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Four months.

Dear Hank,

When I wrote to you last month (admittedly, we are a couple of weeks past your four-month mark already), I felt you weren’t so different from the month before. This time around, you have catapulted yourself forward in various wonderful, adorable ways. My love for you, too, has surged, to a degree that I never could have imagined was possible. I think all moms say that, but it’s true. This love is something else!

Indeed, since I last wrote to you, we have both been doing a lot of growing up. Your growth is easier to measure, perhaps, but mine is just as marvelous, as I adjust to this new identity as your mom. It is quickly becoming my primary identity. More and more, nothing else seems to matter very much.

Here are several ways in which we can measure your growth:

You roll now — not every day, but more and more frequently. You mostly roll from back to front, and I admit we probably don’t give you enough time on your tummy for you to practice rolling front to back. We’re working on that.

You are totally in love with your fingers. They are always in your mouth — often two at once, taking after your Uncle Mikey. When I sing to you and rock you before bed, you make such a ruckus sucking on your fingers. Your pacifier is a sorry substitute.

You can grab your feet now. You find this much easier to do when you are naked, unencumbered by all these annoyingly adorable outfits I insist on dressing you in. I anticipate your feet will follow the path of your fingers and you’ll get one into your mouth any day now — goodness knows, you are trying!

You have laughed, just a few times, and only briefly, but it is the most amazing sound your dad and I have ever heard. When you aren’t laughing, you are smiling, hugely and gleefully. I observe other babies, and it seems none of them are nearly as happy as you are (though their moms would likely disagree). I take no credit; your good nature is all your own, and if anything I am grateful to you for it: I smile much more now, too.

You are too young for sitting up or standing or walking, but if I prop you up on something, you stay there on your feet, as if standing all by yourself. It is terribly cute, this too-tiny baby seemingly mimicking a baby a few months his senior.

Something huge: You sleep in your crib now. I wasn’t eager to move you out of our room, but I wasn’t sleeping well. Every noise or movement you made woke me up. I was so nervous the first night we put you down in your crib, but you were a champ and slept for a stretch of several hours as usual. You were ready, even if I wasn’t! It’s been a few weeks now, and you’ve shifted your bedtime earlier and earlier. We used to let you convince us to keep you up with us till 9 or 10 at night, but the past several nights you have been asleep by 7. You tend to wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to eat, which hopefully you’ll grow out of on your own at some point. For now, I don’t mind. After all, despite all your growing up lately, you are still my tiny little baby. Those quiet moments together at night are ours and ours alone, and even when I have to drag myself out of bed to get to you, I always end up cherishing them.

Plus, now, when you wake up at 6 or 7 “for the day” (a funny designation, since you are back to sleep again an hour later), I get to bring you into our bed and play with you while Daddy goes downstairs to work. When you eventually get cranky, I nurse you and then we fall back asleep together, snuggled tight. This is by far the biggest perk of working from home: that I get to take a quick nap with my baby every morning instead of dressing myself for the office. It is so sublime, to feel you relax into slumber as I shush against your forehead. For now, that is how you can express your love to me, by showing me how safe you feel in my arms.

The weather is warming up, and we are spending more time outside. The other day, we took Granny’s quilt out onto the lawn and read books together while Daddy ran errands. I’m glad you’re finally getting some fresh air.  Over the weekend, we tried to take you to the park to test the baby swings, but you wanted to nap in your carrier instead. Again, you are my tiny baby, and I don’t mind waiting a bit longer to shove you into new experiences.

This week, we have been visiting daycares, with plans of enrolling you part-time this summer. I have such complicated feelings about putting you in daycare. I know that it needs to happen. Especially once your dad starts working outside the home, I simply won’t be able to watch you and do my job. You deserve someone’s full attention, and so does my job. Daycare will be good for you, but as much as I know I will do well to have my own time back during the week, I will miss you so much.

Another important milestone: You and I had our first weekend alone recently. Daddy was away from Friday till Monday. I missed him, so much so that I cried a little as I saw him pull out of the drive on the way to the airport, but you and I had so much fun! We kept very busy, and the weekend flew by. On Friday, your grandparents came over for dinner, and Nana helped give you a bath (you love your baths so much). On Saturday, we hosted brunch for the moms and babies from our first mommy-and-me class. It had been a couple of months since we’d seen the babies — like you, they had all grown up so much. On Sunday, we had class and then brunch at your friend William’s house. Of course, we were thrilled when Daddy finally came home on Monday morning. You gave him such big smiles — it was clear you had missed him too.

And therein I was forced to realize my growth. Hank, not once over the course of that weekend did I feel like you were too much for me. Not once did I wish someone else could take you and give me a break. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the responsibility, I thought you would exhaust me, but it turned out that there was nothing else I would have rather been doing and no one else I’d rather be doing it with. The best parts of the weekend were when you and I were alone together, living our little life. Is it too early to declare that you are my best friend?

Oh, and there is this other little thing (which feels like a very big thing to me) you do with your hands — squeezing them into fists and opening them again, over and over. You do this against my neck and shoulder when I hold you when you’re tired or sad, and it feels like you’re hugging me over and over again with your little hand. I melt. Every time, I just melt.

Before we could leave the hospital with you, we had to first sign a form basically promising we wouldn’t shake you out of frustration. But what am I to do with this urge I feel to squeeze you way too tight because I can find no other adequate way to express how hugely I love you?

I love you so, so much.

Love,

Mama

Three months.

Dear Hank,

A week late this time, but I’m glad I waited, because yesterday you did something amazing. We were playing together on the floor, and I got up to grab something from the other room. As soon as I left, you started to cry, one of your loud, big-boy cries. I rushed back, and you immediately quieted down and greeted me, red-faced, with a huge smile.

It was a simple thing, nothing extraordinary, but it had never happened before. You were sad when I left and happy when I returned. I’m not sure developmentally what this signals, if anything, but to me, it meant one very important thing: You love me. You want me around. You need me. And I felt such a surge of love for you at that moment, maybe the most love I’ve felt for you yet. I scooped you up and hugged you and rocked you and reveled in the gift of being able to soothe my baby just by being there.

Motherhood continues to surprise me — I anticipate that it always will. It is both more difficult and more wonderful than I ever could have imagined before you existed. You need me, sure, but the amazing thing is how much I need you. My mood is very much dependent on yours. When I am putting you down for a nap and you are refusing to settle, I often feel so frustrated with you, and I want to cry right along with you — and then all of a sudden you stop fussing and look right at me, and you smile with your entire body the way only a baby can, and I’m instantly happy too. I have trouble separating my emotions from yours. When you are upset, I am upset. When you are joyful, it’s nearly impossible for me not to feel joy along with you.

When I decided to write you monthly letters, I thought I’d have a lot to say each month about what new things you had learned and how you had changed. So far, I don’t. You are growing up so fast, sure, but it’s not a process I can easily measure. You’re not so terribly different from a month ago. You still can’t sit up on your own, or walk, or talk, or eat solid food. You do the same wonderful things that you did last month. You still love us to stand you up tall, and you still love baths, and you still love to be on your changing table. You aren’t rolling over, and you aren’t really grabbing things, except accidentally. You still have not been able to get your entire fist in your mouth, no matter how hard you try.

But life with you is so incredibly different from a month ago. For one thing, I feed you less often, and you eat more efficiently. Every two to three hours, I nurse you for a total of about eight minutes. You fuss when I take you off, then you burp, and then you smile your huge, toothless smile. Incredibly, I find myself looking forward to your hunger now. That is our special time together, and every day it is easier and more wonderful. I don’t think I imagined back in the first several weeks with you that I could feel this way about feeding you. It is incredible.

Another obvious change is your size. You are a big boy. We are dressing you in mostly six-months-size clothes. We’re about to move on to size 3 diapers, into which we will tuck your amazing thigh rolls. I had to buy you new socks today because your enormous feet have outgrown almost every pair in your closet. You outgrew your swaddles, and we bought you bigger ones, but then we just stopped swaddling you altogether. We were nervous about it the first night, but you were fine. We are growing right along with you.

Here’s something exciting about three months: You are three months old, and your cousins are three months away. Your Aunts Sarah and Elizabeth are beautifully pregnant, and your mom is very excited to get her hands on some newborn babies in May (or, if they follow your timetable, perhaps June). I can’t wait to watch your friendships with these two little ones grow.

I should explain something. Your dad and I love nicknames. The more of them, the merrier! Technically, “Hank” is a nickname, but you already have several more. The frontrunner right now is “Nobbs.” I think I can trace it back in this way: Nibblet to Nibbles to Nibbledy Nobbs to Nobbs. It seems to have settled there (for now).

And so: I love you, Nobbs! So, so much.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

Two months.

Dear Hank,

Technically, you’re two and a half months old, 11 weeks tomorrow. You might as well get used to it now: Your mom is rarely on time to anything, including blog posts. (In contrast, your dad is very punctual. We’ll have to wait to see which one of us you take after!)

I wish I had written to you at two months, because it’s impossible now to remember what you were like way back then. I can’t get used to how quickly time with you passes and how much you change. Just in the past week, you have become a whole new person: one who drools, one who coos, one who collects a bouquet of bubbles at his lips, one who projectile spits up and spits up out of his nose (once each, over the past two days, after having spit up a total of perhaps four times in the 10 weeks prior). You love nothing more than standing up tall, and when you do, your mouth forms a satisfied little “O,” and your head wiggles from side to side. You are this close to grabbing at your toys, but for now you remain in awe every time your hands accidentally make contact with another object. When we do coax you into grasping something, you hold on for a very long time. The other day you got hold of your letter links, and half an hour later, your grip was still strong! You smile, over and over again, all day long, and you smile biggest when your mom or dad smiles at you first.

As you change and grow, motherhood gets easier. For one thing, it no longer hurts. I was unprepared for how painful it would be in the beginning. My whole body hurt after your journey through it, and for weeks my nipples hurt as you and I learned how to feed you, hurt with a toe-curling pain that was somehow worse than the pain of childbirth. When I was in labor, even when the contractions were piling on top of each other and bending me till I threatened to snap in half, I always knew that eventually they would end, and they would end with something so wonderful as you, my sweet, yearned-for baby. But the pain of nursing you those first few weeks felt interminable. The only alternative was the impossible one of your going hungry, so I experienced that pain over and over again, every couple of hours, for days and then weeks. I began to dread the next feeding before the current feeding was even over. Before you were born, when I thought about nursing you, I assumed I would love it, that we would take to it instantly, that we would rock together and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. It wasn’t like that. It’s still not like that, though it’s much, much better now that the pain is gone. Hallelujah, the pain is gone! I am so proud of both of us for working so hard, and I am confident that over time our nursing relationship will get even better. We make quite a team!

It has been hard, too, to move on from my life before you. I have grieved that life — my freedom, my self-indulgence, the ease of traveling from point A to point B without all of the extra steps traveling with a baby demands — but I am also glad to give it up for something so much better. When I feel myself wishing I could just do my own thing, I remind myself that none of it — the TV shows now unwatched, the Facebook statuses unchecked, the blankets half-knit and books barely read, the blog posts unwritten — is as important as, say, sitting on your play mat with you and helping you wrap your fingers around a toy. Nothing makes me as happy as making you smile. I have never felt love like the love I feel when I watch you and your dad together.

You continue to be a “good” baby, an “easy” baby. You have slept for long stretches at night since you were just a few weeks old. You eat heartily (nursing woes never did get in the way of that, thank goodness!) and gain weight like a champ. (By two months, you’d gained almost five pounds, from 8 pounds 3 ounces at birth to a hefty 13 pounds 2 ounces!) You rarely fuss or cry, though lately you have started to experiment with new and horrible-sounding cries that start out of nowhere and end almost as abruptly. To calm back down, you usually require only a closer cuddle from one of us, as if you’re just testing us to make sure we love you more than we did the last time you cried. (We do! We do!)

That is my favorite thing about being your mother so far: I am still falling in love with you. I will never love you less than I do now, but I will undoubtedly love you more, and that is exciting. We will continue to develop our relationship, and hopefully it is one that pleases us both. That relationship will change over the years, of course, but I hope that it will always have at its core our ability to make each other happy. When I smile at you now, you smile back, your big, open-mouthed, crinkly-eyed smile, and that — both your smile and the knowledge that I provoked it — fills me with tremendous joy.

I love you so, so much.

Mama

Four weeks later.

(I started this letter on Dec. 15, 2012. My intention had been to write about the challenges of early motherhood, which at the time were overwhelming, but I got hung up trying to describe the joys. It’s an exercise in the superlative, but I’m not sure editing would have helped much. This motherhood stuff really is intense! Yes, the challenges of the past two months have been some of the biggest and hardest of my life, and I do want to write about them at some point, but I’m still very much distracted by my sweetest, cutest, best baby ever.)

Dear Hank,

You were four weeks old yesterday, and you’ll be one month old tomorrow. I can’t believe how fast this all is going. Right now you’re sleeping on your daddy’s chest. He’s sleeping too. Sometimes when he wakes up with us at night, he has trouble falling back asleep (luckily, you and I do not!), but there is nothing he loves more than sleeping with you on his chest, so he’s pretty happy right now.

Being your mom has been the most amazing, most difficult, most unexpected experience. I can feel my love for you growing every day, every minute. You are the sweetest, the cutest, probably the best baby ever. You rarely fuss, you sleep like a champ, and you are gaining a hearty amount of weight. Recently, you’ve started making extended eye contact with us, which melts us into tiny little puddles. You’re smiling, too, and sometimes your mouth opens into a wide grin and we think you must be laughing, even though no sound comes out. We cover you with kisses, and you give us a big open-mouthed smile back.

I’ll tell your birth story at some point, which was its own complex mix of pain and joy. It was not the birth I envisioned for us, but it was nonetheless perfect. You were perfect! Right after you were born, after I held you for a minute, you had to get examined by the special care team. Your daddy kept you company, and that was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen: You held his finger, and he stared down at you and beamed.

I love you so, so much.

Mama

Well, I might have lost the induction battle, but I’m totally going to win the baby war!

We’re heading to the hospital first thing tomorrow morning. Yesterday at this time, I was ready to fight my doctor (who probably would have preferred to induce me even earlier), but once we were there at the appointment, I realized I didn’t want to. I trust her. Maybe this induction isn’t necessary, maybe it is, but it’s not my call. I do think my doctor has my best interests and those of my baby in mind. I want to let her take care of me the way she thinks best. And so, we induce.

Apparently I’m a weirdo for not being eager for an induction. My appointment today was with a nurse practitioner, and we could hear her communicating my situation to the doctor in the hallway outside our room.

“I’ve got Rebecca. She’s 41.5 weeks,” the nurse said.

“Forty-ONE-point-five?” My doctor was clearly surprised.

“She doesn’t want to be induced.”

“What is she waiting for?”

I could hear them scheduling the induction for tomorrow, and I started to cry. I cried through the nurse’s explanation, through the waiting room, into the car, and onto the phone with my dear friend Anne, who’d called to check in. She encouraged me to see this as my first lesson in parenthood: No matter how well we try to plan things out perfectly, we can’t always force them to go the way we want.

No, this might not be the idealized version of natural childbirth I’d imagined for myself, but I am so incredibly eager to meet this baby. Over the past several hours, I’ve felt myself relax, and I’ve become more and more excited. We are having this baby, maybe tomorrow, maybe Thursday. We will bring him home this weekend. I am ready. Chris is ready.

And I can’t stop thinking how my life is about to change forever. I dreamed about the perfect natural labor for nine months, but I’ve dreamed about having a baby since I was practically still a baby myself. However he gets here, I’m so happy to welcome him.

In the beginning.

To pass the time while we wait for our baby to join us — as our doula reassures us, babies know when they want to be born, so there’s no need to rush him — I’ve been thinking a lot about the past nine months (over the course of which I spent so much time thinking about now). I’d hoped to write letters to the baby regularly throughout my pregnancy, like the one I wrote last night, but like with so many of my big ideas, I was a bit lacking in the follow-through. Here, though, is the first letter I wrote him, back on Feb. 29, just a few days after finding out I was pregnant. I think there are two or three other letters somewhere in an unpacked box. When I find them, perhaps I’ll post them as well.

Editor’s note: I admit that I gave this letter a little bit of an edit before posting it. It was full of exclamation points, sometimes ending several sentences in a row. I think I was just really, really excited, but it made for a bit of an exhausting read.

Dear Baby,

We have known about you for about five days now, but we have been dreaming about you for much longer. I love your daddy for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest and most important is that I know he is going to be a wonderful father. I cannot wait to meet you, but I also can’t wait to see how happy I know you’re going to make him.

It’s hard to believe you’re real. According to what we’ve read, you are between the size of a poppy seed and a sesame seed. (Your daddy and I haven’t found a nickname for you yet but have been referring to you as our “little poppy seed.”) In a week, you’ll have grown to the size of an orange seed, and you’ll soon be sprouting all sorts of amazing things, like arms and legs. In three weeks, we might get to hear your heart beat!

We planned very carefully when we wanted to make you. If we’d followed our hearts, we would have made you as soon as we got married, maybe even before that, but we let our brains convince us it was wise to wait a few months and let all of the wedding excitement settle down. (Plus, we had a trip to Italy planned for January, and Mama loves her wine.) When I didn’t get pregnant immediately, we were so disappointed, but it made us all the more determined. I think I have single-handedly kept the pregnancy-test industry in business the past two months, taking tests even when I was basically sure there was no chance they’d be positive. But then, after a negative one on Wednesday, I spent Friday, Feb. 25, with stomach cramps and told your daddy I was going to take another test when I got home.

I had gotten so used to seeing just one little pink line that I had to stare at the test for a long time before I believed the second one was real. It was totally, completely amazing. Your daddy was still not home, and that was the longest 20 minutes I’ve ever waited. He walked in the door, and I was sitting on the rug in the living room, looking up at him. All I could do was smile. Finally, I handed the test to him and told him: “I think we’re pregnant!”

And you know what? Your daddy is the best kind of daddy: the sensitive kind. He had tears in his eyes, and a huge, goofy grin. In fact, he looked just the same as he had almost exactly one year earlier, on Feb. 26, 2011, when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

We hugged and high-fived and then immediately took another test because it was just too good to be true. This one was the kind that says “Not Pregnant” or “Pregnant,” and, again for the first time, it said “Pregnant.” In the end, I was glad to have taken so many negative tests, because it made two positive tests in a row pretty much irrefutable evidence that we were going to have a baby.

Of course, this meant I could not drink the wine that your daddy had brought home for us that night, but I let him have some anyway.

The next morning, we woke up and went straight to the bookstore, where we picked up three books about pregnancy. We walked all the way home from Borough Hall to give you some fresh air and exercise, stopping by your dad’s favorite butcher to pick up two steaks (we checked first to make sure I was allowed to eat steak!), and we also picked up a hoodie sweatshirt for you that says “Brooklyn” on it. Even though we’re planning to move you to Boston before you’re even born, you will always be a Brooklyn baby. Brooklyn is where your parents lived when we met, where we fell in love, and where we dreamed you up. It is a very special place to us.

Today, we had our first doctor’s appointment. For the first time, we got to talk to someone in person about you. My doctor confirmed that you are indeed real. He estimates that you will be born on Nov. 4, which is your Aunt Julie’s birthday. You know what is really special about that? Aunt Julie’s first baby is due on May 2 this year, which is my birthday. You two are going to be great friends, I just know it — just like your mommies are.

You’ll also be great friends with June, who is your Aunt Anne’s daughter. She is a big girl — she’ll turn 2 before you’re even born — so you’ll be able to learn a lot from her. Anne and Julie are so excited about you. So far, they are the only people who know about you, aside from your four grandparents and, today, my doctor. Three of your uncles — my brothers — and your aunts will find about you this weekend, when we all get together in San Antonio. I can’t wait to tell them. They are going to be so, so happy — but not possibly as happy as we are.

I love you, little poppy seed, as tiny as you are!

Love,

Mama

Dear baby.

Dear Baby,

You are officially late. According to your revised due date, you were late as of Thursday, but I was hoping you might be waiting until today, your original due date. Alas, you seem happy where you are, tucked safely inside your mama.

We are so excited to meet you. Your papa is especially anxious to get you out into the world, and he regularly attempts to convince you that’s a good idea — speaking to you or tapping out beats on my belly or rubbing it in what he thinks is a particularly encouraging way. You usually wake up when he does this, and you two communicate back and forth — you kick or push, and he taps back with his fingers to let you know he’s paying attention. He loves you so much.

Every night your papa speaks to you through my belly. “Hello, my son,” he says. “I can’t wait to meet you.” He tells you about all the things we have done to get ready for you–the car and house we have bought, the room we have painted blue and decorated with books and dolls and gifts from the people who love you, the classes we have taken to learn how to bring you into this world and feed you and help make you happy. He reads you books, too, and makes up songs about you, and he kisses you goodnight.

Your papa thinks perhaps you are waiting to come till Tuesday and the presidential election to make sure the right guy wins.  Yes, it is scary sometimes to think we are bringing you into a world that can feel so uncertain and  even unsafe, but we are confident at least that this world will be better with you in it.  Our own little world certainly will.

I’m excited to meet you too, but I’m not impatient yet. I am trying to cherish these last days with you inside me, trying to savor this special time we have left together, just you and me. I have loved being pregnant with you, and as much as I know I will love having you on the outside, I know I will miss having you on the inside, too.

I have been so lucky — you have been an easy baby to carry these past nine months. Sure, I am not as spritely as I used to be (and I admit I look forward to being able to bend over again and to not waking up with hands so swollen I can’t curl my fingers to pull up the covers), but I feel remarkably comfortable with my boy on board. I am still sometimes surprised to realize I am even pregnant. Just in the past few weeks strangers have really started to recognize you — every time I check out at a store, especially, the checker congratulates me or wishes us luck, and today at dinner in the city we had our 45-minute wait for a table reduced to 5 minutes after the hostess saw my big belly. What you and I get to share is so special and intimate, so it surprises me to realize that it is also so obvious to the world that this amazing thing (you!) is about to happen to me — and has been happening to me for all the months I’ve gotten to carry you.

But yes, we are ready for you — at least as ready as we can be, having no real idea of what life will be like with you in it. We wonder all sorts of things about you — what color hair and eyes you will have, what your cries will sound like, how you will want to be held, what will make you laugh,  what you will grow up to like and do and say, whom you will love, where you will go. We have thought about you for so long, but we really know nothing about you, except that you are already so very loved. The whole world, it seems, is anxiously awaiting your arrival, and we can’t wait to share the wonderful news with everyone.

Good night, my son. I’ll see you soon.

Love,
Mama