Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sucking Face

Ila does a lot of weird stuff with her mouth. The two oddest at the moment sound pretty tawdry: blowing on my nipple and sucking on my face. Right now she's really into opening her mouth just a bit and blowing out air through the small parting of her lips. This was interesting to me just as a new skill in her repertoire. However, she now stops nursing but stays on the breast, just detaching her bottom lip a little...and she blows. This is even more skillful, I guess. Perhaps a new developmental milestone?

The much more graphic penchant she has is to give me big, slobbery open-mouthed kisses. When she's getting hungry, and I am holding her, she leans toward my face with an open mouth and latches on wherever her mouth lands. My jaw, my eyelid, my cheek, my nose. Then, she gets going slobbering and sucking. I'm lucky to avoid a hickey. As she comes at me, like a baby vampire, she has this amazing look of purpose. I'm not entirely sure what this is about. I'm assuming she's hungry. But maybe not?

The funny thing about her Baby-acula routine is that it's weirdly touching to me. It strikes some primal chord. She gets hungry and just wants to attach to me somehow; get her herself hooked up to the chuck wagon. And this is...somehow very sweet to me, like she wants to fuse her little being to me with that part of herself that she is most in touch with - her mouth. It's the port to her little soul.

Anyway, I am sure I sound like a weirdo here, but something in my resonates with this bizarre baby kiss. Something in my very core responds to it. It's not unlike my desire to give her kisses all the time, which is what I do instead of gobbling her up. And I almost mean that literally; I sometimes want to...just absorb her. Freaky, I know. I suppose the mouth is deeply connected to the way that we attach ourselves in love and affection to others. So, I guess I'll take these wacky little kisses while I can get them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Phases & Faces

Anne Lamott, in her lovely and funny book about her journal from her son's first year, documents the tender and sweet pats her son gave her breast while nursing at some point after he was several months old. This was a new developmental milestone: Hurray, baby can pat! Baby shows love for mama, or, at least, affection for The Boob, that favorite part of mama. In fact, this is a developmental note on many charts, "baby pats mother's breast." This particular milestone is probably not that important, but it lodged in my brain; I've thought of it a lot, especially in those early painful weeks of breastfeeding. It helped to think my breasts, currently enduring nipple torture, would - soon! - be favored with something sweeter and kinder, little pats from their biggest fan, Ila. It was exciting just to think of Ila doing anything. This was New Ila, the tiny larval being who didn't show affection or even much sustained interest in anything. Imagine her reaching out, consciously, with determination, to fondly pat me. That's a pretty sweet little idea.

This is what really happened. Ila started, recently, pulling off my breast mid-nursing, to a position about 4 inches from me to stare down my nipple as if it were a riddle she couldn't figure out, or a taken-for-granted, inanimate, everyday object suddenly gifted with speech or even magical powers. She was riveted, absolutely curious and fascinated. Then, instead of the affectionate pat I'd been expecting, she reached out her hand and grabbed my nipple and tried her hardest to pull it off. Hmmm. I think I'll take the pat. Though she does the nipple stare down frequently, fortunately she doesn't often try to take it with her as a souvenir. This doesn't really feel like an awesome new developmental step, to be honest.

Although, I haven't consulted developmental charts much in recent months, some steps really stick with me. Odd ones, too. For instance, I can't remember anything about when Ila may say her first word according to the charts, but I know that she's supposed to be clapping soon. Which is strangely important to me. Why? I'm not sure, but I find myself thinking when I see other babies her age clap, "Oh my god, maybe there's something wrong with her. Why isn't she clapping?! Maybe she's autistic." Now, the link between autism and clapping isn't well understood, or event existent, but it where my brain goes. She's not smiling much; maybe she's autistic! She's not crawling; maybe she's autistic and developmentally delayed. These worries are not really founded in anything reasonable; nor do I think they are linked to consulting charts and comparing Ila to them. No, it's just old fashioned fear; I must worry about something apparently. Usually it's autism.

Fortunately, for my neurotic, autism-obsessed mind, she has been really opening up to the world lately. She makes a much wider array of faces, noises, smiles. She has this weird almost fake smile. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a smile or just something she's trying with her face. It's sort of a grimacy, teeth-gnashing smile. This is when she is in fact gnashing her teeth. Because, yes, she is grinding her teeth, apparently something normal for some babies at certain stages. This is another developmental step I think I could have skipped.

She's also becoming adept at not-really-wronged cries. When you take something from her hands, she has a special cry. She used to sort of squawk, a hollered mixture of startled surprise and displeasure. Now she does this longer, fake cry thing, like something is really wrong. I suppose, from her perspective, something is wrong to her - she doesn't have what she wants. Now, I suppose, the job of parenting is determining the best way to sort out how you deal with the different wants a child has...which all makes me think that, while having an infant is difficult in it's own way - namely, physical exhaustion and sleeplessness - kids certainly get trickier, taking more sophisticated tools to deal with.

Oh well. I don't really have enough energy to get too worried about anything that remote right now - is this the bright side of sleep deprivation? Plus, that baby is so damn cute.