4 months
And she’s finally outgrown that tiny Washington Nationals onesie.

I’ll miss it — it was cute on her — but I am so thrilled, and so relieved, that she’s outgrowing stuff. That she’s growing. Size “newborn” clothes no longer fit her, and size “0-3 months” are on probation. About two weeks ago, with some fanfare, she graduated to Size 1 after soiling her very last newborn-sized diaper. At four months Natalie is still a skinny kid, but slowly but surely, she’s growing up.

This is the month when Natalie has conclusively graduated from squishy newborn to legitimately cute full-fledged baby. Those bright focused eyes, delicious cheeks, eyelashes long enough to comb your hair! I can’t get enough of her. Her ears still stick out comically, but the dark monkey fluff that once downed them has finally disappeared. You often hear stories of babies born with black hair, which then “fell out” to make way for their actual childhood hair color. Noodles’ dark birth hair has not so much fallen out as vanished; we realized this week that all that remained was a small curl at the nape of her neck, and snipped that for her memory book before all trace of it was lost. I have no idea where the rest of it went. It’s not like you can find her hairs stuck to pillows or clothes or anything. (Those, regrettably, are all mine. Postpartum shedding has overtaken me with a vengeance.)

Natalie has leveled up in dexterity this past month. She still loves to suck her fist, but now she grabs other things and stuffs them in her mouth too. On more than one occasion I’ve caught her licking her Baby Einstein like an ice cream cone, which is almost as cute as when she gets Sophie the Giraffe in a full-on tongue kiss. She can pull her binky out of her mouth and can almost put it back in. And she can rub her eyes, sort of. Just enough to wake herself up from a drowsy trance. (This means we’ve resumed straitjacketing her at night in the Miracle Blanket so she doesn’t rouse herself with a 3am eye-rub.)

She’s so alert, constantly paying attention, and is starting to show the first signs of what I fear might be boredom. If you leave her alone on her activity mat for too long, she’ll figure out that you’re no longer there and start fussing so you’ll come back. And she talks: she’ll meet your gaze, raise her eyebrows, get a twinkle in her eye and cut loose with a long stream of verbalization that has the cadence, if not the phonetics, of actual language.

Her muscle tone is amazing, too. She can hold her head up consistently enough that we’ve started putting her in the Bumbo seat (which she likes enough that it’ll stop a full-on fuss, at least for now). If you attempt to seat her in your lap, she will push up off your chest, kick out her legs and insist on standing, thank you very much. And if you put her down for tummy time and she doesn’t feel like staying prone, she’ll lever herself up on one elbow and blithely flip over onto her back.

But Natalie’s most amazing talent (perhaps tied for #1 with the speechifying) is her great big giggle-smile. Walk over to the swing where she’s just woken up from her nap, say “Hi Noodles,” and magic happens: she grins, her eyes crinkle up, and then her mouth opens into a giant D-shape of delight. Often this is accompanied by a gleeful squeal that could melt the iciest of hearts. So glad to see you, she’s saying. She does this with strangers too, but we’re starting to believe that she recognizes us and knows who we are.

I look at her and feel a swirl of things all at once. I am besotted with my tiny daughter, relieved that she’s growing, fearful that she’s not growing fast enough, and incapable of imagining her any bigger or more advanced than she is right now. We’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks in June with three other families, all of whom have babies older than Natalie, and all I could do was blink stupidly at the discussion of high chairs and booster seats. “Natalie will be sitting up by then,” one said to me, and my brain exploded a little at the thought. My floppy little Noodles? Sitting at the dinner table with the grownups? Eating solid food?? Impossible. She exists only in this moment. That imaginary future-girl toddling around, playing in the sandbox, chasing soap bubbles and jumping rope and practicing piano and getting into my makeup: that’s someone else, someone I have yet to meet.

Every month, my daughter grows into someone else. And every month, I can’t wait to meet her.