I usually don’t take a lot of time for reflection at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, but this time my memory is begging for a brain dump. I don’t think it’s because of the fabled mommy-brain forgetfulness, but because as a new mother, I have so many things to remember. So the following post is as much for myself as for any lingering readers; maybe one day my wild, irrepressible daughter will cease conquering the world long enough to read it.
First things first: Liberty’s milestones.
Picking up from last summer, at five months Liberty “woke up” socially. She had always been a friendly, smiley baby, but she suddenly began taking more interest in other people. One day when she was about six months old we were at a drugstore on Court Street in F-town when we saw a three-month-old baby with brilliant blue eyes. Liberty was transfixed, cooing and reaching for the younger baby who promptly burst into tears. The plight of a big personality, my dear. On Liberty’s seven-month birthday, we were snuggling on the couch when I noticed that her first tooth had arrived! It was a long time coming–she’d been drooling and chewing any available fingers since she was two months old.
Shortly after this milestone, Derrick, Liberty, and I packed up the car and went to a conference in East Lansing, MI, where I presented a paper. We spent much, much more time on the road than planned, but we enjoyed the fall leaves and the brisk walks at night, Liberty riding along in the Moby wrap.
Liberty was scootching on her stomach for several months when Derrick noticed that she COULD crawl if it meant keeping her tummy off the cool hardwood floor. I’m not sure when–around eight months or so was finally crawling properly.
At Thanksgiving, we flew to Oklahoma to see family and pick up our (new-to-us) minivan we bought from Uncle Mark. Liberty’s Nannie had been coaxing Liberty to pat-a-cake the last few times she came to visit, but with little success. I decided she’d better have this skill down before we saw Nannie again, so the weekend before Thanksgiving we had lots of pat-a-cake practice sessions. I was a little shocked at how quickly Liberty picked up on it, and decided it was high time to start working on other motor skills too.
Liberty loved the airport; she rode in the Moby, basking in the attention of other travelers. On the plane, she nearly jumped into the lap of the young first-year med student next to me. She had a few difficult moments on the plane, but it was nothing a bottle didn’t fix. The time with family was good, but short. We realized that a child needs more than a day to warm up to extended family–maybe our future trips will be a bit longer. We arrived home faster than we anticipated–with a baby, our trips to Oklahoma were averaging 10-12 hours; this time it was closer to 9. Woohoo!
In mid-December Liberty saw the pediatric cardiologist for a six-month check-up. As he had predicted, the hole in her heart has completely healed! Even though we were never terribly worried about it, we’re so glad to know it’s definitely not a problem for her.
Christmas was a quiet one, but made so much more special with a child in the house. This year the tree wasn’t for us, it was for Liberty. Derrick and I barely thought about gifts for each other–Liberty’s gifts were so much more fun! Also, we discovered a family self-portrait was near impossible, so a week before Christmas we were able to wrangle a kindly photographer into a photo shoot in our living room. The cards were late this year.
Nannie Clark came for a few days, bringing Liberty a sleigh’s worth of toys from generous aunts and uncles. She loved all of them, but was especially ecstatic about the plush toys. On Christmas Day, Liberty stood unassisted for a few seconds; she’s been getting better and better every day since, but quickly drops to a crawl when she wants to get somewhere. About this time she also started her own version of kissing–she sticks her tongue out and smacks it against her upper lip, very wet and very cute. She also started mimicking the sign for “more” that I had been trying to teach her. Liberty is ignoring all the generations of a cappella music in her genes and grooving to every note of music she hears. She loves banging around on her child’s piano and reaching up to the keys on the big piano as well. She is the only person in the world who likes her mom’s dancing–unless she’s actually laughing at me behind those smiles!
Meals are getting messier all the time. I usually feed Liberty some baby food or ground grown-up food, but sooner or later she knocks the spoon away, splashing squash all over the place; she much prefers feeding herself food she can actually pick up. Liberty loves attacking orange slices, apple wedges, and banana chunks with her seven little teeth. But little of it actually gets down her gullet–most of it gets spit back out, smushed on the tray, dropped on her seat, or tossed to the floor. I’m trying to cut back on the crackers and Goldfish, but she’s crazy about them too. I keep a stash of crackers in the van, so when the commute to school and back gets long, I hand a piece of cracker back to her. Most of them end up wedged between Liberty and car seat, but they give her a lot of enjoyment along the way.
Recently I read Real Food for Mother and Baby, and was inspired to think outside the typical wheat-based infant diet. This week we found a source for raw whole milk and farm-fresh, brown eggs. I haven’t given Liberty more than a taste of the milk yet, but she loves having an easy-over egg in the morning. (Have I mentioned how she loves to steal food off her mother’s plate? She’s simply got to have a taste!)
Liberty’s babbling sounds more like talking every day. Her latest sound is “behh,” which may stand for ball, baby, bottle, or block–or something else. Who knows? Derrick swears he heard her say “Mama” this morning, but I missed it. When she picks her plush dog (Thank you, Jana and Mark!), she says, “Eh, eh, eh” which I am sure is baby-talk for “Oof, oof, oof.”
Liberty has a knack for getting into everything except her toys. She sticks her hand into the VCR, tugs at electrical cords, bangs on the glass doors of the cabinet, and is desperately curious about Mama’s laptop, Daddy’s guitar and the kitchen trash can. The other day I couldn’t find a battery charger I had foolishly plugged in at baby-level. I finally found it stuck between the rollers and the frame of Liberty’s walker. Yesterday Derrick and I were in the living room when Derrick heard water splashing, and found Liberty exploring the guest room toilet. Will we ever learn to close bathroom doors behind us?
I’ve been focusing on Liberty’s sleep schedule during Christmas break. Up until now, our nights have been a mish-mash of bottles, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping. Usually we start out well enough with Liberty in her crib, but by 2 am or so, things start falling apart. Night before last I played hard-ball by refusing to bring her to bed with us. I soothed her in her room, patted her back, lay down near her crib, and finally just closed the door and went back to bed. Liberty cried for a while, but finally fell asleep. Last night she woke around 3 and 5; I gave her a bottle each time and she went right back to sleep and slept until 6:40! I wanted to sleep in–it’s New Years Day, after all–but I was too grateful for these developments so I gritted my teeth, got up, and we took a shower.
Every day I wonder how we were so lucky to have a daughter like Liberty. Not only is she healthy and strong (30 inches long and 20 lbs. at her nine-month check-up), but she is gregarious, enthusiastic, warm, determined, and–did I mention?–utterly brilliant! Picking her up after a day of research, writing, teaching, and classes, hugging her close, kissing her soft, squishy cheek, and feeling her arms around my neck is the best moment of the day.
Growing up in family of seven, I didn’t have any illusions about the romance of having children. Children are inconvenient; they are work; they dominate virtually every aspect of your life. I was very concerned about what having a child would mean for us–could we still pursue our own aspirations without short-changing our child’s quality of life? But abandoning our own goals wouldn’t produce the kind of quality of life we want for them either. Liberty has turned out to be an extroverted, curious child uniquely suited for our situation in life–even if that means we have to fish her out of the toilet once in a while. She adores her teachers and the other kids at school; she’s as thrilled to see them in the morning as she is to see me when I come to pick her up in the afternoon. She’s been amazingly flexible, easily adjusting to changes in the schedule or her diet. We are enthralled.
And that is my very lengthy–but brief–recap of the last half-year. As for New Year Resolutions–last year I decided to make a choice to floss my teeth every day. Not a resolution exactly, more like a day-at-a-time decision. Except for about 10 days give or take, I’ve continued until it’s an ingrained part of my routine. For this upcoming year, I want to do something similar in my professional life–write/research at least one hour per day. That might sound like a very low bar for someone whose job it is to write and research, but it’s too easy to push projects aside and then have entire mountain ranges of work to do come semester’s end. I’d like to reduce that stress in my life and get more done at the same time.
A happy, healthy 2010 to you!