asking uncomfortable questions

25 weeks

From the moment we knew you were in my belly, Daddy and I have focused all of our energies on keeping you safe. I spent those 10 months being extra-careful so that you could have the best possible chance of growing up strong and healthy. I washed all of my fruits and vegetables with a totally organic anti-pesticide rinse; I stopped drinking coffee and eating sushi; I took my steaks well done (blech) and my tuna chunk light; I downed prenatal vitamins religiously; and Daddy cleaned the kitty litters day in and day out so you wouldn’t be exposed to the germs that can grow there.

In these past five and a half almost six months, we’ve been known to check the video monitor obsessively and even stand over your crib to make sure you’re still breathing. We’ve insisted on giving you as much breast milk as possible to help your growth and development. We’re so careful about strapping you into your car seat, your stroller, your high chair and your swing exactly right. And you’ve been vaccinated from the get-go: I got a Tdap vaccine when I was 36 weeks’ pregnant so you could benefit from some of my immunity. All four of your grandparents and Daddy got theirs, too, so there was no risk of the adults in your life passing along whooping cough. And we all got the flu shot as soon as it was available because you aren’t old enough to get your own. I think you’ve gotten more shots in your short life than I can count on both hands, and it’s all to be sure you stay healthy.

We know that this is our job–to keep you safe until the time that you can manage your own well being, and that’s still a very, very long way off.

What’s just around the corner, though, is your introduction to daycare. We’ve been so very, very blessed to be able to keep you home all this time, thanks to Nonna and Mimi, and if all goes according to plan, you won’t need to start daycare until you’re seven months old and we’re beyond flu season. You’ll be going to see Miss Gina full time, Monday-Friday, at her home; we chose it last May after multiple visits and about 1,000 questions asked. We liked her immediately; she is warm and open and adores children. We also liked the space she offers to the kids she cares for: It’s clean, well organized and bathed in natural light. And it doesn’t smell like a daycare center (yuck).

Her daycare is governed by the Maryland Department of Education, so she follows the same rules the schools do; the meals and snacks she offers conform to the Maryland Food Program, and she’s required to collect the same health inventory that schools must. Looking through the packet of information we received from Miss Gina the other day, we noticed an exemption clause in the health inventory related to vaccinations: “Exemptions … are permitted if the family has an objection based on their religious beliefs and practices.” There’s also an exemption for children who may have a medical reason that they cannot be vaccinated.

For some vaccines, that includes you. You’re just not old enough yet to be vaccinated. So you’ll rely on the other children at daycare to be vaccinated so that you are protected (what they call “herd immunity”) from some of the diseases you cannot yet be medically protected from: chicken pox, mumps, rubella and … measles. This is a touchy subject these days. This past winter, while we were counting your age in months on a single hand, the United States experienced its worst measles outbreak of the century.

Let me say right now that this blog’s intent is by no means political but archival. I’m simply keeping track of your world, measles and all, so that I’ll remember what to tell you when, some day, you ask me questions about what life was like when you were born. And part of that life is, unfortunately, navigating a new era in which many, many children are going unvaccinated. This scares the crap out of Daddy and me, as we work so hard to keep you safe.

So we have to ask questions, perhaps somewhat uncomfortable ones, of the other people who take care of you. Are there children at your daycare who are unvaccinated because of religious reasons? If so, we need to know. And what would we do then? (Thankfully, we don’t live in a state in which “personal beliefs”–other than religious ones–constitute a valid exemption from vaccination.)

We know your pediatrician requires patients to be vaccinated, but has she had to treat anyone recently for one of the diseases that you’re not yet vaccinated against? What about these religious beliefs that people can claim?

When you were born, the Ebola outbreak was the big story in the news, but let me tell you: Measles is way scarier. Still, somehow I think that if there were a vaccine for Ebola (or for AIDS, say), I bet the people who are so vehemently refusing to vaccinate their children against the more “traditional” diseases would be first in line to get their kids inoculated. Maybe in your lifetime …

As Daddy and I have fretted away (which we’ll never, ever outgrow) over these grownup concerns, you’ve focused your energies on major breakthroughs: trying banana (woohoo!), apple (meh) and parsnip (spit out and thrown on the floor); playing, for the few minutes you lasted before you completely passed out, with your friend Claire, just 11 days older than you; drinking from a cup; practicing standing; and bringing your knees up under you and using your forehead, of all things, to inch yourself forward. Crawling may be just around the corner.

You had a delightful first Valentine’s Day, which involved no fewer than three costume changes, a visit from your Aunt Audra and tons of cards and gifts showered upon you. Nonna treated you to a new Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit, the 6- to 9-month size in a lighter-weight fabric. You’re back to sleeping through the night without it, but it does seem to make a difference in your napping.

We love you so much, Love Bug. Wish I could put in words how big a love it is. Suffice it to say that it’s so big we’ll spend the rest of our lives making sure you’re safe–and happy.











your pet revelation

24 weeks

You have two furry siblings who joined our family about six and a half years before you did. Asterix (a demure, sweet, independent Tuxedo girl) and Obelix (an affectionate, somewhat neurotic beige tabby boy) are considered “domestic medium-haired” cats, but by the amount of fur that collects nearly instantly after we vacuum the house top to bottom, I would guess they’re part Wookie. They have always been fairly spoiled, which set the stage for what we anticipated would be a pretty messy disaster once you arrived. To our (rather pleasant) surprise, things have been going relatively smoothly.

Have they been neglected? More yes than no. But still, Daddy and I make time to cuddle them when we can. We’ve tried to provide them with new space that’s entirely theirs since we took their room away to make it yours. They’re no longer allowed in our bedroom, but that’s a holdover from when you were sleeping in there with us. Daddy’s sinuses have been so clear since we stopped letting them sleep with us that it’s evident they never should’ve done so to begin with.

Certainly, it’s been a bit of a tough go for them, and it’s taken them until now to warm up to you. When I say “warm,” of course, I mean tolerate and very occasionally rub their heads against your feet.

You, on the other hand, are enamored. You break into huge grins when you see them, you stare at them for long minutes at a time in rapt curiosity and sometimes, if they do something particularly cat-like, you double over in belly-laughing jubilation. You’ve even managed to grab a few chunks of fur here and there (more so from Asty, who seems to dislike you least but is, perhaps, learning to keep her distance). I love that you’ve started to realize that your fursiblings are of entertainment value; for the first few months, they didn’t register with you at all.

Since we don’t have dogs at home, Daddy and I have been thoughtful about exposing you to our friends’ pups, as we don’t want you developing fears of any types of four-legged companions. A couple of weeks ago at your friend Anthony’s house, after Anthony had already gone to bed but you were refusing to do the same, your Uncle Mikey sat you on his lap and played fetch with their dog Roxy. Every time Roxy would retrieve her toy and bring it back to you, you’d squeal with glee. Oh, how it made our hearts dance!

So this past weekend, we took you over to your Aunt Catherine’s house for lunch. You sat in your high chair and made mash out of sweet potatoes, and when we were all done eating, you snuggled on the couch with her puppy, Louie. He was so very patient with you, and you licked him about as much as he licked you. At one point, you lay down together like two peas in a pod, and you rested your hand so sweetly on his back. It was all going superbly until you snatched up one of his ears and didn’t let go when he tried to walk away. We’re now working on “gentle.”

Mimi stayed with you three full days this week, filling in while Nonna was out of town. It was so nice for you to have that intensive time with her and with Bee Bee, who was with you on Sunday and Wednesday. Mimi said you were an angel. Obie was less of one; he peed on your activity mat for the first time ever, and it required us taking apart the rubber play mat beneath it (which breaks down into about a million fist-sized chunks of foam) and soaking it in the bathtub. We weren’t smart enough to prevent it from happening again, so he peed on it the next night, too. Well, we learned our lesson: The activity mat stays off the floor when you’re not using it, and you’ve nearly outgrown it, anyway.

All of this moving things around in the living room–and the fact that you’re growing at lightning speed–has led to some changes. You love your big-boy stroller, especially now that we’ve outfitted it with the cozy cocoon of a BundleMe (we got the large size, which goes up to 3 years old, so you have some room to grow into it), and you’ve nearly flipped yourself out of your baby bathtub a couple of times. Now we’re thinking of packing up the Pack N Play that has served us so well; it was set up for you before you came home from the hospital, and it’s been there ever since. You’ve made excellent use of it, but we’re now mostly using it for the attached changing pad, which you outgrew long ago. You have to bring your knees up to your chest to fit in it anymore.

In less than two weeks now, you’ll be six months old. That big number is staring me in the face and scaring me; I feel like time has gotten away from me, and try as I might, I can’t make it slow down. You tried feeding yourself avocado this past week, and while it was hard for you to grasp because it kept slipping up and out of your hand, you didn’t seem to mind it too much. It’s definitely not your favorite, though. That honor goes to oatmeal, which you take by spoon (as if you’ve been doing it your entire life), followed closely by sweet potato.

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, you’ll get to try banana. Sweets for my sweet. You’ll also try water from a cup; we bought you a special training cup with a cutout for your nose. You took a spoon so well, even on the first go, that I have high hopes for the cup. We’ll see.

Happy Valentine’s Day! My heart has grown bigger than I ever thought possible because of you. I love you so very, very, very much–so much more than a bushel and a peck.

This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You are sitting up on my lap without any support at all. Amazing. When I put you on the floor to sit, though, you still kind of slump to one side.
  • You received your first passport. You’re well on your way to becoming a seasoned world traveler with a bad case of wanderlust, just like your parents.

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sunrise and sweet potatoes

23 weeks

These days, “sleeping in” means getting up when the alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Since we eliminated your dream feed about 10 days ago, you’ve decided that your alarm goes off at 5:30. I know I shouldn’t complain about this given that by 5:30, you’ve slept for at least nine and a half hours. Sometimes it’s more like 10 hours or more. But 5:30 just feels so early.

Interestingly, you don’t really cry when you wake up from your overnight sleep (as you do when you wake up from naps during daylight hours) so much as “eh-eh-eh” to let us know you’re awake. Sometimes, the “eh-eh-eh”-ing is more you babbling to yourself. We try to ignore it for as long as we can, as you don’t seem to be in any distress, but at a certain point, we cut our losses.

It’s still dark when I feel my way into your room to turn off your nightlight and turn on your orange and blue lamps. Lately, as soon as I open the door, you’ve been turning your head toward the wall and squeezing your eyes shut as if you’re pretending to still be asleep. Then I lean over you to whisper “good morning, sunshine,” and you turn your face toward me, open your eyes and flash me your huge, gummy grin. All of a sudden, 5:30 isn’t so bad after all.

When you’re done eating, all three of us–Daddy, you and I–sit in bed and talk about your day ahead. And this time of year, when we pull up the shades on the windows above the bed, we are treated to some of the most spectacular sunrises. You like to look at them over our shoulders as we burp you. I guess that’s another not-so-terrible part of being up as early as we are.

UPDATE: Last night, you had your worst night ever since your first week (and excluding the 10 days you were dealing with your first cold). You were up at 12:30, sometime in the 1 o’clock hour, 2:30, 4 and 6. Somehow, you managed to fall back asleep between 6 and 6:05 and proceeded to make it hard for me to wake you. WHY??? Was it the full moon?

Last weekend, you got to eat something new (in sticking with our one-food-per-week plan), although we haven’t quite moved on from the “orange” food group. You didn’t seem too hot on carrots, so we thought you might appreciate something sweeter and less fibrous like sweet potato. We cooked one up for you, let it cool and cut it into chunks, which we skinned. You definitely seem more interested, especially in playing with it. You brought the chunk to your mouth right away and sucked on it, and you managed to get it all over your face (much to our delight; why is it so adorable when babies make a mess of their food?). You also loved mashing the potato in your hands until it squeezed out between your fingers. We got smart fast and strapped a bib on you, but we’re still having to wipe you down with a washcloth post meals.

You and Daddy also got to visit with your Gammi and Granddad last weekend while I enjoyed some adult time away at a birthday luncheon. Oh, how I envy you knowing your great-grandparents–and, lucky you, you’ve got three of them to dote on you. You hadn’t seen Gammi and Granddad since you were about a week old, but they follow you very closely on Facebook. Apparently, you showed off quite a bit for them, laughing and rolling over and smiling at them. You left with a pile o’ gifts, including a stuffed lamby that you adore (especially since its little legs fit perfectly into your mouth) and a St. Patrick’s Day outfit that is very apropos coming from the Irish side of your family.

After your visit, we all went shopping to stock up on nine-month clothes for you, as we are literally still squeezing you, sausage-like, into your six-month clothes. We got you the cutest pair of skinny hipster jeans and a puffy down vest with corduroy and sherpa trim; I squealed with glee when I tried them on you.

And, thanks to Nonna, who made the effort to pull it out and sit you in it, you have officially graduated to your big-boy stroller, the City Versa, which has been sitting in the basement waiting for you to grow into the harness. We’ve been using a Snap N Go frame with your car seat until now, but you are getting way too heavy to lug around in that bucket seat. So whee! Here we go on our next adventure!

This Week in Guppy Growth

  • Rumor has it you actually army crawled while at Gammi and Granddad’s. Since I haven’t seen it and there’s no video to prove it, I have no way of knowing if it actually happened. I have, however, watched you turn yourself around 360 degrees while on your tummy.
  • You are endlessly entertained (and you entertain us) by blowing raspberries while your pacifier is in your mouth, launching it in a beautiful arc several inches into the air and landing who knows where.
  • Tonight, while sitting on my lap, you pulled yourself up to standing (kinda–you were wearing socks on the hardwood floor, so your legs splayed out underneath you) by grabbing onto the handle of your toy basket.