Three years ago Michele Henry took you through her most challenging assignment to date: pregnancy. Tag along again as this new mom of two navigates a second maternity leave, juggling endless diaper changes and sleepless night with her efforts to lose the baby weight — again — and hang onto her sanity.
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Sophie the Giraffe was half falling out of The Bucket and the diaper bag was creeping off my shoulder and inching toward my elbow when I scurried into the auditorium where the mom and baby aerobics class was already in session.
I set to work quickly, preparing Huds for some tummy time with toys so I could get my jump on. That's when I felt a small pair of hands on my shoulder and breath on my neck.
A cute little boy named Camden was using me as a post. As soon as he stood up, he sat back down, giggled and crawled away. Rather, he speed-crawled away with the sprite and nimbleness of an olympic gymnast.
"Sorry," his mom said, rushing over.
"No worries," I said, initiating the polite conversation all new mom's partake in during classes.
"He's very cute. How old is he?"
I fully expected her to tell me that Camden was nine or 10 months old.
"He's seven months," Camden's mom said.
S-e-v-e-n-m-o-n-t-h-s.... SEVEN?! Only seven? I sputtered. "Wow. Seven months?! Seven months and he crawls like that. Wow."
Obviously, Hudson is a brilliant genius who, like 99 per cent of the kids I know and care about, is undeniably ahead of the curve, exceptionally bright and developmentally advanced (he is also practically perfect in every way).
But, uhm, it certainly doesn't look like my almost-six-month-old son will be ready for Vancouver 2010 by next month.
"So, was he crawling like that at 6 months?" I asked with caution in my voice, praying Camden's mom would say something like, 'oh, no, don't be silly. He was doing exactly what your son is doing at exactly the same age!'
But she didn't.
"Well," she said. "He was crawling at five months and trying to stand by six."
Well, you AND your son SUCK! ..... okay, I didn't actually say that. Or mean it. But after that conversation my whole body tingled with a mix of jealousy and shame.
Seeing someone else's child whose abilities clearly exceed that of my own son - for the time being - was tough to take. I want to believe that my kid is the sweetest, smartest and the most agile.
I love Hudson with greater depth every day and more affection than I ever thought I could muster.. How dare I want him to be different? How could I even think of comparing him to someone else?
Even discussing stuff like this - or making developmental comparisons - is a major no-no in the mom world, a topic of conversation covered in the unwritten, seldom discussed rules of mom-friending. Bragging about one's child is strictly off limits (for the record, Camden's mom was not violating the code, I was. I asked).
But it can be the toy elephant in many playrooms.
Sure I steal glances of other kids to see if they're "ahead" or "behind" Huds. I'm not proud of this, but I certainly do compare my son to others to see if he's progressing normally or fast enough. I do it even though I know damn well that each kid is an individual who will develop on his or her own schedule.
At his or her own rate.
And how advanced children are at six months of age certainly does not predict what kind of person they will eventually become.
Still, I came home that night and whined to Ted.
"But why isn't Hudson the fastest?!" I said, in a very unattractive nasal-y voice. "You're smart, I'm not too much of an idiot, shouldn't our kid be a pole vaulting math-lete already?? Shouldn't he be mentally rotating objects, cracking quadratic equations and balancing basket balls on his pinky???"
Ted stared at me. He did not turn green. Not a flash or jealousy wrinkled his eyes.
"I'm proud of my son," he said. "What do I care what anyone else's kid does?"
At first, we thought it was the colour that grabbed his attention.
The strawberries, ripe and crimson, were set into brilliant contrast by a white bowl and our white bed sheets (eating in bed rocks!).
But Hudson's eyes weren't only fixed on the fruit. They were trailing the berries as they moved to our mouths.
"Oh look Ted - how cute is that? He's watching us eat!" I said. "Let's give him one!"
In total ignorance of strawberries' allergenic potential, we held one to Huds' mouth. As if by gravitational pull, his tiny hands reached out, grabbed the berry and forced it closer to his outstretched tongue. The boy was in full gumming mode before either of us knew exactly what was happening.
Bits of red berry flesh flew everywhere, ricocheting off his legs and bouncing onto us, the rest of him and of course, the white sheets. Huds had a hungry, possessed look in his eyes.
"Give him another one!" I cried. "Let's try some nectarine!"
And that was our unconventional start to solid foods more than a month ago.
Since then - ignoring my husband's anxiety, my mother's advice to "start slow" and all the wisdom I've read in baby cook books - Hudson, like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, has eaten his way through fruits and veggies all the colours of the rainbow, mush-ified beets, curried squash, cheeses, and a variety of pureed meats - excluding that nice green leaf, of course.
All to messy satisfaction and in no specific order.
"He eats meat?!" another new mom friend said recently. "Wow. I can't believe you're already feeding him meat."
Call me crazy, nuts, a daredevil or just plain irresponsible, but I refuse to follow any rules when it comes to introducing my bouncing, growing bundle of joy to the culinary pleasures of real people food.
I tried to adhere to the "one new food every three day rule" but that flew out the window the first week - once I discovered how fun it is to cook baby food (bake, add water, puree).
(note: I rely heavily on Mother Gerber to do a lot of the cooking too. While feeding the boy nothing other than home-cooked slop was appealing... what am I perfect?! Who has that kinda time?!).
"So I can feed him anything I want? Anything at all? Even turmeric, the mushy pork in dim sum? Curry?" my eyes widened to see what our pediatrician would say. "Yup. Curry. What do you think babies in India eat?"
A few restrictions: no nuts, egg whites, or honey before Huds' celebrates his first birthday. And he needs grain cereal twice a day (we call this Tasty Cereals! said in a loud, high-pitched voice).
I can live with that.
Growing up, food was never held over me as a reward. It was never kept away from me in hard-to-reach cupboards and everything - even cookies and diet coke, in tiny minuscule amounts, were permissible in my diet if I expressed an interest in consuming them. And today, I love food. Any and all types of it.
And I want the same for Hudson.
(note: I realize the boy may exert his will at any time and what I want will fly clear out the car window)
"Strange that you don't seem nervous," a family friend said, when I divulged my non-plan plan for introducing the boy to what his mom and dad put in their mouths at least three times a day.
"But it's good," the friend added. "We were really anxious about feeding our daughter different foods and today, she'll only eat macaroni and cheese."
Mmmm macaroni and cheese.....
Back to my point: So far, Huds has happily (and luckily for me) consumed everything I've prepared for him. He also uses it to soil me, himself, and the floor around us at every meal (will this stop at some point?!).
And so solid foods begins...... and so does it's companion: constipation. Argh.