Nine Months In; Nine Months Out

Forty-one weeks ago, Miss P made her long-awaited debut- all 7 pounds, 1 ounce, and 20.5 inches of her.

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Introducing Little Miss P

She didn’t emerge with gusto, the way some babies do. Instead, she was limp and silent.

We were transferred from a free-standing birth center to the hospital in the final stages of labor. Before Miss P’s entrance, a nurse explained that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. Though this didn’t necessarily signify a problem – it actually wasn’t too uncommon – a team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit would be standing by incase of complications.

The moment Miss P was born, time was suspended like the lingering pause between a bolt of lightening slashing the night sky and an angry crack of thunder in the distance.

“Meconium. It’s the meconium,” I heard someone say.

The doctor rushed to cut the umbilical cord, swaddled a languid Miss P in a receiving blanket, and placed her in my arms for a fleeting moment – a moment in which someone snapped our first family photo. I barely had the chance to look down at her before she was taken from me, whisked away to the NICU.

Suddenly, there was so much going on around me: bright lights, loud voices, medical staff shuffling back and forth. I could hear the incessant chatter and laughter of nurses seated at a desk in the hallway and the bleeps from equipment in neighboring rooms. A nurse scolded me- something about bending the IV – an IV I wasn’t even supposed to have – as I gripped my cell phone and tried to focus on the 2″ by 3″ photo of my baby girl the student midwife from the birth center had sent me before she left the hospital.

The whole thing was so far from the peaceful private entrance I’d been fantasizing about since we switched to midwifery care and found a supportive doula.

Then for the first time in forty-one weeks, I was completely and utterly alone.

Miss P had what we like to call a rough start, but less than halfway through the day, she was breathing unassisted, alert, and nursing like a pro. Even so, the first 48 hours of her life were spent in the NICU under observation. During this time, Tim and I were allowed to stay with her. We were allowed to hold her and care for her, though not quite in the same ways we would have had the situation presented itself differently.

I find myself often wondering what it would’ve been like had my baby not been pulled from my arms moments after her birth- to have experienced the “Golden Hour” they often referred to in our childbirth classes in all its sanctity: no weighing and measuring, no bath to compromise the precious vernix, no generic blanket and cap to mimic the warmth of that initial skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

I wonder what it would’ve been like to hold my baby close without a tangle of cords hooked up to various monitors intruding between us, to know the sound of her breath without the drone of equipment – equipment that in our case was completely unnecessary. I also wonder how I would’ve felt had I not had to watch a nurse push the empty plastic bassinet from my room, its wheels squeaking across the tile floor.

I don’t often recount the first days of our lives as a family of three, but when I do, most of my listeners tell me to move on. After all, I was fine. Miss P was fine. It was just a rough start. We live under the guise that a healthy mom and a healthy baby are the only things that matter when they are not. And, by the way, the term healthy isn’t limited to outright physical vigor. We can’t know for certain the repercussions – regardless of how delayed or seemingly unrelated they may be – of separating a newborn baby from its mother. I’m not sure I’ll ever emotionally heal from Miss P being taken away from me, even if it was only for a few hours, even though we both ended up being outwardly “fine”.

As much as I daydream about it, I can’t go back in time and make Miss P’s entrance a peaceful one. I can’t change the fact that she spent her first hours in a stark bassinet  instead of in the arms of her mother and father. I can’t change that she spent her first two days adorned with tubes and wires. I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

I think this is one of the reasons I’ve really resonated with many aspects of attachment parenting. I didn’t set out to be an attachment parent; I didn’t read books on the subject or watch documentaries, I just started doing what, to me, felt natural, and I’ll continue to do what feels natural- to utilize the mother’s instinct that was born with my daughter. I don’t want my sweet baby to succumb to fear or loneliness. I want her to know I’m here for her, now and always.

So, here I sit, forty-one weeks later, with Miss P napping beside me. The room is dimly lit, piano music is playing softly in the background, and the scents of lemongrass and cedarwood tangle in the air as they escape the diffuser. This has become our evening ritual- a nightly Golden Hour of sorts, albeit delayed.

I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

As I sit here this evening watching Miss P sleep, I’m trying to wrap my head around the significance of this extraordinary milestone we’ve just achieved as a family: nine months in; nine months out. Or, in our case, forty-one weeks in; forty-one weeks out.

It’s no secret that human infants are nearly helpless at the time of their birth. Though a full-term baby is born around the nine month mark, its gestation period most definitely continues outside the womb, and in many ways, the nine month milestone, with its bold determination and mobility, seems to bring this external gestation full-circle.

I think back to the night we brought Miss P home from the hospital. Those first few weeks were visceral. They were full of laughter, tears, ambivalence, joy, and utter mental and physical exhaustion.

Birth12

Relaxing during our first week home

Everything was methodical, and there were so many calculations to keep track of: last nursing session, which side it took place on and for how many minutes, wet and soiled diaper output, frequency and duration of naps, and duration of nighttime sleep.

What was her temperature? Did she burp after she nursed? Did she burp twice? Was she too hot or too cold? There was also the uncertainty about how much milk she was actually consuming- a figure that I now know wasn’t something I needed to worry about, yet I spent our first month together agonizing over this lack of information and intermittently texting my midwife for reassurance.

And don’t even get me started on the fit of anxiety that stems from clipping those itty bitty fingernails, keeping her floppy slippery body upright during baths, and pulling her head and delicate limbs through the tiny openings of her sleepers and onesies.

Now Miss P tries to climb right out of her bathtub, and she pulls her shirts up over her head to undress herself. She creeps and crawls and cruises along the walls and furniture. She points when something catches her interest, bounces when she hears a song she likes, and she clears out the kitchen cabinets at least five times a day.

She calls for our cat, Oliver, with me- says, la la, pssst psssst – and wobbles with excitement as he trots over to us. She buzzes and hums and clicks her tongue, and she never tires of smiling at her reflection in the mirror or probing her finger along the owl wind chime that hangs in our living room if you hold her up beside it.

She’s full of spunk and a touch of sass, and she has so much energy that all of our latest pictures are blurry because I can never get her to stay still for more than a moment.

Our baby girl has now grown outside the womb for more or less the same amount of time she spent developing within, and although her exit was turbulent, every day thereafter has been filled with peace and love and a surprising amount of clarity.

Sure, there’s clutter, and chaos, and exhaustion sprinkled in as well. There are often dirty dishes piled in the sink, and baskets of clean laundry that take far too long to get put away, and there are days here and there that end before I’ve even had a chance to shower, but there’s a certain element of beauty in imperfection, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

I’m constantly astounded by this little person who now consumes me. I don’t know how I existed before her, and then I remember I didn’t exist; I was born alongside of her forty-one weeks ago. And oh, how we’ve both grown!

9 months Chalkboard

Happy 4th of July. Miss P is 9 months old!

41 In 41 Out

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8 Months

8 Months Chalkboard

Tomorrow marks nine months for Miss P.

NINE MONTHS. I can’t get over it.

But, first, here are some eight month updates. (Better late than never.) 8 Months 1

8 Months 2

8 Months 3

June – Miss P’s eighth month – was a month of ups and downs around here: Miss P’s first airplane ride, adventures in Upstate New York, visiting family in the breathtaking rolling mountains of Pennsylvania, and let’s not forget the latest developmental milestone P’s been tackling- STANDING up and FALLING down, a new trick that leaves me rife with anxiety and hovering over her at all times. {Hello, porcelain tile floor!}

Miss P’s newly acquired mobility coupled with several projects I’ve been juggling over the past two months have kept me from this space. Gone are the days of spending hours at the computer while occasionally glancing up from the keyboard to admire my peacefully sleeping little one. Oh yes, long gone.

As the fog of being a new Mama lifts, I realize there are many things I’ve surrendered since Miss P’s arrival (some temporarily, some for good) such as: sitting down to a hot meal (actually, make that sitting down at all), the vast majority of my favorite tops and dresses as they don’t offer sufficient boob access, make-up (most days), the hair dryer and curling iron, running errands just because, doing anything – besides showering -quickly, napping because I’m tired or not feeling well, meeting a friend for an impromptu lunch or happy hour, etc.

Late nights out have been traded for late nights in, sky-high heels have been exchanged for flats, red wine replaced with tepid herbal tea, and reading time has dwindled from hours a day spent thoroughly engrossed in a quality novel to minutes here and there spent scanning poorly written articles – many of which condemn my parenting choices – shared over social media.

I scroll through said articles while standing at the kitchen counter and gently swaying from side to side as Miss P peacefully naps in our woven wrap or while nursing her to sleep at night in the glider or while patiently waiting for her to wake in the morning, pausing every couple of sentences to look over at her snuggled beside me in bed.

These articles often tackle controversial topics and cross into territories where the author, let’s call her Sally Sassypants, has no jurisdiction: Sleep training, anyone? No thanks, Sally. If my baby cries, I will pick her up, even if that means I’m “doomed” to comfort her throughout the night until she’s a teenager, which, by the way, is a major aspect of the whole parental role- you know, actually being there for your kids.

These articles often promote rigid schedules- schedules that don’t support the baby’s needs, and encourage incomprehensible ideas like letting your baby self-soothe, which we all know is just a euphemism for cry himself/herself to sleep, and I’m thinking, “Damn, we’re a little off,” because I’m not even out of bed yet, and I’ve already broken seven of Sally’s rules.

{Hey, Sally, how about you parent your way, and I’ll parent mine, mmmmkay? And here’s a tidbit for you, compliments of a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing Mama: Do us a favor, and run a grammar check on your articles before you publish them, because there are always, always grammatical errors, and that really compromises your credibility; just my humble opinion, of course.}

I know, I know, I really need to just stop reading this rubbish. I’ve been watching Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar collect dust on my coffee table for months now, a fate that, for me, is right up there with preparing my favorite meal only to gaze longingly at it, thinking how wonderful it would be if I were to devour it. (Maybe I’ll move The Bell Jar from the coffee table to the nightstand so I can partake in some real reading time in the fleeting moments that allow for it.)

So the fog – that haze made up of bliss, hunger, exhaustion, and, at times, the harsh realization that nearly every aspect of your being has been altered – has lifted, and I’m starting to realize that being a Mama can get awfully political if you buy into that sort of thing. I’ve also realized it’s not advice or reassurance I want or need because, at the end of the day, there are only two people it concerns if I choose to nurse Miss P to sleep each night, and I don’t have it in me to let either of us down.

Ah yes, so I’ve traded some things in, but look what I got in return:

P3

 P4

P1

P5

And really, I didn’t give any of these thing up. I’ve heard my share of moms boast that they’re “still the same person” after the arrival of their little ones. {Sally is one of those moms.}

I am not.

When I think of the former me, the “me” before P – and the place she has gone – the hauntingly beautiful description of visual memory Vladimir Nabokov provides in the opening pages of Lolita comes to mind. Nabokov asserts that, “there are two kinds of visual memory…” The me before P is best described as the second of these two: “(the kind) you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors.”

It’s actually the former version of myself that I’ve traded in; the me before P now exists only in photographs and on the dark innerside of my eyelids. She’s ethereal.

And as for the new me? I’m living more consciously than I ever have before because there’s a tiny person who depends on me, and my heart is so full of love and gratitude for her. As an added bonus, my floor is so clean you could eat off of it, and, I suppose, I can temporarily succumb to shoddy reading material and tepid tea.

On a lighter note, I leave you with some pictures from our recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania. {Oh, how I want to go back!}

plane

Miss P’s first plane ride. (She handled it much better than Daddy.)

NY1

I was so happy to see a lilac bush, even if it was a tad past its prime.

Miss P does the zoo

Exploring the Safari Bus at the zoo.

Miss P in Oswego

Miss P “strolling” down Bridge Street in Oswego, New York.

car ride to PA

Miss P’s first road trip! En route to Pennsylvania.

Welcome to PA

Oh, the beauty. Welcome to Pennsylvania.

View from the hotel

A view from the top.

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gorge1

This place was seriously so gorgeous!

gorge landscape3

gorge landscape2
gorge landscape1

7 Months

 

7 Month Board

Happy 7 Months to Miss P! Seven. Months. How is that even possible? Seriously. 

Since her half-birthday, Miss P’s tasted her first solid foods. [Let’s hear it for avocados and sweet potatoes!] She’s become a pro sitter-upper, an exuberant hand-clapper and [wait for it, wait for it] a curious crawler; the last of which the cat and dog don’t seem overly impressed with. She’s also charmed our pants off – over and over again – with her well-placed declarations and whispers of Mama and Dada.

Yes, it’s certainly been a triumphant month for Miss P.

[Trumpets blare in the distance]

Miss P's First Itty-Bitty Pony-Tail

Miss P’s First Itty-Bitty Pony-Tail

One of the things Tim and I had been (apprehensively) looking forward to this month was dabbling in the introduction of solid foods. Although we were given the go-ahead to begin Miss P on rice cereal [gag] at four months, [Seriously, pediatricians, WHY are you STILL recommending this?] we knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be offering her solids until she passed the six-month mark. And we certainly wouldn’t be beginning with rice cereal because you don’t have to do much digging to learn that, despite what that good ol’ ped tells you, rice cereal (or oatmeal or any other grain) is an extremely poor food choice for an infant.

First, rice cereal has little nutritional value. Second, in order to digest said grain(s), the body must utilize an enzyme called amylase. That sounds simple enough, I know, but the trouble is, babies don’t produce this enzyme in a large enough quantity to properly digest grains until sometime after the one-year mark. (Babies actually don’t produce amylase at all until sometime around 6 months.)

Armed with this information, Tim and I decided Miss P’s first foods would be two of Mama’s favorites: avocado (which is rich in healthy fats), followed by sweet potatoes (a decent source of iron). We also decided to skip the purées and begin with finger foods, a decision that initially left me all, wait, can you DO that? As it turns out, you can; It’s called baby led weaning (blw), and it’s something I recently learned about (and something I’ll speak much more about in a later entry). I do want to quickly clarify that in this instance, “weaning” is meant in the sense of beginning to incorporate solids, NOT terminating a nursing relationship.

At 6 1/2 months, we were ready to begin blw!

How did this seemingly zany method of introducing solids turn out? Was it a success? I suppose to answer, you’d have to decide on a personal definition for the word “success.” Our goal has always been for Miss P’s main source of calories and nutrition to come from breastmilk for the duration of her first year. That being said, we’re viewing these early encounters with solids purely as sensory experiences as opposed to meal replacements. We don’t always offer solids each day, and when we do, they quickly become squishy messy playthings.

Most of the food that reaches her mouth does so inadvertently, but that’s okay. She seems perplexed and amazed with these new textures and sensations, and we can’t get enough of her priceless responses to them.

Miss P’s verdict on the small amount of  food that’s actually been ingested: Avocados, NAY; Sweet potatoes, YAY!

7 Months Food Collage

Behold! Squishy things! I shall look confused for a moment, then proceed to mash these items up and transfer them to my lap!

As for this business with the crawling, I’m going to have to elect to skip over that and remain in denial for at least a few more weeks. I hope that’s okay.

[Emotional breakdown averted]

Now, on to our photo shoot, which proves more eventful each month:

7 months chair 3

7 months chair 2

7 months chair 1

7 months chair 4

She’s been checking out the books on the shelf behind her chair for months now, but this is the first time she’s ever plucked one from the ledge and pulled it into her lap mouth. [Note: It occurs to me now that we’re a bit backwards here with the whole food in the lap and book in the mouth bit.] We took a break from our photo shoot to read a book about Eeyore the Donkey. Alright, I had to take one picture of our story-time; it was just too sweet not to.

When she grew tired of the book and the chair, this happened:

7 months chair 5

Slow down, Miss P! Mama is not ready for this just yet. This is also one of the few pictures where I see some of myself in her; she’s usually all Daddy.

And sometimes in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, I’m able to capture a moment of serenity; these moments feel as if the whole world is taking a deep breath.

[Inhale] 

Black and White Garden

Miss P communing with nature.

Pensive playtime

Pensive playtime

Kangaroo

An after-lunch nap for Miss P

Black and White Sleeping

Sweet dreams our Dearest Miss P. Mommy and Daddy love you.

 [Exhale]

A Maypole for Miss P

It’s May 1st, and this morning we celebrated Miss P’s first Beltane. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it involves much more history and lore than I currently care to dive into, but here’s a snippet of background: Beltane – which falls halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice – is an ancient pagan fertility festival that’s still observed by many today. It’s a time to celebrate life and the Earth’s abundance while acknowledging summer’s impending arrival.

Perhaps one of Beltane’s most widely known traditions is dancing around the Maypole (a tree or pole adorned with colorful ribbons). I must confess, there wasn’t much dancing around here, but there was some bouncing and clapping – one of Miss P’s newest tricks – and our celebration featured a miniature Maypole, which Tim helped us make last night.

In addition to the Maypole, I spent some time last night making daisy floral crowns- one for Miss P, and one for another tiny friend. Daisies represent simplicity, which is something I’ve been trying to align myself and our home with since Miss P’s arrival. It’s been a slow process, but, I must say, we’re making progress.

Beltane 3

Miss P’s counting down the days till summer in the dress her Grandma and Grandpa brought her back from their recent trip to Mexico.

Beltane 2

It’s so sweet to see her communing with nature; she just loves being outside.

Beltane 1

Of course while many are welcoming the summer after a long harsh winter, in South Florida, we’re enjoying our last days of temperate weather before the heat and humidity take over. We certainly live in a different world.

Wishing you all a bountiful summer!

Beltane 7

6 Months

6 Month Chalkboard

…and what 6-month-photo would be complete without a face full of drool?

Dearest Poet Victoria, Our Little Miss P:

You’ve made it halfway around the sun, our sweet child. In your time here, you’ve learned to use your voice when you want to be heard- even if it’s only to babble to your blanket or razz at Raffy the Giraffe- you’ve also learned to tug at our hearts without making a sound.

You can move your body across a room, sit up and even “stand”. You’ve outgrown clothes, socks and hats and transitioned from peering up at the world from a cradle to gazing out at the world from a high chair.

You’ve filled our lives with so much peace and light and laughter.

Rock n' Play:High Chair

You’ve become so perceptive and observant; it’s like each day you’re seeing the world for the first time, and, in a sense, I suppose, you are, because this world is vast and ever-changing.

In spite of the uncertainty that often travels at the heels of new discoveries, you can take comfort in knowing we are beside you, and our love for you will remain steadfast and fierce.

The next 6 months of your journey will bring you full circle for the very first time; you’ll see spring gently fold into summer, taste your first solid foods and crawl. You’ll also likely say your first word, blow your first kiss, wave goodbye and take your first step, though we know you won’t yet wander too far.

Each day with you, our Little Poet, is an excellent adventure, and we can’t wait to see where this magnificent journey takes the three of us next.

Love, Mommy and Daddy

6 Month Collage Landscape

Ahhh, the deliciousness of being 6-months-young:

6 Month Hallway16 Month Hallway56 Month Hallway46 Month Hallway2

“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone and every flower, every bird that sings and every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees and the hills and the river and the rocks, in the sea and the stars and the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.”

-from The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth

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

 

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

Future Perfect

The longer I live in Florida, the more I miss the traditional four seasons and the changes each one brings along with it. When I hear people complaining about cold weather and countless inches of snow on the ground- and, believe me, I used to be one of those people- I can’t help but feel a pang of anger and a tinge of jealousy. It’s halfway through February, the “coldest” time of year around here, and the South Florida sun is still so hot that I can’t even open my blinds and allow daylight into my house. It’s like we live in a cave.

I’ve been longing to return to the Northeast since we found out we were expecting Miss P, and it’s been very difficult for me to accept that Tim doesn’t want to move. While I’ll never give up on the idea, I’ve decided I need to make the most of our time here. That means instead of staying cooped up inside the house all day, Miss P and I need to get out more, and, I have to say, we’ve really been living up to this goal. In fact, last week was full of fun and firsts.

Speaking of firsts, we got our first woven wrap last weekend. So exciting! We began using a stretchy wrap when Miss P was a newborn, and it worked very well for us (once we finally figured out how the heck the thing worked, that is). Since the fabric is, well, stretchy, we started running into problems as she got heavier (around the three-month-mark). It says on the package that it can be used until your child is 35 pounds, and while it may be true that the fabric is strong enough to accomplish this, by the time Miss P was approaching 14 pounds, the wrap became terribly unsupportive and, as a result, uncomfortable. We’ve been using a soft-structured carrier over the past month, and while it’s easy to use and extremely supportive, she’s still a bit too small for it. So far our woven wrap is perfect for us.

Miss P also had her first trip to the beach last weekend. By the time we arrived I was starving, so we stopped at a Subway along the boardwalk. Veggie Delight, anyone? Of course Miss P was so cozy in our new wrap she was asleep by the time we finished eating, and she slept through the rest of our excursion. This was a bit disappointing because I really wanted her to get to see the ocean. Looks like we’ll be making another trip soon.

beach3

Miss P’s First Trip to the Beach, and Mommy’s First Wrap-Job- February 9, 2014

Miss P’s not the only one around here experiencing firsts. Our dog, Brooklyn, and our cat, Oliver, have never had the pleasure of knowing a baby before, and it often seems like they’re not quite sure what to think of this whole ordeal.

From time to time, Oliver is fascinated by Miss P. He likes to relax along the edge of her play mat. He sprawls and preens and watches every little move she makes, which is wise because Miss P’s quickly becoming an expert at reaching for and grabbing objects, and said “objects” often include Brooklyn’s tail and Oliver’s fur.

ollie1

“It’s a fine day to enjoy the sunshine,” thinks Oliver.

ollie2

“Whoa. Why is that tiny human getting so close to me?”

ollie3

“Okay, enough. I just know she’s going to pull my fur.”

Miss P seems to be quite fond of Brooklyn and Oliver. Her eyes widen and she smiles each time they pass by. Sometimes she kicks Brooklyn- on accident, of course- as he prances across her activity center. You’d think he’d learn to walk around it, but no. Miss P startles as he lets out a meek yelp, then she smiles.

The other day I managed to retrieve a sizable clump of dog hair from her hand as it was en route to her mouth. It was a close call.

ollie4

tummy time1

In addition to her sudden interest in the family pets, Miss P has discovered her thumb! According to the manuals, I’m supposed to be horrified, but I must confess, I think it’s quite cute. She seems positively thrilled with this new toy. Just look at that smile:

MisterX 1thumb

She’s also found her feet. She constantly reaches for her toes and tries to roll over while holding tightly to them. The other evening she kept grabbing her foot and bringing it up to her face while she was nursing. She became so infatuated with her foot that she stopped eating so she could shove it into her mouth. After a few seconds, she let out a growling sound that told me she was still hungry and wasn’t having much luck getting any milk from this exciting new object.

As far as outings go, Miss P’s been on the move. Last week we had a lovely picnic at the park with a friend and her daughter.  We’ve also met up with a local babywearing group a couple of times, and, I have to say, It’s been wonderful getting out of the house and meeting some new Mamas! These occasions aren’t just fun for me; the more alert and observant Miss P grows to be, the more she seems to enjoy the change in scenery as well. (That is when she’s not sleeping.)

meetups

If all this excitement wasn’t enough, Miss P just celebrated her first Valentine’s Day. We spent the morning conducting an impromptu photo shoot, because, seriously, I can never seem to take enough pictures of this little woman. She was so eager to show off her tummy-time skills and that sweet little smile. I used a clip art kiss because no Valentine’s Day picture would be complete without one, but I just couldn’t bring myself to smudge lipstick on my baby’s face.

vday kiss

After our photo shoot, we took a walk to the mailbox where Miss P’s first official Valentine was waiting. It was from Grandma and Grandpa Bob. (She’s since gotten a couple more.)

vday card

That evening, on the phone, my mom told me that she and my dad chose that particular card because of the bow (which is actually a detachable barrette). Legend has it, when I was a child, all of the little girls I drew- and there were many- each had a bow, just like the one on the card. My mom and dad thought it was cute and ironic and couldn’t resist this card because of it.

As for me, I don’t remember the bows. I vaguely remember the little girls. I clearly remember adding eyes and a smile to every sun and tree I drew throughout the entirety of my childhood. Thinking back, it seems that a smiling sun and tree were featured in nearly every drawing I created.

Sometimes the tree branches boasted bright green puffs- my rudimentary attempt at leaves. Other times, they were adorned with red, orange, and gold swirls. If it was a tree I drew on Valentine’s Day, the branches would likely be bare, in reflection of winter. Regardless of the season, I guarantee there was a smiling sun peeking out from the top left corner. Isn’t it funny what our minds choose to cling to?

I can’t wait to share the story behind Miss P’s first Valentine with her when she’s a bit older. She’ll wear her red bow as I tell her that I, her Mommy, drew a bow just like it on all of my little girls when I was her age.

I wonder what characteristics Miss P’s future drawings will feature. One thing is certain: I will have made it my mission for her to grow up in a place that allows her trees to change throughout the year.

Four Months

4 Month Chalkboard

It’s been four months since our little Miss P sluggishly joined us. This time has passed swiftly, yet it feels like she’s been with us forever; I suppose, in a way, she has.

Sometimes I find myself thinking I can’t wait until Miss P crawls or walks or talks. I get so excited imagining her sitting up on her own or tasting her first solid foods. Then I have to stop myself, because every moment I spend in the future is a moment I’ve missed of today, and these moments are fleeting.

She has already grown and changed so much.

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I often find myself staring at her while she sleeps. It’s like I’m still taking it all in. I’m in utter awe of this tiny human who now fills more space in my heart than I ever even knew existed.

I catch Tim doing it, too. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and he’s standing over her crib just watching her sleep.

“What did we do before Miss P?” One of us will randomly ask the next day.

And, although she’s been with us for such a short while, it seems too long ago to even remember. It’s a blurry past-life.

***

Once we passed the three-month mark, so many magical things began happening: rolling over, reaching for and holding onto toys and other objects, feeling the different textures of everything she gets her tiny hands on, splashing in the bathtub, squealing with delight, and making razzing sounds. We’ve even had a few giggles here and there.

Miss P’s been on a relatively consistent schedule these days, albeit her own schedule, but I don’t mind. To keep things interesting, there’s usually one night each week that she decides she isn’t going to go to bed. She’ll babble and razz, roll onto her belly and look around. She’s captivated by so many new sights and sensations.

Sometimes we lay together on the couch, enjoying each other’s company well into the night. If I’m too tired to stay awake any longer and she still isn’t asleep, I’ll put her in the Ergo and pace around the house. This always does the trick. If it happens to be a Friday or Saturday, and Tim doesn’t have to work in the morning, he’ll usually stay up with her while I get some rest.

These nights can be exhausting, but they’re always worth it for the sleepy baby cuddles I get the next day.

The first week of Poet’s fourth month has been a busy one around here. Tim’s been sick for the third time this winter. There’s been a nasty bug going around, so I’ve been taking preventative measures – running around the house sanitizing everything in sight, preparing nutrient-dense foods and drinking lots of apple cider vinegar and Emergen-C – to keep myself, and, in turn, Miss P, healthy.

I wanted to make something to help relieve Tim’s cold symptoms and aid his recovery, so Miss P and I went to work mincing ginger in the kitchen. Fresh ginger is one of my juicing staples, but today I decided to use it to make Tim ginger tea. I was very pleased with the results, so I’m sharing them:

Miss P’s Ginger “Tea”

  • hot water in your favorite mug
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger per 8 oz. of hot water (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey (or sweetener of your choice)
  • lemon wedge

Put the ginger in the hot water, and let steep for a minimum of five minutes. Add the honey and a squeeze of lemon. Stir. Enjoy! (Note: I let the minced ginger settle at the bottom of the mug, then discarded it after the liquid was gone, but if you’re feeling brave – it’s got quite a kick – go ahead and eat it.)

This “tea” is so simple to make, and it’s wonderful for colds and such. The hot water helps boost the immune system, ginger has anti-inflamitory properties, raw honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, and lemon juice helps cleanse the body.

I’ve also been working on Miss P’s Four Month Photo Shoot this week. She’s full of so much spunk and sass these days. Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

4 Months 1

Are you kidding me with those cheeks?

4 Months 3

And that smile?

4 Months 4

And those toes? I seriously can’t handle the cuteness of those little toes.

4 Months 2

I fall more and more in love with her Every. Single. Day.

This month’s photo shoot was a bit more, um, active than the first few. Miss P kept rolling over and trying to eat the props. (I swear she’ll put anything in her mouth besides a bottle.)

[Behind the scenes]

4 months 6

“You seriously expect me to lay still?”

4 month 8

“But, Mama, I can roll over now!”

4 months 7

“And this blanket tastes so good!” Nom Nom Nom.

I was so excited to show Tim all the pictures I took.

“She’s such a little woman,” he always says. And she is, she really is.