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Patience.

I feel significantly more patient with Charlie lately. I think this is a sign that I’m settling in to being a parent of two.

I’ve thought a lot about this. When it was just Hank, when Hank was a baby, it felt so hard. But now the thought of having just one — well, how easy is that? And partly that’s because I’m more experienced, but I think it has more to do with having adjusted to my life being less my own. When you have one kid, it’s this huge shock: Your life is not fully yours anymore. You can’t prepare for it, and it takes a long time to get used to it. But then, one day, you are used to it, and it’s not nearly as difficult to spend a significant amount of the time that you used to spend taking care of yourself taking care of someone else.

And then you have a second kid, and your life is even less yours. Even more of what little time you had left for yourself is now spent taking care of that second kid. And it’s hard again, so hard. It was almost harder the second time around, I think, because there was so little me time left at that point, and I didn’t want to give any more of it up. And we had come so far with Hank and landed in such a comfortable spot with him. He was sleeping well, he was fun to be around, he had independence. Charlie, in contrast, did not sleep, and he needed so much from/of us. I felt frustration and impatience with him that I do not remember having felt with Hank. Resentment, even. I more than once wondered: If I had the chance to do it over again, would I have a second child?

But I’m adjusting. I’m getting used to it. And Charlie’s getting older, which means he’s slightly less demanding.* But still pretty demanding. We’re into our third hour now of trying to get him to go down tonight (overtired? teething? who the heck knows?) and I’ve logged a good part of that rocking and nursing him in his chair, and there is a list of things I need to do–work, clean up for playgroup coming tomorrow morning, sleep–but I feel so patient.

And I’m so, so relieved.

*Also, it helps that he is so stinking adorable. That helps a lot.

Another one.

Tonight is the third night in a row that both boys (yes, it’s been over a year since my last post and there are two of them now) have gone down easily at a decent hour. And not coincidentally, it is the first night since Charlie was born that Chris has entertained the idea of having a third child. “Only because you are the best mama in the world and I hate to deprive another kid of that,” he said. Or something like that. I mean, it’s obviously¬†not true, but isn’t it a nice thing to say?

About 100 times a day, I go back and forth between thinking I could never ever handle another kid and just wanting more so so so badly. This shit is so hard sometimes, and I wish I had about a million bajillion more dollars and a million bajillion more hours in the day, but dang, I love being a mom.

I MEAN JUST LOOK AT THESE BOYS.

One year.

Dear Hank,

You are 1 year old. A whole year has gone by since you popped out and changed everything. You — and life with you — have gotten better and better. Along the way, I kept thinking I loved you the most I could possibly love you, that you were the best baby you could ever be, and then I’d realize a few weeks or days or minutes later that you were even better now, and I loved you even more. If you keep it up at this pace, my heart will surely burst.

You marked the occasion of your first birthday by finally deciding to clap. I’d been trying to coax clapping out of you for months — I’ve seen much younger babies able to do it, dude! get with the program! — but you’d refused. Then you basically woke up clapping on Saturday and kept it up all day long. I’m so mad at myself for not capturing video of you at your birthday party sitting in your high chair, covered in cake and frosting, clapping gleefully while your guests shared in your joy and laughter. You are such a crowd-pleaser, and you love people. I’m not quite sure how your quiet parents created such an outgoing little guy!

Other things you’ve learned to do in the past couple of weeks:

You walk, farther and with more confidence every day. You still fall frequently, and you still occasionally walk sideways, a byproduct of all the time you spent cruising along the furniture. You still need to pull or push up to a standing position, though I suspect you are physically capable of standing up straight from the floor — as with so many things you’ve learned to do at your own pace, it just needs to occur to you to do it, and you’ll be off.

You have a few signs: “all done,” “more,” “milk.” It’s unclear if you really know what each sign means, but you at least get the context right, signing “all done” and “more” at meal time and “milk” when you’re tired (since I only nurse you before sleep now). You’ll also make the signs if we say the words to you.

Watching you acquire language in different ways is an incredible experience. You understand more and more of what we say to you. You’ve seemed to understand our tone of voice for a while, but now you are responding to specific words. You wave when we tell you to wave, and you purse your lips when we say “whistle.” The other night in the bath my mom told you to blow bubbles, which she’d only taught you the night before, and you leaned over and blew bubbles in the bath water. Every day, you understand something new — and you distance yourself even further from the tiny, squirming, helpless baby we brought home from the hospital one year ago today.

My parents have been here for a week and a half, and it has been so wonderful to watch them spend time with you. You clearly know them and love them. I worry about their leaving in a couple of days — that they will miss you too much but also that you will miss them. You and your Gramps have a repertoire of inside jokes — looking at the ceiling, dangling socks from your mouths — the mere suggestion of which send you into hysterics. Your Gran has been teaching you all sorts of important things, like how to drink milk from a straw cup and how to work a dimmer switch. They’ve taken you to the park and to your music class, and you’ve spent a lot of time outside with Gran helping her work in the yard. Nothing makes me wish they weren’t so far away more than watching the three of you fall in love.

And now, you are a 1-year-old. You are a toddler. You are a big boy! The past year has been wild. I’ve experienced pain I never knew I could bear, both in childbirth and in the early days (weeks, months) of breastfeeding. I’ve felt things I did not expect or want, such as the early evening blues during my first few weeks of motherhood. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy staying home almost full time with you, which had never been my plan. I’ve been so proud of myself for all of these things, too — for toughing out the pain, for seeking the emotional support I needed, for finding creative ways to keep the endless hours of playtime with you interesting. And most of all, I’ve felt such intense love for you that sometimes I don’t know what to do with it all.

I look back at pictures and videos of you over the past year — I posted at least one a day to your Tumblr! — and I miss my little baby, but I don’t want to go back. You really do keep getting better and better, and I enjoy every day with you even more than the last. I can’t wait to find out what the next year brings — surely a new set of challenges but also even more laughter, even more joy, even more love.

I love you so, so much, my sweet, happy boy.

Love,

Mama

11.5 Months

Dear Hank,

You are almost a year old.

A year old!

You are nearly a person now, with an ever-more-defined personality (where you got your people-loving, outgoing charm is beyond us) and a body that moves in ways we were barely prepared for (last week, you took your first steps!). You find joy in a wonderful wide range of things: your cats (first word: “gah!”, which you often say from your crib when I come to get you in the morning, so excited you are to spend another day with your buddies), standing at the window as Dada walks to the door on his way home from work, slapping any surface available (including the side of your head when you are in your high chair — we can’t wait for you to grow up and explain to us what the joke here is!), peek-a-boo, forts, Mama and Dada’s bed, the dishwasher, the fridge, climbing stairs, being held upside down or slung backwards over our shoulders, toe-tickling, drinking water from a straw cup, baths, cars, splashing in the dogs’ water bowl at Nana and Pop’s. You are a happy boy.

We find all of our joy in one thing: you. Watching you enjoy your world is such a pleasure. Sure, we get tired. We look forward to your naps and nighttime sleep, but frequently just a short time after you’ve gone down, we find ourselves missing you and wishing we could wake you up for just a few minutes more. You make our lives better in ways we didn’t anticipate: We get more exercise; we spend more time outside of the house; we eat healthier; we spend more time together. But most important, you make us happy. We share in your joy!

It’s not all a bed of roses, of course. You get cranky; you get sick; you occasionally fight sleep; we get bored. Sometimes we just want to sit on the couch and watch six movies in a row, the way we used to do on lazy weekends. Having a baby is relentless. Yes, you do nap twice a day, but you always wake up. You are always there. We always need to pay attention to you and protect you. We are tired, and we miss the flexibility of our childless days. Money is tighter, too, and that has been a big adjustment for us.

But it’s all worth it. What else is there to do, in the end, but love you and make the best life we can for you? In two weeks, we’ll celebrate your first birthday, with our families and close friends, people who love you almost as much as we do. You don’t care about your birthday, and you won’t remember it, but we will celebrate you and love you and give you gifts. It’s our chance to reflect on the past year and recognize how you’ve changed us. You didn’t do it on purpose — you merely existed — but you’ve made made our lives so rich and happy and meaningful. You are our best thing. You are everything!

My goodness, I just love you so much.

Love,

Mama

 

9 Months

An unfinished post, written Aug. 27, 2013. My goal to write a letter to Hank every month of his first year utterly failed. I was hopelessly distracted by my wonderful, hilarious growing baby!

Dear Hank,

Today is the second anniversary of the day I married your daddy. Our second married year has been a busy one: We moved to a new city, bought a house and two cars and had a baby (that’s you!). Your dad has a new job, and I’m working from home full-time now. Since having you, I’ve lost about 70 pounds (thanks for your help there, hungry buddy!). I barely recognize the family of two we were a year ago — yet none of these changes have felt like huge adjustments. At the same time that we can’t believe that we just up and had a baby — they let you do that, just like that? — we can’t imagine our lives without you. Other parents have said it before about their kids, and it’s true for us too: You are the best thing that ever happened to us.

And you just keep getting better. You were amazing from day one, but it was sometimes hard to recognize your charms back when you were just a squirming, grunting blob of relatively tiny baby. Now you are this big, fat, joyous, moving creature! On your 9-month birthday, you pulled up by yourself (in front of the entire Sahl family — you were apparently waiting for a big enough audience), and the next day you crawled on hands and knees for more than a couple of paces. (You still prefer to tummy-crawl half the time and are more efficient at it than all-fours crawling.) It is so much fun to watch you explore your world.

You have always been a very smiley boy and barely cried for your first several months, but now that you’re older and a bit wiser, you’ve learned how to have other opinions. You fuss when you’re bored, or want your breakfast (more eggs, please!), or bump your head, or get a limb stuck between the bars of your crib. You hate the car. You aren’t a huge fan of rain (but you love a calm body of water, be it pool or lake or bath tub). You don’t appreciate attempts to wipe your hands and face after meals, and you detest baby food. Whereas you used to love lying on your changing table, regardless of the activity taking place there, diaper-changing has now become your worst nightmare.

I’m glad you’re learning to tell us what you don’t like.

You love your cats (we’re not sure you would have learned to crawl had you not had Arthur to chase after), and they tolerate you with patience we did not know they possessed.

Seven months.

Dear Hank,

It’s been awhile since I’ve reflected on your growth (not to mention mine). And my goodness, are you growing! You’ve been sitting for several weeks, you are becoming more purposeful in the way you play with your toys, you have developed a strange manner of moving sideways across the floor by pivoting in circles on your stomach, you have three teeth and are sprouting several more — the list goes on. Most incredible is that you tell jokes. Is this developmentally possible for a seven-month-old? If not, then you must be some sort of prodigy, because you are a master of the fake cough. It’s your best call-and-response: Your dad or I will fake-cough, and you will fake-cough back at us. Then you’ll smile up at us, as if to say, “Did you get the joke, guys?” (You don’t really laugh — it turns out not all babies do — but you do smile a whole lot, and instead of laughing you’ll gasp or squeal, which in my book is just as good.) Even recently, when you’ve actually been sick, you’ve still had room for some fake coughs.

Thankfully, you’re not growing up too fast. Today you were on your tummy and wanted desperately to grab something out of your reach. You stretched your arms and kicked your legs, but alas, you have not figured out how to move forward (or backward). That’s fine with me. I am blown away by your development — you are incredible! — but I’m increasingly aware of how quickly this is all going. We’re over half way to a year! Soon enough, you won’t be my little baby anymore, so I’m happy if you want to take your time with some things.

You are in daycare now. It was an easy transition — you love people and especially people your own size, so you’re thrilled to be surrounded by them three days a week, and I needed a few days without you to store up my patience and energy for all the time we do spend together. It took only a few weeks, though, for daycare to get you sick for the first time. Oof! A week later, I think we have rounded the corner, but you have been one sad, hot, needy little baby, and Mama is exhausted.

When you got sick, your dad and I had the same thought: Obviously, we don’t want our baby to be sick, but oh my god, it’s so amazing to spend so much time cuddling and rocking him! I could hold him like this forever! A week later, and oh my god, ENOUGH ROCKING ALREADY. I think I rocked you for eight hours yesterday. That’s a lot of rocking. And feverish cuddles are sweaty cuddles, which it turns out are not top on my list of favorite cuddles. I still like them just fine, but I’m looking forward to dry, healthy cuddles again.

The silver lining of your being sick for me has been how it’s made me feel. I have wondered over the past seven months when I would finally, officially feel like a mom. I know I am a mom, and I know I love you more than anything else, but it still catches me off-guard sometimes to realize it. Caring for you when you are sick, though, I’ve felt more like a mom than ever, and it’s been such a good, comfortable feeling. It hasn’t been surprising at all this past week to remember that that’s who I am now.

You’ve been such a happy, independent baby almost since the day we brought you home. Sometimes it feels as if you don’t really need us, aside from as providers of your basic needs — as if you’d be happy no matter where you were or whom you were with. But when you are sick, you need me, and only me. I knew something was wrong when I walked into daycare to get you last week. As soon as you saw me, you burst into tears and reached out your arms to me. It was as if you’d toughed out feeling crappy all day, and when you finally saw Mom, you could let it all go and just admit that things were a little rough for you right now.

Of course, I’d rather you feel good and be perfectly healthy, but it’s felt really wonderful to be your mom this past week.

I love you so, so, so, so much.

Love,

Mama

Five months.

Dear Hankie,

Oh, shoot. You’re about to turn six months old, in just two days. This letter is so late that it really can’t count as your five-months letter, especially since oh! my! goodness! So much has happened since the five-months mark! You are sitting up, you are starting to scoot, you are laughing all the time, you are crying when I leave the room — and you are wrapping your dad and me around your fat little fingers tighter and tighter every day.

But I’ll leave all of that for your six-months letter. I want to write to you tonight about something so terribly special that I can hardly think about it without tearing up: Hank, you have a cousin! Elliot Joseph Corvino was born a week and a half ago, and he is amazing. I haven’t met him yet, but he has already brightened my life, just by existing. Becoming a mom was amazing, and I knew it would be, but I don’t think I realized how wonderful it would be to become an aunt. I am humbled by how much love I feel for this little person I’ve never even met, let alone held and kissed. But most incredible is how special it feels to be a new parent along with my older brother and my sister-in-law. It has me reflecting on my relationships with both of them, and it reminds me of how blessed I have been over the years to have them in my life.

When I moved to New York for graduate school, I lived with your Uncle Nate and Aunt Elizabeth for almost six months. They had recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, just months after they got married, but they without hesitation let me sleep on an air mattress in their living room from August through December while I found my footing in that big new city. Your dad will attest to the fact that I am not always the easiest person to live with, but I am so proud to say that over those months, I can only remember one fight that I had with your uncle — something about how to wash the dishes properly. It was silly. We were tired. I’d been living in his living room for months.

We were such good friends, your uncle, your aunt and I. We are still such good friends, but our friendship was especially rich those few years together in New York. I had yearned for a sister my whole life, and now I finally had one! I was thrilled. And several years after we had left home, my older brother and I were reunited — now as friends in addition to siblings. It has been such a blessing to pass that threshold from siblinghood to friendship with all three of my brothers over the years since we’ve left our parents’ house.

At one point, Nathan and I worked a few blocks from each other, and we would meet for lunch. I would teach him new words in Spanish, and he was so tickled to practice them with me. We would meet up spontaneously after work for drinks, whenever we felt like it. He was the first person in my family to meet your dad, who was so nervous, but Nate was nothing but kind and welcoming. There was a TV show on at the time called “Heroes,” which we both watched, and in one episode a character arrived in New York City for the first time. He stood, legs apart, arms in the air, and shouted, “Hello, New York!” Your Uncle Nate and I would re-enact this scene with each other whenever we’d meet up. We were that happy to see each other, even if we’d just seen each other a few days before.

We’ll never have that again — the opportunity to see each other often and whenever we want. Perhaps we will never live in the same place again. But now we share something else even more special, as we raise our sons together. Last night, you woke up at 1 a.m., and while I fed you, I texted with Nate, who was up with Elliot, about introducing a pacifier and nipple confusion. It is very well my favorite moment of our friendship yet.

I can’t wait to watch your uncle grow as a father, and I can’t wait to watch you and your cousin Elliot grow up together. I hope you two are as good of friends as Nathan and I are!

I love you so, so much, Hank.

Love,

Mama