Always contemplating

Dear Little Zinger,

Last Sunday was your parents’ second wedding anniversary. Last year I wrote a blog post about magic math, how one plus one equals one. It worked well because it was our first anniversary, and your father and I form a single entity.

This year the math is different. Instead of

1 + 1 = 1

it’s

1 + 1 = 3

One Week

One Week

Your father and I have been married two years. Two years together, and there are three of us. You made our single entity bigger. Stronger. With each passing day, you make it even better. This impossibility happens with you in our lives.

The last year has been quite the journey. I spent nine months of it pregnant with you. Your father and I started masters programs. Your dad added a film studies class to the English curriculum in the school district where he teaches. Two months ago today, I gave birth to you.

Two weeks

Two weeks

 

You have been with us for two months.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you are an actual human being living with us.

 

Three weeks

Three weeks

You have a wonderful personality. You smile more and more each day. As long as you’ve eaten and have a dry diaper, you can play and coo and smile for an average of an hour at a time.

Four weeks

Four weeks

You love watching the mobile that hangs over your crib. The sound of winding it up brings a smile to your face, and your eyes follow the revolving objects while your arms swing and legs kick.

Five weeks

Five weeks

 

Tummy time is a lot of fun now. We place you on your little elephant rug on the floor, and you know that we have expectations. But you also have discovered a different perspective from being able to raise your head. It’s such a joy watching you discover new things. You are so alert and you seem to study everything — especially faces — so intently.

You are quite amused by your own reflection. I hold a mirror in front of your face, and you look at the cute little girl looking back at you with curious eyes, and you smile and talk until you get upset and then she gets upset, too. That’s the thing about mirrors: you and your reflection either make each other smile more or cry more.

Six weeks

Six weeks

 

You love being read to. We open a book and your first reaction is always to smile.

You enjoy our dance parties in your room. If you’re upset, this always seems to calm you. Your dad picks a song, he bounces you and I sway and bounce along. Lately we’ve danced to Bob Marley, David Bowie, and the Beatles.

From some angles, you are also starting to look more like your dad, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Seven weeks

Seven weeks

You are getting hungrier, which somewhat shifts your routine, which means you’re growing, and I’m sort of in denial about that. But you get cuter as you continue to grow, and that’s something I wholeheartedly accept. Your father and I have voted you cutest baby ever. You win everything. You win, we win. You win our hearts with your big eyes and fetching smile. We win joy and utter happiness.

Eight weeks

Eight weeks

Even though your turning two months old is a week after our second wedding anniversary, your father and I could not have had a better gift. One plus one plus one equals one. We are one.

Three-in-One

Three-in-One

Keep being awesome, beautiful child.

Love, Mom

This is not a letter, just a bunch of photos from the past week that I’m sure nobody cares about…

Watchin’ television with Dad:

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Strollin’ along:

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Nappin':

 

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Showin’ off random cuteness:

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Smilin’ for today’s photos, which makes being up with her from 12:40 to 3:00 this morning totally worth it. By the afternoon, you can’t even tell that there were moments when both of us cried because neither of us slept:

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Holy moly, this child.

Reilly says that if you take my features (eyes, nose, mouth, hair) and place them on a baby-sized Reillyhead (forehead and cheeks), you get the ever-adorable Zinger.

What do you think?

 

What the HECK, Zinger.

Two weeks ago when the doctor measured you, you were in the 94th percentile of babies for your height. Neither your father nor I can claim in good conscience that you take after us in that regard.

Also, you have mostly outgrown your newborn clothes. You can squeeze into the 0-3 months clothes, but we’ve broken out the 3-6 months clothes and have started to give your small clothes away already.

You can already scoot on your tummy. You can stand with our help. You look so much more grown up than when you were born.

I do not understand this. You’re only a month old.

Last week at your weighing, we hoped that you had finally gained enough to reach your birth weight. Well, guess what: You outshot that by eight whole ounces. Half a pound. I must admit that we did get a little zealous during the week leading up to this weighing. I pumped and we supplemented about half the feedings and crossed our fingers that it would be enough. It was more than enough. We are very proud of you.

Daddy and Zinger are so beautiful!

Your umbilical cord stump finally fell out, so your father and I gave you your very first non-sponge bath last Saturday. You liked the warm water spraying on you, and you seemed sad when the bath was over, because all of a sudden you felt cold so we rushed to dry you off and put on cute pajamas and prepare your outfit for Sunday.

Baby-bathwater situation?

Oh my heck this kid.

You received a baby blessing at church Sunday morning. I kept a prayer in my heart all last week and maybe I cried for most of sacrament meeting. Seriously, the opening hymn (which might as well have been the “Barney” theme song because I was emotional to begin with so it didn’t matter what the song was) set off the waterworks. And I didn’t bring tissues, so I just wiped tears with the back of my hand. Your dad did such a wonderful job. He blessed you with the ability to make good choices and understand and apply important gospel principles to your life. He blessed you with the ability to empathize and be a good friend. A decent human being with a caring soul. He blessed you to recognize the love your family has for you.

You already manifest these qualities. When you and your dad came back to the pew where the family sat, your dad passed you to me so I could hold you. You saw tears and love in my face and you calmed me with your deep, expressive, sort of bluish-brown eyes. Your countenance told me you understood everything your father declared to you.

The fam.

You may have had a blessing placed upon you, but we — your family — are the ones who are truly blessed.

So cute.

My favorite time of the day with you is the early morning. I bring you from your room to our bed and feed you and cuddle you until you fall back asleep. Your dad kisses you on the cheek when he leaves for work. It’s the sweetest thing. The other morning I nestled you and your little arm stretched across across my chest as you slept. I had read a chapter from the scriptures to you. I listened to you breathe, I smelled your skin and hair. Our moments — the ones I wish could last forever — are mornings like this.

You may have already noticed, but we are surrounded by people who love us. Family, friends, potential friends. Lola has helped a lot. A couple weeks ago I shared some early experiences of new-motherhood, and we received an outpouring of empathy and support. For those moms who need a little boost, read this blog post. I told some classmates about your birth, and one woman acknowledged that I had undergone major surgery and trauma. That really meant a lot. It’s wonderful that people are willing to help us in any way they can. You understand this best as a baby who’s so dependent on others; I’m slowly realizing as your mother who only wants to make you happy, that we do not have to do anything alone. You eagerly accept help and are grateful, so I want to thank everyone who has reached out.

I can't stand it.

 

Zinger, you have already taught me so much; you are forever an example to me. I want to be able to tell you to stop growing up so fast, but I fear it’s too late for that. Your father and I will enjoy every moment with you anyway.

Inconceivable cuteness

We’ve basked in the last four weeks with you. We’re excited to see what the coming months bring.

Love, Mom

Dear Little Zinger,

I don’t know when you’ll start reading these letters. For all I know, you’re getting up between your night feedings and staring at this screen sharing its soft glow with your already-beaming angelic little face. If you really do this, I would not be the least bit surprised.

Three weeks, little girl. It’s no wonder you or I don’t want to sleep: we don’t want to miss a single moment. The minutes pass so quickly and often blur the memories. After a while we might forget these early stages. Such is the nature of time and why I write you these letters.

We are observing some things about you, and we need to have a talk. Don’t worry, none of it’s bad at all. Well, most of it isn’t bad.

Quiet Mobile

Today I removed the music box from your mobile. You would watch the mobile go round and round for a few minutes before freaking out. I figured it might be the music. Now in place of the ever-violent and traumatic “Rock-a-bye, Baby” in an accidentally minor key is the low hum of the little wind-up motor. It’s a lot better. I mean, if you want a decent dark melody for a music box, people should at least consider “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saëns. That playing over a crib with a sleeping infant doesn’t seem nearly as demented as “Rock-a-bye, Baby.”

Next, let’s talk about visual stimulation. I’ve searched the internet for fun little things that might help you develop your vision. I know you’re not crazy about this. Every time I try showing it to you, you’re like, “Meh.” I’ve tried it with and without the sound, and let me just say it’s so much worse with the sound. If you want your ears to bleed, make sure to turn on the volume:

As far as having something to look at, this always calms you down. Which, of course it does:

Of course.

We enter this room of books, and you see all the spines in their various sizes and colors. You get quiet — almost reverent — and your eyes get big and almost twinkly. Your dad and I read titles to you and wonder which ones you’ll read first, if you’re not already reading. For all we know, you sneak into this room between your night feedings, take a book from the shelves, crawl with a flashlight into a corner and devour all the words, even though you have your own shelf in your room of board books and classic picture books. We love that you love books. But it would be okay if you didn’t.

Finally, Zingster, we need to talk to you about your squirminess. You’re no longer an inert mass of cuteness. You’re a dynamic, sprawling, limby bundle of joy. Your eyes are more intent. You turn your head and stretch your arms. You smile more and kick those strong legs. But what’s curious is the way you grab a handful of your own beautiful, dark hair and PULL. And naturally it hurts and makes you cry. I wondered if you were trying to make yourself cry: an early experiment in manipulation. You’ve done this several times, and maybe that’s all it took for you to associate the action with the pain and stop the behavior. In case you forget, do NOT pull your own hair. At least pull mine. Or someone’s I don’t like. Or wait for a sibling to come along, since you can’t pull your dad’s hair. Unless he grows it out, which he probably won’t.

It’s fascinating and terrifying how quickly you’re learning and growing, and I wonder if your father and I can keep up.

That’s all part of the ride, though.

We love the ride.

Read this and believe it: We love you.

I cannot stand the cuteness.

Love, Mom

Hey, you.

Oh, Zingerita. Look at the time flash by. It’s only been two weeks.

It’s already been two weeks.

You get cuter every day. And smarter. And definitely more vocal. The early morning cries have become routine, but I appreciate the communication. Please be patient as  your dad and I continue to learn your language. I hope we’re catching on fast enough for you.

Your crying has several levels, according to just how annoyed you are. Of course you have basic needs that you try to convey:

  • burpy
  • poopy/pee-y
  • hungry

But there are multiple levels to each of these states. For example, let’s look at hungry, which seems to be the most common cry:

  1. I’m hungry: whimper [ehhh] *squeak*
  2. I’m hungrier than usual: [waaah, waaaah]
  3. Are you guys ignoring me?: [WAAAAAH! WAAAAH! HUHNNNNNGH! NAY! NAAAAY!]
  4. GIVE ME SOME [BLEEP] FOOD NOW! : [WAAARRRRGH!] *bottom lip tremble* [WEHHHH] *open mouth with no sound and really red face and teary eyes* [WEGGGGHHHHH! HENGGH-HENGHH-HENGGHH! HEEP?! HENNNNGH!]

We try to catch you in the first two levels of any of the above states, though while we were in the hospital with you we got to hear NAY! NAAAAAY! a lot. This may as well be your first word, because you have cast a dissenting vote since the day before you were born. You quite clearly said NAY to pitocin when your heart rate dropped from the strong contractions.

That’s right, girl: just say NAY to drugs. I’m proud of you.

I’ll always be proud of you.

Speaking of crying, only a handful of people (maybe +1) have actually acknowledged and asked about my emotional state. The hormones are rampant and my emotions are everywhere. Over half of that handful are healthcare providers, and one of them isn’t even my own doctor. The hormone effects are one of the most significant parts of the postpartum experience, and it’s surprising that not more people talk about them. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. Of course we want to coo and be excited and grateful and happy, but there are also a lot of tears.

When we were in the hospital and the doctor suggested supplementing breastfeeding with formula, I cried. Over the course of our three-day stay you’d lost 10% of your birth weight. You’d latch on and suckle only to get colostrum, which is good for you but doesn’t help you gain weight, and I was worried that milk wouldn’t come soon enough. The lactation specialist came in and coached me on latching; a night nurse came in and tried to force feed you with the brute strength of her man hands smashing my breast toward your mouth while you cried at level 4 and her commanding you to eat. Then the penultimate day of our stay, Nurse Candice calmly informed us of your weight loss and suggested a breast pump to help stimulate milk production more quickly. She said it almost in passing, but it was something I paid close attention to.

We kept track of your diapers and feedings throughout the week. It was breaking my heart to think that I was starving you, and all my inadequacies and insecurities from 37 years of life pre-you snowballed along with my doubts  of whether I could be a good enough mom to you.

Your dad and I were already pretty sleep-deprived. The effects from the IV drip were taking hold. I wanted to be able to sit up and gaze at you in the clear plastic crib-thing on the stainless steel wheelie cart without staples from the c-section poking me. You were sleep-deprived. We were all worn out.

You were patient from the beginning, though, faithful one. You kept latching on with the expectation milk would come. I didn’t want to let you down.

(That last sentence was sort of a pun about breastfeeding. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain.)

Not even an hour later on the same day Nurse Candice talked to us, I called her and told her I’d like to learn how to use a breast pump. She brought one right away. I’d use it after feedings every two hours or so, and by the next day somehow I filled a 12mL syringe of the creamy stuff, not just the thick, clear colostrum. Nurse Candice saw it and brought back only four small bottles of formula to supplement breastfeeding at home. Because she was so hopeful, I became more confident.

Right now I thrive on that kind of reassurance. The doctor weighed you last week, a mere six days since our discharge from the hospital. You gained over half of the weight you lost at the hospital. We were thrilled at the good news. Because you could now eat until satisfied, your mood improved, and you could sleep better. Your father and I were so thrilled.

One particularly powerful experience happened over the weekend. Even with our little victories that I’ve mentioned, I still could not control my mood swings well. I was having a hard time trying not to feel insecure and like I was always doing something wrong. We were out and you had started to get fussy. It was getting late and we headed back to our apartment. The car ride usually makes you sleep, but you amped it up to level 4 for nearly the entire way home.

When we finally got home, you and I had a skin-to-skin feeding session, which never fails to calm you down. Your dad and I talked while you ate. After you fed for a while, I got up to use the bathroom. I laid you down on the bed so that your father could watch you. As I walked past you, your dad said that you were reaching for me.

Man, I love your dad so much.

I turned around and paused. Your big pleading eyes looked right into my eyes. Your body formed a slight curve, and your arms stretched toward me.

When I returned from the bathroom, I picked you up and held you. I recalled the image from just a few seconds before and cried.

As a new mom I’m beginning to understand that parenting is more than keeping you alive, though I can’t help my anxious wakings to check to see if you’re still breathing. Though I try to be prepared as I can, sometimes I feel I have no way of knowing that I’m doing anything right.

But when you looked at me and turned toward me and reached out to me, you also validated me. There’s a very instinctual relationship between newborns and their parents, but you seemed very consciously to acknowledge me as your mom. You seemed to know that’s what I needed.

Those eyes.

I just wanted to thank you again for your patience. For understanding my tears.

And for a truly meaningful two weeks so far.

And for repeatedly forgiving me.

I hope one day to make you proud.

Love, Mom

I'm cute!

You were born last week, in the middle of the night, but not without a little resistance.

Lola!

We came in to the hospital last Monday, when you were already 5 days overdue, to take a nonstress test.

First contact

Da-da!

Nurses fastened monitors to my tummy to keep track of your heartbeat and movement.

They watched and waited and said that they would keep me in the hospital until you were born.

I guess you were exhibiting some stress.

So they set us up. They attached an IV and started a pitocin drip to start contractions.

They administered an epidural.

Then we waited.

When they increased the pitocin to the maximum dosage, you reacted poorly.

So much so that they stopped the drip so that you could recover.

After a couple of hours they restarted pitocin at the lowest level and increased it slowly and watched you very carefully.

You seemed to respond well, but the pitocin didn’t help the contractions progress.

They called the doctor. The doctor called for a c-section.

They prepped us for surgery.

At 1AM on Tuesday, you were born.

I never knew a mere week could be so full of joy. And sleeplessness. And poop.

You came out alert, eyes assessing the scene. Your very first cry made me cry. The anesthesiologist wiped the tears from my eyes.

We have spent the last week learning how to communicate with each other. Your dad has been quick to get up in the middle of the night to change your diapers.

More Da-da!

Your dad and I have already spent so many minutes gazing into your angelic little face and watching you sleep. We laugh at the faces you make; you make a lot of faces.

One of many

Cautious skepticism

 

Seriously?

The world is cursed.

 

Sometimes we talk to you in cutesy voices, and sometimes we get serious and explain things about real life to you. You look at us intently.

Our joy is supposed to grow from here? I wonder how that is even possible.

We look forward to many, many more weeks together with you.

Awwwwwww...

Past the watermelon stage!

Dear Baby Girl:

Technically, you’re at 39 weeks, 6 days.

And there’s an end in sight.

You’re coming next week for sure if you don’t come earlier.

Pretty great, right?!

We saw the doctor today, and I’m still measuring the same as last week.

But we all know that doesn’t mean anything; you still could come at any time.

Lola was with us in the doctor’s office today. Your father found your heartbeat, and Lola commented that your heartbeat sounds strong. The doctor said you’re really healthy, but the placenta isn’t going to last forever. We need for you to arrive so I can start feeding you and so you can start growing in our home — in our family — where there’s plenty of room.

The next time the doctor sees us will be at the hospital.

Little one, I’m tired. And I’m sorry I’ve been so irritable, like seriously cranky. You probably can’t tell exactly what’s been going on, but I’ve been averaging about four hours of sleep every night for at least the past month. I know some people have it worse, but the fatigue is taking a toll.

Also, it hurts to walk. I feel … bruised. Like someone kicked me between the legs or I straddle-fell on the crossbar of a bicycle. Your beautiful skull creates pressure on all the nerve endings down there in my pelvis, causing pretty sharp pains.

No worries, though. Easy enough to solve. I’ll just keep my feet up and minimize walking.

You know what I love? When your dad gets off of work and stops by the apartment to see us before he goes to class. And  when your dad takes a break from homework to get a drink of water and kiss my forehead and talk to you. And when we pray together, thanking God for the blessing of having you in our lives.

See what I did there, Baby Girl? I acknowledged somewhat negative feelings but I also recognized blessings. Please don’t deny yourself of the range of feelings to experience in this life. It’s okay to feel angry or hurt or irritated, but if you can also exercise some faith and maintain a practical optimism and hope, you’ll do just fine.

I know you’ve been waiting to make your big debut. Heaven knows everyone here on the outside has been waiting. Everyone’s getting impatient. They want to see you. They want pictures. They want to hold you. I know it’s a lot to process, dealing with what other people want, but you’re doing great. I’m proud of you for doing what you want, for taking your time and growing so well.

You know what, though: I’m a little conflicted. Yes, I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, but I’ve really enjoyed our closeness these past nine months. From teeny zygote to full-fledged baby, it’s been quite a ride. This whole time I haven’t gotten sick and you’ve kept my ankles slender and hair shiny and nails strong. Despite my lack of sleep, you are my glow.

You’re moving around a lot more now, which makes me think you’re quite curious and maybe a little crowded. Exploring and stretching are sometimes the same thing. Your father and I will help you do so much more of both once you’re born.

We’re ready for you. We’ll see you soon.

Love, Mom

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