My dear Ellie,
Seven months! You're practically a grown-up. I can hardly believe seven months has passed since I first saw your face, heard your cries and held you close to me. What an unbelievably wonderful seven months it has been.
This has been a huge month for you. First, we started solid foods with you this month. You have tried oatmeal and a variety of fruits and vegetables, and so far have enjoyed everything except avocado. You're always willing to try whatever I put on the spoon for you (you even tried quite a few bites of the avocado, despite the faces of displeasure you were making!) and you're eager to help that spoon find its way to your mouth. I love seeing your reaction to each new food we try, and I hope you are always so interested in trying new and unfamiliar foods. Especially when you travel (something else I hope you will do a lot of!), you should always try to sample the local delicacies - it adds so much to your experience!
You started off the month focusing on making new sounds. You started shrieking, which delights me to no end and always makes me smile. You also really enjoyed seeing your daddy or me cough, and would laugh and try to mimic it back to us. Sometimes you would really cough, other times it would come out as a shriek instead, but either way, it was adorable.
Now, however, your vocal practice seems to have taken a bit of a back seat to your motor development. You are blowing my mind with your motor skills these days. First, you finally mastered rolling from your belly to your back! You started doing that with some regularity the very day I wrote your six-month letter and complained that you still couldn't do it. So, you seem to have inherited your dad's desire to prove me wrong. That's fine with me, though, as it gave us some respite from having to constantly flip you back over when you woke up on your belly and got angry. That calm was short-lived, however, because one day I heard you fussing in your crib during nap time and when I went to check on you, there you were, just sitting up and looking at me! You very sneakily learned to sit yourself up, which is now causing all kinds of sleep problems that I'll get to shortly.
As for other motor skills, you are also able to get on your hands and knees now and you just sit there and rock back and forth, intent on whatever objects may be in front of you and just out of your reach - usually, Achilles. You are obsessed with that dog these days, always smiling and laughing at him and doing your very best to maneuver your way over to him. I think you will definitely be crawling in no time flat, and he will be your motivation to fully master that skill. Poor dog, I'm not sure he knows what lies ahead for him.
Aside from getting on all fours, you also like to climb all over Daddy and me and are now able to pull yourself up to standing by holding on to our legs or arms for balance. These things always develop much more slowly than I expect, so I'm sure this won't actually be the case, but these new motor developments seem to have happened so suddenly and developed so quickly that I'm pretty confident you'll be dancing a jig by your first birthday. It seems like you have been in non-stop motion from the very beginning, when you were still in my belly, and I have a feeling that once you get fully mobile, I am going to be one chronically tired mama.
Speaking of tired, we are in the midst of challenging sleep regression. It all started when you got your first cold and your napping skills took a hit. Then you finally got yourself back on track and were napping so well for a few days. But then, the sitting up happened. Now you spend many nap times just sitting up in your crib and crying; you seem to not be able to figure out how to lie back down. If we try to lay you back down, when we walk away again you scream and sob like we just stabbed you in the heart, which is just really not very fun for anyone. This is causing you to be overtired, which has moved your morning wake up time to consistently between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. We said we could handle all this, because you were still sleeping well at night. Well, even your nighttime sleep has been affected now. You seem to be sitting up in your sleep during the night, which naturally wakes you up and leads to that unhappiness about not being able to lie back down and settle in to go back to sleep. I usually nurse you just to calm you down and then you will sleep again pretty easily, but this is still a big change for a baby who has been sleeping straight through the night for months. You seem so tired so much of the time, so I hope you can get all this worked out soon. I think you will.
I mentioned that you had your first cold this month - talk about heartbreaking. I'm not sure I'll ever forget the sound of your coughing fits, your red-rimmed, bleary eyes or the miserable expression on your face as you struggled to breathe through your open mouth. Usually you find sneezing quite funny, breaking out in big grins every time it happens, but there were no grins during your illness. All I wanted to do was make it all better for you, but I could only do so much. I felt so terrible that you felt so awful but you could have no idea why you felt that way or that it would go away soon. I was recovering from a cold myself, so you and I spent several afternoons just curled up in bed together, sleeping the day away. My poor, sweet baby. I'm so glad you felt better as quickly as you did!
Something new this month is that you really prefer to be carried. You still like your stroller just fine, but after a while, you decide you're done with it and just want us to hold you. We've been getting a lot more use out of the carrier and wrap we have for you this month, and the stroller has taken a back seat. Other things you particularly like these days include: your Jumperoo, your panda toy, being sung to (especially "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," the Winnie the Pooh song, and "Be Near Me, Lord Jesus" at nap time), being tossed in the air and watching videos of yourself. You also still love glasses, my iPhone and the remote control!
Ellie, I just love being your mama. I love to watch you experience things for the first time. I love the way you snuggle into me when you're sleepy. I love to watch you play and explore the world around you. I love to hear you laugh. I love to watch you figure out what your body can do as you move in so many new ways. I love to see your personality develop before my very eyes, and I love that I am constantly getting to know you better. You are just the coolest thing and I can't get enough of you. I'm so lucky that I get to be here all the time and spend so much time with you and believe me, I try my hardest to cherish every moment. Sometimes I just look at you and can't believe you're really here, and you're really you, and I really get to be your mother. I am so incredibly and indescribably blessed.
I love you so much, Sunshine. Happy Seven Months.
All my love,
* * * * *
For the first time in seven months, I am having trouble writing you a letter. It may be that this month has actually felt normal and I am not initially inclined to check off the progress you are making. By normal, I mean to say that Mommy and I have seemingly developed routines for the daily things we do with you and can sense that there is a mutual trust developing. I do not mean to suggest that you have been especially cooperative, because that would be false. For example, Mommy and I have certain expectations for how you should be sleeping, but you have been all over the map. This month has seen you go from learning to do it on your own, to showing regular signs of sleepiness and taking predictable naps, to varying the amount of time you stay down, to refusing to take certain naps (though never the same ones from day to day), to no longer sleeping through the night. Notwithstanding your insistence on being unpredictable, Mommy and I have gotten pretty comfortable discussing our plans for you and trust that we are doing the right things (or at least the best we can). In other words, I might actually be comfortable with the notion that I am your parent.
My writer's block is particularly interesting because this has been a very productive month. You started eating real food (which you seem to love), got sick for the first time (which everyone hated), stopped loving the stroller, started loving the carrier and have managed to grow even cuter. Most notably, you are working hard on movement. In fact, the day after I mentioned it in your last letter, you took heed and finally conquered rolling back over. (Just in case it's that simple, I will take this opportunity to complain that you are not yet potty trained.)
At seven months old, you now sit up and lean in all directions and are insistent on trying to climb. I love that you seem to have no fear of falling and don't get too upset when you do. Incidentally, for some reason, you also enjoy when we hit you (lightly!) on your head. I'm not sure whether you fear failing, but can say for sure that you have very little tolerance for it. I am a big fan of that attitude and don't mind putting up with the resultant fussiness.
As for the trouble with this month's letter, I have another thought. Your regular nap times (whether or not you decide to use them to sleep) and your earlier bed times have given me enough time to realize that you are actually going to grow up and read these someday. Knowing that, I can't be sure which Ellie I should be writing to? The one who has just learned to comfortably read on her own? The teenager who no longer thinks I am one of the most interesting people in the world? The undergraduate who needs money and may be nostalgic for home? Or perhaps the one that is starting to raise her own kids (which I hope does not overlap with any of the others on this list!)? I don't think I have settled on an answer to that question and thus probably feel self-conscious about the best way to write to you. It is so surreal to think that you, the adorable baby girl who squeezes my neck and buries her head in my shoulder when she is tired, are going to live your life at all of the ages I have experienced. Unable to fully comprehend this, I am left to speak to you today as I do when we are taking a walk or getting ready to sleep. Essentially, like you know what I am saying and that we are best friends sharing a vulnerable moment of heartfelt honesty, where we say the things to each other that the stresses of life don't give us enough time to admit to ourselves.
I love you so much and cannot express the joy I get from holding you because each time honestly feels like it is the very first.
Keep up the good work and know that you and your Mommy are my favorites.
All my love,