Now that I am aware of E2’s allergies and am able to eliminate her allergens from both her diet and mine, she is changing before my eyes. The baby who seemed to have to fight and struggle through every day and night of her life has given way to a toddler who is — it still seems so odd to me — happy quite a bit of the time. Some of it will be her age and her new ability to get around under her own power, of course, but a lot of it — it’s quite clear to see — is simply that she feels better. It rips me apart inside to know that the first year of her life was wracked with endless pain, when she was helpless to change anything and it was down to me to understand and fix what she was complaining so bitterly about, and I didn’t realise, didn’t choose to try an elimination diet, and instead carried on eating and actually feeding her the very things that were causing her so much pain. I hate that her first year in the world was such a miserable experience for her, and I hate that I made it so.
But I know better now and she is a much happier girl — sometimes like a different child altogether. She smiles nearly all the time, and chases her sister around like a love-struck puppy. She bestows kisses on nearly anyone within 15 feet, thrusting her pursed lips out and furrowing her brow over intense ‘kiss-me’ eyes. She says ‘peeezzzz’ when she wants something, and I suspect ‘thank you’ is not far off. And she chats happily on any object that even remotely resembles a phone. I can’t tell you the number of times M has roared that we have lost the telly remote again, only to discover it carelessly abandoned in some wholly illogical place at the end of another ‘telephone conversation’.
We do have a slight problem in that she is showing a tendency towards a temper and the associated tantrums that I never much got with her sister. I know this is because we were so distracted by her pain that I missed that crucial window at around six months to train her out of them. But we are now entering another crucial time (17 to 21 months) which will give us another chance (and probably the last before the twos set in) to really guide her onto the right path. Now when she screams wildly and falls into a limp heap on the floor, I know that it is pure toddler willfulness, and not unexplained pain, and I can react with the tools that I know will work: turning my head away, refusing to reward the drama, and then bursting into big smiles and much cuddling as soon as she gives up and reverts to a more pleasant demeanor. This is territory I know and understand. She, at last, is child I can understand.
And my rewards are growing by the day. Her newest thing is nothing short of heart-stopping. Upon request, she comes at me with open arms, flings them around my neck, buries her tiny head into me, and says, “Awwwwww…” Her sister, who has been wearing clothes for four-year-olds since she was two-and-a-half, was so much bigger when she reached this stage. But E2 is tiny and fragile — it’s like being hugged by the most precious of china dolls. It’s exquisite. It’s breath-taking. I ask her for it a thousand times a day. I cannot get enough.
And after the start in life I unwittingly gave her, I suspect she may not be able to get enough either, but I do so hope to be able to come close.