At first I was shocked. Baby Girl has always been remarkably alert. Even at a few days old, her eyes were open far more than a lot of other newborns I have seen. People commented on it. "How alert she is. She's really having a good look at everything." This idea that Baby Girl was always 'having a good look' must have sunk in over the weeks to the extent that I never really paid any attention to what she was looking at or, indeed, whether she was really looking at anything in particular.
Once I'd got over that first reaction, a lot of things suddenly slotted into place. Like the fact that Baby Girl wasn't really doing much in the way of smiling yet, she didn't pay any attention to her baby gym or the baby DVD I sometimes played her. I started really paying attention to her 'looking' and soon realised that while she appeared to be looking into my face, in reality she was often staring at a fixed point somewhere over my shoulder.
Then the amateur assessing started. I watched to see whether she reacted to the light being switched on or sudden sunshine (she did) and whether she flinched when I waved my hand suddenly right in front of her face (not so much). I started wafting things around in front of her eyes to try to get her to fix her gaze on them and track them as they moved. Nothing. And yet, remarkably, several times I am convinced I've seen her fixing and tracking at a greater distance.
I don't really know much about the development of a baby's vision, except that they start off only seeing nearby things and develop their distance vision later. I don't know whether we're looking at a vision problem here or a developmental one. I don't know whether it might all sort itself out with time. I keep hoping it will, waving my hand about in front of her face daily, looking for something different from yesterday.
But today I had another realisation. I met a friend's 4-week old daughter for the first time. The first thing I noticed straight away was that this newer baby is actually taller and bigger in every way than Baby Girl. Now I know why people keep remarking on how little she is!
The second thing I noticed was how, even at this young age, my friend's baby was so engaged in eye contact with whoever was holding her, smiling, looking, responding. Reality hit as it suddenly came crashing down on me that Baby Girl is not like this at all. There was this clear focus and engagement with my face, and then with the face that appeared over my shoulder as someone else came to take a look. I get none of that from Baby Girl. I was struck by just how much more interactive and engaging it is to look into the face of a baby that is clearly looking right back at you. I realised that, lacking this response from her, I was probably robbing Baby Girl of the face time that she still needs, even if she can't appreciate it with her eyes.
I choked up.
When we came home, I sat down with Baby Girl on my knee and spent about 15 minutes making noises at her and stroking her, enjoying her smiles in response. We need to find better ways of connecting, of communicating. I have work to do.