11 June 2009

Hartley: Five Months Old

Dearest Hartley,

You are five months old today and I almost wrote six, not because I’m willing the time to go by more quickly but because I’m very tired. For the past two weeks you’ve kept me awake, scrabbling at my back or my arm or my breast with your sharp little nails that I trim and trim but which still manage to retain their sharpness, scrabbling and squawking because you are hungry – hungrier than I can keep up with, even when I’m wide awake and cognisant of where my nipple is in relation to your little mouth. I’m sorting this out for us, but at the moment my brain is (baby) mush, and this is why when someone asks me how old you are, I have to round up to the nearest month. And sometimes I can’t even get that right.

One day when you grow up, you will come to know what I am like, and then you’ll be shocked to discover that not only was I considering feeding you baby rice before you reached six months of age, but that this decision came to me easily and without a note of dread. This is because motherhood is set up in a way that is conducive to how I learn – you never have to do anything new until you’ve talked it through with at least ten other people, at least six weeks prior to having to do it, and by then you feel like you’ve been mixing expressed milk with a cream-of-wheat-like substance for your heretofore exclusively breastfed infant your entire life.* Though in any case, sleep is much more important than doing things by the book, and this is why you and I still share a bed.

Your learning curve is much steeper than mine in many ways, and if you thought about how much an infant has to figure out in that first year of life, you would never balk at returning to school to complete a PHD, because there at least you have a frame of reference. Your frame of reference was a relentless vortex of sound and sensation you had yet to decipher as your own wrenching cries (I’m still so sorry about that), and the particles from that existential detonation are still travelling outward, making new constellations for you to try and connect up, to try and find sounds for, to name.

But I truly believe that in the midst of all this scary learning, you and I are actually good influences on one another. You have instigated so many positive changes in me over these last few months. I am cynical about many things, for instance, but I could never be cynical about you. When I disentangle myself from you after your last somnambulistic feed and stealthily tiptoe off to the next room to tell your father that you look like an angel, I really do mean what I say – clichés are what they are, and far be it from me to dispute the celestial nature of your lovely features while you sleep the sleep of one who has never tasted a moment of bitterness.

You are still rooty tooty in that way you started off being when you were my little anaconda, except now you could feasibly dislodge the bolts from your cot with that insatiable mouth of yours, and when I come back into the room from washing my hands, I usually find you on your side, your head practically meeting your heels as you contort yourself in an attempt to grab hold of - and root on - a package of nappies, a pillow, a rolled up blanket or something else I would have never thought you capable of getting your lips around. Whereas the idea of such a mouth - wet with dribble and sometimes worse - would at one time have inspired the purchase of a contamination suit, I actually feel privileged that you’ve appointed me as your personal chew toy, and when I see you coming for the side of my face or my nose with the intent of latching on in your breathy, slobbery way, I don’t duck. You can slime me any day, darling; In fact, I’d feel hurt if you didn’t.

I say that I’ve influenced you, and I’m sure that’s true, but actually, I can’t think of a single thing you do now that didn’t somehow arise from your own strong will. Sometimes I look at you and marvel at how you’ve managed to not only come away with the absolute best qualities your father and I possess but, by some incredible alchemy, translate these into a fully developed little person who constantly exceeds both our wildest dreams and expectations about what you would be like. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t hear your father exclaim, Aw, he’s so lovely! which, you should know, is a complement of the highest order from a manly man who does not easily gush.

Your personality isn’t so much emerging as it is intensifying, and you have very definite ideas of what you like (which you reward with a massive grin or a screech of delight) and what you don’t (a warning noise like a whine that quickly becomes a scream I can only liken to that of a heroin in some murder mystery movie, as when the shower curtain is pulled back to reveal the man with the sharp knife). We’ve learned very quickly that it isn’t prudent to let you sit in your sling-back chair in front of your favourite programme for any longer than it takes us to wolf down our dinner, and in fact, I can hear you demonstrating this in the next room as your father desperately tries to entertain you while I bash this out.

That’s another talent you’ve picked up – the ability to tell the difference between real engagement and the artificial kind that gives us the opportunity to take a wee break. Your patience is becoming more limited and I find I have to step up my game in order to keep you from unnerving the neighbourhood with your shouty shoutingness. I’ve been told that this means you’re exceptionally bright, but then again, that advice came from the owner of a toy shop during a recession, so I’m not sure how much of it I should trust. Still, I tend to believe every good thing I hear about you because secretly (not so secretly) I believe all of it.

I could point to how strong you are becoming, only wanting to stand or sit up at every opportunity, and how vocal (your new favourite sound is ‘em,’ as in EMMMMMMM!, as in you’re not happy about being left on the bed while I run to wash my hands for the fiftieth time that day, and sometimes this sound turns into an indignant ‘mum’ sound, like EMMMUMUM, which I know not to interpret favourably), and how you will grab at whatever is within reach and immediately set about stuffing it into your mouth, but it seems you’re only doing all the things that babies are supposed to be doing, so I’ll hold off on designing the trophies for these particular accomplishments.

But know this: your mother is always watching you, and when she isn’t driven to laughter or tears because of something you said or did that day, she is more than likely welling up with pride because, in her humble opinion, she truly believes that she has the most beautiful, amazing and gifted infant of anyone, and that is more than enough reason to celebrate.

Happy fifth month, my boo-faced boo. We’re doing marvellously, you and I.

*After having read that weaning foods don’t necessarily lead to better sleeps, we’ve decided to postpone this move for now. I’m a bit relieved, actually.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that he's getting even cuter?! Lovely letter, as usual.