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.             


  1. Dana, everytime I see Ellie, a huge surprise engulfs me. What a feat this little one has made ! And, I can't imagine the most difficult NICU time you people have successfully managed. I adore you all :) I am sure Ellie will grow up to a normal kid and I have heard premature babies are very intelligent too, Einstein, Newton, Churchill :) I donno I am too emotional and in tears :)

    1. Thanks Manju. She's a remarkable little creature. We still worry that she might regress. It's a lot less likely now, given all of the healthy behavior she's been exhibiting, but I think you of all people understand that its hard not to become superstitious. If we'd had twins during our cycle, Rani never would have made it through that two weeks of bedrest and we'd have gone through the same thing that you did...

      Sometimes I feel guilty about even publishing these letters out in the open. I think about just making them private, again. Reading this must harbor a certain dualism for you and for others that have come to the razor's edge of losing their children, then succumbing to the outcome that wasn't filled with happy pictures and optimism (however guarded it may be). When I think that we should both be raising our children concurrently, it makes me incredibly sad. Someday, I hope to visit your blog every so often, only to see that it is silent or moving along at a snail's pace. Not from another tragedy, but because you can't concentrate on it over the sound of laughing children.

    2. Dana, you have understood my tears wrongly :) I have come to a closure with the demise of my twins, I have to. I really, really do not think of them and have 'what ifs' in mind when I see Ellie. I am really amazed by the strength of all 3 of you. If I was in your situation I might have gone mad. There is another reason for the tears, you will know soon. Don't make it private, I enjoy your writings :)

    3. May your wishes for me come true, please ! :)