So many times I ask women older than I about their experiences being a young mother, and invariably, they say, "You know, I really don't remember," in response to most questions. They remember a few specific cute instances and the general joy of having a baby who adores you, but the rest is a blur. This post is to hopefully clear up the blur for my future self-- or maybe for Anna when she calls to ask about her own kids.
At about six months, Anna started to become a whole new baby. She became much more aware and curious. She started laughing boisterously. Her first ma-ma-ma-ma drew huge praise from her constant one-woman audience. Soon we heard babababa, mouth-smacking pops, drooly lip-buzzes, hissing S's, and the occasional accidental z or th.
With her ever-growing repertoire of foods, and one little gnawing tooth, I tried more finger foods and noticed that Anna was getting pretty skilled at using her thumb and forefinger to pick up the little Gerber star puffs. Getting them in her mouth took another two weeks, but now it's one smooth motion from pick-up to her first gummy chew of the star.
From about 6-8 months, Anna was became a joy of a baby. She slept easily when I put her down for a nap, and her bedtime moved earlier. She was often waking at night, but after a night or two of letting her cry it out, she slept from 8 PM to 6 or 7 AM. Everything we did together was fun and exciting, and when I needed a break, she was happy to bounce in her exersaucer. She loved getting out of the house and examining the world around her.
One day, around 7 1/2 months, I was buckling her into her carseat after a shopping trip. She suddenly started crying, either from a pinch or from biting her own thumb with her new tooth. Either way, the moment after her scream, she looked up at me and reached out, begging to be held and comforted-- something I had never seen! Of course, off came the seat belts and I snuggled my baby who so desperately wanted me. The next day, I was singing some action songs to her (itsy-bitsy spider, popcorn popping, etc.). I stopped, and she panted, flapped her arms, and kicked her legs with glee. When I still didn't start a new song, she reached out and grabbed my hands. "Come on, Mom! Make them work!" Again, I melted to her will and sang another song. I used future opportunities to introduce the "more" sign, but it was so exciting to me to see my baby show so clearly that I was what she wanted and that I made her so happy.
Soon after, we went to Ohio for Christmas and she was wonderful there. She smiled at everyone and loved to be played with. She splashed and kicked in the big bathtub (her first real time there) and sang and talked all the time. She learned to roll from her back to her tummy while we were there and now loves to roll all over the place. She was a great eater there and charmed us all with how much she loved to kick the boingy foot rest on Grandma Stay's high chair. Great-grandpa Roly was thrilled to see her play with his spoon and drink his juice and reach for Fawnie's wheel chair. (He was equally thrilled to dance with me at the nursing home Christmas party, and it made Grandma Fawnie cry). Anna was always sweet as could be and everyone was sad to see her go.
Here at home was a different story, though. Having been attended to non-stop for almost two weeks and having an endless supply of new stimulation, coming home to the same few rooms in our apartment and the same old toys was not good enough for Anna. Unless I was paying attention to her, she was crying and screaming. (As a side note, I hear what other mothers call "crying and screaming" from their babies. Trust me, it's nothing compared to what Anna does for even her most mild demands). That made it stressful for me to even go to the bathroom when Anna was awake, and she was no longer content to be set in her crib and drift happily to sleep for naps. No, now it was "take me to the brink of exhaustion and then just maybe I'll think about sleeping for an hour."So, we spent a lot of time out of the house where Anna had new and interesting things to occupy her attention. "You have such a sweet, happy baby!" people would say in the grocery store, or library, or park, or wherever I went to escape the crying. And I had to remind myself that yes, I must me doing something right to have her feel so secure and happy so often, but was I doing something terribly wrong to make her hate being at home?
After several mind-numbing days, a few tears, and lots of prayer, she seems to be over the worst. I've become very creative in the activities I offer her. And we play with new toys in new locations. She's gaining back some of her old sweetness and my emotional bank account has gotten a few deposits in the last day or two after a long, continual withdrawal.
So here's to the future Anna, the one whose lunging will soon become crawling, whose babbling will soon be talking, whose tentative little hand clasps will soon be enthusiastic clapping. No matter what happens every day, I love to snuggle you close at night, and watch you fall asleep, so content to be with me. Hopefully, through all the blur, that's what I remember.