Monday, August 18, 2008

Compare and contrast: the genetic edition

L has been having a horrendous time sleeping. We've been blaming it on teething, and while she does have as many as four teeth possibly working their way out into the world, her pediatrician reminded us at her eight-month check-up last week that she's also at the age of awareness, of separation anxiety. And with a rush I remembered the absolute frustration we went through with E at this age, the hours of rocking and shushing and swaying and begging to please, just SLEEP already! that somehow I had completely erased from memory. And how at that time the routine of bedtime was able to incur such dread and anxiety, all the baby books, the sleep books, the pacifiers and black-out curtains and humidifiers for white noise and how this was the most frustrating thing we'd experienced yet as parents (little did we know what would come!). So now each bedtime with L brings an odd mix of stomach-acid deja vous and calm confidence of the this too shall pass sort.

But the bouncing patting shushing -- the sleeping infant whose eyes sproing open as soon as her body touches crib -- even the sound of the overtired cry -- it's the exact same.

When M took L for her check-up last week I had him ask the pediatrician, too, to compare L's stats at this age with E's. L feels so different in my arms. E as a baby felt little, but so dense, like some extra-planetary material capable of absorbing extra gravity. L feels like a silk worm, all long and fluid. (True confession: I have no idea what a silk worm looks like, nor have I bothered to find out. She feels like a silk worm of my mind, okay?) I was curious to know how their respective measurements compare. My silk worm and my moon rock are the same. L is only an inch longer, and only 4 ounces lighter, than E at eight months. Head diameter: 4 millimeters bigger. The inch means nothing, because E kicked so terribly at all of her infant appointments that all lengths recorded were estimated. The ounces: negligible enough to be the difference between daily peeing schedules as interrupted by cold white scale. And 4 millimeters: accountable by L's actual ability to grow hair. Essentially, they're the same baby shape, my moon rock and exotic larva.

The hair. There is a difference. L has some. E was bald until forever. She's still never had a haircut. Maybe the girls will share First Haircut Day together. That will probably make them happy, and since we break out the video camera so infrequently, there will be so much less pressure on us. Also, although it's too early to tell definitively, I think L's hair will be straight like mine, while E's has loose waves like her Daddy's. As an infant E's nubbin hairlets angled in all different directions. L's are unidirectional. Also I think L's hair will be thick like her Daddy's, while E's is thus far very fine like mine. With their similar faces, perhaps it will be their very different hair that will set them apart.

Hair was what made me first marvel over their similar takeaways from the genetic roulette wheel. In the tiny peach fuzz hairs across their foreheads, the invisible unmeasureable goosedown, they have the same whorl above their left eyebrows. I love to stare at E's when it catches the sunlight, to trace its pattern with my not-blue eyes. When L was born and I saw her whorl, the same whorl, that's the part in the birth story where I gasped out loud.

And they have the same fourth toe. E, L, how did you possibly end up with that toe? When you read this years from now, please don't envy my perfectly straight normal toes. We love you just the way you are. Go make Daddy take off his socks and talk to him about this. And remember the power of cute shoes.

Their ears angle differently, as do their noses, but that difference thus far is more subtle. Their big eyes are a feature of mine, but they get the beautiful gray tone to their blue from their Daddy; mine are more greeny-blue, or yellowy-blue, if that's allowed as a choice. On both of them, their lips are all mine and their calf muscles are exact copies of M's. E's hair is a little redder, L's a little darker. They were both born with hemangiomas: E's on the back of her left knee, L's by her left nipple. Both are fading and will exist only in my mind. Their personalities: looking pretty different, but both love a reason to giggle.

E crawled back out of her bed three times tonight after bedtime. I finally got her close to sleep by snuggling with her for a few minutes in her big, comfy bed. I thought she was asleep when she startled me by whispering. Mama? What, love? I asked. Mama? Sometimes? Sometimes our eyes have trouble staying closed. And sometimes we have to close them for them but sometimes they open again. Because sometimes they have trouble STAYING all the way closed like that.

That they also share. Pin It