“Ah-goo”

I guess you could call me a word guy. My wife, Deb, can confirm this. I like words; I like reading. I like listening to my selections from Audible.

From time to time, Deb helps me edit and proofread my book projects for various publishers.

As she is reading a chapter, she might say, “Is ‘coffee mug’ hyphenated?”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s an open compound. Check Merriam-Webster eleventh. If it’s not hyphenated in Merriam, it’s not hyphenated.” I use the term “Merriam-Webster eleventh” a lot, maybe every day.

A friend of Deb’s gave us a book—a memoir by a woman who gave birth to her second daughter in 2010. Author Kelle Hampton relates in the first chapter that as soon as she saw her baby’s face, she knew with certainty that her daughter had Down syndrome. Kelle had had no prenatal testing. She was thirty-one, an age when the chances of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome is around 1 in 1,000.

But Kelle knew. And in her beautifully written memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, readers feel her profound pain on the day of Nelle’s birth.

I’m still reading the book. It knocks me out every time I pick it up. Every sentence is beautifully written, and, like I said, I’m a word guy.

The book begins:

I turned thirty-one on December 29, 2009. My husband and I went to dinner with friends the evening before, and as we left, toting our leftovers in Styrofoam boxes and marveling at my very round pregnant belly that seemed to have grown a bit since dinner, I noticed the welcoming glow of the nearby bookstore…

Joy Elizabeth is eleven weeks old. These first eleven weeks have been wonderful. During the first ten weeks, she slowly gained weight and some length. Her 0-3 month clothes are getting a little snug on her tiny body. We have retired the outfit that we call Hello Kitty Clouds—a white sleeper that has cartoon clouds that kinda look like Hello Kitty. The outfit seems just a little too tight now.

At week eleven, though, something amazing happened.

During the first ten weeks, Joy’s vocal sounds consisted of breathing, crying (a rare occurrence that only happens when she is very hungry), and grunting (when she is filling up her diaper).

But on week eleven, Joy started cooing (I’m calling it talking).

Daughter Andi was holding Joy, their faces just a few inches apart, when Joy said, “Ah-goo, ah-goo.”

“Did you hear that, Deb? Joy is talking,” I said. “Words are coming from her tiny mouth. Oh my goodness.”

“Let me see,” said Deb, who came over to witness the event.

“Deb, Joy looked right into Andi’s eyes and said, ‘Ah-goo’!” I said.

We each took turns holding the baby that afternoon, trying to elicit more baby talk. Eventually, over a period of days, she repeated her assertion to anyone who would listen: “Ah-goooo!”

When Cathy, Joy’s OT from First Steps stopped by two days ago to assess Joy, she said, “So Mom and Dad, what is going on with Joy?”

I could have mentioned Joy’s weight gain or her ability to roll over and raise her head. I could have talked about her good appetite. I could have mentioned that Joy can bring her fist to her mouth and bring her hands together. But I didn’t.

“She says ‘Ah-goo’ now. All the time. I’m sure she will say it while you are here,” I said.

“Aww,” said Cathy. “I love that word.”

I knew it, I thought. It’s a word. It might not be in Merriam-Webster eleventh edition, but it’s a word. She just said so.

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