Iris. My gosh does that girl ever amaze me.
She is suddenly a little girl- not a baby. It's like she burst into bloom overnight and has turned into this fierce creature full of will and ideas and happiness and fear and love and everything else. She is incredible.
She wants to know the sign for everything now- words like panda bear and pizza and bedtime story. I am constantly flipping the pages of old ASL dictionaries trying to keep up with her curiosity, her drive to know things. I miss being like that. Driven to learn like that. I still am to a degree, about certain things like babies and birth and all those kitchy things, but to posess that divine wonder to inhale all the earth has to offer- I can remember being like that, and it wasn't that long ago.
She is my little helper now. She puts laundry into the washer and shuts the door. She turns the knobs until she is sure the machine should start. And then she croons when the laundry begins to tumble and slosh about. She helps me close the dryer door and claps her hands at her good work when she is finished. We feed the cat. We fold (and unfold) the laundry. We pick tomatoes. We fetch the mail. She stands on a stool and eats slippery chunks of watermelon while I make dinner. And all day long she constantly asks me, "Wha dat?" and hunches her shoulders in a happy little dance when I sign to her the name of the object.
"Iris," I say, "Can you pick up all the baby wipes? Can you put them in the drawer?" She picks them up one by one, prompting me to say "thank you" each time by signing. She opens one drawer, realizes it's the wrong one, and slams it shut and opens the right one. In go the wipes. She claps, prompting me to tell her she did a good job. That she is my clever girl. "Okay Iris, all done! Bye bye, bathroom," I tell her. She signs "all done", waves goodbye, and marches out of the room. She is so smart.
Most things I ask her to do she can complete with little effort. Nesting, stacking, finding. She can go get things for me, put them away. She can do anything. She's been walking for three weeks now; suddenly she can walk forwards and backwards, squat down to scoop up toys without losing her balance. She tries to run! She walks up stairs holding onto the wall.
Iris now says, "Happy happy" though P's are hard for her, so it comes out more like "hah ee hah ee!" She sings the word in the grocery cart, signs "cat" and meows to old ladies, and plays Peekaboo with employees. Everywhere she goes, she recruits a growing posse of babylovers who abandon their previous tasks to spend at least ten minutes following her around making mouth farts and silly faces. Everyone is in love with Iris. Everyone.
She is a growing girl! I put on a pair of wool longies that I started for her this spring and never finished and no longer have to roll the legs up. She has grown at least four inches over the summer! I never took her to her twelve month well check because we were between insurance policies at the time so I have no idea how much she weighs or how tall she is. But those pants and my strong arm muscles tell me plenty about how big she is. Iris demands breakfast, lunch, and dinner now and generally at least one or two snacks. She nurses all day and all night, too, but can consume multiple crackers, pieces of cooked carrot, and at least one cheese stick in a sitting. And still ask for more food. Eating solids was never vitally important before to her- it was something fun to do, something social that Kevin and I did and she wanted to imitate, but now it is definately a source of nutrition.
She likes cows milk, and I feel strangely about that. We don't have any histories of milk allergies in our families, and she's done well with cheese and yogurt, but for some reason it makes me sad to give her plain milk. I remember reading about some breastfeeding mothers experiencing similar feelings when they started their babies on solids, but I never had a problem with that. For some reason cows milk just feels like an imposter to me, when I can provide the real thing. She seems to like the milk and is starting to ask Kevin for some, but aside from what sits in the spoonfuls of my cereal that I feed her, I can't bare to give her milk that doesn't come from my own body. No, not yet. This relationship is too sacred.
And speaking of our nursing relationship, the experiment in night weaning failed. I don't believe that those who told me it would take three or four days had a baby like Iris is. She was beyond miserable; we all were. I was falling asleep sitting up in restaurants and I don't think I was even that tired when she was a newborn. And the guilt! Oh, it felt so terrible to deny her something that she loves and needs so much. It became very clear to me that though she "should be able" to go all night without milk at this stage, she still had a definate need to nurse and my denying that was undermining our relationship quite a bit.
Iris asked constantly- every five minutes- during the day time for more milk because I think she was worried I was going to take it away then, too. She was incredibly clingy. She just was not ready. I was not ready. My body tensed so much that I felt flulike. Iris developed this crazy rash all over her body. Kevin felt helpless to meet her nighttime needs. Everyone was sleep-deprived and miserable. So I spent some time talking to Lisa, who attended as a doula at Iris's birth and also works as a lactation consultant. She's practiced AP with five children, the oldest of which has just started high school. And she confirmed my sneaking suspicion- Iris is just not ready. Nursing is way too important for her.
I found it ironic- I wanted to nightwean so that we would all get more sleep at night, and instead we all slept poorly. Since I have given up and let her nurse at night again, she is polite about it- unlatching when she's finished and turning away as opposed to staying attached to my body until the wee hours of the morning, using me as a human pacifier. And during the daytime? When I ask her if she'd like to nurse and settle into our favorite nursing spot, she rushes up with a twinkle in her eye, bouncing on her pudgy little knees and signing "milk". "Nur, nur, NUR!" she shouts. And I remember how this won't last forever. Her body already spills off my lap and kicks at cushions and lamps and half empty glasses of water. My arm falls asleep immediately from the weight of her head. My little baby that folded up so perfectly inside my body is gone now, replaced by this happy, healthy, spirited girl with long legs and exploring fingers. I don't want this to end. What on earth was I thinking?
Iris is sleeping now. She has learned lately to sleep in her own bed amongst pillows and stuffed animals that are twenty years old. When she is dozing, I still find myself lingering there, locked into the soft dimples at the base of her fingers, the sweet curl of her hair around her ears, and that bottom lip that still, all this time later, still tucks up into the top one in a little cupid's arrow shape. What is it about sleeping babies? Is it that it took so much effort to get them to this place? I know I could be doing a dozen other things besides wasting my precious time hunched over her bed, examining, but it's not wasted time at all. There isn't enough of this time with her to waste. Already I see her changing. Already so much of her babyness is gone.
She doesn't have a lot of verbal words yet. The few she does have could be chalked up as having meaning through context- that because I've spent 14 months- roughly 10080 hours with her- I know that when she makes a sound like, "hah ee" she is saying "happy". It has been argued.
So anyway, if someone else (grandma, for example) knows a few basic signs or has been equipped with a baby-friendly ASL picture dictionary, playtime goes over a lot better. Signing "eat" for solids as opposed to "milk" for nursing has cleared a lot of confusion and frustration, for example. And "diaper" or "toilet" helps, too. :)