Becoming a Person
November 18, 2009
It's weird to watch someone become a person a little bit at a time, day by day. She came to us a stranger in her own body. She could think and feel, cry and poop. The rest was a blank slate. She'd stare right through you, seemingly unable to tell people from lamp posts, all but blind and totally startled and amazed by the world around her.
She made eye contact with me first, maybe recognizing in my eyes something that reminded her of herself, maybe fascinated by their wet shiny appearance. I had her strapped to my chest in the Moby wrap and she kept craning her neck backwards. Afraid her little melon-head would pop off, I kept trying to force her back into the wrap but she would have none of it. Eventually I realized that she was leaning back to correctly focus on my face. I let her head rest in my hand and her face lit up. She stared right into my eyes with her little lips pursed and her eyebrows raised in surprised recognition. "Oh! My mom!" she seemed to say. I won't forget that moment.
Dan on the other hand, with his big glassy-glasses robot eyes, could not get her to look at him. She looked over, under, around and through him as he begged and begged her to acknowledge his existence. "I'm a HUMAN! I'm your dad. Look at me like I'm a HUMAN! Make eye contact Wanda. I'm RIGHT. HERE. ACKNOWLEDGE ME! I am a valid person."
I had to laugh. We discovered it takes approximately one week longer for a baby to acknowledge a glasses-wearer as a person than it takes for her to acknowledge someone with 20/20 vision. I didn't say it was fair or right. I just said it was true.
And now that we've got eye-contact off the check list, we're moving on to other things. For about a week just before she turned 2-months old, she knew how to roll over http://www.daringyoungmom.com/2009/11/08/this-is-how-we-roll/ but since she still doesn't actually know that she has the ability to control her body movements, she soon forgot what it was that had made the trick possible.
To help her learn some motor control, I've started her on a series of homemade physical therapy exercises. My favorite so far is called The Block Knock. It involves knocking blocks. I ask her to lie down on the mat. I then place a tower of foam blocks next to her and encourage her to topple it to the ground. She looks at the blocks and her hands start to twitch. Her tongue pops out of her face. She flails a bit in the direction of the blocks and with a combination of mind power and semi-accidental body movement she frequently manages to perform the task. We've got a real Regarding-Henry-style rehabilitation facility going here.
Watching her figure things out and slowly become part of our little world makes me feel joyful and grateful for all the amazing things my body can do with so little effort. I'm sort of an agile, physically fit, athletic genius compared to her and it feels good to share my skills.