Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dear Will - Seven Months Old


Seven months. How did we get here already, my not-so-little-anymore babe?

This was the month that you really came alive. For the first time since you were born, I looked at you and I thought, "kid" instead of "baby." You have started talking up a storm and your eyes lock on mine when I talk to you, and I can see your brain working, just waiting to make actual words out of the sounds. And I know it's early for this, but I can't help but wonder what your first real words are going to be.

You never learned to roll over, but went right to sitting instead. It was as if you didn't have time for that slow progression, but were eager to just get to the good stuff already. You can sit up all by yourself now, and you are happy to sit on the living room floor for hours playing with your toys. And you love your toys. You don't just grab them and put them in your mouth anymore. Instead you bang them against each other and shake them to hear the sounds they make, and when you really like one of the sounds you look up at me and grin your big baby grin and laugh a little, as if you can hardly believe what you just did. From my perch on the couch, I watch you while you play, and I already think that you are going to have a really good imagination - just like your daddy - and that thrills me because his imagination has brought him so much happiness and joy, and I hope that yours does for you too.

You saw your very first snow this month. Last Saturday morning we woke up and the whole world was white. I took you to the door and you stared out at the still-falling snow and you bounced up and down, excited by this new thing. When the storm was over I dressed you up in your blue snowsuit that matches your eyes and took you outside to play. We sat you down in the snow that was almost as tall as you, and you giggled and squealed while we played the stereotypical new parents and scurried around snapping pictures. And I was so excited that you loved it because snow is one of my most favorite things, and I was already thinking ahead to next year when you can walk and talk and I can take you out to play and we can share my favorite snow day treats and I can show you all of the magic that happens during a winter storm.

Six months ago, when I was elbow deep in your diapers and spit-up and still waking up all night long, I wanted to kill anyone who would tell me to "enjoy it because it goes so fast." But I feel differently now. I understand now that it really does go so fast that I sometimes feel breathless. On the one hand, I want time to just slow its roll, to give me the opportunity to imprint these days and these moments so that I can always remember how it was when you were little and I was learning how to be a mom. But I also know that there is so much more up ahead. This paradox of motherhood informs all of my moments with you, and I suspect that this is exactly the way it should be.

You fill me up with goodness, my sweet Will. I'm so happy to be your mom.

With love as big as the sky,


Previous Letters:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

This Is Thirty-Three

Sunday morning, on the day of my 33rd birthday, David got up with the baby and I slept until 10am; undoubtedly and by far the latest I have slept in more than six months. I woke up alone in my room to the light streaming in from the window. It was quiet. It was glorious.

Saturday morning, on the day before my 33rd birthday, I woke up at 7am to my baby talking to himself in his crib. When I went to get him he smiled his biggest morning smile, and we went downstairs for our Saturday morning routine. Diaper change, bottle, an hour of reading books and playing with toys, and a morning nap. While he slept I drank coffee and read my book for an hour until he woke up, and we started all over again. A little different from my pre-baby Saturdays where I woke up late, drank coffee practically as soon as my eyes opened, and read my own books all day.

This, I think, is thirty-three. I just went back and read what I wrote last year when I turned 32, and I laughed because I really thought my life would just keep trucking on in the face of such enormous, life-altering change, but, well, nothing about having a baby and becoming a mother has been anything like I expected it to be. 

Thirty-three is knowing the names of ten different kinds of bottles, understanding baby clothes sizes, knowing when it's time to switch to the next size diaper, understanding the difference between a cry because something is really wrong and a "I don't want to go to sleep, I want attention" cry and knowing that there is a difference between a crib sheet and a bassinet sheet and a portacrib sheet and why in god's name does every bed my baby sleeps on have a different sized mattress? It is realizing that you can, in fact, survive on just a few hours of interrupted sleep at night, but that when everyone told you that the sleep-deprivation that comes with a newborn is akin to the seventh layer of hell, they were absolutely, positively right.

Thirty-three is being frustrated by all the roaring opinions everyone seems to have about how to do absolutely everything associated with your baby, and even with yourself once you have a baby. It is realizing that motherhood is hard no matter how you slice it, and as long as your baby is fed, diapered, and reasonably well rested, and you manage to eat semi-regular meals and fit in a shower every now and then, you are doing just fine.

Thirty-three is realizing that no matter how much becoming a mother has changed me, the core of me has stayed the same. I still watch an unreasonable amount of TV, sing along to country music in my car, hoard romance novels, and love french fries. I still prefer staying in to going out, I still devour Entertainment Weekly, I still can't get into Mad Men no matter how many times I try, and if it doesn't have a happy ending, I still won't read it or watch it. And all of this makes me happy. Because even though I am now a person who has a minor panic attack when I see a mid-day email from the daycare director, barely bats an eye (or even changes my clothes) when my baby throws up all over me, celebrates when he manages to get food in his mouth and swallow without spitting it, and thinks that the Nose Frida is the most genius invention of all time, those details have managed to wedge themselves in between the parts of me that were already there.

I wanted to say that all of those things have fit like puzzle pieces, but aside from being horribly cliche, the change just hasn't been as seamless as that. Because thirty-three is also knowing that, however inevitable most of this change is, it is still impossibly difficult. It is feeling utterly unprepared for all of the newness and sometimes a little baffled that the hardest and most unexpected parts of new-motherhood are hardly discussed at all except in whispers, as if admitting that the new parent experience is rarely filled with sunshine and rainbows and the singing of the angels is somehow disloyal to this new person that we have brought into the world. But thirty-three also comes with considerable relief that, six months into this parenting gig, I think that I have started to find the new normal that works for me and I seem to be, finally, hitting my stride.

Thirty-three is trying to hold my friends and family closer than I ever have before. It is remembering how deeply my growing up years were informed by the extended family that raised me as much as my parents did, and how it continues to shape me as an adult. Thirty-three is wanting my own children to have exactly what I did - to grow up knowing that there is a village of people surrounding them and loving them as they make their way, and giving them a soft landing and a place they can always call home.

Thirty-three is being blessed with this kind of family - the one I was born into and the one that I have made. The kind that has opened their arms and their hearts, showered my baby with fun, and who have loved him like he is their own, because he is. I understand that now.

Thirty-three is constantly being a little startled by the fact that I'm the adult now because most days I still feel like I'm in college and should be sleeping in a dorm room and snacking on Cheez-Its and orange soda while my roommate and I listen to Eminem on repeat. It blows my mind sometimes that I have a baby, a career, six nieces and nephews, and a mortgage. It seems like that should be for other people, people who are older than I am.

But it's not. Thirty-three is starting to understand that this is my life and it's the only one I get, so I am making an effort to open my eyes, to really see what's going on around me and to make the best decisions I can for my family and for myself. I'm not quite sure yet exactly what I want out of this whole life thing, except that I know I want to be a good friend and a good partner, daughter and sister. I want to be a good and interesting mother and to raise silly, happy, imperfect kids.

Thirty-three feels like the beginning of something, somehow; like I have my toes on the line and I am just waiting for the starting gun to go off. And I think I'm ready now to grab whatever lies ahead, even if I can't quite make out exactly what it is. But whatever it is, it feels like a privilege to be here now - to love and be loved, to have family and friends that are mine, to have a baby who is happy and healthy and bright. It took me some time to get here, and I feel like I want to honor where I am now and, especially, the journey to this place. More than ever, I understand that this is what's important. That, at thirty-three, these are the things that matter.