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HAGEN: Our little addition to the family

Zoey B.

If you've run across perhaps the most smiley baby in all of South Dakota, you've probably met Zoey, our 7-month-old daughter.

Her middle name is Barbara, after her great-grandmother, my grandma, my dad's mom.

As I write these details about our little girl's life, I sometimes wonder why anyone would be interested. It's been quite a few months since I've assembled a parenting column, and I guess I have good reason for that.

The birth of Zoey was exhausting for me and my wife. (Of course, significantly more-so for her.) But, especially recently, I've heard folks asking me when I plan to update the world on my life as a parent — and specifically the little addition to our family.

For weeks, we wondered why Zoey was small and falling behind typical growth patterns when she was in the womb. Doctor visits, seemingly constant monitoring and too much worrying was prevalent for weeks before she was born on April 25.

At 36 weeks and two days, she was welcomed into this world weighing 4 pounds, 2 ounces. She was tiny. She still is.

Zoey has Russell-Silver Syndrome. Her case is sporadic, meaning it comes with no family history of the disorder. Symptoms of RSS have a broad range, including many cases in which they're so mild some people who have it are undiagnosed. We learned due to genetic testing after she was born.

The quick synopsis is Zoey will be short her whole life. The average adult woman grows to be about 4 foot, 7 inches, but growth hormones have proven to help development for people with RSS. While the exact frequency of RSS is unknown, worldwide estimates range between 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 100,000 people have it.

She eats slow. Super slow. In many cases of RSS, children are forced to use a feeding tube. But not Zoey. I honestly marvel at the patience of my wife and our day-care provider, who each day ensure our little girl is getting the high-calorie diet she needs for her little stomach to digest.

Zoey weighs about 9 pounds. Our 7-month-old baby weighs 9 pounds. Almost each year on my birthday, I'm reminded by my mom that I weighed more than 9 pounds when I was born.

For the most part, she's a great baby. She's been sleeping through the night for months. Despite her small stature, she continually impresses us during her weekly physical therapy appointments that help her grow strong.

And the best part about her? The smiles. This kid smiles so much.

Her heart-warming facial expressions are usually the ice-breaker with strangers in the checkout line at the grocery store.

"Oh, my gosh! I thought that was a little doll in there," the person will say while peeking into Zoey's car seat. "That must be a newborn."

"Actually, she's about 7 months."

"Wow, was she premature?"

"No, not really. She was born at 36 weeks."

Usually, a puzzled look fills the face of the stranger. "She sure is small."

Yeah, Zoey is small. We know that — and all throughout her life we're sure people are going to remind her, and us, of that.

So be it. We've got an awesome little girl whose smiles light up the room and we're proud to call our kid.

That's some parenting news I'm darn proud to share.