My green bean remains at the seventy-fifth percentile for height, and above the fiftieth for weight, “right on her curves” (those being, of course, the logarithmic arcs on the WTO growth chart). Her first tooth, which protruded from her lower gums for weeks without company, has finally been joined by tooth #2 right next door, as well as tooth #3 — and an almost fully-emerged tooth #4 — on her upper gums. “Bugs Bunny teeth,” her father calls them, but unlike Bugs it appears that Evie is gap-toothed. At least for now. I have no memory of whether Natalie had a gap between her front teeth before their neighbors came in; maybe the arrival of her lateral incisors will guide Genevieve’s front teeth back into an unbroken straight line.
In the meantime, Genevieve couldn’t be cuter, gap-toothed grin and all. She continues to blow my mind, on a near-daily basis, with her twinkling eyes and magnificent gross motor skills. Already at eight months, Genevieve has four teeth, is crawling around like a pro, can pull herself up to her knees — and, on more than one occasion, her feet, although not reliably — and loves nothing more than to feed herself puffs. She’s not absurdly advanced over where Natalie was at this age, but I’d say she’s a good month ahead. (Eve hasn’t clapped her hands yet though. She’s kind of a skeptical kid; I suspect that she’s still waiting for something worthy of applause.)
Best of all, she’s got consonants now. I caught one of Eve’s first utterances of ba-ba-ba on video earlier this month, and have since heard her manage va, ga, da, and even bla. (No ma yet, more’s the pity.) Her steady-stream vocalization consistently mimics the intonation of mature speech, and honest to God, I could swear that she’s talking to me sometimes. But unlike her preternaturally verbal older sister, Evie hasn’t yet figured out that you can use your words to show off and impress people. She spent her eight-month well baby appointment clinging to me with a vise grip and bawling her eyes out, as though she knew — knew! — that Dr. Warfield’s white coat meant trouble.
Genevieve is a mama’s girl in a way that Noodles never has been. I deliberately wanted & to be the first person to hold Natalie and speak her name to her after she was born, figuring that this would magically bond him to her. I didn’t realize that this would work both ways. But Natalie’s heart has belonged to daddy from the get-go; he has always had a unique and extraordinary talent for calming her down, making her laugh, getting her to leave the playground or finish her dinner or go to sleep. I’d feel comparatively inadequate as a parent, except that Genevieve seems to have a similar bond with me.
Maybe this was because I was the first to hold her, before her cord was even cut, and murmur her name in her ear. Or maybe it’s because we are, against all odds, still nursing. (Look, I’m taking this kid on a plane in less than a week. The last thing I want to do now is get rid of our #1 calming mechanism.) I’m almost concerned, since we’re well past the milestone moment at seven-and-a-half months when Natalie weaned herself. I have no idea where the process goes from here, now that we’ve passed pretty much every conceivable endgame scenario. I’m down to the last few grains of the one-pound bag of fenugreek I bought on eBay. Evie has teeth, eats solids, chews on chunks of food, and sleeps through the night. I’ve laid in thirteen Medela freezer bags — an entire gallon — of breastmilk for future medicinal use. Nothing (aside from our impending cross-country plane flight) compels us to continue breastfeeding.
And yet we do continue. And it’s steadily improved from a socially-imposed maternal duty into a plain ol’ Good Thing. My low milk supply, for one thing, has caught back up with the parabolic curve of ordinary lactation. In her early infancy, when I could manage to feed Genevieve no more than six ounces of mommymilk per day, this was an insulting pittance. But at eight months, the same six ounces a day is a prodigious gift. I like to believe it’s the primary basis for her bright smiles, physical solidity and excellent health. Yes, she still gets formula; heck, by now she’s even tasted diet soda. We never managed to pull off exclusive breastfeeding. But at eight months, nobody’s breastfeeding exclusively any more. It’s enough to be nursing at all.
I walk into the room and Evie immediately orients on me, breaks into a big toothy grin, and comes crawling in my direction like a shot. If I turn my back on her after she’s sighted me, she bursts into tears. I’d like to think that this is love, although more likely it’s the standard hormonal response of a juvenile mammal who has scented its lactating mother. In any event, it’s a bond unique to us, and I’m in no hurry to attenuate it.
In hindsight, it is now clear to me that I took Genevieve to daycare, and returned to work, too soon. Any chance I get to reach back into her babyhood, grab hold of something, and hang on for dear life is an opportunity not to be missed. Soon enough she’ll be toddling unassisted, speaking in actual words, laughing uproariously and spraying puree in our faces. In the meantime, at least in this one material aspect, she’s still my baby, and I’m not going to let a moment of that go to waste.