When I first laid eyes on the beautiful book “Your Baby Is Speaking To You: A Visual Guide To The Amazing Behaviors of Your Newborn and Growing Baby” by Dr. Kevin Nugent, I knew I would be reviewing it. I also knew exactly who I would be passing it on to.
The author has studied newborn infants and early parent-child relations for over three decades, and is the director of the Brazelton Institute at Children’s Hospital, Boston. The book is divided up in to seven sections (Sleeping, Eating Crying; The Amazing Newborn; Your Baby’s Senses; Settling In; The Social Newborn; The Growing Baby, the Bigger World; and Parent and Baby and the Lifelong Bond.) These are split into subsections, each a two-page spread with text on one side, and a gorgeous black and white baby photo on the other.
The photos alone (taken by Abelardo Morell, of actual newborns being studied by Dr. Nugent) could keep you glued to the book for hours, but the text is just as engaging. Written in an accessible tone, Nugent describes various baby behaviours (the Fencer response, cuddliness, signs of distress), with a particular focus on baby/caregiver interaction. Distinctions are highlighted, such as the difference between deep sleep and light sleep, and between the sleep smile and the social smile.
I appreciated a disclaimer offered in the introduction: “This book does not set out to offer advice on how to care for your baby. There are many wise books for parents, and indeed, many wise people in your community to whom you can turn for advice.” This is not a parenting manual. It’s different, and it’s more. As I flipped through, reading passages here and there, it made me wish that this resource had been available to me when my girls were first born. Perhaps it would have encouraged me to stop and appreciate (and try to understand) more of their little movements and habits. Alas, the newborn phase is well behind me, and I would hate for this title to be wasted sitting on my bookshelf.
So, whom will I be honouring with my copy of this book? You’d expect me to give it to a new mom of course; likely a first-timer who still has the naivete and sweet appreciation of every little sigh and coo. This book, however, is not going to a rookie mom, but to my friend and teaching partner, C., who just gave birth to her fourth child right before Christmas.
Time for some back story.
I’ll never forget the morning last August when I received a call from C. She was working in her classroom to prepare for September and was interrupted by her doctor, who called to request that she come in to discuss results of her ultrasound. Yes, it was serious, and yes, she should bring her husband. I hung up with instructions to Google what the problem might be, and I called back minutes later with not so great news. “According to the Internet, issues that come up in 20 week ultrasounds usually involve the heart,” I told her, “although most times it’s a false alarm, and you just need more tests to be sure.” I’m sure I lost her at “heart”…which did indeed end up being the concern, and was unfortunately no false alarm.
The ultrasound showed that her little baby suffered from a congenital heart defect called double inlet left ventricle, and it was very serious. She would have to deliver the baby in Toronto, he or she would be transferred to Sick Kids’ Hospital immediately, and would face open heart surgery within the first few days of life, not to correct the problem, but for a temporary fix. If all went well (and that was not a guarantee), baby would face further surgeries and probable physical limitations throughout his or her life.
C. and her husband went through months of doctor visits and tests, some less comfortable than others, and were barraged by information, much of it distressing. Throughout it all, C. carried herself with such strength and bravery that I could not go without mentioning it here. Now let’s be clear, she was very human. I certainly saw emotions and tears (though never what Oprah would deem “the ugly cry’!) but she was a model of faith and poise, and I personally don’t know how she did it.
She taught full-time until just weeks before the birth, and celebrated her family Christmas a week early (her kids wrote to Santa to explain the situation, and fortunately he was accommodating enough to make a special advance trip), before heading to the big city to bring baby into the world.
Let’s fast forward, shall we, to the good news? Baby William has indeed entered the world, and has made his presence known. In his first two weeks of life, he has undergone various procedures, one of which being the aforementioned open heart surgery. He has also surprised doctors and nurses with his resilience, and is going home to join his family TODAY (an incredible two weeks after birth, and one week after heart surgery).
Oh, and get this: C. is the dear friend who introduced me to the Pandora bracelet, and she emailed from the hospital to tell me that they have a program there called “Bravery Beads” where kids get a new bead every time they undergo a procedure. “Very Pandora-esque,” she informed me, “and he already has quite a collection!”
Ah, like mother, like son.
You would assume that by the fourth child, moms know it all (or think they do), and have little time to pore over their babies, let alone books detailing every possible baby behaviour. Something tells me that C. will enjoy doing just that, as she cherishes every moment with her little miracle. Therefore, “Your Baby Is Speaking To You”
will soon be in her (already very full) hands.
It would be greatly appreciated if you, dear reader, could pause right now and offer a prayer for C. and her family, and especially for sweet William. (In his short life I have already heard him referred to as Wills, William the Strong, William the Brave, Bela – the Hungarian equivalent of his name, and Puff Baby – a reference to his appearance at one point during his hospital stay, and a one-time thing, I was assured.)
By the way C., do I have to wrap the book now that you know what you’re getting? 🙂