Happy birthday, son

birthday-cake-v-3Dearest M,

It’s been one long, yet fleeting year.

To be honest, I don’t remember each day. I don’t even remember that much of the day you arrived.  But here you are.

You are one now. When you were first born though, you couldn’t hold your head up. Your arms and legs flopped everywhere. You cried and you slept. A lot. Even the smallest newborn size onesie hung off you.

I carry a camera with me everywhere, hoping to capture you, doing anything really.  In your first month though, you didn’t do much. Your eyes were closed in most of those photos. If they weren’t closed then they’d be wide open as if you were in shock. Where am I? What am I doing here?  When we hold you now, you push off and crawl away, eager to check out everything.

When you sleep, I review the videos I take of you a million times because I can’t take you all in at once. This time I will marvel at how your right hand moved, and now let me focus on your wobbly cheeks.

You are one now, and you can’t walk yet. But when you grab onto the walker you lift your legs high one at a time and you S.T.R.I.D.E. With purpose. You stomp down the narrow hallway, and as you approach the lounge, you hold your head up high as if to hold up a crown, as if on a royal tour, surveying your subjects.

Away from the walker, you grip my hand so tightly.  I thought you were afraid to let go, I thought you were being unbrave. Until my friend pointed out that you were probably gripping hard for balance. I felt ashamed to have ascribed to you something negative that wasn’t even true. I won’t underestimate you again.

You are one now. I hope we have provided a safe space for you. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally.  I hope you have felt warm.  I hope your belly has been filled. I hope you have been happy.  All this time, even those times when we let you cry so that you could learn to sleep, did you feel loved?  You couldn’t see us, but we were always watching, I promise.

You are one now.  You are looking more and more like a little boy, no longer a baby. But there are times when I look at you on the monitor and secretly hope that you would just cry and cry, be inconsolable, be so devastated, that I have no choice but to go in and snuggle you close to me. You are one now, but you are not going to be one forever.

But you, son, are one now.

Happy birthday, my love.

Yours,

Mama

 

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What’s in a diaper bag?

dsc07800The last bag I had was a backpack that I used for seven years straight through my post grad degree and several overseas field trips. I even left it on a train once and it traveled unaccompanied from Waterloo to Kingston upon Thames. But it came back to me, and it was more precious than ever.

Now that I’m a parent, I’ve become gripped by an intense need to search for the right diaper bag. The diaper bag, and what to pack in it, seem to be that part of being a new parent that I still have any control over. Between the 3 a.m. feedings, the mystery rashes, the diaper changes on restaurant floors, and uncertainty over whether the baby is eating enough or pooping enough, everything has become ambiguous. When will he nap, when will he wake up again — it’s been two hours, three, four and a half now — when do I get to nap, shower, or even to pay the bills? All the time management skills, self-discipline, meticulous schedule and control that I mastered in my career went out the window the moment this mass of being exploded out of me.

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If I have to go anywhere with this unpredictable ball of butter then the only thing I can do, I must do, is to be prepared for all possibilities. Diapers, five different types of wipes, hand sanitizer sprays, blankets of all shapes, a change of clothing just in case he has a diaper explosion — let’s make that two sets — sunscreen, band-aids, and lots of tissues.  I need pockets for each of these, and they need to be accessible, like, you know, zero to sixty in 3 seconds.

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Some of this stuff I carry is ridiculous, I know, but at least I haven’t packed a thermometer yet. I draw my line at that.  You know, a fever doesn’t just jump up and attach itself to your baby between Target and the gas station.  I am also not going to carry around nail clippers. Or scissors. Or special pouches to store the special cases to store the special wipes that already come in a pack.

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I just want a bag that helps me stay organized, retain that little sense of control that I so crave.  Something with enough space for me to throw in random things as I go about my day.  In this mad quest for the right diaper bag, I have lost much precious M-is-sleeping-so-I-should-sleep time. I have read numerous reviews and watched more YouTube videos than I care to admit.  I have also bought my fair share of them. Some have been too small, some too bulky, and a couple of others just perplexing. Some have come close to being perfect, but I haven’t found the one yet. And as long as baby M keeps growing and becoming a different person everyday, I’m not sure I ever will.

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Not the smallest baby in the room

img_20161102_114447When M was not yet one month old, we went to a cafe for brunch.  It was one of our first outings as a family. I felt proud to be out and about already, as much as was possible given the physical and emotional exhaustion.

It was a little French cafe complete with bistro tables and little porcelain teacups. We squeezed our stroller through the sea of legs and settled next to a table of older white Democratic women talking politics. This was pre-Trump times so the conversation was less than interesting. I ordered something sweet, probably.  I was marveling at how M could sleep through the bustle of a busy brunch crowd when a woman stopped at our table and broke our exhausted reverie.  My husband and I smiled and nodded at the ooh and aahs, and tried not to roll our eyes at each other while secretly loving the attention. Then she said,

“And soon he won’t be the smallest baby in the room!”

That comment has stayed with me ever since that day almost a year ago. At every restaurant, or coffee shop, or doctors office, I look around hoping not to find babies younger than M, wishing to hold onto these early moments of him, still tiny, fresh, and a stranger in this world. As much as it brings me joy every time a new tooth breaks through, or he makes a new random sound that means nothing at all–yes, as exciting and happy that is–I always come back to this thought. He’s growing up so fast, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I thought of the comment again today, when I was picking out clothes the next size up for M. The clothes look enormous, and my heart stung a little.

I remind myself to only think, at least at this moment, in my lap, he still is the youngest, smallest baby in the room.

Strawberry boy

Strawberry

I watch him on the monitor and wonder how long he’s been awake. He chews on his sleep sack.

I knock on the door and say his name softly. He cries out as if he’s being rescued.

I try to nurse him but he doesn’t eat. He wiggles away to play.

I give him a strawberry with his lunch. He squishes it in his hands instead.

I put him in his playpen and sneak away to make coffee. He watches me like a hawk.

I hug him against me for his afternoon nap. He crosses his legs one on top of another.

I unbutton his overalls to change his diaper. He rolls over to his left, then again, and again.

I brush his teeth and wash his face. He tries to kick off his sleep sack.

I put him down in his crib. He scrunches up his face but he can’t fight sleep.

I lean in for a kiss. He lifts his hands to me, and they still smell of strawberries.