Developmental Milestones

Skye turned one month old on Saturday, which means a number of things should have happened by now including but not limited to:

Lifts head for short periods of time

Moves head from side to side

Prefers the human face to other shapes

Makes jerky, arm movements

Brings hands to face

Has strong reflex movements

Can focus on items 8 to 12 inches away

May turn towards familiar sounds or voices

Responds to loud sounds

Blinks at bright lights

Skye mastered all of these and moved on to some of the behaviors reserved for two month olds, such as tracking moving objects, smiling, and making noises other than crying.

I know, I know, I’m likely making the proud father mistake of taking meaningless gestures as signs of advanced baby genius.  But it’s hard not to.  At least not until such a time around the age of sixteen when she goes on a nationally televised high school quiz show in Washington, D.C., and proceeds to embarrass me by proclaiming “Texas” as the capital of the United States.  Only then…perhaps.  Until then, super baby genius.  I’ve already started reading her “A Brief History of Time,” and she seems to like it.  She stares at my mouth with rapt attention as Stephen Hawking’s words flow from it.  Of course, it may just be the cadence of my voice.  But again, until that fateful day in D.C., I’m sticking with the super baby genius angle.

Now that Skye’s a month old, it’s time to return to the doctor’s office at Kidcare Pediatrics.  We’ve been back once before, at 2-weeks, for a routine check up.  This time is different though.  This time Skye has to get another immunization shot.  All the shots and tests are not fun.  The last time Skye got stuck with a needle, it was for the battery of tests required by either the state or the federal government to ensure she doesn’t have any odd illnesses that need to be immediately addressed.  I literally had to hold her down as a buxom, jovial, black nurse named Angie, squeezed her heel with the strength of a thousand pound press, and stuck a needle into it to draw blood.  Imagine holding something so fragile in your arms, telling her it’ll be okay.  She trusts you.  She’s calm.  And then, contrary to your word, it is not okay.  A needle enters her tiny heel and she starts to cry.

Once she is able, through her moist, red eyes she levels you with a gaze of anger and loathing you would not have thought possible of an infant.  It reminded me of growing up as a kid in Nigeria, watching my father and his friends slaughtering chickens in the backyard.  Sometimes, after losing their heads, the chickens’ bodies would kick into survival mode and they’d take off in a headless, manic run.  But did they head for the men who lopped off their heads?  Of course not.  They came for me, the skinny, well away from the carnage 7-year-old boy, as if to say, “I knew they were mean, but you, I trusted you!  You fed me corn!”  I’d run across the yard, screaming for my mother, as the headless, flapping, soon to be dinner chicken gave chase in a surreal reenactment of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I no longer eat meat.  Haven’t in years.  These “chases” likely played a part.

At the doctor’s office, a nurse named Debbie directs us to the “2nd to the last door on the left” at the end of a long corridor.  The room looks exactly like all the other ones we’ve been in at KidCare, from the location of the examination table down to the placement of the big tub of generic Purell on the table.  It’s comforting.  Like finding a Burger King on a trip to rural China after eating chicken beaks for a week.

Nurse Debbie performs the perfunctory measures of weight, length and head circumference to determine where among her peers Skye falls. Skye’s length is at the 75 percentile, as is her head circumference.  Her weight, however, is at 25th.   This is interesting, as these are the exact proportions of a perfectly made bobblehead doll.  I am holding a living bobblehead, which makes sense given that she can hardly hold her head up on her own.  Sometimes at home, when she goes into a “squirmy fit” and her head slips out of my hands and goes a-bobbling against my chest before I regain control, she really does look like a bobblehead doll.  She’s never in any danger, and it’s quite a funny thing to see.  Imagine that the gravity around just your head suddenly goes wonky, leaving your head much heavier than the rest of your body.  It’s kinda like that.

“Good Job, Skye’s Dad,” says Nurse Debbie, referring to how well I held her as she took the measurements.  I frown.

“I have a name, you know,” I want to say.  “Be so kind as to learn it.”

That is all I really am these days, Skye’s dad, except to people who knew me before she was born.  My identity is slowly being pulled into something much larger, like a spaceship on its way to Jupiter getting derailed by a massive black hole.  Only—to continue with the analogy—the black hole turns out to be a wormhole to a whole new and exciting world I never knew existed, a better world.  I like it, this new world.  I accept Nurse Debbie’s compliment and smile.

Nurse Debbie hands us a short consent form to sign for the vaccine that is to come.  “It’s just your basic consent form,” she tells us, “just a formality.”  She says this as if trying to prevent us from reading it.  I get the feeling she’s done this before, many times.  Formality or not, Lori and I read it.  When I get to the side effects I start laughing, not because there is something funny about side effects, but because “Nerve Damage” and “Death” are considered side effects.  These seem like effects to me.  It’s not like you can come back from “death.”

I get it.  Even if there is only a one in a million chance that this will happen to your baby, they have to list it.  But with all due respect to the medical community, it seems silly to call death a “side effect.”

“It’s just a touch of death, Dear.  Nothing a dose of Vicks or Robitussin won’t fix.  Right, Nurse Debbie?”

But what choice do we have?  We sign it.  If we didn’t I’m sure Child Protective Services will get a call, and suddenly a long black sedan with government plates is behind us and making every turn we make.  Or, less severe but no less disturbing, our names are entered into a database reserved for “loonies” who won’t immunize their children from death for fear of death.  It’s like some freakish catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller proud.  This is one of the hardest parts of being a parent for me, trying to decide when you should go against conventional wisdom and when to go with the flow.  When it comes to my personal health choices, choosing what to do is easy enough. I hate drugs. I don’t even take Tylenol.  Not that drugs are necessarily bad.  It’s just that I believe the human body, if given a fighting chance (good nutrition, lots of water, regular exercise, etc.) can and will fight off just about anything. It’s designed to do just that. I don’t know this for a fact, of course, but I believe it.  I haven’t been sick in over ten years.

But children are different, or so I’m told, and since I know so little about what’s good for them, I am forced to defer to the “expertise” of someone else, a professional.  This is very, very hard for me. I am terribly suspicious of “experts.”  I spent my life in the company of experts, and only met a handful who weren’t complete idiots.  Education does not an expert make.

I’ve looked into the various drugs they will pump into Skye’s system over the next few years, and, at best, the information is confusing.  But I guess I turned out okay, and my mother, who is a pediatrician and obviously invested in Skye’s health, says it okay.  So I guess it’s okay…right?

Doctor Holton comes in and says, literally, the exact same things he said during our last visit, right down to the jokes.  But he’s old, and this is what old people do, and that is not a bad thing.  One of my best friends is a retired 85-year-old Catholic priest.  Whenever I visit him, he tells me a bunch of stories from his life that I’ve heard many times before.  However, interlaced between these oft-told tales are new gems from a fully lived life, from the orphanages of Mexico to the Castles of Heidelberg.  I hope when I am old I’ve lived a life so full I can’t remember which of my many rich stories I’ve already told.

Doctor Holton, though I like him well enough, doesn’t really do anything warranting whatever fee he’s going to charge the insurance company.  He points at pimples and spots, moves Skye’s head this way and that, and declares her a healthy baby.  I already knew that.  What exactly am I paying for…oh, yeah, the shot.  Dr. Holton leaves, telling us that nurse Debbie will be back soon to administer the vaccine.  We thank him and settle in for the wait.  There is always a lot of waiting at Kidcare pediatric, no matter how many children are actually in the building when we walk in.

While waiting, Skye begins to cry.  She is either hungry or tired or cranky or all three.  I don’t know why, but I’m thinking about the Lone Ranger, perhaps because I recently read that Johnny Depp is going to play Tonto in a new big screen adaptation.   I place her on my lap, and start bucking her up and down as I hum,“March of the Swiss Soldiers,” the Lone Ranger theme song.  Apparently Skye likes this so much she stops crying.  It knocks her smooth the F-out on in mere seconds, as if that particular tune and the way I’m humming it match the exact frequency of her “off” switch.  This makes Lori laugh…which wakes Skye up…which makes me have to do the buck and hum again…which knocks Skye out…which makes Lori laugh…which…

We get stuck in a loop, a funny but bizarre one.  Pretty soon both Lori and I are stifling laughs so as not to wake the baby.  Then Nurse Debbie returns and the laughter stops.  There is nothing funny about what is going to happen next.

Skye is fast asleep at this point, lulled to la-la land by the odd combination of my bucking thighs and the Lone Ranger song.  Nurse Debbie doesn’t like to jab sleeping babies with needles—never a bad quality in a woman—so she gently wakes Skye by pulling on her arms and legs and diaper.  Skye finally opens her eyes and its time.

We lay her flat on the examination table and Nurse Debbie instructs me to hold her arms down to prevent flailing.  I don’t want to.  I don’t like to do these sorts of things, but Lori likes them even less and someone’s gotta do it.

Nurse Debbie tells us that children usually bleed when they’re stuck with the needle, and my overactive imagination projects an image of my daughter’s leg spouting infant blood like “Old Faithful.”  I brace myself.  Nurse Debbie sticks the needle in.  There is no blood.  Not even a tiny dot.  I look at Nurse Debbie for an explanation.

“Sometimes they don’t bleed,” she says, shrugging.  I am strangely disappointed.  Not because she didn’t bleed, but because I had been led to believe that there would be blood.  I had led my best and bravest men to the front, only to find that the diplomats had negotiated a treaty.  Not a bad thing a treaty, but what am I suppose to do with all the adrenaline coursing through my veins?

Before Nurse Debbie leaves, she turns to us and says, quite sincerely, “Your daughter is beautiful, so congratulations.”  Skye is beautiful, but the statement makes me bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.  As soon as Nurse Debbie leaves, I start.  Lori asks me why I’m laughing and I tell her that there are two things about Nurse Debbie’s “compliment” that I find funny.

One, I have little to no control over the “beautifulness” of my baby.  It’s not like I dove into the gene pool and painstakingly micro-engineered a cute baby. Two, what if she were an ugly baby?  Did I then need to chuck her in the river or leave her for the dingoes so I could go about the business of making the cute one the world desired?

I do like the compliment, but it never fails to surprise me how little thought we give to what we say, especially when we think we’re saying something “good.”

Anyway, it’s time to go home.  We redress Skye and head out into the corridor.

There’s a long line at the receptionist checkout desk, and Skye has been crying ever since the big bad nurse stuck her with her bloody bloodless needle. Lori and I decide it would be best if I took the child into the car and fed her—the receptionist waits are never short.  I do.  I put the bottle in her mouth, and before she’s even sucked down an ounce of milk, she’s fast asleep.  Lori comes in a few minutes later and we drive her home.

Two shots down and a butt load to go.

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20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Meghan
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 11:30:18

    LOVE the Superman onsie! We were just discussing having a Superman themed first birthday for our son.

    Reply

  2. lori
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 11:56:30

    Brilliant, skye’s dad:) I see that you have somehow managed to incorporate the
    Superman “onesie” you so wished would fit her…

    Reply

  3. Maryellen Schissler
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 12:38:53

    of course she is a wonder girl! all newborns are, or should be, in the eyes of their parents! love your blog and look forward to reading it!

    Reply

  4. Theresa
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 20:19:25

    You guys are hilarious! Loving the stories and the pics.
    Thanks, Keep them coming.

    Reply

  5. patgarcia
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 13:16:15

    Hi,

    It is so nice to see you taking time for the most important time in your child’s life, the first five years. You are building a bond that will last forever.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    Reply

  6. Philip Togun
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 13:16:45

    This write-up is excellent. I had a great time reading it, even the detour to the decapitation of chickens years ago in Nigeria. Keep up the good work. Grandpa is being entertained and educated.

    Reply

  7. Donna Barker
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 17:21:20

    BY far, without exception, the best chronicle of a baby’s first month I’ve ever read. Brilliant! I so wish I’d done the same with my son… who is now two months from 16 and would kill me if I wrote publicly about how brilliant he still is and how much I still adore him!

    With your permission, I’d like to share this post – or any one that you’d prefer – with the readers of my blog, My Embellished Life. Details are here:
    http://donnabarker.blogspot.com/p/add-your-story-here.html

    It would be an honour to have your voice among the other writers in this community.

    Warm regards Skye’s Dad!

    Reply

    • Ife
      Mar 10, 2012 @ 18:43:50

      Thanks for the awesome complement, Donna. I’ve got a feeling my little one is going to make me stop at some point too, but until then I’m gonna keep blogging. And yes, absolutely, I’d love to have you repost this on your blog. Thanks again, Donna.

      Reply

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