Wednesday, September 24, 2014

4 Months

Dear Ellie,

All of the online baby forums are spamming my inbox which means, of course, we're crossing an important threshold: you've officially wiggled into month 4 of your developmental life.  It's bewildering to think that you've been in our lives EIGHT months, already.  Your mother and I rather enjoy watching the progression of your physical development.  For instance...

Here you are at -1 month

And near your due date

And at 2 months, when you were at your biggest weight to length ratio

And at 3 months

And at 4 months

Its so remarkable to observe the differences between now and even just 2 months ago.  One big difference is how quickly your legs and arms elongated.  Two months ago, you looked like a little grub worm with tiny appendages that flailed about.  Now?  They are long, lanky, and move fluidly.  Also, even in these pictures, you can see such a difference in your expressions between 4 and 2 months.  Sure, by 2 months you were smiling a little bit, but you could only really see it in your mouth.  Now, your entire face lights up.  The smiles faded over the previous week, and we'd wondered whether you were shifting toward a conventional, bratty baby.  Now that you are over that nasty little cold, the smiles have come tumbling back.  You've taken to full throated laughing and giggling and devious expressions that seem to say: "Shall we jump on the bed some more?"

Everything has become interesting, now.  Aluminum cans and pencils and earphones and kitty cats and zucchini... which means, also, you've learned how to get bored.  You've begun to learn how to cry when you want food, but you still seem to fuss more often when you are bored.  Apparently, your mind wants more nourishment than your body.  

Physically, you've still got one minor issue that has been making things difficult.  Ever since the NICU days, your shoulders have been tense, making it harder for you to raise your arms.  That means its harder to flip yourself, harder to crawl, harder to reach for objects, harder to sit up on your own...  Curiously. that hasn't prevented you from meeting all of the important milestones on time.  Every time we think you might be falling behind, you use some other unknown muscle group that we didn't know you had in order to hit that milestone on time.  On your belly, you tend to use your back instead of your arms.

You've made some headway with elbow balancing, but 
that ginormous head of yours is hard to hold up!

And then there is flipping...

Here you are.  Ellie the Barbarian conquers flipping not 
by elegance and grace, but through sheer hatred of Tummy Time.

I haven't seen a lot of babies on their first flip, but my impression is that it should be a bit more... arm-ish.  Instead, your arms are worse than just dead weight.  They clutch the sheets while your legs heave and thrust like a grasshopper stuck in a Venus Fly Trap.  Rather than just pushing with your hands, you faceplant and use your head as a brace as your feet thrust.  If you fail to flip, you instead slide across the bed with each push of your legs, dragging your drooling face along the sheets, leaving a nice moist slick not unlike a snail's or a slug's.  With enough time and persistence, you can rock your face back and forth enough times to get the momentum to flip.  I'd complement you on "using your head" but I'm not sure the term was meant for that specific context.    

Despite meeting all of these milestones (albeit using creative measures), you've had a few issues that appeared to be getting worse.  The big one involved eating.  A little over a month ago, as I mentioned in a previous letter, we couldn't get you to eat while sitting down.  If we'd offer you the bottle, you'd immediately turn your head or swat it away.  The only way you'd eat?  Mobile.  Well, it turns out that feeding you like this could cause exploding baby syndrome or something if we do it to long (come to think of it, the problem might have been speech related, who knows for sure).  This left us in a dilemma.  We could try to break the bad habit, feed you on our laps, and watch you starve or we could keep feeding you in the Ergo carrier and you'd eventually explode.
Perhaps we weren't seeing the problem from the right angle, we thought.  Maybe you were just getting bored of breast milk day in and day out.  Maybe you were ready for something solid.  Granted, you've still got a ways to go to get to 6 months, but we were running out of ideas.  So we broke out the baby food.  Were you, indeed, itching to get your gums wet on some sweet potato puree or plumb pudding?  Well...      

... Not really.  By the end of the episode, judging by how much was on the bib, on your face, and back in the bowl, I estimate you ate at least around 20 percent of what was offered to you.  And I use the word "ate" liberally.  "Diffusion" would be a more descriptive term.  That is, the food sort of just diffused from locations of higher concentration to lower concentration, and since there was no food in your stomach to begin with, it only stands to reason that a certain amount ended up down in there.  So much for milk boredom being the cause of your eating issues...

Fortunately, however, you just so happened to start taking the bottle from time to time on our laps.  Even quite eagerly.  Babies work in mysterious ways.             

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bad Daddy

Dear Ellie,

I've been a bad daddy.  The first bad thing I did was take you out to public, germy places.  The grocery store, the biolab once, and even... briefly... through a daycare center.  Granted you were tucked away tightly in the Ergo so that contact would be minimal, it was still probably a bad idea.  Unfortunately, sometimes things come up for work on the days I'm taking care of you and the only way to deal with them is to pack you up and take you along... but sometimes I just want to show off my baby, too.  That's the second bad thing.  Fatherhood Vanity.

  Here we are at the bio labs, where parents drop off their germy, snot-nosed 
college kids for the day.  One of those germy, snot-nosed college kids 
may have been patient 0!  Kerry, my friend and coworker, was a 
big follower of your story and I thought it would be selfish 
to hog all of your supernatural cuteness all to myself!  So we took a visit...

Well, it turns out you paid the price for my cavalier attitude.  I got sick a few days ago and before I knew what had hit me, I'd gotten you sick, too.  There must be something about the earliest phases of respiratory illnesses--- right before you know you've got it--- that makes you kiss your children excessively all over their faces.  A brilliant evolutionary adaptation, on the part of viruses I suppose.  Anyway, we noticed that you started getting finicky during feeds.  And then the moment we feared came.  The crying came in a deluge.  You were sick, for sure.  Weeping, inconsolable, snorting and gasping on mucus... at least that is how it was recounted to me.  In the spirit of suffering with you, we both were feverish, weepy, and dripping with mucus concurrently.  

 Here you are, letting us know the extent 
of your unhappiness

A lull in the storm.  Is the worst over??

Nope, right back to crying!

We've always feared the prospect of you getting sick with a respiratory illness because of your chronic lung disease.  It just seemed like it would make a bad situation worse.  In the end though, it seems you've weathered the episode better than I have, evidenced by the fact that I cried and whined at least as much as you had.  Maybe you didn't inherit my epic-ly wimpy immune system, after all.

Anyway, because I'd taken you around places and because you'd been to the Onam party recently, we didn't know whether you'd gotten the bug from me or someplace else.  That means you're on Daddy quarantine until I'm well.  Which, if history holds firm, will be awhile.  While you were once greeted by my broad smile, you are now greeted with this: 

"Come give Daddy a kiss...  *SNIFF*"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Photo shoot and Onam

Dear Ellie,

We did a professional photo shoot a few weeks ago and got some wonderfully staged photos.  The shoot happened back in the Obese-Ellie-Phase when you weren't quite as smiley yet, so it was really tough getting those intimate, canned moments.  Still I think they were well worth it.

 You sitting on Mommy's Tummy

This, I believe, was an authentic smile... because the shoot
was finally over at that point and you could get some snoozing

We dangled a few bags of milk in front of your face for this one

You and your grandparents

Yep, those were in fact your feet a few weeks after you were born

I thought it only fair to include a photo of how 
you REALLY felt about the photo shoot and 
all of the gushiness.  Ahhh, precious moments...

Also, the Onam Celebration was this weekend and like all worthwhile holidays, we celebrated by stuffing our faces with food.  In case you end up like your mother and don't care about roots and cultural stuff, I'll give you the rundown of the meaning of Christmas, er, I mean, Onam:

There once lived a king of Kerala named Mahabali.  He was wise and prudent and under his rule it is said that there was tremendous wealth, prosperity, and equality.  People of all castes were held in equal standing.  So clever and canny was Mahabali that he was said to have conquered some hefty chunks of heaven as well as earth.  For all of his great deeds, Mahabali's subjects adored him.  Unfortunately, I'm supposing it's hard to ascend to demi-godhood without stepping on the toes of a few other gods.  Feeling threatened, the gods turned to Vishnu for help (remember, Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma are like SUPER gods, the only gods that are eternal like the God of the Abrahamic religions).

Vishnu accepted the pleas of the gods and agreed to take Mahabali down.  Personally, I'm not sure why Vishnu had to be such a jerk about it.  I mean, what were the other gods doing while Mahabali was out getting stuff done?  Why not just let Mahabali keep what he'd earned?  Hadn't he brought peace and prosperity to the world?  Oh well.  Anyway, since eternal gods like Vishnu have lots of time to burn, he incarnated himself as a baby, born into a priestly caste.  Upon growing up, Vishnu approached Mahabali during an episode of ceremonial gift giving to his subjects.  When it was Vishnu's turn, he asked Mahabali for an apparently humble gift: three paces worth of land.  Mahabali's spiritual guru warned that the person before him was in fact Vishnu, but Mahabali was a man of his word.  He promised that he'd grant the person before him any gift he wanted, and by god, that's what he was going to do.  Even if that person turned out to be Vishnu himself.

Mahabali consented to Vishnu's demand and told him he could have all the land that could be stepped over in three paces.  At that, Vishnu promptly became infinitely large in size.  He took his first step across the earth and the second step across heaven.  In effect, the greatest of gods had stepped across everything that Mahabali ruled.  At witnessing the usurping of all that he'd worked for, Mahabali said something to the effect of, "Well, damn.  I have nothing left so your last step might as well be on my head, bro."

Vishnu did just that, and a cartoony squishing sound could be heard throughout the land.  But that wasn't the end of Mahabali.  I mean, he was dead and all, but this is Hinduism after all.  The soul is quite resilient.  And besides, a god of eternal age like Vishnu has plenty of time to mellow out about things, so I'm guessing Vishnu felt sorta bad about squishing a stand-up-king.  As a consolation prize he dusted off Mahabali's soul and made him ruler of the underworld.  He also promised that Mahabali could be Indra for one full cycle of existence (I like to think of the Indra as the term-limited Prime Minister of Heavenly Bureaucrats, so that was a pretty generous promise).  Whatever way you might look at it, Mahabali got his fair share.

What's more, Mahabali was allowed to visit his beloved subjects once a year on--- you guessed it--- Onam.  Maybe I butchered the story a bit, but I'm sure your grandma Raju will give you a more detailed version as you grow up.

Holly and Amu made a little guise of a KathaKali character
out of flower petals and leaves.  I helped watch.

Here's the fam, eating off of banana leaves as is customary of the festival.  If it were up
to me, I'd eat off of banana leaves all the time.  When you are done, you just fold it up and
toss it out.  No dishes!

Here you are with Mommy.  At first, she wasn't behaving very Keralan in her western
clothes, so you puked all over her, thus forcing her to change into something
more suitable for the occasion.  Well played, Ellie.  Well played.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

"She's Perfect"

Dear Ellie,

Here you are, doing your best to make it to 
the cover of National Geographic
(Photo by: CordZPhotography)

You've never looked more photoshopped!  Er, I mean, prettier!
(Photo by: CordZPhotography)

The other day I took you to the pulmonologist.  Every time you take that trip, I get a bit nervous because your lungs have persistently been your biggest problem.  I've always had this lingering fear that somehow you'll backslide.  Even though you came home off of oxygen, your blood has never been properly saturated with oxygen.  For the first few months it was 94 percent, or 92 percent or 96 percent: evidence that your lungs just weren't functioning quite like they should.  We've been giving you nebulized albuterol treatments consistently to help keep your lungs clear.  Because of your lingering chronic lung disease issues, a hundred times a day, I check to see whether you are breathing, whether your skin has turned blue or purple, whether you are gasping for air...

This doctor's visit, though, I finally heard the words I'd always been waiting for.  The doctor clipped a pulse-ox to your foot and after listening to your chest with his stethoscope, he said: "She's perfect.  Satting 100 percent."  At just a few months out of the NICU, all of the major frailties associated with your chronic lung disease appear to be gone.  Even the nebulizer treatments are optional, at this point.  You will probably be at greater risk of asthma and lung related issues of that nature, but that's well within the probability range of what other children face.

For the past few weeks prior to your appointment, you actually went through a bit of a rough spot, but that has resolved itself rather nicely.  While normally a baby that is very reluctant to cry and easy to calm, you took up the habit of wailing at random moments and there was very little we could do to ease the distress.  Sometimes these spells lasted for upwards of an hour.  Your temperature, too, spiked and we even contemplated taking you to the hospital just to be one the safe side.  We're still unsure what it was the caused you all of that distress, but we had a few suspects (like an apparent eye infection, from where you gauged at your pupils!)  As of now, thankfully, it seems like we have smooth sailing ahead of us!