, so I don't even bother trying.

The one bit of structure that it would be helpful to have would be for you to be happy to go to sleep and stay asleep for the night at the same time that we want to.

Of course, with Mommy's work schedule, our bedtime is around 2 am, but lately you've been stretching that a bit.

Actually, you are happy to go to sleep around 1:30 or so (after a bath and some goody), but you seem to have this idea that that is a nap, and you almost always wake up after about thirty minutes - maybe while I'm trying to transfer you to bed or maybe still in my lap.

(Lately you fall asleep better if we're up, on the boppy, than lying in bed.)

Then, you and I are up for another thirty minutes to an hour, playing or whatever (you're usually not unhappy, just not asleep) and then you nurse back to sleep, and you're down for the night.

What. The. Hell?

The upside is that once you're down at 3 or 4 am, you stay asleep til 11 or noon, with some goody-in-our-sleep sometime mid-morning. So, that's not really so bad.

I'm sure we'll work it out, and like every other habit or pattern you've established, it will change soon enough, as you grown and change and mature, and I don't have to get up and go to work in the morning, so it's not that big of a deal.

But really, is that last nap necessary? Can't we just go to sleep at 2 am and call it good?

So, what makes six-month-old-Peeper a happy girl?

You still love hanging out on your changing table, playing with toys, watching your panda mobile, or listening to Mommy be a goofball. Preferably naked.

(You are naked, not Mommy. Although that's pretty entertaining, too.)

You are really enjoying the bathtub - Now With Toys! - although you still complain about getting out and getting dressed.

You think that BigGaloot's tail is about the funniest thing ever, and you love to watch it wag. You also like it when he licks your toes, although we try to avoid letting him lick your hands or face. When we can.

You want very much to pet all your kitties and puppies, and often do, but there's still that coordination thing to be dealt with, and your tendency to want to grab their faces. We try to avoid that, too. When we can.

You've really enjoyed being outside, in the very-summer-like weather that we've had lately. We can't wait to get you in your swimming pool!

Warning: Cliches Ahead

I can't believe that you have been here for six months. And I can't believe that it's only been six months since we met you.

It seems like just yesterday that you were born, and yet we've been through so much in that time.

It has really been nonstop since the moment you were born, between the stress of your early arrival, and your breastfeeding difficulties, and worries about your growth and the jaundice, and the trips to the Children's Hospital, and your heart defect, and then your surgery, and jeez, can we just stop and breathe for a moment? Please?

I sure hope that the next six months is a little less eventful than the first. Let's try to limit the excitement to that of the milestone-reaching variety, okay, kiddo?

I look at photos of you when you were a newborn, and I can barely remember that tiny - terrifyingly tiny - baby that you were. You have come so far.

I try to extrapolate that growth and development over the next six months, but I just can't even picture you as a one-year-old; it seems as abstract to me as picturing you as an eighty-year-old woman.

But I know that in just six short months - and all I can think about today is how short the past six months has been - you will be a year old.

Still our baby, but not a baby-baby.

It's so weird to think about how recent your birth feels, and to realize how soon your birthday will be here.

You are moving closer everyday to being a "big baby," and before long you will be sitting up, crawling, eating Cheerios - but not just yet.

Not today.

Today, you are still our baby.

As much as I look forward to all of those things, as proud as I am of every little milestone and baby-step you've taken over the past six months, as eagerly as I cheer you on as you reach for the next level, I'm happy for you to be our baby for just a bit longer, and I'm trying my best to savor every minute of it, while it lasts.

At the same time, the little glimpses that we get of those upcoming stages - seeing you sit up for a few moments before toppling over, holding your hands as you stand, looking for all the world like you could take off walking any second, swearing that you just told the cat "Hi!" - they are like a sneak preview of the little girl that you will be, the little girl that you are closer everyday to becoming, the little girl that I can't wait to meet.

I love you, baby/girl.


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