Going so fast

Babies exist in states of almost pure emotions; the joy of seeing a familiar face, the acute discomfort of hunger, the terror of waking up in a strange place (or, worse, alone). My time with Laurel is often spent focusing on how she’s feeling, and trying to play up her happiness whenever possible so she’ll enjoy whatever she’s doing — from eating to playing to struggling with a new skill — more. Maybe it’s mirror neurons or new-mommy hormones, who knows, but despite the fatigue and the occasional boredom I have had many more moments of pure joy in the past four months than I can recall having in years.

It’s so rewarding to watch her struggle and grow, like the multi-week effort to grab her own toes. It started in May, when she began to notice she had feet on the ends of her legs. She spent weeks staring at them, watching them wiggle around. Then she started to lift them up and realize that she had control over them. Then, she worked on her flexibility enough that she could grasp them. And then, finally, she figured out how to get them in her mouth.

Although she has enjoyed that particular lesson, she’s enjoying tummy time less. Despite that, she can hold her head up for longer and longer periods, has turned over front-to-back a handful of times, and generally has more patience for the position before dissolving into frustration. Yesterday she managed to roll over back-to-front and then immediately went front-to-back again, and a few minutes later rolled most of the way onto her front again. Getting her legs up high enough to grasp means she’s started to roll from side to side, which she likes; now she uses it to get closer to certain toys. And that has led to reaching out and grasping for more toys, usually for the purposes of getting them into her mouth.

Speaking of mouths, although she’s not doing it consistently yet, she has started to laugh — but only when one of us is really egging her on, getting sillier and sillier with her. To get her to abandon into laughter, we have to abandon ourselves, too.

In recent weeks, we’ve started using sign language with her a little bit on the grounds that in a few months she’ll be able to sign back to us to express herself in the months before she develops language skills. Right now we’re focusing on the sign for “milk” and, to a lesser extent, “more.” Eventually, when she starts solid food, we’ll teach her “eat,” and once she masters those we can teach her more.

Time seems to be flying by so quickly already; she’s nearly four months old, a third of a year. I see a lot of older babies from week to week — six-month-olds, eight-month-olds, 10-month-olds, and I marvel at how big and adult they seem compared to Laurel. But I also recognize that the difference between her and them is a matter of weeks, weeks that will go fast. I’m amazed by how rapidly she’s learning and growing.

… Which is why, this week, I gave notice at work that I won’t be returning when my leave is up. Although I suspected for a while that I’d want to eschew work in favor of motherhood for a couple of years, this was when I had to make up my mind for real. I’m sad; I loved my job and I hope someday to return to the world of journalism (or similar writing-for-money-and-informing-the-populace) full-time, not only because it’s good for me but because I want Laurel to have examples in her life of people who get to make a living doing what they love. But for now, recognizing she’ll only have these young years once, I will stay with her and help provide her with the experiences and tools she’ll need to grow into the person she’ll become.

— Beth

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Concept

A year ago yesterday, Devin and I had a round of afternoon baby-making sex and then went off to Berkeley to see a musical based on Beowulf. Meanwhile, sperm were swimmering inside me. Two days later, on June 9, they found a ripe egg, joining forces to create the being that eventually became our little girl. A few days later, I had to stay home from work because I was feeling inexplicably tired and queasy. A week or so after that, two pink lines showed up on the pee stick.

So tomorrow’s kind of a birthday for her, although it’s the kind that nobody really celebrates. :)

— Beth