The Baby Bean Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Milestones

For those who don't have kids, babies go through developmental steps that are called milestones. For instance, some obvious milestones are crawling, walking, and talking. But there are a whole bunch of others, and each month, a baby masters a new skill, a building block for the future. The first milestones mostly have to do with vision: the ability to look at an object for X amount of time, the ability to follow an object for 90 degrees, the ability to follow an object for 180 degrees, etc. Smiling and laughing are also milestones.

You read about milestones, and of course as a parent, you spend a lot of time watching your baby to see if she will do the next one on the list. Take smiling for example. Naturally, parents love this milestone, because nothing is better than seeing your baby smile at you. Nothing. But it's hard to know when the baby has really reached this milestone, because babies make the smiling face almost right from birth. But it isn't in response to anything, just practice. Watching a sleeping newborn is like seeing an actor warming up--one expression after another fly across their faces in random order.

So you sit there with your baby, picking your nose, let's say. And then the baby smiles. Mid-pick, you stop. Is my nose-picking funny? That could be funny. I could see that. My baby finds it funny that I pick my nose! For the rest of the day, your in up your nose to your elbow, trying to get that smile again, but no dice. So was the baby smiling because your nose-picking was funny? Or was it just one of those emotions that crossed her face for no reason?

Eventually, one day, you see a smile and you know for sure that it's genuine, not happenstance. Ah rejoice!

And that's how it goes. Seems straight forward when you read the baby books. She'll smile! And you put a check mark next to that milestone. But it's all murky and grey, and you just aren't sure until one day you decide that this smile is definite. Maybe she's been smiling at you "for real" for a week or two, but you discount those smiles and arbitrarily assign the first official smile to September 21, 2005.

The next milestone on Ella's horizon is intentional grabbing. Babies are born with a grabbing reflex. You put something in their hand, like your finger, and they grab onto it. Not because they think, "I'd like to hold that finger," but because when something touches their palm, their fingers close. A few months later, their motor skills are sophisticated enough that they can look at something and think, "I'd like to hold that," and then actually do it.

Ella has been grabbing onto my fingers and pulling at my shirt when she's nursing for quite some time now, a precursor of "real" grabbing. The last few days, she's been playing a lot with a "taggie" blanket that her aunt gave her, which looks smiliar to this one:



She holds onto it. She stares intently at the tags. She pulls it towards her and pushes it away. But is she doing all of that on purpose (besides the staring, of course)? Or are her arms just moving randomly? Is she just holding onto it because it's there?

I watch her do these things, and I know that intentional grabbing is right around the corner. Or maybe it's already here. I guess that's a call that I'll make one of these days. One of her grabs will end up being the one that counts. And somehow, being her mother gives me the right to decide which one it is.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hello, I Had Your Baby, Won't You Tell Me Your Name?

As some of you might recall, the sperm bank we chose to use releases the name of the donor when the baby turns 3 months old. Yes, Ella hit the three month mark on November 16th. We got the donor's name on the 18th. Let's call him Peter. The 18th was a Friday, and my partner and I took the weekend to talk about what we wanted to write to him. We got a physical address, phone number, and email address. We decided to email him, so we sent him an email on Monday, November 21. Basically, I wrote that we had Ella and another one on the way and what we wanted from a relationship with him. We also included a link to some pictures of Ella that I had online.

It took him a few days to write back. On Thanksgiving morning, I opened up my email to find a response from him. He started out very wisely by saying that Ella is gorgeous. Then he went on to write a bit about his life. It sounds like he's led quite an interesting life. Made a bunch of money in real estate and then took trips to places like the Himalayas and some mountain in Brazil. And he also rode a bicycle across our fair country. In my periods of unemployment, I mostly watched TV. Peter, apparently, trains for 3000 mile bike rides. To each his own.

When I stopped to think about it, it was quite weird to be making his acquaintance. You know, he's the father of my children, and I didn't even know his name two weeks ago. Now I get to learn about him. A little backwards. Thankfully, he seems to be an interesting guy.

He seems to be an earthy-crunchy type, which I sometimes claim to be but when it comes down to it, I prefer indoor plumbing. I mention this because he does not have an internet connection at home nor does he have a digital camera. But he can get online at work, and he says a co-worker has a digital camera, so we hope he'll email us a picture of himself sometime in the near future. As for his looks, he wrote: "Two separate people have noted a slight resemblance to Clint Eastwood when I smile, wearing contacts, in certain lighting conditions, after they get to know me a few years."

I like him already.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shrimp Baby

Yesterday we had our final ultrasound with the fertility doctor. Everything looked great, so now we're off to regular prenatal care at the birth center. The ultrasound was of baby #2 at 7 weeks, 6 days. It looked like those shrimp type things they show in the pregnancy books. It was kind of strange to see on the screen the same things that we see in the books. I was also surprised because at my ultrasound at 7 weeks, 4 days, Ella did not look so shrimp-like. She was more of a long oval. On the other hand, we got to see the beginnings of her spinal column, which we didn't see with baby #2. It's probably all just a matter of angles.

Anyway, it was very cool to see the newest one yet again, especially since we won't be seeing him or her again for another 12 weeks or so at the 20 week ultrasound. And without further ado, here's the pic we got from this ultrasound:



It's not the greatest view. We saw better while we were there. But it's the one the tech printed out for us. Just in case you like to visualize things, the baby's head is at the top.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Three Month Letter

Dear Ella,

You are three months old today. I think back to what I wrote about you last month, and it really brings it home to me how much more grown up you are now. Those hands that only haphazardly fluttered by your mouth are now under your control. You cram your hand in your mouth at will now. The individual fingers, well, that’s another story.

A new development is drooling. This is a fun, fun game for you. You collect saliva in your mouth and then use your tongue to push it right out. What fun! You’ve noticed my obsession with wiping the drool off you chin whenever I can, and generally you are very tolerant of it. Of course, you drool much more and more often than I can keep up with. Especially when you combine your drooling talent with your hand control. Nothing quite like a hand in your mouth to slime with drool and then getting to wipe that hand all over your face. Sometimes when the light hits you right, the glare from the coating of drool on your face is almost blinding.

Drooling is certainly a fun game, but the most amazing thing you’ve done this month—in my opinion—is laugh. It’s happened twice now, and it is the most incredible sound. You should also know that it’s a weird sound. When you first did it on November 11, I was playing with you, blowing zerberts on your tummy and on your cheeks. You had that wide open smile of yours that makes your eyes curve into beautiful upside down crescents. And then this noise came out of you. Obviously, mere letters cannot do it justice, but it was something like this: “Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh ha ha haaaaa.” I was so excited by your laugh that I laughed back at you. For one, we were having fun. But also, that was such a strange sounding laugh that I couldn’t help but laugh at it. I never knew that laughing was a socially constructed sound. Now I do. But I’m so happy that I got to hear this raw, unmodified expression of joy from you. I plan on remembering that sound for the rest of my life.

You’re almost a pro at holding your head up now, although you still have a strong desire to look to the left. When we went out to Minnesota this past month to visit Ima’s side of the family, I had to point your body across the room so that you would, in fact, be looking directly at the person sitting to your left. But this past week or so, you’ve been experimenting with looking to the right. You have a love of television, and I use that against you. I start out with the television on your left, and you instantly lock your eyes on it. Then, in my swivel rocking chair, I start moving to the left, which forces you to move your head to the right to keep the TV in your sights. Once your head is pointing to the right, I stop. Yes, I use the television against you, but someday you’ll thank me. After all, there’s a whole world out there to the right.

You are a wonderful baby, and I am so enjoying this time we have together. As we found out this month for sure, you have a little brother or sister on the way. She or he will be right there at your first birthday party, which is quite unusual. It’s also quite unusual that you were right there when your sibling was conceived, but we’ll discuss that when you’re older.

I love you, little one, and your amazing blue eyes. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

Love,
Mom

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm Talking to the Mom in the Mirror

I haven't written much about our trip to Minnesota to visit my partner's family and introduce Ella to a bunch of folks. Basically, a good time was had by all, and the only reason the event hasn't gotten much ink is that there were other important things to write about, like Ella's adoption and my partner's pregnancy. The trip got squeezed out. Maybe now is the time to address it.

We got to see my partner's twin sister, her husband, and their eight month old daugther. Okay, at eight months, their daughter weighs less than Ella. You might be asking, Is Ella huge? Is her cousin tiny? The answer to both of your questions is a resounding, Yes! Ella is off the charts one way, and her cousin is off the charts the other. It was very strange to see these two babies together. Here was Ella, basically a sedintary baby, being that she lacks the ability to move her body from one spot to the next, and her overall control of her limbs and head was spotty in general. Then there's her cousin, who was like a pogo stick, boucing everywhere, grabbing things, doing it all. She's not quite crawling, but that's just around the corner, and I feel sorry for her parents.

We also got to see various aunts and uncles, as well as my partner's grandparents. Thank God for my boobies. As soon as Ella got fussy, I plugged her mouth with a nipple. Very convenient, and the sucking instinct pulled through without fail. This was also wonderful for the plane and train rides involved with getting to Minnesota and back. The car was a bit trickier. If you've ever had the experience of nursing a baby in a carseat, you can sympathize with my bruised ribs. But it was worth it. Anything is worth it to stop her from crying. I find myself often asking God why I didn't get one of those babies who automatically falls asleep in the car.

The thing I take away from the trip, personally, is an experience I had while we were visiting with one of my partner's aunts and a cousin. Ella was a bit fussy, and my boobies hadn't quieted her for once. So I was trying to entertain her in the small apartment (this aunt and uncle live in a really cool co-op).

Ella had just become interested in looking in mirrors, and there happened to be a long mirror along one of the kitchen walls at the countertop level. So I stood her up on the countertop (she'd also just started liking supported standing), and as we faced the mirror together, I looked at Ella's reflection. As her eyes met her own eyes, I said, "That's Ella." When her eyes moved up to meet the image of my face in the mirror, I said, "That's Mommy." I did this again and again since she seemed fascinated by these mirror people. Then once, as I was saying, "That's Mommy," I looked away from Ella's reflection and at my own reflection. I was momentarily stunned. That's Mommy? Surely you jest.

I still find myself thinking about that moment, looking myself in the eye while I unwittingly said, "That's Mommy." I am Mommy, and it seems very strange. I am just the person who gets to spend all day with this wonderful baby, holding her, nursing her, loving her. Yes, I know I am that person, and I can look right in the mirror and say it. But Mommy? Too strange. Entirely too strange.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Amen, Sister

My mother then told me that I never acted that way, that I never threw tantrums. I don’t know if she was saying that I was a good kid then or just a really bad mother now.

--from this post on dooce.


I read that and laughed out loud, because I can't tell you how many times my mother has said, "You never cried like that!" I never cried? Really? Come on! "No, you didn't. You never cried. You were a happy baby." Was I from another planet, perhaps? Or maybe just another species? It is simply not possible that I never cried.

I find it especially hard to believe that I never cried when I think back to what a cry baby I was in elementary school. I'm not going to point any fingers, but I had reasons to feel insecure and unloved and we'll leave it at that. No matter, it's all different now that she's a Grandma. My mother loves Ella, and dotes on her, and practically rips her out of our arms whenever she gets the chance. Frankly, I see her with Ella, and I predict that Ella and I will have a conversation down the road where I steal lines from Bill Cosby: "You don't understand," I'll tell Ella, "she wasn't like this when I was a kid. You're looking at an old person now who is trying to get into heaven."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Can See Your Heartbeat

Today we went in for the next ultrasound, and we saw the new baby's heartbeat! We weren't expecting to be able to see it. It's still early (6 weeks, 2 days) to be able to see a heartbeat. We just assumed we'd see it next week, and that this week we'd just see a bigger, perhaps more oval, dot. But no, there was a heartbeat. It was kind of weird. There was the bigger dot and then this pulsing dot sort of beside the dot. Kind of like it was outside of the body or something. I asked the ultrasound tech about it, and she said that at this point, the baby is basically all heart, so that's why it looked that way. At the next ultrasound, it should be inside the body, like it was when we saw Ella's heartbeat at 7 weeks, 4 days. Now that I think about it, the still dot beside the beating dot might have just been the yolk sac and not the baby at all.

Anyway! It's great that things are going so well. Once you can see a heartbeat, the chances of miscarriage drop to 5%. We could go in next week for another ultrasound or just wait two weeks. If all goes well with the ultrasound in two weeks, my partner will "graduate," and she'll head off to standard prenatal care. Since these appointments make my partner late to work, we decided to skip the ultrasound next week and just go to the last one in two weeks' time. We both feel really confident about this pregnancy. For me, personally, I wonder if I feel confident because it's not me carrying the baby or because now that I've done it successfully, I'm not as anxious. Who knows? But it's nice not to be worried the way I was when I was in the first trimester with Ella.

Okay, newest one, say cheese!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Swing: the Baby Drug

The swing puts my daughter into a coma from which she cannot wake up. She's been in the swing for about two hours right now--during which time I had the most fabulous nap and then ate lunch--and now I know she wants to wake up. She's even nursing in her sleep. But she can't escape the soothing rhythms of the swing. When I'm ready to "allow" her to wake up, I turn the swing off, and within minutes of coming to a standstill, she stretchs, her eyes open, and I have an awake baby. She looks a little zoned out like, "What happened? Where am I? Why haven't I been making Mommy constantly entertain me for the past two hours?" Sometimes I feel like I am a bad mother for using the swing like this. Othertimes I get down on my hands and knees and kiss it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

Now we're down to two dogs, Chester and Will (my shih-tzu). I ended up deciding to give away my miniature dachshund, Chloe.

I've had Chloe for six years. This one was a hard decision. Harder than my choice to find a new home for Blue.

Chloe hasn't changed. And neither have I. That's the problem. That dog knows how to find my last nerve and then sit on it, wagging her tail. She's like that girl in high school who has a heart of gold but is lacking some social skills. She's very, very annoying, but you keep forgiving her because she doesn't know any better--and she is truly a sweet girl. That was Chloe to a T. There wasn't anything wrong with her, but she just...well, PISSED ME OFF. And I don't like the way I responded to her when I was pissed off. My partner doesn't like it either.

So when I went to pick up Chester from his dog-sitter last week, I asked Harold (the dog-sitter) if his wife was still looking for a little dog. When my partner and I had our commitment ceremony three years ago, Harold and his wife (whose name I can't remember to save my life) watched Chloe and Will and one of my mother's dogs (this was pre-Chester and Blue). His wife loved Chloe. Just thought she was a great, great dog. And she still thinks that. When Harold mentioned to her that I was looking for a home for Chloe, she couldn't wait to get her hands on her. That makes me feel good.

This decision is harder because I've had Chloe for so long, and I do love her. But it's also easier, too, because I know the people she's gone to, and they are really great people, and not just great people, but great dog people. Chloe will be fine there. I worry about Will, though. The whole reason we got Chloe was to be a friend for Will. And she was his best friend. Whereas Chloe prefers people (and preferrably a person's lap) to anything except meaty treats, Will prefers Chloe to anything--even including meaty treats. But I have to put my baby before my shih-tzu, so bye-bye to his friend.

We can visit Chloe whenever we want. We'll probably bring Will there for a visit soon. All last night and today, he keeps coming up to me as if to ask, "Where is she? Where's my favorite toy?" I don't have the heart to say the words to him, "She's gone." I just pet him and pretend like I don't know what he wants.

I took this picture of Chloe and Ella, and I always imagined that one day when Ella was old enough to understand, I would show this picture to her and say, "Look, you were just as little as Chloe once. Now look how big you are!" And of course Chloe would be right there so that Ella could see how much she'd grown. I guess we won't have that moment now.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Baby Girl Looks Good in Blue

It's quite the conundrum. I noticed it for the first time on adoption day, when we put her in a dress--a denim dress. We put it on, and her blue eyes just looked so intense. I was actually taken aback by how much blue suited her. But besides having her in blue dresses, putting a girl in blue is just begging for mistaken gender and then outright criticism. And that's what happened today.

My mom got her a blue striped shirt from the Gap and some blue pants. We went ahead and dressed Ella in the outfit. Again, her eyes were brilliant. We ended up going out to eat, and as we were sitting in the restaurant, waiting to order, I said something to Ella about how she was masquerading as a boy, and my mother and my partner said no, she was just wearing blue. I said, "Yes, but everyone here thinks she is a boy because she's wearing blue."

They said no, she had a very feminine face. The words had just left their mouths. They were practically hanging in the air when the waitress arrived. Seeing the baby, she exclaimed and asked, "How old?"

I said, clearly, "SHE'S two and a half months."

The waitress looked confused and then said, "She? But you've got her in blue!"

I looked at my mother and partner and said, "See? I told you so." It was worth it just to be able to say I told you so.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Adoption Day

As I mentioned before, the plan was for my partner to adopt Ella. Actually, by some strange quirk of the law, for one of us to adopt her, we both have to. Yes, last Friday, October 29, 2005, I adopted my own baby. I found filling out the forms, trying to get permission to ADOPT MY OWN BABY to be quite amusing. I just kept imagining what would happen if they turned me down. I supposed I would say something like, "Oh well, I guess I'll just keep her as my natural born child then. SHUCKS." Since we live in Philadelphia County, we are not required to have a home study. But friends of mine who live in Montgomery County were required a home study. I find it baffling. I mean, if the social worker comes out and doesn't think their nice house in the suburbs is good enough, what could happen? The baby is going to live there anyway. But perhaps it's time to move on from these musings. None of the above happened anyway.

When I would mention that Friday was adoption day, people did something very strange--they wished us "good luck." I'm not sure if they didn't know what else to say or if they didn't understand that this was a formality. The whole court process took about five minutes and the result was a forgone conclusion. We went into a room that was like a corporate conference room. The judge and court reporter were just sitting at a rectangular table. No impressive wooden furniture or anything. Then she asked each of us the following questions:

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
What is your date of birth?
Where were you born?
Where have you lived for the past five years?
(And I think, I'm not sure) Have you ever been arrested?

In addition, we were also asked:

Is the child's name Ella Bean?
Will the child's name be Ella Bean?
What was the date of the child's birth?
Where was the child born?

And that was it. The end. I think it might have even concluded with something very official sounding from the judge like, "Okay." And then they gave Ella a stuffed dog, a beagle, I believe. We had brought a camera so that we could have our picture taken with the judge, which we did (my partner wanted that). And then we left. Quite a breath-taking five minutes, I'm sure you can tell.

Snide remarks aside, it is nice. Really, it's the first legal recognition of our family unit. If I am Ella's legal parent and my partner is Ella's legal parent, then we are a legal family unit, unified by our baby. She's pretty amazing that she can make that happen for us considering the current political climate. As a nod to the conservatives running the country, we put Ella in a dress, in public, for the first time.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Here's Looking at You, Kid (Take 2)

We got back from out trip last night (I'll write more about that another time) and showed up at the doctor's office early this morning. We were just supposed to be there for bloodwork--to confirm the pregnancy and make sure that my partner's progesterone level was high enough. I had wondered if we would also get an ultrasound, because I got one at this time with my pregnancy. The difference being that I came in for the requisite bloodwork the week before, which we were unable to do this time because of the adoption and our trip. Anyway, I wondered if they'd just go ahead and give us an ultrasound, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were escorted into the ultrasound room. Later we learned that the nurse made a mistake--she'd thought we were just there for a standard ultrasound to measure a follicle, not to confirm pregnancy. Anywho, we went in and got our first look at the next baby! Now you can see the dot that will become our second child:



Yep, that's our kid, that little black dot in the middle of the gray fuzziness. And the ultrasound tech saw the yoke sack, which means that we're past the blighted ovum state. In other words, things are looking great so far. We go back for another ultrasound next week. I didn't have a six week ultrasound with my pregnancy because that fell over Christmastime, and the doctor was on vacation. It will probably be too early to see the heartbeat next week. I'll probably just be presenting you all with a larger dot.

It was very exciting to get this ultrasound. Our first look at the new baby. It does make it more real. My partner definitely felt that way. Ella was in the room with us. I told her that it was very unusual to get to see your new brother or sister as just a dot. She didn't seem impressed.