Chubby thighs. Gummy smiles. Gurgles and giggles. Pudgy fingers pulling my hair. If there is one sweet spot of babyhood where things really start to gel, six months old is it. Those tiny personalities are starting to shine. Communication isn’t always in the form of cries any more. All the firsts are just starting to happen.
It’s not to say there are no special moments in the earlier months, but since I’ve given birth to my second child I’ve learned a few more things about my baby and myself.
Bringing our little boy home from the hospital was a precious time. Our family of four was complete — just in time for Christmas. Yet I lingered in the care of hospital doctors and nurses as long as possible because I knew the real work would start when I got home. I even wrote about that here on the Knoxville Moms Blog. And it turns out, I was right as I faced the lack of sleep and constant breastfeeding I correctly remembered from my daughter Madeline’s early weeks. Yet this time I struggled to find the patience to deal with all the crying from both our newborn baby and our toddler.
I was not the best version of myself, and I didn’t like it.
I had a hard time finding joy in my new bundle of joy. I started taking online quizzes “Do You Have Postpartum Depression?” “Could You Have PPD?” Of course, they gave me no definitive diagnosis. My husband, however, helped me answer those questions. After a long talk he reminded me it was okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted at times. I was a new mom! My feelings were totally normal. Experience with one child that did not make me an expert. I needed to give myself a break and room to learn.
Looking back, that conversation proved to be a turning point for me.
As I found my footing, my sweet baby Bennett found new ways into his mama’s heart. One day he reached out to touch my face. I don’t know if it was a deliberate move or not, but, he was, in that moment, his very own person. Remembering that gentle gesture always makes me smile. If I’m not holding him, he follows my every move and smiles at me from across the room. When I get too far away, he cries to bring me closer. If I am holding him and someone approaches (family or otherwise), he nuzzles into my shoulder and hides his face. Most of the time he reemerges with a gummy smile. Another gentle gesture all his own. Then came the laughter. Suddenly, Bennett found things funny — and it’s more than gas that gives him the giggles. Tickles, tummy flubbers and his sister’s antics all make him laugh uncontrollably. (If only we could bottle baby giggles. It is joy in audio form.) There is no doubt I have loved Bennett since before he was born. But in those moments I just mentioned, my love for him grew — and continues to grow as we connect and communicate more.
When I was pregnant with him of course I knew his kicks and hiccups. Stating the obvious, I know when to burp him and change him. But now I’m getting to know more about his unique personality. Bennett is six-months-old and discovering the world around him. (Watching him on these adventures is the best spectator sport.) As he explores, he’s starting to form his own likes and dislikes. His favorite teething toy, how he likes to be held, the green bib he doesn’t like, the lullaby that always calms him down. For the most part, I’m now able to anticipate his constantly changing and growing lists of likes and dislikes. That knowledge gives me confidence I’m giving him what he needs.