Monday, May 30, 2022

Going By So Fast

I've been trying to write an update after Zoe turned one year old, but I think that as Zoe gets older, it's definitely harder and harder to capture the mothering experience and her life experiences.  Over the last few months, I've documented snatches of things here and there mostly during times of transition, but honestly every day could use a post of its own.  Things are happening too quickly around here to keep up--where do I even begin?  Also, I'm still a mess on most days and it's such an effort to get to work, back home, and in bed on time, much less make time to write a post.  But I guess that's what the parenting life is like... it's a mess.  And through the mess, we laugh, we cry, we grow, and we could never dream of taming it.  I guess I had thought that by now I'd be more "together with it," especially since I'm finally getting a full night's rest and no longer breastfeeding, but I'm realizing that it's always going to feel like a game of catch-up.  It's a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience that is perpetually humbling and requires so much patience and presence.  It's a lot!

Before Zoe turned one, we put together a photo book of her first year of life.  Every month, we diligently did a photoshoot with the same prop and edited photos consistently.  We were low on sleep and befuddled much of the time, but at least we could keep track of her little milestones.  The days were filled with firsts: first stroller ride, first tummy time, first bath, first manicure.  When asked, we could respond confidently with how much she weighed (down to the ounce), the foods she'd tried, the amount of times we'd trimmed her bangs--every detail was fresh and clear.  Now, I can barely remember what month she learned how to roll over or when she began to sleep six hours straight.  We can't even keep track of how many teeth she has or how many words she knows anymore.  Our phones now remind us of memories from this day last year with Zoe in them.  Wee little frowny Zoe!  It is pretty crazy how her life is becoming so much more complicated, and how it feels like we can barely stay on top of her developments now that she's "so old."  She's been through transition after transition this year, becoming more and more "adult" and less and less like a baby.  Transitions, though triumphant, are always hard for me because I find myself feeling wistful of the younger days, when everything about her fit so neatly into my arms and my memory. 

I go through the motions of parenting her every day, but it has hit me that none of it is as permanent as I had originally thought.  Today, I woke up to the sound of her high-pitched voice, babbling to the acorn and the fox that she sleeps with.  I check the baby monitor to see what time she woke up while waiting for her milk to warm up.  When the timer rings, I will have just finished brushing my teeth.  I take a gulp of warm water and screw on the top of her milk cup.  I no longer test the temperature of the milk--she's old enough to endure a little burn if it happens.  I pad down the hall and open the door to Zoe's room.  These days, she's been standing in the bed, ready to greet me.  She will say, "Milk," as soon as she sees the cup in my hand and become excited as I open the shades and turn on the light.  I unzip her sleep sack and pull her out of the crib, expertly avoiding strain to the inflamed tendons in the thumb side of my left wrist--"Mommy's thumb," a.k.a. DeQuervain's tenosynovitis.  Her feet flail a little bit as she allows me to pick her up, her little hands wrap around the back of my neck and her hair tickles my nose.  We sit down in the rocking chair and she guzzles the milk through the straw as I hold the cup for her--she doesn't need me to, but I do it anyway.  Then, we change diapers and put on her socks, orthotics, and shoes.  A fresh bib is clipped around her neck, and then she's on the floor making a mad dash for either the toy shelf or her book shelf.  She pulls something to play with or read as I sneak out with the empty milk cup, into the kitchen to fix her some food and to prepare my lunch.  At this point, I still have not brushed my hair, made my coffee, or taken my morning dump, but this routine is a major improvement over what it's ever been.  I think it'll only get easier, too, as Zoe becomes more and more independent.  Technically, she could be ready for some changes such as taking milk cold or having it with breakfast in the high chair, but in a way, we all find peace in this sweet little routine and want to hold onto it for as long as it makes sense to.  In a few weeks, I'm not sure what mornings will look like.  All of it is so, so temporary--both the happy moments and the hardships.  It all makes sense, why I feel the urge to just give all of myself to motherhood and stop thinking about where I fall short in other aspects of my life.  It's not permanent.  True, I will be a mom forever, but I'm now in a season of motherhood that is not here to stay.  And I can hold onto things like warming her milk and cuddling her in my lap for a drink, but it's not all up to me, either.  She will decide one day that she wants to move on, just like how she did with everything else leading up to this point.  It both breaks my heart and makes me smile. 

All through the day, I find myself grasping for memories and worrying that I'll forget how now feels.  I know that it is impossible to turn back the clock, and that notion scares me because I struggle in dealing with loss and regret.  That's why sometimes it's hard to rejoice in change when everything goes by so fast.  One day I was breastfeeding her still, and the next day I was not.  Zoe will soon be walking and I will miss hearing the sound of her palms pattering and knees knocking against the floor as she crawls all over the house.  I'll be excited when she can speak in sentences or sing a song, but how I will yearn to hear her choppy little vocalizations again. So in trying to deal with those mixed emotions, I've jotted down a few things during times of change as one way of preserving the moments.  Sometimes I wish that I had written more down, but I know that I can't realistically expect every single thing to be recorded, and that part of the magic in watching a child grow is in the way that it happens so quickly.  Also, it is hard for a nostalgic person like me to say this, but perhaps being fully present to absorb the pricelessness of those moments is more important than having the ability to go back and relive them later.  


Winter break is ending and now I'm feeling sad that it’s already time for me to return to being away from Zoe most of the days.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about weaning her from breastfeeding over this break, and it’s with very mixed emotions that I approach that milestone. Part of me cannot wait to be liberated from constantly being needed, but another part of me will miss seeing and feeling her connected to my body so intimately. Her innocent gaze and that sweep of hair, her long eyelashes, her busy little hands, the arch of her back, all only for me. I thought about continuing for a while longer until Zoe gets vaccinated for COVID, but it would be so nice not to have to pump at work and at the end of each night.  It would just also be amazing to live life without that constant obligation every three to four hours.  But the journey to successful breastfeeding was not easy, and part of me also doesn’t want to give it up after so many months of establishment.  I still have a good supply and we do have a predictable routine, so would it be selfish to put an end of it for my convenience?  That guilt tugs at me a lot, and the fear of regret.  I also have a bit of PTSD from painful breast engorgement and am positively dreading the thought of weaning engorgement too.  It’s been interesting though, with her busy mind, Zoe seems to be spending less and less time on the breast nowadays.  She just wants to move on and do something else—she’s practically been rolling off the Boppy!  It makes me wistful for the days that she’d knock out in my lap, even though I didn’t fully enjoy it when that used to occur. In fact, now that Zoe is getting close to being 1 year old, I’m looking back on the things that we used to do and how they will truly never happen in the same way again.  So if I'm going to stop breastfeeding her, I want to be sure that I'm emotionally prepared to say goodbye to these interactions.  

Zoe is almost weaned from breastfeeding.  I told myself that it's okay to cry when that last time comes.  I didn't cry until it was officially over, though.  Her final bedtime feeding was on February 13th, but I didn't know until February 14th that that would have been the last time.  Zoe started having cow's milk mixed into her bottle the day after she turned one, so soon after that I began to cut pumping out of my day.  It definitely has been amazing to have the extra time during the work day and the reduced amount of stress that comes with pumping: was that enough, when is a good time to do it today, is the bathroom available, did I forget any parts at home, did I leak onto my clothes, should I freeze some of it, did I sterilize these flanges?  Just as expected, my body responded to the decreased demand--I can tell that I'm not getting very full in between feedings anymore.  Honestly, it's good that my body has been taking it well (so far, no clogged ducts).  But wow, the supply dwindled more quickly than I would have expected--there's no going back.  On the night of Valentine's Day, some part of me just knew that she would barely be getting anything out of my breasts even though just the night before, she had breastfed fully.  There'd be more in the morning, but I was emptied out for the day already.  I told Wes to heat up a bottle while I held her in our usual spot, the rocking chair in the corner.  She was fussing for milk, and I tried to distract her with a book or a toy.  She was tired though, and while we were still waiting for the bottle, I decided to just give her the breast to stave her off for a little bit.  

She immediately latched on, and I thought about how long it had taken for her to develop that nice, tight latch.  I felt her sucking and her little hands stroking my shirt; movements that have been imprinted into my brain a thousand times.  I thought of how she went through so many phases when she was learning how to feed, how she was so dependent and yet so independent with obtaining that nourishment.  She persisted even as a one-day-old baby, and often she would fall asleep doing it, but we kept her up and tried to keep her going.  She went from slowly feeding for 45 minutes to inhaling everything in less than five.  She went from having lip blisters to seven pearly-white teeth, which she hardly ever used against the nipple.  There were so many great facial expressions on the Boppy, from those comical newborn frowns to her first smiles, and now to her first words.  I remember when she began to kick wildly with her feet and grab her toes, jam her fingers into my mouth, or need her eyes covered to keep her focused.  And I even texted my friends asking if something was wrong when she started looking up at me during our breastfeeding sessions, only to hear them say that she's just becoming aware of me (as if the person she knows happens to be attached to the milk machine!).  And then there was all of that nasty spit-up and burping in the beginning--I hadn't even realized when the last time she spit up was, or the last time that she was burped.  One day, she just never did it again.  

After a little while, Wes brought in the bottle and set it down.  I was in tears, and Zoe was still trying her best to suck out whatever she could get.  I sat her up and she saw the bottle.  She reached for it automatically, and I gave it to her.  I tipped her back into my arms and she held it all by herself, drinking it smoothly and gulping it down while I cradled her.  I was amazed and cried even more tears--a mixture of sad and happy tears.  I would have killed to see this happen back then, when things felt so hard and when I was so dead tired that all I would have wanted was to have her take a bottle and forget about me.  I knew that she was ready now, but my heart was so not ready in this moment.  Even though I warned myself, I wished that I could have known how hard this would feel.  In a matter of minutes, she was done with the bottle and giggling.  I was just glad that she was happy, and I knew that I had done a good job with getting her to this point.  My job as her first responder and source of food has come to a close, and I am full of pride, relief, and sorrow, all at once.  After putting down the bottle, the routine was still the same.  I cuddled her, turned off the lights, carried her to her crib, and hummed our usual bedtime melody.  Soon, even this routine will unravel bit by bit.  The only thing I can remind myself to do is to just stay present, because everything will inevitably fade.  But she's growing up and I'm growing up too, and there are so many new memories waiting to be made together!

Zoe took her first cruising steps!  We were incredulous when her physical therapist told us that she would be able to do it if we practiced the skill over and over for the next two days.  She was barely even weightshifting... but sure enough, all it took was the magical bait: puffs.  We put a puff at the far end of a bench, and it was just like the first time she crawled.  Something clicked, and she went for it!  She put one foot out to the side lurched in that direction.  Then, I prodded her other hip and she brought in her other foot, jerkily but surely.  We helped her get closer and closer to the end of the bench where her little puff was waiting for her, moving her hips and watching her take those awkward baby steps one foot at a time.  The best part was her little voice.  "Puff!  Puff!"  She said, as she edged closer and closer.  And when she got to the finish line, she joyously said, "Puff!" as she put it into her mouth with a look of satisfaction.  Many many puffs later, we were able to release our hands and let her move her feet all on her own.  It was unreal, seeing our baby finally mobile in an upright position.  Her big head still looked so heavy and disproportionate to her body, like a bobblehead figurine.  Her voice still sounded cartoonish and cute.  All of it felt so unreal, yet it was happening right before our eyes.  Every time she said "puff," it was louder and clearer, and every step she took was stronger and faster.  We're so proud, and she totally was, too!

I was at work watching Zoe fall asleep for her second nap on the baby monitor app installed on my phone.  The fuzzy black and white image was as usual--her dark tangle of hair like a halo around her very round face, her little arms jutting out of the bell-shaped sleep sack, her bib and burp cloth tossed somewhere in the crib within arm's reach.  Grandma had just put her down, so she was still moving and babbling to herself.  I had already started doing some work and was looking away from the monitor when a text message from Wes popped up--it was a screenshot of Zoe's little black and white image standing up in the corner of the crib!  All he wrote was, "Uhhh."  I responded, "What????"  He said, "I think she's getting too advanced." I just said, "Omg lay her down now!" This happened three or four times, and I just couldn't stop laughing alone in my classroom.  Zoe is pulling to stand!  She's finally doing it!  I drove home and she never ended up taking that nap, but I wouldn't have either if I had just mastered a long-awaited gross motor skill myself!

I'll always remember the song that was playing on that loud and annoying V-tech push-toy when I let go and watched Zoe walk away from me.  My face was one of elation and disbelief as I let go of my hands from Zoe's hips and she miraculously continued to waddle away, pushing the toy in front of her and leaving me behind.  She literally wasn't doing any movement on her two feet a week ago... she went from cruising to walking with this toy so quickly that we were totally unprepared.  It is so odd to see her up on her hind legs, moving forward with her head stacked above her neck... is this still our baby?  She still has a long way to go before she can walk independently, but we have just gotten so used to seeing her crawl everywhere that the image of her moving on her feet is just a little bit hard on the eyes.  She is still so small and her feet are still so tiny... how can they support her?  Though she's taken her sweet time to get moving, we get to reap the benefits of having our little baby a little while longer than your average parents.  We're excited to see her take off, but also just a little bit sad that it's happening so fast.

Zoe's first intentionally spoken word was "ball."  Sometime around the holidays before she turned one, she was looking up at the colored string of pompoms that we hung up in her nursery and suddenly, she said, "Ba."  Ever since she was a newborn, she would look at those pompoms, and I'd always wonder what she thought of those objects.  Dark, mysterious orbs with fuzzy edges against a white wall.  I'd flick the string and the pompoms would bounce up and down.  She'd continue to stare.  Then as she got older, she'd reach for them and feel them.  At some point, she was able to differentiate among the colors and see the dimensions, the shadows, and understand the cause and effect of their movement.  And finally, after hearing us repeat "ball" over and over, she said it by herself unprompted.  I was in disbelief, but she did it again and again, and with more and more clarity.  As of today, she's picked up 40 words!  We started a Google Doc, per suggestion from the speech therapists who I work with, and we've been adding words constantly.  Rainbow. Flower. Piano. Fan. Deng-deng. Ya-ya (teeth). Blueberry. Puff. Cup. Clock. Star. And of course, Da-da and Ma-ma.  It's so fun to see what words she chooses to say, it's like a window into her little brain.

Zoe has been one year old for a couple of months now and it blows my mind how different things are now that the first year is behind us.  Last year, I was clinging onto all of the newborn moments even in my exhaustion, getting caught up in sadness that she would never be so little again.  I can still relate to that now, but I'm less fixated on the loss of certain things and more excited to see what's next.  One day some time ago, Zoe started to point and gesture wildly in various directions, wanting to know what things were.  We also noticed with shock that she would look at whatever or whoever we were talking about.  She responded to her name.  She imitated whatever we did.  She started to place objects inside of cracks and containers.  She was pointing to pictures in books and trying to say the words.  She learned how to cruise, how to stand, and now she's walking with a little push-toy. Every day she is learning a new word or a new motion.  I can hardly keep up! 

Zoe gets no more bottles today.  I know that she can drink out of a straw because that's how she takes her water, and I know that it's better sooner than later.  But the bottle has become something that she's grown to know and love...after many months of anticipation and many hours of hard work with convincing her to use it when Mama's breast isn't around.  I was so relieved once she learned how to drink from a bottle and so glad that it could give her comfort when I wasn't there.  She became a pro, dunking 5 ounces in no time!  We recently got her onto cow's milk, with just enough frozen breast milk in the freezer to make it through that transition.  And now, we are at another transition point again so soon.  She knows the word, "bottle" and the word, "cup," so this morning when we brought in the cup filled with milk, she immediately piped up, "Cup!"  Good sign, I guess.  She seemed excited about it.  But then when she realized after a few feedings that her lovely bottle was not coming back, she became frustrated--rightfully so!  I felt so bad, I was tempted to give her back the bottle just once for the nighttime feeding, but Wes reminded me that we had to be consistent, it's only fair to her.  Transitions are always hard and heartbreaking in some ways.  But each time, she shows us how capable she is.  I feel like now she really isn't a baby anymore... though she still will be wearing diapers for a while, and still doesn't walk!

Zoe is hilarious.  She is so particular.  She asks for things now and she gets mad when they're not given to her.  I don't know how this happened, but she started asking for "wah" (whale) each time we bring her the cup.  And she won't drink anything until the whale is safely in her hand.  Wes made up a chant that he uses to keep her focused... it goes something like, "Oh, Mr. Blue Whale..." Anyway, thanks to our consistency, she never asked for the bottle again and it's been a clean break.  A part of me is still sad that I never get to see her adorable lips latching onto a nipple, real of artificial, ever again. At least she still gets her special milk time in the rocking chair.  One day, we'll have to cut that out too and give her milk with her meals only.  But that's another transition for another time.  Oh yes, she is still dead-set on having her milk warm, though.  We offered it to her cold milk several times and she denied it and made it very clear that she was not ready for that.  One thing at a time, one thing at a time.

Spring Break is ending (that week went by way too fast!) and I'm just in awe of how much Zoe has picked up in just this week alone.  She says, "More" and "All done" consistently now, even with the appropriate sign language.  It's the only way that she got any snacks out of me in the back seat of our long ride to San Diego, so she was quite motivated to figure it out!  She also has gotten super smooth at transitioning from floor to sit, cruises on anything, and crawls in a nice quadruped position on her hands and knees.  You should have seen her at the beach, crawling in the sand!  She also has her first molar!!  It's in the upper left side of her mouth.  So now, she has 8 teeth.  Our trip to San Diego went well--she acclimated to the AirBNB easily and was able to point out and name the similarities between the place and home, like the ceiling fans, the rainbows, and the lights.  We also brought her favorite books, toys, and her push-toy, and made sure to serve her her favorite foods.  She was obsessed with the neighboring cats that would come by ("mao-mao!") and the beautiful colorful roses in the front ("va-wah!").  The best part was that she got to spend a lot of time with Auntie Margaret and Uncle Andrew, who visited almost every night!  I went into this trip nervous that maybe it wasn't in Zoe's best interest to travel because she had been making so much progress with her gross motor skills, but I was wrong.  Nothing can stop a baby from growing and learning, and a change of scenery proved to be good for the mind and body for all.

102.  That was the number that flashed onto the screen of our thermometer.  I was actually out getting a much-needed hair cut and relishing the opportunity to obtain a slice of self care when it happened.  Wes called me and I froze.  This came out of nowhere!  We were just having a play date with a friend, Zoe was splashing around in the water table having the time of her life.  I did remember her cheeks getting quite red though towards the end, but I had assumed that it was the heat.  Well, I rushed home and Zoe was not happy.  I hadn't called the medical hotline since Zoe was four months old, but all of those first-time mom jitters came back as I dialed.  They said to just make sure that she was taking fluids and to give her Tylenol to control the fever.  Simple enough.  But nope, soon I was back to texting my friends frantically, "What do you do when they don't want to drink?  How do you get the medication into them without them spitting it all back out?  Do we really have to give it to her through the night?"  We tried so many things... so clueless as to what to do to keep her comfortable.  Thankfully, the fever went away after two days, she started to eat and drink again as usual after four days, and now we have crossed another milestone: Zoe's first cold.  

We were hiking at our usual trail and stopped so that Zoe could stretch her legs and enjoy nature at her own pace.  She snacked on some cheese and apples, played with some dirt, and then we packed her back up and started walking back out.  She got a bit fussy and so we pulled over and I handed her a cup of puffs, her favorite.  Of course, she happily accepted and began to stuff them into her mouth in fistfuls.  Minutes later, Wes stops in his tracks and says, "I think she's throwing up."  Shit!  I looked at her face and sure enough, five mouthfuls of lumpy yellow sludge flowed evenly out of her mouth and into the carrier.  Her face was completely calm and she did not seem fazed whatsoever.  While Mom and Dad silently freaked out, she coolly signed for more puffs and said, "Mooooar?"  We wrung our hands, trying not to show our disgust, and quickly found the wipes and her extra bibs.  Wes dug out a bunch of the puke using the bib and shook it--what a stupid thing to do, I scolded him!  It was flying around!  We did our best to clean things up and then continued hiking home while the sour smell of puke wafted through the breeze.  Zoe was quite pleased with herself and did not seem to notice, and she got a nice warm bonus bath after we got her home.  

Zoe had her first meltdown!  I mean, yeah, she's thrown many tantrums over diaper changes, having her bib put on, brushing teeth, not getting a banana, and the like.  But she usually is pretty chill and can be easily distracted.  This time though, she would not let it go!  So... we got this water table, and it was instant love.  She could have stood there splashing her hands in it and picking up all of the little cups and floating toys all day if I'd let her.  All good things come to an end, and she actually transitioned away from it quite well.  I slid the cover over the table and she seemed to understand that it was all done.  But then the next day, I was carrying her around outside and she saw the table.  She said, "Wa-wa," for water.  "Yes, that's the water table," I said.  But we were not outside to play with it.  When she realized that she wasn't going to be splashing around in it, she started to scream and twist like never before!  I was taken aback.  Wow, it matters to her that much?  It's pretty cool to see her so fired up about wanting to do a specific activity.  I did not give in!

I'm excited for summer to come.  There are less than 20 days of school left and I am so ready for a break from work.  I know that it'll be busy at home with Zoe, and maybe more stressful in some ways, but I do crave more time with her.  She's getting so big, we can see it physically and also through her words and actions.  Her wants and needs are different now--it's not all about food and milk and naps.  She likes specific things, like the spoon and the fork, the water table, the hedgehog.  She holds books out to be read, she gestures and says "more" when she wants something turned on or given to her, she comes right up to us and pulls up into standing against our bodies.  She seeks us out for peek-a-boo and she loves being tickled and chased.  She can fist-bump and high-five.  She likes to balance things, place coins into a coin slot, insert sticks into holes, place magnets, nest cups, thread rings onto a dowel, and tries to match shapes.  She also understands when someone tells her not to touch something or when an area is off limits, and even mimics us by shaking her finger and saying, "Uh-uh!"  I feel like there is so much that she is ready to learn and I want to be there for it as much as I can.  It's so exciting!  I do miss some aspects of the baby days when she was so young and when things were more basic, but I am really glad that we're past that too.  I'm also really excited to have more time to meet up with other moms in the neighborhood and hopefully arrange play dates for Zoe to socialize with other kids her age!  Fingers crossed that the vaccination will be out soon, too. 

1 comment:

  1. I read the third paragraph over and over...我們都在這個甜蜜的小日常中找到了平靜,並希望堅持下去.....它既讓我心碎,又讓我微笑。文句真實自然充滿愛。我還喜歡這些照片,所有的!