Saturday, July 31, 2021

Letter to Our 6-month-old

Dear Zoe,

I have been waiting to meet you my entire life.  Now that you've been here for six months, I still feel like I'm just barely getting to know you.  Are you still getting to know me, too?  It's crazy to think about how you must think that I'm everything to you right now.  You came out of my body and you survive off my body.  But I still know very little about you, and this is probably how it will be for our entire relationship, because you're always changing and growing.  Just when I feel like I've figured you out, you throw me in for another loop.  I'm not sure that I can ever keep up.  It's both amazing and sort of crushing.

You're just a little baby, but you're tougher than you appear.  You've tolerated so much of my bullshit already, at such a young age.  Remember how I didn't brake the stroller and it rolled off our front steps and you fell onto your face?  And all of that blundering through breastfeeding in those early days, the awkward rocking/bouncing/pacing/shushing, the tears that dropped onto your innocent face as I held you all alone because I felt like I wasn't good enough to raise you.  You've had to deal with Mommy and Daddy's screams of horror (and sometimes elation) when we opened your diapers, our unintentional reversing of your digestion by putting you on your tummy too soon after you ate (eek!), that time you had a diaper rash because we didn't use the right butt cream, the times that I trimmed your finger flesh along with your nails (you didn't even flinch, don't worry), those awkward first baths, wiggling you into strollers/carseats/carriers/high chairs at funny angles until we got it just right... thank you for your patience!  You still look into our eyes with utter trust every time after you've cried, even when we were the cause of your frustration.  You're such a tender and innocent baby.  

You are so young and dependent on us now, but you will soon be your own person.  You have a whole life ahead of you, which is really crazy to imagine.  Already, I see you pushing away the breast, tearing off your hat, or snatching the Nose Frida out of Daddy's hand.  You will soon be annoyed because my drive to protect and nurture you will make you feel like you're being controlled.  You'll realize that we are not all-knowing, so you will test the limits and find your own answers.  It'll be so cool to see that fire ignite within you, but I know that it will also be so hard to let you go your way, especially since you have been nothing but ours up until now.  I'll miss these days of innocence, but I know that it's going to be beautiful and wonderful when you gain the insight to be able to actually question us and set yourself apart.  I'll try my best to listen with an open mind, remember to apologize, and let go willingly.  I'll try to put myself in your shoes, because I was there once, too, and it isn't easy being a kid. 

We only have a few more days left together before I go back to work.  I hope you feel that we had an overall good time together, just you and me and Daddy, before I go back to my job.  Six months is a lot compared to what others get in terms of maternity leave, but it's such a small fraction of your life.  I know you won't remember this time by the time you can talk about it, but I hope you feel safe and happy now (and forever).  It makes me sad to think that you still have no idea that everything you've been used to is going to suddenly change, and there's no way for me to really prepare you.  As a mother, a part of me feels like you're not ready, but if I'm not careful, this will become a theme for the rest of our lives.  You are ready.  You are a strong-willed, observant, and curious girl.  You, my little darling, will soon learn how to get along without us and you will discover that your world is not limited to us three.  You'll start by falling asleep without our rocking, getting nourishment without my breast, rolling over by yourself so that we cannot dictate the length of your "tummy time" anymore.  This is only the beginning of your long path forward, and we can't wait to see what's around every corner with you.  Thank you for giving us this amazing journey to be on and for the many opportunities to mess up and learn!  You are exactly what we hoped for and you always will be, no matter where life takes you and what you do.  

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Five Months: Just in the Moment

Our Zoe is five months old.  It's hit me that I only have one more month left to be with her 24/7 before I go back to work.  I have spent a lot of the past five months ranting about how much of an adjustment it has been, becoming her mom.  I have spent a lot of time feeling tired, rushed, and overwhelmed.  I have complained and acted ungrateful.  But through all of the unpredictable hours of the day and the enormous feelings of not being enough, I have beheld such beauty, such inspiration, and such connection, unlike anything I've ever felt.  I still live for every one of those sweet everyday moments, like when Zoe plays peacefully on the floor while I sip my tea, when Zoe looks up at waving leaves in sheer wonder, when Zoe discovers a new way to move her body, when Zoe locks eyes with us.  I have to thank her for slowing me down, for teaching me to appreciate life for the sake of being alive.  There are still times aplenty when I just am impatient for a hard moment to pass, but seeing Zoe grow so rapidly, watching how nothing seems to bother her innocent mind, and knowing that I've only got limited time to be always with her before I go back to work helps me to snap back into the present.  

Zoe has been smiling a lot this month.  Recently, there was a moment when I was so pissed that she did not fall asleep after almost half an hour of rocking.  I laid her back down with a huff, and she just looked up at me and smiled her innocent, cheeky smile.  It wrenched me back to the reality of how special this time is.  Some of my favorite moments with her have been the ones where we are just lying down looking at each other, or when I prop her facing me on the Boppy pillow for a little dialogue after she eats, or when I hold her in my arms and we look at our reflection in the mirror together.  I do find myself trying to fill our time with books, music, tummy time, walks, and toys, but I think this next month I will be spending more time lounging with her face pressed up to mine, with no other objects in sight.  I will not be focusing on naps or sleep or rolling or sitting.  I've been up and down the rollercoaster of caring and not caring about trying to get her to nap "properly" because her naps have all been so short.  I'm going to just ride the wave this month, now that I've built something like a bare bones foundation there.  It's honestly only a big deal when I compare her to other babies who sleep longer and give their mamas a break.  But maybe starting now, I can see her short naps as a blessing in disguise—it means that I get to spend more time interacting with my baby.  When I head back to work next month, I would do anything for just another hour together, so if that nap never hits sixty minutes, I'll still count it as a win. 

Also, I've been talking about getting her on a bottle since she was three weeks old, but no matter how hard we tried, Zoe refused to have anything but my nipple in her mouth. There were countless nights of waking up every two hours to feed her insatiable appetite. Now that she's almost sleeping through the nights and just about putting anything and everything that she can get her hands on into her mouth, she's finally showing some potential with using a bottle for milk. While I was celebrating, I was surprised by pangs of sadness. It hit me that she would not need me in that way anymore. And that is both the beautiful and heartbreaking part of motherhood—they grow more and more independent every day. There was another day where I was just watching her play on the floor, and I guess that heartfelt Classical background music didn't help either, because I suddenly felt all of those sappy newborn feels again. She has already come so far from those days of total dependency, and she doesn't know it yet, but she will not be accessing me as much anymore. She can't understand it (or maybe she can), but I was crying tears all over the top of her head yet again. Her grandma will be here to watch her, but I've already started to put together a spreadsheet of daycares nearby in case we need to use them. I went about it in a businesslike fashion, not allowing my brain to get emotional. There won't be time to do this later when I go back to my job, so I'm just getting ahead, it's not real yet. But just the fact that we have initiated this process is a sign of what's imminent—Zoe's going to grow up and leave this house on her own. It's too much for my heart to handle!

Though I have been craving some separation and a "break" by returning to work, I still feel completely honored and blessed to be Zoe’s mom, and the identity is starting to suit me more and more. I don’t know if it’ll get any easier, but I think the harder it is, the more humbled I am as a human, the more empathetic I can be to other moms, the more appreciative I am of the easygoing times. Zoe, thank you for choosing me, trusting me, and believing in me.