My youngest kiddo, G (AKA “Danger Baby”) will be two years old in only a few weeks – on June 27. I find this somewhat mindblowing because to me, she’s The Baby, and two year olds – while not full-fledged kids yet are definitely not complete babies anymore either.
G was born only three weeks after her oldest sibling died – and she came six weeks early. That’s one hell of a way for a baby to make her entrance into a family – arriving on Planet Earth to find a heartbroken and inconsolable mother, three somber and traumatized older siblings, and a father and extended family very focused on getting mother, big brother and sisters through the crushing first year of grief.
Really, this wasn’t fair to her at all, for her to land in the middle of a sea of sad people, and in the weeks between my oldest child’s death on May 31 and my youngest’s birth on June 27, this concerned me a great deal. In those interim weeks between death and birth, I would look down at my giant belly through my red, teary eyes, and silently fret that I would not be capable of being any kind of mother to the baby when she arrived because I had been so utterly broken by Henry’s death, and was so consumed with trying to help my three surviving children get through their own hurt that there just wasn’t anything left to bring to the table for a new child.
But G simply never accepted this idea that I or anyone else wouldn’t give it all up for her. From the moment I first laid eyes on her, she was like a little beam of sunshine bathing me in happy, and her personality immediately made it impossible for anyone in our family to resist her charms, or fail to become completely besotted with her. She is simply impossible to NOT pay attention to, or to love.
In many ways, baby G has been the most healing element in our family’s journey through grief. It’s hard to be TOO sad for TOO long when an insanely entertaining and happy little blue-eyed baby is crawling all over you, insisting that you play with her. Plus, babies have immediate needs. You can’t put off feeding or changing or bathing or rocking a baby until you feel less depressed. And having someone small and cute and very needy to draw you out of your own head is pretty powerful medicine.
In addition to having come into our family at such a uniquely weird and awful and scary time, G is also special by virtue of being the very youngest of her well-populated generation of our family. I have five children, and my five children have 11 cousins between the ages of 3 and 16 to whom they are very close. My son Henry was the first baby to be born in that generation of kids in our family, and barring something very unexpected, G is the grand finale. So she’s doted upon not just by her own older brother and two older sisters, but also by a large clan of other kids who all treat her like Queen Baby most of the time. I think the fact that she is the hard-stop youngest for this entire group of kids makes it even harder for me to think of her as anything but The Baby.
Plus, probably because she was born 6 weeks early, and weighed less than 5 pounds when Jon and I brought her home from the hospital, G has been a wee bit later than my other four children in meeting developmental milestones, including talking. And that has definitely made her seem like more of a baby than maybe some other one year olds I’ve known.
I was actually so worried about how little she was talking that about 3 months ago, I insisted that we have her assessed by a baby-language expert, and we also had her hearing tested. The testers told us that G is perfectly healthy, and that she can hear just fine. They also explained to Jon and me that one reason G still wasnt talking was that she didn’t seem to feel that it was necessary to express herself with actual WORDS given that all she had to do to get anything she wanted from parents, three adoring older siblings, numerous kid cousins, aunts and uncles and Jon’s parents was to gesture and smile, or gesture and cry. Either way, people came running to do her bidding. The experts told us that if we stopped doing that so much, Danger Baby would start talking. And sure enough, they were right.
In the past month, as her second birthday approaches, G is now at or above the norm on all developmental targets, including talking. All of a sudden – and I mean REALLY all of a sudden – Danger Baby can TALK! Every day she’s saying 3-10 new words I’ve never heard her use before, and stringing them together in short sentences. Of course, as she is accustomed to her role as Queen Baby in our large family, she often uses her new words to order her older siblings around or demand things. For example, her first noun-verb sentence was, “Daddy, STOP!” when she didn’t want to slow down long enough for a diaper change. But her sunny and sweet personality shines through, even though she is definitely a bit of a tiny bossypants at this point.
The other fun, very sudden new development for my almost-two-year-old is that she wants to play WITH her 4 year old sister and cousin, instead of just near them. The other night when C put on one of her princess get-ups, G toddled over with another princess dress she pulled from the dress up box, and asked me to put it on her, which I did. She then pirouetted and pranced around in the dress, thrilled to be playing dress up, just like her sister. And when the bigger kids sit down to play something, G will now join the group and try to do whatever it is they are doing – just like a big kid. It’s adorable.
There’s still plenty of baby left to enjoy (she sleeps with us, and still falls asleep with her bottle), but I am also really loving seeing this fascinating, “right before your eyes” transformation into toddler. Seeing each of my children move past infancy and become real little people who have things to say and do has been one of the most entertaining and endlessly amazing parts of being a mother for me. And since I know for certain that G is my last, I want to savor every moment of these months of evolution from baby to child.
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)