Monday, May 2, 2016

A Letter to My Baby - Ten Months


Dear Will,

Double digits little man. I took this picture last night. We had just gotten home from Pittsburgh where we were for the last days of Pesach. There were suitcases everywhere, you had smashed blueberries in your hair from dinner, and you needed a bath and a bottle. But since we were away on the day you turned 10 months, nothing would do but that we take these pictures the very second we got home. So I laid out the blanket and arranged the blocks, and put you on the couch. You promptly grabbed all three blocks at the same time and made a quick work of escaping from your perch. I caught you before you took a header straight onto the floor, and managed to snap a few pictures before your patience with me completely ran out.

I'm laughing as I look at these pictures today because they capture the very essence of you, at 10 months. Happy and curious, smiley, silly, and full of fun, impatient with sitting still, and eager to get on with the business of whatever comes next. It's like you know that there is so much more ahead, and you just want to get to it already. 

I understand this because sometimes I do too. I can't wait to watch you take your first steps and all the other amazing things that come with growing up. But at the same time, I look at you and I wonder where my baby went, if he is still there somewhere inside the sturdy little boy you are becoming. You are growing and changing so fast that it sometimes steals my breath and I feel the conflicting emotions of motherhood more acutely these days than I ever have before; pride in how beautifully you are growing and excitement for everything still to come, all mixed up with nostalgia for the months and milestones that are already behind us.

And those milestones are coming fast and furious these days.

Last month you started scooting around, but this month you took it to a whole new level. You fly around the house, never satisfied to stay where you are when there are so many other interesting places to explore. You have started climbing up on your knees to get to things that are out of your reach, and last week you realized that, if you work just a little harder, you can pull yourself up to your full height. You aren't quite there yet, but the fierce look of determination that crosses your face every time you try makes me think you will be soon.

You are getting more and more verbal, and I see you watching us when we talk, trying to copy the sounds and words that we make. You are never happier than when you are sitting on the floor surrounded by toys and talking to yourself. You say "da-da" a lot, and we still can't decide if it's intentional or not, but we know that your first words aren't too far away. 

Seeing you discover your world these past months has been an incredible thing for me. Your eyes are bright and sharp and miss absolutely nothing. When it comes to toys and books and food you know exactly what you want and you can't be distracted, and your focus is pretty amazing for someone so little. Grandma told me last weekend that you remind her of me in that way, and that makes me really happy because I often find myself watching you, wondering what your daddy and I passed on to you, and what parts of you are uniquely yours. It's the pleasure of motherhood, I think, to look at your child and understand that they carry pieces of you that they will make into something all their own. 

In all honesty, the fact that you are ten months old just blows my mind because at this time last year I was still two months away from meeting you, wondering who you would be, what parenting would be like, and whether I would be any good at it. Time seemed to pass both rapidly and agonizingly slow, and I never felt quite prepared for whatever was coming next. Then you were here, brand new and tiny and needing me like no one else ever had before, and there wasn't space to think about that anymore. It took some time, but we settled into a groove, you and I, and I like to think I've done a pretty good job so far. There are times I wonder, but then you smile at me and let out a laugh, and I realize how silly that is. You are happy and healthy and full of fun and most importantly, you are mine. Just the way you're supposed to be.

You are the joy of my life, my sweet Will. Keep on being exactly who you are.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom

Monday, April 4, 2016

Right Where I Left It

I put the bottle of water on my desk Friday morning, but the day got away from me. Then I was rushing out the door and the bottle was still unopened. I was too lazy and my back hurt too badly to walk back around my desk to get it, so I left it there.

I figured I would drink it on Monday.

It was 4:17 on Tuesday morning and the sky was just beginning to lighten when the nurse handed me my newborn baby boy. He wasn't crying, which surprised me. His huge eyes scanned the room, observing his new surroundings. For a second his eyes locked on mine. "I have a baby now," is what I thought.

The traffic home was hideous, as expected. Ninety minutes in to what should have been a forty minute drive home I needed a snack and a bathroom. I really wished I had taken that bottle of water.

Heat was shimmering from the asphalt street when I walked through the revolving door of the hospital. Sweat seeped down my back as I sat on the bench with the car-seat beside me, waiting for David to bring the car around. I looked at my baby, swimming in the newborn-sized alligator sleeper that I bought at Target two weeks before, and wondered if he was hot. It occurred to me that he probably had to eat soon and that his diaper hadn't been changed in awhile because no one told me to change it. I was failing at motherhood already. I was tired down to my bones. 

It took two hours to finally get home. I used the bathroom and had a snack. I talked to my family on the phone and assured them that no baby had been born yet. I spent the rest of the weekend alternating between laying on my outdoor couch and my indoor one.

"I have to go," my friend said at the end of our phone call. "We're going to the Yankee game." Drowning in diaper changes, bottles, 3am feedings, and puddles of my own tears it seemed impossible that the world was still spinning, that anyone was still doing something as normal as going to a baseball game.  

I was dressed for work when I went to the doctor on Monday morning. I had a list of things to put in order before I went out on maternity leave. We parked in short term parking and I told my office I would be in by ten.

He was five weeks old when he smiled at me for the first time. His whole face opened up and I fell in love. I was a mother. They told me how it would be. They were right. Toys took over my living room. We all got a little more sleep. He grew and changed. So did I.

The doctor said something about low fluid and insufficient growth. The details didn't really matter. I was having a baby. Today. They sent me up to labor and delivery. David went home for my hospital bag. They hooked me up to an IV and I called my office. "I guess I'll see you in November," I said to them. "Sorry about that list." They laughed. I didn't.

I rocked my baby all the way to sleep before I went to find something to wear. The clothes hanging in my closet were foreign to me. I tried some of them on but nothing looked the way it used to. I felt tired, soft, unprepared. I picked the dress that looked the least bad and figured it was the best I could do. I watched him sleep in his crib and wondered if he would be ok without me. If I would be ok without him.

I stepped off the elevator and buzzed myself onto my floor. My key-card still worked. I was surprised. I walked down the hall to my office, trying to summon the lawyer that had lain dormant for four months while the mother became. I opened the door. There was the bottle of water, sitting on my desk.

Right where I left it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Letter to My Baby - Nine Months


Dear Will,

This morning at 6:45, I heard you talking in your crib. It's your morning routine these days. You start stirring around 6:30, and by 6:45, you are ready to come out and greet the day. So I went downstairs to get your bottle and then came to get you. I brought you into my room and you laid on my bed and fed yourself while I finished getting dressed. Every now and then you took a break from the bottle and you chattered to yourself while you looked around my room, happy with yourself and with things in general.

That's you these days. Happy and smiley and thrilled with all the new things that you are discovering. 

And lately, there has been a whole lot of new. Last week we packed up and moved to our new house. It was a little sad for me, leaving the house where we lived when we were waiting for you to be born, the house we first brought you home to. I remember that day so well. I sat in the backseat next to you for the thirty minute drive and I was more tired than I have ever been in my life, but I was afraid to fall asleep because the nurses and doctors in the hospital just let me leave with you and now it was my job to keep you safe. Grandma and Poppy were waiting in the driveway when we pulled in. They helped us bring everything inside, and then I sat with you on the couch in the family room and you were so impossibly tiny and it was hard for me to imagine you ever getting big.

But you did, of course. You are.

Our new house might not be the house that we brought you home to, but it is the house that you will grow up in. And it seems like you have already done so much growing up in the week that we have been there. You love playing in your new playroom, and you figured out quickly that our wood floors work really well for scooting. You sit up now, and use your left leg to motor yourself wherever you want to go, instead of crawling. It's surprisingly efficient and as a side benefit for us, really funny to watch. Before we all know it you'll be walking, and when I look out at our backyard I can practically see you running around, playing on the swing set we will definitely buy next year, and I know without hesitation that this house was exactly the right choice. 

Once day when you're older I'll drive you past our old house. I'll show you the place where I used to spread your baby blanket so we could lay outside in the sun together, and I'll show you the place on the deck where you would sleep in your chair while we ate dinner, barely taking our eyes off of you. I'll show you the place where we stumbled our way through the early months of parenthood, making mistakes but loving you in all the ways we knew how. I'll show you the place where we became a family. You won't remember it, so I'll tell you and then you'll know.

Sometimes at night I come into your room and for a minute or two I watch you while you sleep, always on your tummy with your arms tucked underneath you. You barely stir when I put my hand gently on your back and that's my favorite time of the day to offer up a prayer for you. Thank you for my baby, I say. Help me keep him happy and safe. And standing there in the dark while you're fast asleep in your crib I feel the full weight of motherhood, with all of its complexity and the startlingly simple well of love that runs through its core. 

Nine months old, my sweet Will. I know I say this all the time, but I can hardly believe it. You're getting bigger and sturdier every day and it's so much fun to watch you grow and change. But no matter what happens, you'll still be my baby.

Always, ok?

With love as big as the sky,

Mom

Friday, March 25, 2016

Empty Rooms, Moving On


I surprised myself over the past couple of weeks. Going through all of the motions to get our old house packed and moved, all of the details involved in moving a whole life from one place to another, I was surprisingly unsentimental and not at all anxious about it. Maybe it was the fact that we are moving less than a mile away or my level of excitement about the new house, but my reaction was markedly different from the first time we moved when I wanted to stake a for sale sign in the front lawn and go reclaim my old life as soon as possible.

It's no secret that change is not easy for me. And yet, in the face of this one, my attitude was less "what in the world are we doing?" and more "this is great, bring it on."

Even when I stood in the new house surrounded by boxes, holding my almost nine month old baby because there was not a single dust and dirt free surface on which to put him down to play, and texting my family pictures of the chaos with captions like "send Xanax," I was feeling pretty good about it all. I just put the baby to bed early, rolled up my metaphorical sleeves, and dove in.

Sure, we still have boxes all over the place, the movers did a crappy job, my whole lower level is basically an unusable dumping ground for another week or so until we finish up some work on the basement, and there are currently three TVs in my living room. But I love this house so much, and I can see past all of this, a couple of weeks into the future, when all of the odds and ends are finished and we get down to the business of living here - my little family, making this place our own.

But the thing about being excited to move forward is that it's better not to look back, at least for a little while. And for a couple of days, I did a pretty good job of that. Having to work all week meant I didn't have a front-row seat to the actual business of moving. I didn't watch the movers put my life into boxes, and I didn't see then haul those boxes away. I didn't see the moving truck and I didn't see the slowly emptying rooms.

Until I did. 

Wednesday night I went back to the house to do a quick walk-through, to make sure that nothing was left behind and that things were clean for the new owners. I went in through the front door and my footsteps echoed as I walked through the rooms, assaulted by memories, vaguely unsettled by the spackled holes on the wall where the TV once hung, the empty blue room where my tiny baby slept, and my beloved bookshelves empty of their usual abundance of romance novels. And for the first time, I was sad.

My job done, I walked out of the house for the last time and locked the door behind me, but I left something in that house. I understand now that when we live well we leave pieces of ourselves behind in the place where all the living happens. Behind that red door of 26 Overlook Road is where I brought a baby home and learned how to be a mom. It's where I felt for the first time the kind of grief that brings you to your knees and breaks you into pieces. It's where we loved and laughed and planned and made memories. The walls of the house tell our stories. We are there, even once we have moved on.

It's strange to think about a new family living in my old house, making memories that will exist alongside mine. But this, I suppose, is life. Change, moving on, looking back. Moments that are exciting and sad at the same time. Because there is also a new red door now and a new blue room where a not-so-little anymore baby sleeps, and other rooms that are just starting to fill up, where we will make our memories and leave pieces of ourselves. 

Where we will be at home.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Kind Of New Beginning


Once upon a time, about three and a half years ago, we bought a house. After a seemingly endless round of construction and a hurricane that derailed our plans for a couple of days, we packed up the life we had made on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I said goodbye to the city that - in a very real way - grew me up and shaped me, and we drove twenty miles north, to our new home in the Westchester County suburb of White Plains.

It was rocky at first, as new beginnings tend to be, and it took some time before I felt like I was finally home. In my new house I turned thirty and thirty-oneI went through some very tough stuff. I turned thirty-two poised on the brink of enormous change. This past June, that change arrived in the form of a tiny little boy, and I turned thirty-three as the mom of that boy who is sweet and silly and smiley and not so very tiny anymore.

The walls of our house that were once a blank slate now hold a canvas of memories of the past three and a half years. Some good, some bad, all ours. Just the way it's supposed to be.

A few months ago we decided it was time to start thinking about doing the construction on our house that we had always known we would have do someday in the nebulous future. With a baby and out-of-town family, we needed more space, but when we started talking to the people who could make what we needed a reality, we realized it would be more difficult and expensive than we ever imagined to do what we needed to do, and it might make more sense to consider moving. So we started poking around the neighborhood to see if there was a house that might be better for us.

The thought of moving to a new house though, right on the heels of a new baby, filled me with horror. The whole process - offers, negotiation, mortgage, selling a house, packing, actually moving - seemed overwhelming enough to reconsider just staying put. 

But then I saw it. That house up there. It was a gorgeous fall Sunday when we went to look at it, and when I walked through, I knew I wanted it to be mine. I could see us there. I could see my baby growing up there, running around outside and playing on the swing-set that will undoubtedly grace the backyard one day. I could see how this could and would be our forever home. That this would be the place where we would raise our family. It was perfect for us, and I fiercely wanted it to be ours.

And now, it is.

As I made some calls this morning to book movers and plan the other odds and ends that go along with moving a life from one place to another, I thought I would feel sad, and a little nostalgic. But I don't. Not this time. What I feel, is happy. Happy to be making this move - undoubtedly one that is good and right for my little family. Happy to still be living in this beautiful community that we have made ours. Happy to be selling our house to a family that I know will love it as much as we have. Happy to know that the memories we have made will follow us home, and happy to know how many new memories live in the house that we are just about to make our own.

Big change is just over the horizon and for the first time, maybe ever, I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Letter to My Baby - Eight Months


Will,

Eight months old, my little man. 

I took the first of these pictures of you when you were just one month old. You were too little to even be propped up on the couch, so I had to lay you down on the blanket while you looked around, wondering what in the world was happening. Yesterday afternoon, when I took your eight month pictures, I could barely get you to stay still for more than three second at a time. You knew exactly what was going on, and you were far more interested in sitting up and leaning over the front of the couch to try and find something to play with then you were in smiling for any sort of picture.

That's you, at eight months. You are busy and curious and a bundle of energy. You still love your toys, and as soon as you sit down, you always search out your favorites. I realized the other day that I don't have to put things right in front of you anymore. You can reach for what you want, and when you get it, you look up at me with a big smile as if to say, "hey, look what I did!" And when you smile at me, you flash your two brand new bottom teeth, and it's so cute I can't even stand it. Just this morning you were reaching for something and you toppled right over. For a second I thought you would cry, but you didn't. Instead, you just rolled to your stomach and pushed yourself up, kicking your legs and babbling away, as if that's what you meant to do the whole time.

You are, I think, about two minutes away from crawling. You can get up on all fours and rock back and forth, but then you always fall flat on your tummy, waving your arms and legs, trying so hard to move, and getting frustrated when you just stay put. I can practically see the wheels turning in your head, trying to figure it out. I'm waiting for the day when you finally put it all together though, because as soon as you do, I think you are going to be unstoppable.

More than ever, you are clear in the things that you like and don't like, and never hesitate to let us know. You love bananas and you hate peas. You love being in the car but could do without that pesky car-seat, thank you very much. You were enthusiastic about puffs, but threw those scrambled eggs right onto the floor. Seeing your tiny mouth trying to figure out whether to scream or grin when you try something new never doesn't make me laugh. 

As you get bigger, I sometimes look at you and I feel like I can see the person you are going to be in the baby that you are and it's just fascinating to me. As a mom, I sometimes just think of you as an extension of me. And that's normal, I think. Because after all, you came from me - literally - and because somewhere in the middle of bottles and diapers, of baths and bedtimes, of pick-ups and drop-offs and schedules, it's easy to forget that these days don't last forever, no matter how much it sometimes feels like they will. But when I sit on the couch with my book and my coffee and watch you play on the carpet, I remember that you are a person all your own, more every day, and how amazing is that?

It's hard to believe that two-thirds of a year has gone by since the hot, hazy day that we brought you home from the hospital. That in four months we'll be singing you happy birthday. I know that I've written this to you before, but I can't help but think once again that time is a strange and funny thing. Your first few weeks seemed to drag on and on in a blur of doctors and bottles, sleepless nights and exhausted days. But the bigger you get, the faster they go, and I think that's why I like to write to you here. I like to think that I'll always remember every detail about this time when you were little and we were figuring out this whole life thing, but I know I won't. And I want to be able to tell you how it was. How I sometimes made mistakes and didn't always know what to do, but that I tried my very best, and loved you in every way I knew how. 

How you, my sweet Will, were, and are, my very best thing.

With love as big as the sky,

Mom