Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Wonder Month (Month 4)

If you read my previous post, we've now left the Fourth Trimester and become a "real baby!"

It's amazing the changes that a baby goes through in the fourth month. 

Did you know babies can communicate with their parents from birth?  Yes, all that crying means something.  How frustrating must it be for a baby, who cannot do anything for their self, to be able only to communicate through crying?  My grandfather is deaf, and although I've never learned or been able to practice as much sign language as I want to truly be able to converse well with him, it made sense to apply what I did know to communicating with my children.  We began teaching Whit signs around three months.  By the time he was seven or eight months old, he was able to sign "all done" and "more." I can distinctly remember one of his first signs "all done" toward the end of a swim lesson when he was 8 months old.  I took him out of the pool with five minutes left in the lesson and avoided a melt down.

Although it's not typically my style, I hadn't done much research on the idea of signing with your baby when I started doing it with Whit.  Seeing how successful I was, I began much earlier with Eilidh, around 6 weeks.  And it's paying off. Although she cannot sign, or even approximate signs yet, she is learning them and their associated spoken word.  This week for the first time I asked Eilidh if she wanted to be in the carrier and did the sign for "carrier."  In response I got a huge smile and lots of excitement. Eilidh is loving the carrier these days.  Many days its the only way to get her down for a nap.  She also shows an excited response when I sign and say "nurse."  And the best use? While Eilidh is usually content to be down for periods throughout the day, there are some times when she simply wants to be held. But it's impossible to change a diaper while holding the baby without getting covered in poop (trust me, I've tried). The solution? I put her down, quickly sign and say "let's do a diaper change" and immediately she stops fussing.

Baby has almost doubled in weight.  Eilidh, born at exactly 8lbs weighs in just a few ounces shy of 16 pounds. She's also 2 feet long! 

Did you know newborns can only see shades of black and white and their eyesight limits their field of vision to less than 2 feet?  By 4 months they can see colors and all the way across a room. Although babies can recognize their parents early on, around this time they can recognize voices and people from several feet away and they begin recognizing other important (or frequently seen) individuals.  

When I was pregnant, I began getting a sense of Eilidh's personality.  She was mostly quiet and sweet but she would occasionally get very fired up and she could certainly stand up to big brother Whit when he bumped her or simply laid down on my stomach (she typically responded with a kick or punch).  These personality traits are continuing to show themselves and we are getting to know her a little better every day.

Eilidh is a sweetheart. She will smile for just about anyone and is rarely upset. Eilidh has a special smile for most of the special people in her life.  Brother, Daddy and Papa are current recipients of one of the most dazzling.  I don't get a lot of smiles myself, but we have our own special look that we share. But watch out if she gets angry.... Today she dropped a toy and lost sight of it.  There's no object permanence at this age, so out of sight meant the toy was lost forever.  What a reaction she had! She also gets very impatient when she is particularly set on getting something and seems to loose all patience at that point.

Eilidh loves her brother and watches him almost constantly. She is eager to be doing whatever he is doing and blossoms when he shows her the slightest bit of attention.

Motor Skills
Both gross and fine motor skills have taken a leap forward in the last few weeks.  Babies can grasp objects, sometimes pick them up and can navigate most anything to the mouth; good practice for feeding themselves in a few months.  Eilidh likes pretty much anything in her mouth but especially watch out for your fingers! She will also grab my face and bring it right up to hers for a kiss and enjoys holding my hand when she is nursing or trying to fall asleep.

Typically developing babies begin to do "big" things like sitting up and rolling over between the fourth and sixth month.  Our over-achiever did both almost two weeks shy of 4 months (albeit she was born nearly 2 weeks later than "typical").  This video shows a small portion of her newly honed mobility.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Months 1-3

AKA, the fourth trimester

Have you ever noticed how needy a newborn baby is? How most of them are not "good babies" that soothe themselves to sleep or can be left alone, even untouched, for most of their day (and night)?  Not to mention that they are sort of boring.  Seriously.  They are super cute to look at, but mostly it's eat, poop, sleep, poop, eat..... and so forth for the first three months.

Picture this.... you come home after a long day and instead of walking into your comfortable 72 degree house, hopping into your comfortable bed and listening to your favorite song on the radio you open the front door and are flooded with freezing water and terribly loud noises.  It's what every new baby experiences. Forget the enjoyment of being rhythmically squeezed for an average of 8-24 hours. Think instead of what must be processing through their brains.  Shock, fear, anxiety?  Whit was decently calm when he was born, but he was somewhat drugged up from my epidural.  Eilidh experienced her birth the same way I did, naturally medication free. And she came into the world screaming.

I can remember reading somewhere that it helps a baby to sleep if you swaddle the baby and wrap a sweatshirt that smells like you around an old-fashioned alarm clock and put it near their head.  Something about being wrapped up tight near a warm, familiar scent and that tick-tick-tick fools them into thinking they are in the womb again.  That seems like a lot of work to me.

The truth is, human babies are born about three or four months too early. Their brains are only 1/4 the size of an adult brain.  The next closest mammal newborn has a brain 1/2 the size of an adult.  But humans are bi-peds.  Even in the best birthing positions, the ones that open up the hips as much as possible, wouldn't birth the head of a three or four month old baby. Human babies are the weakest and most vulnerable mammal at birth. 

So what do we do to deal with these "needy" babies?  There are so many items on the market that you can buy to help soothe your baby but I've found on this subject (as with so many others) that I took the easiest and least expensive route (that's not me saying I'm cheap and lazy...) Mommy's arms make baby happy, so use them! 

Here's my advice for some of the common complaints.  (And my excuse for not posting much during this "fourth trimester")

Baby only sleeps when... I'm holding him, he's sleeping with me. So do it! Hold, sleep, whatever it takes.  But do your research and do it safely. If your arms are tired or you find the housework piling up, call in reinforcements or consider wearing your baby.  Side note: Daddy sleeping with baby on his chest makes Mommy swoon.

Baby wakes up if I place her on her back. So lay her down on her belly until she's fully asleep.  If you are concerned about SIDS, stand over her like a hawk and then flip her to her back when she's good and asleep. Side note: The first night she was born, Eilidh went to the nursery to be weighed and checked out. The nurses told me she would only settle when placed on her side. At first I felt disappointed that they knew something I didn't, but I realized that I hadn't actually put her down yet.... and now I'm grateful that I knew going in she wouldn't sleep on her back unless she was very deeply asleep.

Baby wants to nurse...all...the...time....So do it.  Ok, that's not a possibility, but introduce a pacifier if you need to, sucking feels good to them, releases all sorts of good endorphins.

I'm exhausted. Buck up, your baby will eventually be a three year old, still exhausting, but in a different way. Seriously though, sleep when you can, however you can and enjoy those precious seconds when you are awake and not delirious from lack of sleep. And maybe next time you'll get a "good" baby.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Home Sweet Home

For the last decade or so, whenever someone asked where I was going [on a trip], I would reply "home."  That evolved the last five years to "home to Virginia" to highlight the fact that I had two homes.  Knoxville became my home in so many ways.  We had close friends there, careers, we were beginning to put down some roots.  We brought two babies "home" there.

But one can never truly sever the ties to their hometown.  This is the only home Kirk can remember and likely it will be the only one that Whit and Eilidh know.  Although I can remember many places that I've lived, this is the only one that ever truly seemed like home to me.  Our roots run deep here and I suppose they always will.

Anytime Kirk and I would come back to this place it was as if time slowed down and we could breath more deeply.  Our five years in Knoxville flew by and the one year we spent in northern Virginia the first year we were married was the blink of an eye. 

I've been "home" for less than a month and there are some times when it seems I never left.  The fact that our furniture still sits in a house in Knoxville is about the only thing making our time there tangible.  Surprisingly, the feeling I always had while on vacation here hasn't left me.  I would say that it has something to do with me being home with the kids, but I experienced that in Knoxville both last summer and after Eilidh was born. It just isn't the same.  There's something to be said for country life; there just seems to be more here.  Far fewer things, places and people, to be sure, but  more space, more time, more.... living.