Most of Hannah’s life has been about small developments.
To be honest, when she was born I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea how babies develop from helpless little lumps into little humans. As she grew older, I thought I’d got a handle on it – babies slowly develop through exploration, mimicking, and physical growth.
After all, when Hannah was born she really was just a lump. In the first week of her life (which we spent in hospital), she lay in her bassinet and slept. Occasionally she’d wake and look around with that unfocussed gaze of a new-born. She’d cry for food, but even then she would usually fall back asleep before the meal was done (one memorable midwife was in stiches of laughter at Hannah’s ability to sleep through foot tickles, wet washers and all manner of ways to try and keep her awake). Hannah had to learn how to feed from the breast (a story for another time). She had to learn how to cry for attention and to let us know that she wasn’t happy. She also had to learn that she was in a strange new place.
By the time two months had passed, Hannah was feeding from the breast wonderfully. She had learnt about routines and consistency was developing in the ways in which she slept and fed. Emma and I put a great deal of effort into teaching Hannah these routines. We were mindful of how we responded to her when she cried at night and so (combined with a lot of dumb luck) we had a baby who slept through most nights, from 7.30pm to 7.30am, with just a 10pm dream feed as the only interruption. Hannah was also slowly becoming more aware of her world. Contrasting patches of light and dark drew her gaze for extended periods of time. She discovered her parents faces and became familiar with them, and she discovered her hands (she spent hours looking at her hands). Hannah now had a voice and she liked using it, but the range of sounds was very limited (although I’m still convinced she said “elephant” at about four weeks!). The development was always gradual and steady. It made sense, you could almost see the connections forming in her young mind.
By six months Hannah was beginning to show signs of rolling (it would be another month before she did so with any consistency). Her range of sounds was expanding, with the <a> sound a favourite. She used them with purpose, to convey both pleasure and displeasure, and to get attention. Hannah had started solids and, after some initial confusion about which way the food was supposed to go (who knew there was a hole back there?) she was taking on purees, mashes, small chunks and even sticks of food (she still hasn’t mastered sticks). Again, development appeared to be consistent, predictable and gradual.
Now, Hannah is about to turn eight months and she has recently reminded me of how little I still know about baby development. How? By changing rapidly, seeming overnight. Sometimes it’s as if a switch has been flicked in her brain.
A few days ago I looked at her playing in the bed next to Emma. I said to Hannah “excuse me young lady, have you seen my baby?” She looked up at me and smiled. It was a different face, somehow much older, more knowing than the one she wore when I had put her to bed the night before.
All of a sudden, there seems to be much more intent, more purpose in Hannah’s body movements. She plays with multiple toys at once, all the while babbling and squealing out a commentary. When I go outside to hang out the washing, Hannah rolls over several times from her play mat to the glass sliding door. She then lies on her tummy and pushes right up with her hands so that she can see me. I know this is deliberate because she’s done it every morning this week! When something is out of reach, Hannah often shuffles, rolls and slides until she reaches her target.
Hannah communicates with purpose. Many of her sounds have meaning. She is able to be quite clear about what she wants at times, especially when I’m not feeding her quickly enough during meal times. Remarkably and quite unexpectedly, she does things for the sole purpose of making me laugh! And, much to my delight, this week she said her first word… “Dad” (it started as “dadadadadadadada” and progressed to the single “Dad” today!).
Yes, this month Hannah gave up slow, gradual predictable development for massive jumps. It makes for wonderful and interesting times as her father. I look back fondly to the times when she was a little lump, but I now crave the excitement of the leaps and bounds.