Month seven — Henry

Dear Henry,

Today you turned seven months old. We just returned from a trip to Illinois to visit your extended family. Everyone was charmed by you and especially by your Henry Maneuver. What is this Henry Maneuver? You give your biggest gummy smile (still no teeth!) for a second or two and then snap your head around and bury yourself in my shoulder. So shy! Even at this tender age, you are hesitant to show your emotions too openly.


On the flip side, you are relaxed in nearly any environment. In the past month, we have taken you to both a World War II museum and Chicago’s Field Museum, odd places for a baby, but not for you. You placidly absorb the lights, sounds, and crowds. “He’s so calm!” strangers remark. This makes me eager for you to begin talking. Something is going on in that head of yours, but you’re not giving any clues.


You’re no closer to crawling, but you’re close to sitting by yourself. And you have mastered a more important skill. You can grab your pacifier and put it back into your own mouth. Sometimes it’s upside-down. That’s especially endearing because you gamely suck on it anyway. Just as I used to let your sister walk around with her shoes on the wrong feet, I let you have your upside-down pacifier. I don’t want to diminish this accomplishment for you.


You are reluctant to let go of that pacifier except when there is food nearby. Oh, food. You happily gnaw on watermelon, strawberries, peaches, or whatever else is put in your reach. You can hardly wait for us to mash bananas and dish up applesauce. As soon as your spoon appears, you make a noise somewhere between humming and grunting, “Mmm, hmmm, mmm.” During our visit to Illinois, your grandparents asked how much they should feed you. Should they wait until you get full? And I told them that you never get full. You stop eating when we stop providing food.


Henry, you have restored so much of my hope in life. After Genevieve died, I lost a lot of good memories. I could not remember what it was like to leave the hospital with a healthy baby, only what it was like to leave with a box of mementos. I could not remember the coos and monkey-ish grasps of a baby, only the silence of a house without a newborn. Maybe my brain knew how to block those things, to protect me so that I could survive. When I got pregnant with you, I could not fathom a happy ending. But here we are. And now all of my happy memories of babyhood — yours and Eleanor’s — are restored. You are my daily reminder that risks in life can work out. So be brave, my shy boy. Be brave.