Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making the world hers

Please remind me, if we ever do this whole baby thing again, that I thought Elsie was a miserable sod for most of the first eight months. Just so I'm prepared. Don't get me wrong, I love that little moaner to pieces, but she has always been, shall we say, insistent. Her personality has shone through pretty much from day one, and she has always made it clear when something is not to her liking. Loudly.

The midwives in the maternity ward were openly impressed by the noise that those little lungs powered in the first few days of Elsie's life. After hours of being thrust against closed bones by drug-induced contractions, she didn't have the smoothest entry into the world. Even so, her ability to go purple and apparently stop breathing out of pure rage, became notorious. I remember physically shaking and wondering what the hell I should try next, as she woke from a nap on one of those early days and snapped back into continuous heart-breaking cry mode. I always felt she was fighting against something - fighting sleep if she was tired; fighting the silence with her noise. Of course, those days did not last and we got to know (more or less) why she was crying... hunger, fatigue, being in one place for too long, someone looking at her not quite right... the list just seemed to go on and on.

As she grew and developed, things around her became more interesting, time was spent doing more than just eating and sleeping, and the light at the end of the tunnel started shining brightly. She still relied on us to play with her, never being one for sitting quietly and playing by herself, but sometimes we could get her to explore a new toy for ten minutes at a time. We were never quite sure how new situations would turn out and other babies' ready smiles tended to be met with intent stares. Elsie observed and analysed and only after considering all her options, would she grace someone not in the immediate family with a smile. That was not always a given either, and tiring from situations quickly, Elsie was always full of energy for and interest in the next thing.

Recently, I've seen this change. Fear of new people has evolved into genuine interest in other beings. Ambivalence when brought into contact with other babies has developed into open excitement at the contact and interaction these situations provide.

The first time she squealed at a dog, smiled at the supermarket checkout girl, laughed at a pigeon; the first time she 'ooh'ed at another child to provoke a reaction, my heart filled up and I could feel the smile on my face. Finally, I felt, she was experiencing the moment, interacting with her environment, accepting her place in the world.

Yesterday we went to a playgroup in a place we have never been before. As we entered and she took in all the activity and children and toys, Elsie was quickly straining to be out of my arms. I sat her in a group of little ones and watched as she grabbed a toy spanner, stuffed it in her mouth and beamed at those around her. Hell yeah, I thought as she let an older girl come up and 'feed' her from a toy baby bottle, not breaking her grin. My little girl has figured this out.

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