Predictably, 2012 was completely and utterly dominated by our wee little Bagl, to the extent that there's not really anything else to remember from the last 12 months apart from baby stuff and work (oh, and good music, which thankfully remains a constant). No films, no concerts, very few books (Penelope Leach aside), no trips away (an overnight stay at Kirkcaldy Hospital waiting for the boy to appear really doesn't count). Still, it's not every day you bring a new Nagl to the world.
So I'd started writing a post on New Year's Eve looking back over the last 9 months or so, but every time I read it back the words seemed useless, pompous and inadequate, all at the same time. So, taking a leaf from Wifey's book, here's a selection of pictures of Bagl from 2012, with a few brief (well, that's the plan) written memories to go with them. Should you be indifferent or repelled by baby photos, go no further. I won't be making a habit of this sort of thing, honest...
He was so small, so vulnerable, so terrifying. He was passed to me in the operating room, all bloody and new. I held him awkwardly in my arms, shaking with lack of sleep, anxiety and a dizzying intoxicating love.
A few weeks later, we were told that an initial test of Bagl's blood had tested positive for cystic fibrosis. It's the sort of two-word condition I knew nothing about, save that it was bad in some way. Reading the symptoms made my insides feel like caving in, the words "life expectancy" making me convulse with tears, although subsequently watching this video made a huge difference in picturing what his life could be like, that it wasn't an immediate death sentence or even close. For a few days we clung to each other, trapped in some dreadful quantum superposition, imagining our future lives if it was or wasn't true, as we waited for the results of a second, more focused test to come back. They finally did, the negative result excitedly given down the phone as soon as it was in the health worker's hands, all the contingency plans we'd made over the weekend dissolving with relief into nothingness. We sometimes think of our alternate universe selves, coping with a second positive result and all that would have meant. We hope they're okay.
His first month was insular, as though he should still have been in the womb he'd been pulled from, though little by little he showed awareness of the world around him. First our eyes, our faces, then those of others, then odd little details he would lock onto - the warning label on the inside of his car seat, the mobile above his changing table, the green ring on the toy dangling above his seat in the kitchen. In May he became noticeably more interested in the world, eyes wide and shining even while his limbs moved slowly, jerkily, like a tentative puppet, all squeaks and hiccups. In those early weeks I kept thinking of the creature from Eraserhead, and how that film finally made a fucked-up sort of sense through the lens of early parenthood.
For the first month there's no positive feedback - the baby either cries or doesn't cry, although sometimes we'd see him smiling in his sleep, as though his face was trying out expressions during downtime. Then the smiles and the laughter came, along with odd little chirps and "ohs". Soon it became clear there were particular things that amused him, a list which has changed and grown immeasurably since - right now, high on the list is: the pips on Radio 4, me blowing my nose; playing a music box (one from our friends that plays the theme from Amelie is his absolute favourite); watching the BOINC screensaver; any kind of *kling* *klang* *ting* noises (wedding ring against glass works well); track 2 from the Rastamouse album (when we sing along); very slowly playing This Little Piggy and very quickly playing Row, Row, Row Your Boat; and, brand new today, the word "plumbum". And, of course, bouncing. Lots of bouncing. His smile is full and wide, Totoro-like, and lifts my heart when I come home after work and he gives me a great big grin, while his laughter goes from little giggles to whoops and shrieks. It, and he, was so worth the wait.
Not a great picture - he looks like a right bruiser - but I hardly took any in July. Still, it does show him really getting to grips with his baby gym. It's a splendidly hardy wooden one from Hape, which I only became aware of after a friend in America posted a link to it, and I was glad to see it was also available in the UK. It's simpler and less garish than the many plastic baby gyms out there, but Bagl has certainly found it a joy, from the early days when he would stare up into the dangling mirror, moving his head left and right as though he was still developing stereoscopic sight, to even now when he uses it as a place to lean against while upright - and, when teething, to give the red ring at the top a damn good gnaw. In the times between, it was fascinating to see him becoming more engaged with the gym, reaching out and grabbing, increasingly enthusiastic and co-ordinated.
See what I mean about that smile? And it's got wider - and toothier! - since.
I was amazed that in less than half a year he could go from being a tiny, helpless little creature, utterly lost in itself, to being - well, this. So exuberant, so happy to engage with the world and with people, I swear he's already got better social skills than me. If the above photo had a title, it would simply be "WAHEY!"
We started offering Bagl 'real' food just as he was coming up to 6 months, and he's been doing brilliantly ever since. Unlike the clichéd image of purees and spoon feeding, we've gone down the baby led weaning route and it's worked a treat. He's tried everything that's been plonked in front of him, from steamed vegetables to roast potatoes, cheese & spinach muffins (see above) to juicy chunks of lamb and steak, sweet potato & black bean mash to porridge on spoons (which he feeds himself with, normally caking his face with mushy oats in the process). He even cheerfully chowed down some black pudding while visiting family just after Christmas, so already he's more adventurous than most adults I know. It's a profoundly messy business, no doubt about that, but if it means he grows up with an open mind and an appetite for a variety of food, it'll be worth every last crumb.
And just to wrap the year up, Bagl started crawling forwards in December - then decided this wasn't enough, and has required us to support him as he walks around the home. Each hand gripped onto one of our fingers as he became, over just a matter of days, increasingly sure-footed and steady with bipedal location (though on laminate flooring he still has a hint of the wobbly drunk). For Christmas, one of his grannies got him the above, a toddler wobbler from Brio. And after just a few days of that, he's sometimes able to get from one side of the room to the other without needing any support from us, though he's not yet got turns or picking himself up worked out yet and he's still insisting on walking around the place, supported by us. Even so, bets are now being placed on when he takes his first steps. Good grief. I thought we had more time!