Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

April 30, 2001

The thing with Lucy's mouth

Lucy has developed a curious new feature. It’s a tooth, a front tooth. Only, it’s not in the front of her mouth.

Rather, it appears to have slid about a half-inch from the center, not unlike where you would expect a vampire’s fang to dangle.

We call it “The Slider.”

And now, the question before us is, “Is the Slider a runaway front tooth, or is Lucy just getting a side tooth first?”

Right now, it’s too early to tell. The Slider has only just emerged. This is no surprise, of course. We were expecting a top tooth; but we just thought it would appear someplace else. In fact, I was working upstairs one night a couple of weeks ago while Adam was feeding Lucy her dinner. He hollered for me to come right away, because he thought he saw the tooth, making its way into the world. I ran down – who wouldn’t hurry to see a first look at her baby’s top tooth?

As it happened, though, it was only creamed corn.

The Slider, however, is for real. No vegetable in the world that could hurt as much when applied, with pressure, to my bare breast. This pain and suffering is OK, though. A little misery in the name of parenthood is part of the deal. Besides, Adam gets it worse. Every time he carries Lucy in the sling, she kicks him right in the groin, thereby increasing the odds that she will be an only child.

There is another kind of pain, though, that I am handling with less grace.

And that is the pain that comes with wondering if this tooth means Lucy has her mouth on sideways. Now I know, it would not be the end of the world if Lucy had a few teeth in the wrong places. I’ve described Adam’s unique dental history, and in all fairness, I should also reveal that one of my teeth – a permanent one, no less - came in 10 years late, and backward.

But Lucy, up until now, has been so perfect. She has a smile that gives wings to my heart. It’s lemon-shaped, huge and symmetrical.

Thinking my silly, worried thoughts, I started surfing the Internet to see if there was any way of telling whether the tooth we’re seeing is a front tooth gone amok, or a side tooth that’s just coming in a little early.

The verdict, I’m afraid, is unclear. I found a rather vividly named tooth “eruption chart” that labels teeth with a letter between A and E. The “A” and “B” teeth come in first; the “E” teeth, last. The A teeth are in the center of the top and bottom, and the B teeth sit like bookends on either side of their A-list neighbors.

It’s possible that Lucy’s Slider is a B tooth, and is therefore perfectly normal. But it’s really far to the side, which means she’s going to have a helluva gap even if it is normal. She’s going to be like the Wife of Bath from the Canterbury tales. Lusty and “gat-toothed.” We’re going to have to sell our kidneys to pay for the braces. We’re... we’re...

It’s at times like these that I realize I am getting ahead of myself. First of all, the Slider might slide right back into place once it has a little more company. Second of all, it’s a baby tooth. She’ll be getting a do-over in a few years. Third of all, a snaggletooth smile on Lucy is bound to be as cute as a regular one.

Finally, and most important, I love her just the way she is, and however she’s going to be.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to worry. And the real truth is, it’s a lot easier to worry about something like a baby tooth than the other things I’ve feared lately. In fact, I’ve been so worried, I haven’t been able to write about it. I’ve just wanted the gnawing feeling to go away.

It’s not, though. Which means it’s time for me to start thinking about what I’m going to do if it’s actually a problem.

So here goes. All of the baby books that I’ve read mention a couple key things babies should be doing that Lucy is not doing, and hasn’t done.

One of them seems silly: It’s the act of sticking out her tongue, in imitation of Adam and me when we do this. One book I read said all babies could do this, starting at just a few weeks. Lucy has never been able to do this – not well, anyway. And she only did it a couple times today, meekly, after Adam spent a few minutes focusing on nothing else.

It worries me that Lucy can’t really stick out her tongue. Does it mean she doesn’t get the fact that she has a tongue, or that we’re trying to communicate and she’s not getting the clue?

This leads me to my second fear: that Lucy’s also not really making the kind of sounds she is supposed to. I was alarmed a couple days ago when I read that 4-month-old babies are supposed to be able to imitate sounds their parents are making. Lucy doesn’t do this, at 8 months. And she was a little over 6 months old before she made a recognizable “ba” sound – her first, unless you count the “ma” sound she would sometimes make when she was crying really hard.

I mentioned this to the pediatrician at Lucy’s 6-month checkup. The doctor said she would be worried, but for that detail – that Lucy could say “ma” when she was crying. That wasn’t much comfort then, and it’s even less now that two months have passed and Lucy is not stringing together multiple syllables, the ba’s and ga’s that are the hallmarks of healthy baby chatter.

It’s not that Lucy is silent. She makes noises. Just not the noises that the books say she is supposed to make. When I combine this with my observation that Lucy is also apparently unable to stick out her tongue, it starts to feel ominous.

So, there is my fear, written down at last. That perhaps what we are seeing is just the edge of a problem, just as we are seeing the edge of Lucy’s first top tooth. Things are not quite where they should be.

I will talk to the doctor about it, next month when we go in for Lucy’s 9-month checkup. And I will keep talking to Lucy, every chance I can get, so that I feel confident I’m doing everything I can to help her develop speech.

That aside, there’s nothing I can do. Lucy is who she is. This may be nothing. All children are different; all human beings are different. The only reason I will ever want her to be like anyone else is just because I know that sometimes, it’s our differences that make people reject us. I don’t want her to ever feel that kind of pain.

So, I am feeling it for her, and loving her all the more. She is my child. Perfect or not, I would die for her a thousand times, every time feeling grateful for every second I’ve had her.

Except maybe when she bites me. I may be a mother, but I’m still human, after all.


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