Daphne turned nine months old this week - I've officially had her now for longer than I was pregnant (actually, the maths of pregnancy always confused me so... hmmm, that could be complete bollocks). In some ways it's like she's always been here, in other ways it only feels like a few weeks ago that we were bringing her home from the hospital. Gah, how cliched. How true.
But yes. She's nine months old and the last few weeks have been pretty challenging as she's dropped her third nap. So her schedule, which was beautifully reliable before and actually bloody great as she slept through every night, has gone a bit haywire. For the last week or so she's been persistently waking at 5am (oh so fun!) and refusing to a) go back to sleep and b) shut up. She doesn't cry, bless her, she just kind of shouts and squeals and makes general noise which means there's absolutely no way we can sleep through it. She has double double blackout blinds in her room (blackout fabric suction-cupped to the window, a blackout roller blind on top and then blackout-lined curtains) yet still a tiny chink of light seems to find its way out (mostly at the top and bottom) and hence she decides that when the sun gets up, so does she. It's exhausting! HOW we managed for months of her not sleeping through the night I have no idea because my tiredness levels have been reaching epic proportions thanks to this early morning start.
To counteract the lack of third nap, she's now going to bed at 5.30-6pm - which I know sounds ridiculously early, but she can't stay awake any longer - if she does then we get into that godawful screaming-like-she's-being-murdered overtiredness thing, where literally the only way to settle her is to put a muslin over her face so she can't see anything (sounds horrible and it is), hold her little arms down to stop them thrashing, and shush and shush and shush until she falls asleep. Ugh. It's like I'm torturing her and I HATE it, but for some reason she just cannot settle herself if she gets overtired. Does anyone else's baby get like this? My mum seems to think it's a new phenomenon as apparently I never did it, but a few of my RL friends have had similar experiences with over-stimulated and over-tired babies.
She now naps from 9-10.30am and then again from 1.30pm to (ideally) 3pm. She often wakes up from her second nap a bit early though, but I can't push her to go down later than 1.30pm as by then she's red-eyed and whiny. I swear you could study baby schedules at degree level and still not get to grips with the ridiculous algorithms they seem to work to.
In other news, we had her developmental check up today. I will be honest here, I requested it a bit early (I think it's supposed to be between 9-12 months and most people have it at around a year) as I've been really worried about the fact that she has never, ever babbled. She can make plenty of other noises (screeching and growling are her specialities) but she has never made any 'babababa' or 'mamamama' noises. Of course, I asked Dr Google what this meant and the number one cause of lack of babbling seems to be autism. So that broke my heart, and sent me into a week-long spiral of obsessive googling, sleeplessness and Youtube-watching of autistic kids trying to see if Daph had any of their characteristics. I took her to the GP who suggested it might be a hearing issue and has referred her for tests but I am pretty sure she can hear really well as she responds to whispers and even someone creeping in the room behind her.
Anyway, she's also behind on her gross motor skills - most specifically sitting. She can sit alone perfectly and reach for stuff etc, but if she starts to lean back while seated she will always fall onto her back. I can't leave her alone sitting, when really at this age I should be able to. She sometimes falls sideways too. Of course, she can't crawl or pull up to stand or anything even vaguely advanced, but I am more worried that she can't sit alone - although I am noticing she's getting better at this day by day. Whereas the babbling is not improving (or starting!) at all.
My mum's friend, who's a speech therapist, suggested she may be dyspraxic, and the symptoms do sound really like her, but again, it's really too early to tell.
I asked for a check just to see if there was anything I could be doing to try to help her progress a bit. Anything other than tummy time that is - which all health professionals seem to think is the answer to every problem. However, it doesn't work so well if your baby rolls straight back onto her back every time, yes, I'm looking at YOU Miss Daphne Darley. Of course, the health visitor (bless her - lovely lady but as Oli said, it was just like getting advice from a maiden aunt, rather than an expert) was not really any help at all. She said she'd never heard of any baby not babbling by Daph's age, and just said wait and see how the hearing test turns out, and bring her back in three months for another review.
We had to do this massive questionnaire thing (Ages & Stages) which was quite interesting - she scored really highly in most sections - she's ace at the fine motor skills (picking stuff up, feeding herself etc) and good at problem solving (finding hidden toys) and also her personal and social skills were excellent (understanding 'no' etc), but she fell off the chart for communication (which is all about babbling) and was just below par for the gross motor stuff.
I'm relieved that (although of course it's far too early really) she doesn't seem to be showing any other early signs for autism as she's great at the joint attention things - she follows your finger if you point at something, has amazing eye contact and looks at you when playing with toys trying to get you to join in. She's also started trying to clap and wave. I realise now I sound totally neurotic, and I have in fact been told off by several family members and other mothers for googling too much. But it's just my nature to investigate things - I'm a journalist, I can't help but try to find out as much as I can about a subject. Even if it does just mean I'm worrying myself stupid for no reason.
But despite all this, and despite the Wonder Week Leap 6 being THE WORST SO FAR (for those who don't know about the Wonder Weeks, then check 'em out - only if you're a parent though, they're very boring otherwise), Daph is just so wonderful at the moment. She's super smiley, loves interacting and playing and has suddenly got a lot more sociable in the past few weeks. She's also started to get separation anxiety when I leave the room which is annoying but awfully cute and makes you feel very loved back.
And, truly, corny though it sounds, her little quirks and crazy attempts at growling 'vocalisations' (we're trying to resist the urge to nickname her the Exorcist baby) kind of make her a bit special, and make me love her even more...
In response to my post on sharenting, you'll notice I've just put up one pic of Daph this time... I realise this means you're faced with a wall of text to wade through though. Sorry and thanks for making the effort - have a gold star from me!