When I was expecting Deacon, I thought about what it would mean to start over with another baby. Back to diapers, bottles, interrupted sleep, endless spit-up covered laundry. … But, in my mind, the most frustrating part of starting anew would be the loss of communication. My other kids are old enough to be very solid communicators—they tell me what they want or need, and I decide if I’m going to honor those wants and needs. They can talk about their feelings, emotional and physical. If they have a headache or a stomachache, they can tell me, and I can try to fix it. I thought it would be hard to start over with prelingual communication.
I was wrong. As I’ve gotten to know baby Deke, I’ve remembered how babies converse. No, he can’t tell me anything in words, but is that even necessary? If Deke had words, he would be telling me, “Bottle. Hold me. Tummy hurts.” Just as we don’t need a dog to speak in order to know what he needs (“Food. Walk. Treat. Attention.”), we don’t need a baby to talk either.
There are very few instances when I really don’t know what Deacon needs. His schedule and his different cries tell me what I need to know.
First, the schedule. If Deke just woke up and he’s crying, he’s looking for a bottle. If it’s been more than a half hour since he ate and Deke is starting to fuss, he’s tired and needs to be put down for a nap.
Then there are the different cries. The hunger cry is the one I hear the most—it’s loud and insistent, becoming increasingly hysterical if I take too long to deliver the bottle. If I try to give Deke a binky when he’s doing the hunger cry, he takes it up a notch to let me know he’s disappointed.
The “I’m tired” cry is more of a fussy behavior than the full-out hunger cry. It’s somewhat abated with a binky, then comes the swaddle, and then his eyes start to lose focus and he goes to sleep.
If Deke has a diaper rash, he does a funny cry (peculiar, not hilarious) where he sucks in air as he cries. I don’t know why this accompanies a sore bottom, but all of my babies have done the same.
If Deke has a gassy tummy, he cries and scrunches up his face while arching his back. He also fusses when he has a dirty diaper and when his face is covered, but it’s pretty easy to recognize and solve those problems.
Then there’s the “I’m hurt” cry, which pops up if I accidentally bang him into something or Graham is playing with him too hard. That’s a 0 to 60 shrill cry.
Not all of Deke’s communication involves crying. He does a lot of cooing, too. I’m not concerned about finding out what he’s trying to say when he coos, because I’m pretty sure he’s not saying anything. He is making noises because he hears us talking and he wants to respond in the same way. He just likes us! Deke is also a champion smiler, and his eyes get big and excited when he’s having fun—looking at toys or splashing in the bathtub.
Deke can read my tone and my facial expressions, and I can do the same for him. I’d say we’re connecting pretty well, words or no!