First things first: This photo never made it intp my Norfolk post, and it should have!
Ok. Down to business. The trips are nearly 21 weeks old and more than eight weeks past their due date. A typical eight-week-old might be developing his or her social smile, sucking on his or her fist, recognizing people and objects from 18 inches away, and responding to the sound of our voices physically or even verbally with cooing sounds. A typical 20-week-old might be able to roll from his stomach to his back, to push up on her elbows, to reach for toys, and to grab things with some intent. He or she will have good(ish) head control while sitting supported and will probably hold his or her head and chest upright during tummy time. 20-week-olds can usually see across the room (though we’ve already established that this was never the case for Will!), can move their eyes together smoothly to follow objects and people around the room, and can recognize more subtle distinctions in color. So where do our in-betweeners fall?
1) Smiles abound! Sophie is our resident smiler and has been for some time. She is pretty non-discriminating in her smiles, although she shares her biggest ones for her dad and for whichever one of us has the pleasure of greeting her first in her crib each morning. This is my absolute favorite time of day! Jack’s daily smile quota is increasing steadily, and he’s also establishing that early morning, “Hey! I know you!” smile. We get TWO (eventually three!) of those each morning? How lucky are we? Henry is our holdout. He smiles all right, but he still favors the quizzical, furrowed brow face, especially in the morning. I suppose he comes by that one naturally, so we can’t complain!
Jack’s greeting this morning:
2) The fist-sucking is in full swing. Everybody’s hands are in the mouths so often, it’s increasingly difficult to get the bottle in their mouths. It’s like, “Hello! If you would just move that hand out of the way I could give you some real food!” It also makes swaddling that much like straight-jacketing (not a verb, I know). The more desperate they are to find those hands, the more they wiggle and wag inside their swaddle sacks, which is equal parts amusing and sad.
Sophie found her hands in Norfolk and we now have this never-ending battle with her over scratching at her face. Hence, the mittens.
The truth is, they don’t really care whether it’s their hand or somebody else’s. If your hand (or wrist or shoulder) finds its way in front of Jack or Henry’s mouth, get ready to be slobbered on. And sometimes, Henry’s hand finds Jack’s mouth and vice versa, and for a split second the hand owner is a bit startled to find someone ELSE sucking on his hand, but the sucker is none the wiser. My hand? Your hand? Whose hand? Who cares! So we’ve found our hands, but we’re not yet fully aware that they are extensions of our own bodies and that we have control over where they go (sort of).
3) Those silly baby sounds! We now have a range of gurgles, giggles, oohs and ahs, and if you’re patient enough, you can usually get a conversation started with one of the trips. We have yet to capture this well on video, but we’ll keep trying! It’s just so much fun when it happens, no one wants to run and get the camera.
4) These guys (and gal) are definitely moving their eyes together smoothly to follow things around the room. One of my favorite games is walking back and forth in front of them all and watching their eyes move left to right and back again as if each promenade across the room was somehow different from the last. Sophie’s also begun to notice the boys, though I wouldn’t say she recognizes them yet.
5) Head control? We’re getting there! The boys have a bigger challenge here because proportionally-speaking, their heads are much bigger. Still, everyone is getting pretty darn good at holding their head up when sitting up and supported. In fact, this is the preferred position for Henry, and Jack is pretty keen on it too. Tummy time is still a struggle. Not in the sense that they dislike it all that much, but in the sense that it is far easier to just lie there with your head to one side than to bother lifting and rotating it! In fact, when the boys finally get up the nerve to turn their head to the other side, it usually involves brushing their faces back and forth across the mat repeatedly. They’re not much for efficiency yet.
6) There is some reaching/grabbing going on, but it’s difficult to say whether it is with intent or not. We’re certainly not in the “grab everything” phase, and more often than not, everybody keeps his or her hands clenched. But every once in a while, somebody gets a hold of something and starts to realize that that thing will move if they wave their hands around enough.
So we’re not really pushing up on our elbows or lifting our heads when placed on our chest, and we’re definitely not rolling yet. And we haven’t started reaching for toys with any real purpose, but we are definitely starting to notice them! You all realize that when I use the collective “we” here, I am referring to the babies, yes? Will and I can push up on our elbows and lift our heads when we have the energy to do so, although we both need a little help seeing things across the room! Anyway, you might be wondering why we care about all of these milestones so much. Of course every baby is different, preemie or not, and it is too exhausting to let yourself get worked up over every milestone not yet reached. But it is just so much fun to watch it happen! And we get to see it three times over–this is especially helpful in case one of us misses the first one! Given all our little trio has been through in their very short lives, it feels like a huge triumph each time one of them does something new. How great must it be to discover your hands for the FIRST time?! I used to feel this way when I was teaching second graders to read or spell or add or subtract. I so wish I could remember what it felt like that first time I understood what other people (grown-ups) have known for years and years. Watching someone else make that discovery is almost as satisfying.
We also spent so long just watching Henry, Jack, and Sophie eat, sleep, and grow, it’s so much more entertaining to watch them suck on their hands or smile at something you said. So we’ll keep marking their milestones, keeping in mind that they’re like to fall in between their adjusted age and their chronological age, and savoring each new development as it comes.