Almost immediately after Avery was born, Lynnette and I noticed she seemed to have the habit of licking and chewing on her burp cloths, or whatever cloth was available. It didn’t matter if it was a blanket or beanie or the shirt of the person carrying her. If it was within the reach of her mouth, she was going to gnaw at it.
As time passed, her behavior never changed – only the things that she nibbled on did. As early as two months old we learned that we could appease her cries by tossing a burp cloth on her face. She would tug at it, position it near her mouth, then fall asleep with it between her lips. Eventually, her teeth began to appear and her grazing moved on to harder objects. Lynnette was the first to call her a goat, roaming the living room in search of the next thing to nibble on .
This behavior never really changed. We have to be especially watchful of her because she’s been known to chew away at the foam padding we’ve tried to baby-proof our entertainment unit with. After a few days of catching her with yellow fibers in her mouth, we finally solved the mystery when we spotted her biting and ripping the fur off of a Big Bird toy with her teeth. This behavior isn’t all for show, however.
Avery is easily the most aggressive eater of our 3 children. Madison eats like a bird on a diet and Cole eventually gets full. But Avery? She she never stops eating. Cole gets bored of sitting in his high chair after a while and starts tossing his puff off the tray (to Abby’s total delight). Not Avery she will sit there and eat bit of food given to her. And if it disappears? She does this thing. She opens her mouth, makes eye contact with the closest adult, then grunts. She also does this when she feels she’s not being fed fast enough. Last night she giggled every single time a piece of watermelon was placed into her mouth. Hey eyes shut, her nose scrunched, and she let out a breathy laugh. Over and over.
I held out for as long as I could when Avery got sick this summer. It happened the week before our huge family reunion. I didn’t want my family to have to explain – over and over – where we were, to be bombarded with follow-up questions, etc., so I put it out here. And when I initially began writing about her stay in the hospital, I didn’t post pictures of her face or full body for almost a month. I couldn’t. I thought I would jinx it or something stupid like that, or that it wasn’t cool of me to do that to her. But I now understand the truth: I couldn’t face it. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense. But there was something about uploading that picture that would have done away with measured words I used at the time. It would have been crystal clear exactly how much trouble she was in. It would have made it real for everyone who knew us and cared about us, and I couldn’t handle that weight.
I can’t write about Avery’s first birthday without writing about how she almost didn’t make it this far. I’m ready.
At the height of her illness, Avery was unrecognizable to me. Her throat and face were so swollen that she looked fake to me, like some kind of low-budget prop on the set of a B-movie. Avery was being administered something like 16 different medications simultaneously, continuously. She was on a ventilator. The infection had spread from her throat into her bloodstream and it caused her organs to malfunction; one of the aforementioned medications was given specifically to help her kidneys work properly. Her body built up so much liquid that she had become squishy to the touch. Keeping her blood pressure at an appropriate level was a minute-to-minute concern. Weeks after Avery finally came home from the hospital, Lynnette told me that the first night she stayed over with Avery alone (I was at home with Cole and Madison) she saw the staff wheel the code cart into the hallway outside of Avery’s room. She was that close. She was that close for a while. And somehow:
You are the strongest person I have ever met, and I know you get that from your mother. How did you do it? How did you keep fighting when it looked like all was lost? I have been lucky these past few weeks. For whatever reason, you’ve enjoyed – rather than merely tolerated – my presence. When I get home every day, I jump into the play area (before I take my tie off!) and pick you up by the armpits and sit you on my belly. Do you think me a camel? “How was your day?” I ask. You smile. “What did you do?” I ask. You laugh and clap your hands. You’re so happy to see me every day. You have no idea how happy, how grateful I am to see you every day. I love you, Gravy. Happy birthday, PITA Girl.