Saturday, November 28, 2015

Baby James: Eight months

The Bear Series: Eight Months

My dear boy,

You are eight months old, little man, and time seems to be accelerating away from me.  Wasn't it just last week that I wrote one of these messages?  Ah well, here we are again.

So what have you been up to? You've figured out how to roll here, there and everywhere.  You have also pretty much figured out how to remain sat up, though you are just as likely as not to decide you no longer wish to and tip yourself over on purpose.  The new mobility and motor skill has generally improved your mood.  You also decided you would take a pacifier - MAM soothers - about 6 weeks ago, and as a result you're practically a different baby.  Except when you're not; you're still a demanding little thing, particularly in the evenings.  You seem to be a morning person like mummy, and are quite happy to play independently for a decent stretch of time after you wake for the day.

Your fine motor skills are progressing well too.  You've become quite coordinated picking your soother up and working it properly into your mouth.  You have a fairly decent pincer grip, honed on Cheerios, which you're getting better at letting go of once you pop them into your mouth.  Your relationship with food is coming along - you've become less resistant to new flavours and much better at coordinating chewing and swallowing finger foods.  I was surprised to find after dinner the other night that you had legitimately ingested three mini rice cakes, rather than simply rendering them a pile of drool-soaked crumbs or squirreling large pieces away in the depths of your feeding seat. When I do give you food on spoons, which you dutifully grab and shove into your mouth yourself, I have to work three spoons at once through a rotation - one for each of your hands and another one for me for the next mouthful of food.

Verbally, you've started to coo and gurgle with much more definition, primarily ah-goo-goo, and often do this when you're gnawing on a bit of food or your pacifier.  You figured out how to blow raspberries a few days ago and undertook it diligently, with impressive and copious amounts of dribble.

Sleepwise, you're still happily taking three naps during the day, so long as our day is sufficiently unscheduled to accommodate this.  Your bedtime is between 7-8 and I think both of us are glad when that time arrives.  Recently you've started falling asleep without needing to nurse until you're completely out.  Sometimes you unlatch and turn your back on me.  A few times you've even drifted off left on your own with the soothing sounds and colours of a YouTube lullaby track.  Overnight, you still wake a handful of times to nurse briefly.  I'm not sleep deprived at all, but when I was tracking your sleep patterns for a while I found it discouraging, as I envisioned having to cosleep until you're four in order to avoid numerous trips from my bed to yours.  I'm sure you'll get there eventually, and if I'm honest I'm far too lazy to rock the boat and try to force you to sleep longer, or on your own.  And anyway, if we weren't cosleeping, I wouldn't get to wake up to this adorable mug:

Breaking news: you cut your first tooth the day before you turned 8 months.  I noticed this when you chomped on my finger a few hours after having told some friends that we might have 4-6 weeks to wait if you followed your sister's pattern.  I was dreading the arrival of this tooth, as it marks the beginning of the end of the gummy grin I adore so much.  People ask me if teething was bothering you, but honestly you're often such a fussy little thing, who could tell?  I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's a good thing you're so damn cute.

I love you with all my heart,


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baby James: Seven Months

My darling boy,

You are seven months old little man, and you are a delightful, challenging bundle of mercurial moods.  You weigh in at 17 lb, 3 oz. and are cruising the 25th percentile line nicely. This past week has been especially challenging as you've picked up a doozy of a cold.  You spent a few days emitting a piercing squeal that would put the shrieking eels to shame, and then suddenly all that came out of your mouth in that register was a breathy kind of squeak.  I was relieved at the respite until I realised that you may simply have lost your voice and these squeals could return at any moment.  I live in fear, my boy, because those shrieks are truly horrible.  The one thing that staved them off was putting you in the carrier, calling to mind your early months when I held you pretty much all your waking moments.  Fortunately, given your growing weight, we have perfected the back carry and you are remarkably content back there while I get on with my day, doing household chores and chasing after your sister.

The illness messed with your sleep as well, causing you to wake about once every 60-90 minutes and sometimes you won't even be pacified by the magic boobs.  This is a new and disturbing pattern for a boy that has always liked his sleep and hardly ever kept me awake in the night for more than a few minutes, even if you have always woken several times overnight.

But as ever, your charming grin is always lurking, ready to appear for anyone stopping by to say hello.  And I can pretty much forgive you anything when you flash that smile.  You reserve your best giggles for your sister, whom you adore and find hilarious. She comes up to you and places her face inches from yours, then says your name over and over in as many different tones and volumes as she can think of and you laugh and laugh.  Sometimes she combines this little trick with a cuddle that looks an awful lot like squashing, and yet you chuckle away, endlessly amused and not at all bothered.  There is nothing funnier to you than watching your sister walk down the stairs behind us, but pretty much any attention she pays you absolutely makes your day.

This month you began your adventure with food, as per the guidelines of those in the know. I was not looking forward to this, though having already raised one extremely picky eater, I thought I knew the pitfalls and hoped to have a more adventurous gastrophile this time.  Boy, was I wrong.  After the first couple days it was clear you had no interest and so we left it for another 10 days or so and tried again.  This time you were quite happy to chomp on toast, breadsticks, rice cakes, or french fries and either just about tolerate or gobble up baby cereal and apple and pear puree, depending on your mood.  But you do. not. like. vegetables.  You make this abundantly clear by puking up anything you don't like the taste of.  I steamed some carrots for you to try and feed yourself, and you visibly flinched each time you brought one to your lips, and thereon it will not pass. Sigh.

Your other big accomplishment this month, by the skin of your not-yet-visible teeth, was rolling over back to front.  You managed it for the first time the day before you turned seven months.  I put you on your play mat and left the room, so I wasn't even there to see it.  The next day you dialed in the rolling thing and did it like you've been rolling your whole life.  I put you on your change mat and left the room for a new nappy, returning not 30 seconds later to find you were completely missing.  It was utterly disconcerting.  Turns out you had rolled across the floor and tucked yourself up by the sofa.  Oh well, we had a nice long run of time when I could put you down and expect you to stay where I left you.  But in the entire parenting journey, nothing stays the same but change and it is my job to celebrate these accomplishments that represent the steps you will constantly, incrementally, inexorably take to move away from me over the next couple of decades, even if each one breaks my heart a little.

These days are flying by, and I reach the end of them absolutely exhausted, breathing a sigh of relief that we have all made it through another one largely intact.  However, I have realised that nothing quite crystalises how quickly these baby days pass than experiencing them for the final time.  You will always be my baby, little one, but you won't be a baby for much longer.  Your infancy will pass in the space of a breath, in the moment of a sigh, and it's the quiet moments that I try hardest to capture and keep in my heart forever.  Because when you're sleeping, one could be forgiven for believing you an angel.

I love you with all my heart,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Baby James: Six Months

Dearest Baby Boy,

You are six months old, darling boy, and I can't believe that we are halfway through.  Halfway through your babyhood, halfway through our year off together.  Six months that you and I have been absolutely inseparable.  Well, except for that late-night 10-minute run to the shop a few months ago, where I must confess I felt light as air, but also, eerily like I was missing a limb.  Where did that six months go?  It seems to have passed in a blink, but I can barely remember what it was like when you weren't a part of us.  You weighed in at 16 lbs 4 oz. this week and feel dense as a concrete block.  In fact "breeze-block" is Daddy's little nickname for you now.

A friend recently remarked how strong and stable you felt while being held, in comparison to other babies your age, and I thought "well, you'd be good at something too if you'd been doing it ALL YOUR DAMN LIFE."  I say that with a smile, and with the knowledge that - though you prefer to experience your days in the comfort of someone's arms - little by little you are developing some independence.  There is a golden hour after you wake in the morning when I can set you down on a blanket and expect peace for the duration of a shower and getting your sister and I ready for the day.  You can be left sitting on the sofa with a few toys and be happy for a decent interval.  You enjoy spending time in the doorway bouncer each day while I get some chores done.  You like laying on your toy mat, batting at the toys and doing your best to alternately shove them in your mouth, or disconnect them from the structure.  You don't like doing any one of these things for very long, and I remember on a particularly fractious afternoon I had to relocate you no less than five times during the time I was trying to wash the dishes in order to stave off boredom and tears.  However the intervals of time you are happy to spend on your own are extending.  You often chill out alone and content for a bit after you wake up.  During the past week you've fully woken and resettled yourself to sleep twice and even shocked me by putting yourself to sleep at bedtime once when I left you to tend to your sister.  So you'll get there, my son, you will get there.  Your bedtime has moved up to the 7 o'clock hour and overnights are still much the same - you always sleep and sleep well, but often stir a handful of times in the night seeking the comfort of a cuddle and a bit of nursing.

You are a dedicated finger chewer and this month you've discovered your feet, which have become a bit of an obsession.  You can right your listing ship in a sitting position, though I still don't trust you not to fall over within 10 seconds to a minute.  You've become a little chatter box, engaging in dialogue with conversational coos.  You have a ready laugh, especially when I sing to you, and you are extremely ticklish - neck, ears, shoulders, tummy, back... so bath time is a cascade of giggles.  You whinge a lot but don't seriously cry often, though this week you were on my lap and dropped a toy, then cried like your heart was broken when I didn't pick it up immediately. Caught me a bit off guard, that, now you're developing an opinion on things.  However, those moments are fleeting because no matter how upset you are, that million-watt grin is always lurking, making a quick appearance as long as someone comes by to chat or pick you up.  Tears can turn into giggles and back again in quick succession.  And to make it all the more charming, I've even spied a hint of a dimple in those adorable chubby cheeks.  You approach life with an expectant look on your face, your eyes wide, brows lifted, lips parted and a hint of the smile hiding there, like you can't wait to see what happens next.  Me neither, my boy, me neither.

I love you with all my heart,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Baby James: Five Months

The Bear Series: Five Months

My darling boy,

You are five months old, my son, and we've finally turned a corner.  In the past month, you've grown into yourself a bit and are happier in those moments when you aren't being carried or entertained.  Mind you, you're still a demanding little soul.  You're happiest in arms, but there will be no relaxing cuddles on a lap for you, my boy.  No - you must be held in a standing position, as you bend and flex your little legs over and over.  Frankly, it's exhausting as you weigh somewhere north of 15 pounds now.

Despite what I think is best for you, you have insisted that I bow to your wishes to be up and about in the world, and if that means a bit of time in the bumbo seat or the door bouncer or propped into a sitting position on the sofa, then so be it.  Although there was that one day when you used the sofa cushion you were propped up against to "stand" and then did a face plant on the sofa.  We were very lucky it wasn't a face plant off the sofa, so there's that.  I really must be more careful.  What with your refusal to spend much time playing on your back, you haven't yet figured out how to roll over, except that you can do it from your tummy.  You've spent about 5 minutes on your tummy since you were born, but this week when I put you down on your front you rolled over like you'd been doing it all your life.  So I really mustn't get too complacent about this staying in one place thing.

I had new mummy friends after your sister was born tell me that they had to get out and about with their bubs every day, and really I couldn't relate at the time.  But you've educated me, my boy, because you are much happier when we're out and about.  This effectively disguises your tyrannical nature and you become a smiling, happy baby.  That's one thing that everyone who meets you comments on - your gorgeous, ready smile.  It's transformative, that grin, and I often turn in a queue to find that you've charmed yet another person with the power of that smile.  You still seem to consider every stranger a friend you haven't met yet, though I suppose there may come a time when that might change.

You've developed a few consistent habits that are uniquely you.  You like to grab at the clothing on your thighs and although you're not a thumb sucker, you spend a lot of time chewing on the thumb and index finger of your right hand.  You've started to laugh, and are particularly prone to it when your neck is tickled.  You've also taken to sucking or chewing your bottom lip - something your sister did when she was teething - but you also try to chat when you do this, which means your communication comes out as this delightful little hum backed by a cheeky smile.  Then there's your reaction when you know you're about to be freed from the car seat and picked up.  You crack a smile as I approach you, then draw your little arms into your chest and kick your legs, grinning widely, practically vibrating with excitement while you do baby sit ups to try to levitate yourself.

The best thing, the very best thing, about this stage of your babyhood is cosleeping with you.  You haven't once given me trouble sleeping at night, though you may still wake up several times overnight to latch on.  You may not be eating much each time... who even knows - I fall asleep almost immediately anyway.  There's been a few times when I've scooted away from you to get more comfy and then you've fidgeted and squirmed and I think the best way to keep you (and me!) sleeping is to move back to you and offer the breast.  But you just curl into me, turning your head to shove a nipple squarely in your eye then go back to sleep.  You're happy as long as we're cuddled up close, and your beaming, grinning face in the morning is priceless.  I'm just as charmed as one of those strangers you try to make friends with, and like them, I can't help grinning back.  I do hope that you keep this habit of sleeping, and sleeping well.  It's one of your best features, second only to that gorgeous smile.

I love you with all my heart,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baby James: 4 months

My wee little man,

You are 4 months old, my son, and we seem to have landed smack in the middle of a growth spurt or developmental leap or something and, my goodness, you are not a happy camper at the moment.  Or, as Katherine puts it, “you are a little bit very fussy.”  After a period of relative peace as you outgrew the colicky stage, in the past week we have reverted to cuddles in the sling and a rather cantankerous mood for much of your waking hours. It’s not all bad – you are a very social baby and quite the charmer.  There are moments when you are absolutely delightful; you are mercurial, as you go from complaint to flashing an adorable grin in a heartbeat if anyone says hello.  But you detest being left alone and won’t stand for it for very long, even when the household is bustling about around you.  No – you must be up and about and right in the middle of things.  I’m not sure when you’ll learn to roll over or practice other gross motor skills as you don’t really like to spend much of your waking hours on your back or your tummy, or really anywhere that isn’t in someone’s arms.  Ah well, I suppose we all get there in the end, and if I’m honest I quite like knowing you stay where I leave you… at least for now.

This month you’ve dialed in that hand-to-mouth thing and also reaching out to grab toys, which you inevitably aim for your mouth with varying degrees of success.  You spend a lot of time chewing on your fingers and sometimes I laugh when it seems you’ve got one or two in your mouth but can’t for the life of you figure out what to do with the rest of them, so you twist and turn and splay them across your face and then give up and shove your whole fist in your mouth.  You’ve turned into quite the dribble monster – maybe you’re already teething? I have little experience in that department as your sister never really let me know.  I’ve seen real tears – once, just once – but it is heart-breaking all the same.  I've also heard you emit a proper little laugh exactly twice - once in your sleep and once laughing at me, but those giggles are still few and far between.

I’m guessing you weigh a bit more than 14 pounds now – you still just about fit into your 0-3 month wardrobe.  I’m not faithfully getting you weighed every month, but it’s certain that you are growing well and strong.  Sometimes I’m surprised because nursing isn’t really one of your hobbies, so I’m not sure where these plump little fat rolls have come from.  During the day you nurse for a frantic few minutes every couple of hours but you often make it clear that you neither want nor need to be fed more than that.  You latch and pull off, latch and pull off, then lay in my lap flashing a cheeky grin.  Overnight, you wake two or three times and we do the roll over, latch and drift back to sleep routine.  In fact, if you do have a hobby I’d say it’s sleep, which you do for hours and hours each day.  Considering how cranky you can be when you’re awake, this is a bit of a blessing for now.  And although I’m often in fear of how your naptime might impact your overnight sleep, we haven’t (knock on wood) yet encountered any problems in that department.  Sleepy times are some of my favourite moments, my little cuddle-bug, as you tuck your plump little body in tight to mine and we drift in dreamland together.

It’s a rough time for you, little one, and sometimes neither of us is having much fun, but although you are a tyrant, you are an adorable, charming tyrant and I will always, always be here to cuddle you through the bumps and scrapes of life.

I love you with all my heart,

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Baby James: 3 Months

The Bear Series: Three Months

My darling boy,

You are three months old little man, and as expected, with your fourth trimester completed you have become a proper little baby. You weigh about 13 pounds, moving up to around the 20th percentile curve, and nurse like a pro.  It still astounds me that I've nurtured your development from two tiny cells to this amazing little person.  I carried you for nine months and now, solely on the nutrition I have been able to provide, you have grown into this lovely plump baby with cute little fat rolls on your legs and dimples on your hands.  After the difficulties nursing your sister, I never thought that I could be comfortable and confident simply nursing without being able to count ounces.  But you've grown so well that clearly we must be doing something right, you and I.

You are so much happier now, as predicted by all, and I no longer feel like I am missing out by wishing away the days of your babyhood.  You wake up in a good mood and are happy to kick and play while watching me get your sister and myself ready for the day.  Your thousand watt smile could melt a glacier and charms all that you bestow it upon.  It's the best thing, when I say "hello, little man," and your eyes lock onto mine and that gorgeous smile spreads across your face, then you coyly turn your head and kick your feet as your grin gets even bigger.  It looks for all the world as if your main crush has deigned to notice you and that it has made your week... every time.

You are a champion sleeper as well, and I can count less than a handful of times when you've fussed overnight.  It's lovely to awake refreshed each morning with you snuggled up tight next to me.  Now that you've reconciled yourself to your arrival in the cold, bright world and are willing to be parted from me by more than 10 inches for more than a few minutes, you also nap often and well.  You've even logged a few naps that are hours long - a blessing as your sister never napped for more than 45 minutes umtil she was about 15 months old.  What you can't see at this moment is I'm desperately trying to find some wood to knock on, because there is one thing that remains unchanged about babies, and that's the fact that nothing ever stays the same.

You have become obsessed with your hands and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how much of them you can fit in your mouth. Your eyes are so expressive, easily conveying consternation, surprise, interest or delight.  You've also recently started to coo and chat, especially when I'm reading books to you and your sister. You lay next to me and chatter along.  You've even started to giggle a bit... well, they are nothing more than little titters at the moment as you grin and chatter, but they are adorable all the same.  You love your sister and are fascinated by watching her play, and she loves you too - last week, she even spontaneously told me, "and I love... James!" as she made a list of her passions.  I'm so looking forward to watching your relationship develop with her, even if it will sometimes be fraught with the usual sibling rivalry and squabbles.  Although it may seem that I often compare your infancy to Katherine's, you must understand that frame of reference is the only one I have, and I'm endlessly fascinated by both the differences and the similarities between the pair of you.

While we haven't yet developed anything that could reliably be called a routine, there is a certain rhythm to our days now.  I start the day, generally with two content children, and end it with varying degrees of success - sometimes with cuddles and calm, sometimes with tears and wailing from both of you.  At those tough times, I tell myself that it may feel that I'm losing the battle, but overall I'm winning the war.

The very best moments are when I wake up before Katherine does and you are snuggled up tight to me.  There is nothing more innocent and peaceful than a sleeping baby and those quiet early moments with no other demands on my time are blissful.  I drink in your lovely calm baby face, my eyes tracing the sweet curves of your tiny little features and my love for you swells until my heart bursts wide open, because, my son...

I love you with all my heart,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Baby James: Two Months

My little sweet-pea,

I read a quote on Facebook the other day that went something like: "Labour is the only blind date where you know you will meet the love of your life."  It's been two months since we met, my littlest love, and already I'm beginning to forget how tiny you were when we did.  It catches me off-guard, when I look at photos from a few short weeks ago and see how much you've grown.  You are deliciously round now and weigh in a little over 10 lbs.  You are stronger and longer and spend much more time looking around and watching what is going in your world.

Your temperament continued to challenge me this month, little man.  For much of it you refused to be content if I put you down - not when you're awake, not when you're asleep. Since you're still in your fourth trimester and I understand your need to be close to Mummy, I've carried and cuddled you nearly 24-7.  It's felt claustraphobic sometimes, and I've gone to bed many nights with every muscle aching... not from exertion - just purely from tension... the tension of holding you, bouncing you, jostling you in pursuit of keeping your cries at bay in the evening.  I'm mostly successful.  This is a good thing, because when I'm not successful, it's tough on all of us.

But on the other hand, you sleep well in your car seat when we're out and about, and naps together are lovely, as you're happy to sleep for hours as long as you and I are cuddled up. And you sleep so well at night, tucked in next to me, that I can deal with pretty much anything you throw at me during the day.  Please don't give that up, little one.

Things are getting better though.  In the past week you've started your days content to watch the merry chase of getting your sister ready for nursery from the comfort of your swing or your playmat. You've become engaged and engaging when alert.  You love it when Mummy sings to you, beaming a great big grin at me and you're a sociable little thing, with a ready smile for any and all who say hello.  

Those moments when it's just you and me, and I can relax into the space where we are right now - this mandate to cuddle you - it's sublime.  I look at your peaceful sleeping face or your wide-eyed nursing gaze.  I hear the soft whisper of your breath.  I breathe in your lovely baby smell.  I feel the warmth of your compact little curves pressed to my chest, and I'm wistful for these moments before they've even gone.  Because I know, I know, that each one is fleeting and slips through my grasp like mercury, bright and shining and impossible to capture and keep.

I love you with all my heart,