Howling at The Moon

We’ve been keeping late hours around here lately. So late that I’ve made the executive decision that we will no longer be observing Daylight’s Savings Time in our house. (I get to make decisions like that now.) I’ve never cared much for the whole “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward” anyway. No, I definitely won’t miss it. Besides, arbitrarily changing the time on our clocks throws my circadian rhythm all out of whack.

I’ve always been a night person. Before Miss P came along, I often joked that I was on Pacific Time because I’d be cooking dinner at 9 PM, or if I was in bed at a decent hour – decent meaning 11 PM – I’d toss and turn until I finally gave in, opened a book from the pile on my nightstand and read until a few hours before my alarm was scheduled to go off. That being said, I really need to start getting Miss P to bed much earlier than her new self-appointed bedtime, which seems to be falling somewhere around 2AM.

[2 AM bedtime for Miss P = No time to work for Mama.]

I’ve overheard mothers saying that their little ones are in bed for the night by 7:30 PM, or sometimes even [gasp] 6:30 PM. (6:30? In this house, dinner isn’t even on the table yet at 6:30.)

We typically start our bedtime routine with an hour of playtime around 8, followed by a bath and baby-massage. At that point, the house is dimly lit and quiet, and it stays that way until morning regardless of whether we’re still awake or not. Since we usually don’t have to wake up early, I’m fine with Miss P staying up until, say, 10 or 11 PM, but 2 AM is a bit extreme.

"What do you mean some babies are in bed by 6:30 PM, Mama?"

“What do you mean some babies are in bed by 6:30 PM, Mama?”

So yeah, we’ve been having quite the sleep fiasco, but I digress.

The past month has brought many firsts to our home, and lack of nighttime sleep isn’t one I wish to spend much time dwelling on. I’d rather revel in the thrill I felt as I recently watched Miss P master the complete roll, which means, for all intents and purposes, she’s mobile.

[Oooh. Ahhh.]

That’s right, folks, she’ll roll from one side of the room straight across to the other. She usually only rolls in one direction though (to her left), so once she gets to the end of the room, you have to spin her around so she can roll back. It’s fun and exciting and bittersweet– a word I catch myself using quite frequently these days- watching her growing and changing and acquiring so many new and stupendous skills.

As if the rolling wasn’t fascinating enough, about a week ago she started sitting up. It’s the most adorable thing to see her sitting there with her legs outstretched, knees bent and toes curled under; she always has her toes curled under.

Sitting

In addition to the motor skills Miss P’s been hard at work on, she’s become quite the little chatterbox. She’s always been extremely vocal, but her coos and babbles are now much more pronounced, and they’re really beginning to mimic the rise and fall of sentences. Sometimes she’ll let out a declarative, “blah, blah, blah, blah,” or an excited “la, la, la.” Tim and I both swear she said “no habla” the other day, and we’ve been laughing about it ever since.

One night last week we were all sitting on the couch and she was yammering away. “Come on, Miss P, let’s howl at the moon,” I said, and we yipped and giggled until it was time for bed.

At times like these, I find my mind briefly drifting back to the evenings Tim and I shared long before her arrival. Despite recent sleepless nights, I’m still in utter disbelief at how much joy she’s brought into our lives. There’s something so sacred and beautiful about these intertwining moments of stillness and chaos, something so profound about the impermanence of these fleeting stages, and we celebrate each of them because we understand we can’t have light without dark. Besides, sleepless nights often lead to lazy mornings full of cuddles, and that’s certainly something worth celebrating.

Poet and OliverCuddles

 

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Ceremony

I celebrated my birthday this week.

I’ve always been a birthday person. With three March birthdays in my immediate family (belonging to my mom, my dad and me) we decided, years ago, to dub the entire month March Madness, and, so, with the flipping of the calendar page, a month-long celebration, bearing no relation to basketball, commences.

It’s hard to say exactly why I’ve always loved this day, my day, so much. Of course it marks my birth, and while that’s something, that’s not quite it. It’s also not the cake or the singing of Happy Birthday. I was a nervous child, and the very thought of a raucous group of people singing and clapping and staring down at me in my attempt to extinguish those tricky candles with one breath was enough to send me into a full-fledged panic attack; it still is.

My Second Birthday

My doll Jessica Judy and me on my 2nd Birthday. (Before I started hiding under the table when it was time for cake.)

I suppose one of my favorite things about my birthday has always been that it’s like my own personal New Year’s- a year older, a fresh start. It’s also the one day each year I’m guaranteed to feel like I matter. People send messages expressing sweet sentiments and greeting cards with thoughtful notes scrawled inside. Sometimes there are even gifts involved. It’s all about me, or so I’ve always thought.

[Fast forward to this year]

I celebrated my first birthday as a mother this week, and, now, I can’t help but look at this whole birthday business from an entirely different perspective. The day that marks my birth also marks what was once an extraordinary transition for my mother- a rebirth, if you will, and this is the first year I’ve ever been able to grasp the magnitude of that. In fact, I’ve spent nearly 32 years, in their entirety, thinking this day, the anniversary of one of the most significant days of my mother’s life, was about me.

I also now realize that, under the surface of all that joy, this anniversary can be quite unforgiving for a mother. After all, her once brand new baby turns a year older, then another, then another, not to mention the painful memories that will inevitably be dredged up year-after-year if the birth didn’t go as planned; Miss P’s didn’t, and I’m accosted by a combination of anger, sorrow and resentment each time I think of this. I know we often tell each other – and I’m guilty of this as well – “A healthy mom and a healthy baby are all that matter,” but this is just not true. At the very least, those things certainly matter, but let’s just stop with the pleasantries already.

I’ve been thinking of Miss P’s Birth Day often lately; I strip it down to raw emotion in my mind, hoping one day I’ll be able to accurately convey its power and mysticism through thoughtfully placed words, but, today, this task feels a bit like simultaneously constructing a fortress and summoning a unicorn.

At my first postpartum visit, my midwife urged me to write this story -Miss P’s story- and to do it soon, lest I forget the details. There was no doubt I’d write about the birth of my daughter, but, it’s a meandering tale, and I knew it wasn’t something I could recreate with words until I had achieved some emotional distance. Five months later, I’m still struggling to recount the day, hours and minutes that led up to her arrival.

On my first birthday as a mother, I couldn’t help thinking about the birth of my daughter, letting the events play over and over in my head, but, for one of the first times, I also contemplated the events of my own birth. I saw through the hoopla of previous years: greeting cards, balloons, the dreaded Happy Birthday tune and those stubborn candles, to name a few. I came to terms with the fact that although this day marks the anniversary of my birth, it’s larger than me, and I wanted to find a way to honor that. 

As I was playing with Miss P, my baby book, which had been tucked away on a shelf under the coffee table caught my eye.

My parents spent last summer at our family’s former house in New York State, which now belongs to my sister and brother-in-law. During their stay, my mom spent some time in the basement sorting through a mound of cardboard boxes and plastic bins all brimming with books, clothes, toys and photographs.

At summer’s end, she returned to Florida lugging with her an array of forgotten, but once beloved, objects; among them was the baby book she’d put together for me during my first few years of life. The book features numerous photographs, lists of my monumental firsts recorded in her tidy handwriting and keepsakes such as a map of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and embossed plastic wings from my first trip on an airplane.

The day she brought the book to me, we spent the afternoon thumbing through its pages. I was expecting Miss P at the time, so there was something very special about looking at the old photographs and mulling over my milestones and achievements. When we were finished, I set the book aside and continued preparing for Miss P’s impending arrival.

On my first birthday as a mother, I once again opened my book. As I flipped through it, with Miss P sitting in my lap, a stack of yellowed type-written pages tumbled out. It was a newsletter of sorts, from what seemed to be a school my mother was attending at the time. The packet, dated April, 1981, was stapled in the top left corner, and, sandwiched between a list of local happenings, recipes and a brief history on Ukrainian Easter Eggs, was my mother’s birth story – my birth story – printed in faded serif typeset and titled, An Early Spring Blossom.

Mom's Birth Story

Miss P kicked her legs and smiled as I read my mother’s words aloud. Though my mother’s experience was different from my own, the sense of anticipation, wonder and urgency she recorded was universal. Towards the end, she took a moment for reflection. She said, “I never really thought much about actually giving life– just living it.”

My Birth Day

My Glowing Mama (who I hope won’t be upset that I’m sharing this picture) and all 6 lbs, 14 ozs and 18 7/8″ of me on my Birth Day.

For me, that’s just it. Sure I’d fantasized about being a mother for years before my wish came true, but it wasn’t until I experienced the birth of my daughter that I was able to grasp my own birthday in all of its beauty and complexity, to see it for what it really was: the day my mother and father finally got to meet the child they’d given life to- the day a family was born.

Five Months

5 month chalkboard

This week marks five full months since Miss P joined us. She’s grown and changed so much since the October night we brought her home. Throughout these months, we’ve watched her transform from a squishy slumberous newborn to a curious and spunky little lady who rolls over, pushes herself up, reaches for her toys, blows raspberries and babbles, sometimes incessantly.

In fact, this has been another month of firsts, starting with the discovery of:

[Drum roll, please]

her feet, also known in these parts as, da pigs.

da pigs

She can’t get enough of them; she pulls them into her mouth while she’s riding in the car, playing on the floor, sitting on my lap- even while she’s nursing. If she’s wearing socks, she tugs at the toe, lifting her leg into the air. Sometimes she sticks her tongue out while she does this. She loves to stick her tongue out.

Someone told me I’d hear Miss P’s first laugh when I least expected it, and it would likely be in response to something that wasn’t even funny. Well, one day I sneezed while I was changing her clothes, and she let out the sweetest little giggle. It was so sweet, that I spent the next week gently poking at her belly during playtime and saying, ahhhhh ahhhh ahhhh chooo in hopes of getting another one. Instead of more giggles, these attempts were mostly met with a smirk. Miss P knew I was faking it.

Lately we’ve been getting lots of giggles – even a few belly laughs – and I don’t have to go to such desperate measures to get them. Even so, I enjoy working to make her laugh. Some of the things she currently finds funny are: clapping hands, snapping fingers, pictures of babies, the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, sneezes and when I pretend to eat her toes while exclaiming, da pigs! She also giggles when Tim rubs his scruffy face on her cheek.

I’ve conducted an informal photo shoot each month since Miss P was a newborn. In the beginning, these sessions were effortless, but they’re becoming progressively more challenging as she develops new skills.

It feels like just yesterday that I had to prop her against the arm of her chair and quickly snap a couple pictures before her wobbly body slumped. This month, she was able to sit erect with confidence. She kicked her feet in excitement and looked around her room as if she was seeing it for the first time. She was enamored with the bookshelves her Daddy built her and kept twisting around, grabbing onto the bottom ledge and looking up at, what must have seemed to her, a myriad of colorful books marching to the ceiling.

I was able to get a few pictures of her facing forward by waving a board book, with Eeyore the donkey on the cover, beside the camera while exclaiming, Look Miss P! It’s Eeyore! Eeyooooore! Eeyooooore! I’m learning that I will do and say the silliest things to win her attention. It’s a prize that never gets old.

5 month1

5 month 3

5 month 2

Miss P’s starting to take in everything around her. She’s fascinated by shapes, sounds, colors and movement. I love the way she greets these new sights and sensations with a wide-eyed expression of wonderment.

I used to do a project in my classroom each year on The Last Lecture, a presentation on achieving your childhood dreams given by, the now late, Carnegie Melon professor, Randy Pausch after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During his lecture, Pausch urges listeners to “never lose the childlike wonder.” Each time Miss P makes a new discovery, I can’t help but be reminded of this prudent advice- for this is the very thing Pausch was speaking of, in one of its purest forms.

5 month 4

In addition to the firsts that have been taking place at home, last week Miss P dipped her toes in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

ocean1 ocean2 ocean3

It was a windy day, and the water was rough, so I waited for a wave to crash onto the sand then I dipped her toes in the swirling foam as the water receded. We did this a few times, then we strolled down the boardwalk with Grandma and Grandpa.

When I was very young, my mom took me to visit my grandfather in Tampa, Florida, a couple times a year, and some of my earliest memories are of the beach – Clearwater Beach, to be exact. That being said, I’m grateful I was able to spend this first with Miss P and my parents. I’m also very grateful that she didn’t plop onto a jellyfish like I did on a trip to the beach when I was a baby.

In other news, we’ve been doing some serious Spring Cleaning around our house in preparation for Miss P becoming mobile – a milestone that’s surely not far off. I was organizing the Tupperware cabinet and thought Miss P might enjoy playing with one of the containers from my Bento Box. I read somewhere that providing household objects (supervised, of course) such as containers, a wooden spoon, pots and pans, etc. is a great way to promote creative thinking from the beginning since these items encourage babies and small children to use their imagination during play.

She really enjoyed the container and has been playing with it for the past week. Now I’m on the lookout for other safe objects she might have fun with.

tupperwareWhile it’s exciting to see her grow and change – as if before our eyes – it also brings with it an ache. As we enter Miss P’s fifth month, those squishy drowsy newborn days are a foggy memory, but I’m looking forward to making many more. I also hope as the weeks, months and years pass by, that Miss P will be able to experience the world around her with the same unwavering sense of wonder she does today.

wonder