Filed under: Pregnancy 2011
Saturday, October 1st, 2011 • No Comments on A Letter to Lucas, One Month Old
You are one month old, sweet baby boy! You came into this world weighing almost eleven pounds and with a full head of dark hair. Your hair looked for all the world like a faux hawk we had styled for you, but it was all you, sweetpea. You already have your own style—and such a sweet smile. They say babies don’t smile until they are a few months old, but you do! Your baby smiles come when you are sleepy and full and drifting off to sleep. And you make me smile, too.
I think the universe was sending a message with your birth, dear Lucas. In the week or so before you were born, we had an earthquake and a hurricane! The earthquake was a first for this part of Virginia and Hurricane Irene blew through a few days later. Plus, we’d been dealing with the ongoing smoke from wild fires in the Great Dismal Swamp. I think the universe was reminding me that Mother Nature is fierce and powerful and capable of anything—and here you are!
I’ll let you in on a secret, Lucas—your mama is rather old to be having babies. In fact, I honestly didn’t think I would ever have babies. And then your brother Patrick came along and I thought he was the only baby I would have. But the universe had other plans for our family and you arrived, big and healthy and another miracle in my life that I wasn’t expecting.
You can thank Patrick for being born first—he was my practice baby and everything I learned about taking care of babies was through the trial and error of taking care of him alone while your father was deployed. I am much more relaxed and at peace this time around, baby boy, and I think that’s a good thing for all of us! You make it easy, though. You’re only a few weeks old but you are already sleeping in fairly long stretches of three to five hours and you’re a very good eater, too!
You were born at the end of summer and I pushed for your birthday to be September 1 because I wanted you to usher in my favorite season. I love autumn and the promise of cooler weather and the brilliance of fall leaves and the warmth of comfort food. I look forward to the shorter days and longer nights because there is so much to look forward to in the fall, from starting school to Halloween to Thanksgiving. You are my autumn baby, warm and comforting and familiar and full of promise and magic.
My hope for you, dear Lucas, is the same hope that I have for your brother: that you will grow up to be fiercely independent and full of love and hope and imagination. You are still so new in the world that it’s hard to tell what your personality will be, but I have faith that between your father and me (and Patrick, too), we will help you discover who you are and what you love.
You look at me while I’m feeding you and I feel like you’re studying me. “Hello, baby!” I say, over and over, and you just stare at me with your serious expression. I wonder what you see when you look up at me, if you know how much you’re loved and how amazing it is that you’re my child. You’re probably just wondering why this woman looks so tired and sounds so silly. That’s what two babies does to your mama, sweetheart.
Two babies. I still can’t wrap my mind around that reality. Two babies under two! Two baby boys—though Patrick is nearly two years old and truly a toddler to your newborn status. But the days and weeks and months are already slipping by and you will both grow up before I know it. My hope is you will be the best of friends and always have each other’s back—brothers should be like that, I think. Friends and confidants, looking out for each other in all ways.
Patrick has the distinction of being my first baby, the one who changed my life the most profoundly, but you sweet Lucas have the distinction of being my last baby and the one who showed me that I am capable of more love than I ever thought possible. I knew the odds of having you were unlikely and now that you’re here and I see how beautiful and perfect you are, I am convinced I could not want anything more than what I have right now. Two babies, my first and my last. You are the two little miracles in my midlife—filling my world and my heart with so much joy and laughter and possibility.
It’s a great big world out there and I hope one day to show it to you. I don’t want to wish you older—being my last baby, I am determined to savor these early months despite the interrupted sleep and occasional crying jags (yours and mine)—yet I still look forward to all the adventures we are going to enjoy as a family, exploring what the world has to offer each of us. But for now, dear Lucas, your father, Patrick and you are all I need to make my world complete.
Thank you for coming into my world, Lucas. It was a pretty terrific place already, but you have made it bigger and brighter and wilder. Happy one month birthday, baby boy.
Mama loves you.
Thursday, September 1st, 2011 • No Comments on A Letter to Patrick
I’m sorry I haven’t written you more often—after you were born I had every intention of writing you a letter every month. But the time slips by and my intentions fall by the wayside even while I marvel at all you have learned and accomplished in the time I have known you. You are just shy of being 21 months old and I cannot believe that in three months my sweet baby monkey will be turning two. I still call you my baby even though you are very much a toddler, into everything and exploring the world. I can see the little boy you are becoming and, because you have your father’s features, I can imagine the man you will be. You are everything I could want in a child and so much more than I ever expected.
It is just after midnight on September 1 and these are the last few hours that you will be my only child. Your baby brother will be born this morning! After you, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more children or if I could have another one even if I did. You were something of a miracle-surprise and it seemed too much to expect that we could be so fortunate again. But miracle-surprises happen sometimes—and sometimes they happen more than once. We were very lucky. The time has flown by and in a few days, we’ll be bringing your brother home. He will be moving into your old room because it is smaller and much more suitable as a nursery and you’ve been given a bigger “big boy’s” room, which has caused me a bit of sadness because I can’t think of you as a big boy. Not yet.
Even though your father and I are excited about our growing family, there is a part of me that will miss these months of it being just the three of us. For the first five months of your life, it was just you and me—learning about each other and muddling through the best we could until we found a rhythm and routine that worked for us. It was a difficult but amazing experience. And while I was so very grateful to have your father home from deployment, I did miss the time you and I shared alone. This is no different—it is an adjustment and a very good adjustment at that—but things are about to change for our family once again and I know I will look back on these weeks and months and feel melancholy for a time when you were my only baby and we were a family of three.
I have no doubt there will be ups and downs in the coming weeks and I will likely count on you to be more patient and well-behaved than I have any right to ask of you (not that you’re not a terrific kid, but you are still a toddler!). And yet I suspect you will surprise me in this as you have surprised me in so many other ways. You are so smart and funny—and so sweet and gentle with animals (real and stuffed) that I know you will be a terrific big brother. Like I said, I can’t really comprehend you being a “big” anything—but I know when we bring your brother home and I’m reminded of how helpless he is and how much we have to learn about him, you will seem to have grown up right before my eyes. And your familiarity will be a comfort when your brother is crying and I can’t figure out what he needs. (I’m also counting on you to use your big brother magical wisdom to help guide me!)
I know you won’t remember being the only child in our family, but I do hope that you will love having a brother. I hope you will be playmates and confidants and, yes, partners-in-crime in a good natured way. While every change is adjustment, it’s hard to see anything negative about this change—there will be more love and laughter in our house, more fun and silliness and toys. You will have someone to grow up with and your father and I will have two amazing little boys to raise. All good and wonderful things. I will try very hard to remember all of that in the coming months when I’m trying to cope with sleepless nights with your brother and those defiant toddler moments you sometimes have.
Thank you for being my first baby, Patrick. If not for your amazing personality and sweet smile, I might not have even considered going down this path a second time. You have made it all worthwhile and I suspect I will feel the same about your brother. But no matter what, you will always be my first baby—and for the next 7 hours you are my only baby. Thank you for coming into my life and rocking my world in the best possible way. You are, now and always, my baby.
Mama loves you.
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 • 1 Comment on Before the Sun Comes Up
I have been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. Taking forever to fall asleep, waking up throughout the night for stretches that last from minutes to hours—this is normal for me. I have adjusted and adapted to interrupted sleep. Sometimes I’ll nap, though it doesn’t often work into my schedule. When I am particularly fatigued from too many really sleepless nights, I’ll stay in bed for as long as possible (usually going to really early to accomplish this goal) even if I can’t sleep. Rest is rest, or so I tell myself. But insomnia during pregnancy is a different animal—it’s like insomnia on steroids. In addition to my regular insomniac habits, pregnancy means I’m up every 60-90 minutes (sometimes every 45-60 minutes) to pee or readjust my position or to pop a couple of Tums for the heartburn. Those are normal sleep interruptions for most women in the third trimester. So I’m napping more days than not and often finding that my naps are my longest stretches of sleep. And so it goes…
I’ve been awake since 4 AM. In a couple of weeks, I’ll have a good reason to be up before the sun—I’ll be caring for a newborn who doesn’t care what time it is. I remember those long days and nights with Patrick in the dead of winter, the two of us alone in the house, me getting to know his cries and needs, him learning how to self-soothe and sleep through the night. It was… tough. Though not nearly as tough as I imagined it would be. Of course, I was in a haze of complete exhaustion and a lot of those days are a blur…
I told Jay that anticipating this new baby’s arrival feels a bit like a holiday celebration—the preparation, the sense of newness and excitement, it’s like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one. Yes, there will be exhaustion and long nights and lots of work to be done, but that’s the way holidays are, right? Lots of work for a wonderful return. Waiting for Patrick to arrive felt more like an apocalypse—anticipating the absolute worst and preparing accordingly. The worst didn’t happen (though 5 months alone with an infant really sucks) and we survived and even thrived. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be preparing to walk the gauntlet again. This time, I’m calmer and far less stressed—which seems to be making for a healthier pregnancy, both mentally and physically.
I am both more prepared and less prepared for this baby. More prepared in the sense that I know what to expect from a newborn and from my own body. I have experience, changing a diaper is nothing foreign to me now, I know how to rock and soothe while multitasking. On the other hand, I’ve done very little actual preparation for this baby. His room is Patrick’s current room, so all of the preparation has been in getting Patrick’s new (bigger) bedroom ready for him to move. I’ve bought only two new baby outfits—one will be his coming home outfit. The rest of his clothes will mostly be hand-me-downs from Patrick and whatever gifts friends bestow on him. I’ve taken one (blurry) belly picture, though I’m determined to get a few more in before this is all over. I’ve only barely glanced at birth announcements, much less pre-ordered and addressed the envelopes two months in advance the way I did with Patrick. There is no baby registry (and no need for one), there is no stockpile of diapers (yet) or household goods. There is me, not worrying much about the little details and instead focusing on getting my writing and editing work done before the baby is born and trying to enjoy these last weeks of pregnancy as I am 99% sure I won’t be traveling this road again.
Motherhood changed me in profound ways I could not possibly comprehend before Patrick’s arrival. I am certain having a second baby will bring about its own changes as well. But the changes I have undergone with Patrick have not been about a loss of identity or freedom (I experienced none of the former and far less than I expected of the latter), but about understanding real balance and discovering deep wells of strength and patience I never knew I had. I am, oddly enough, far more focused and ambitious about my writing career than I have ever been. I am more productive in this pregnancy than I was with Patrick—in part, because I’ve stayed contracted to edit anthologies, but that really is only part of it. Some other part of me—the part that has come to understand the importance and need for balance—keeps me motivated. Keeps me writing, keeps me plotting, keeps me brainstorming new anthologies.
With Patrick, the world was going to stop with his birth and, with it, my creativity. It happened for a time—I lost all interest in writing stories and couldn’t seem to think of an original idea to save my life. On the other hand, I did a lot of other kinds of writing through those last months before Patrick was born and in the first months of his life. I blogged a lot more than I do now, I wrote letters to him, I wrote long emails to Jay on deployment. i started plotting again before I was really up to writing, I kept a list of anthology ideas I wanted to pitch when I was ready to go back to it. My creative recovery was a lot slower in coming than my physical recovery. This time, I feel like the creativity is still there—and I really don’t have the time or energy to even keep up with it. That is comforting and frustrating at the same time.
In terms of work, I am essentially booked through 2012. I have contracts, projects, ideas—enough writing and editing work to keep me busy. I had planned to take several weeks of maternity leave—doing nothing more than the bare minimum of responding to emails and fulfilling obligations like copyedits and proofreading. That plan has become more fluid—I will take what time I absolutely need and then I’ll get back to it. I want to. That’s the important part. I want to write and edit and plot and promote. I want to, even though I know I will be tired with a toddler and a newborn and post-partum recovery. Wanting something makes anything possible. I know that.
It’s going to be a wild ride for the rest of the year. A new baby and all that goes along with him, books rolling out in October and December, anthology deadlines at the first of the year, at least a dozen stories I want to write and a potentially large project I might be starting as soon as I can after this baby is born, all of the holidays, including our 21st wedding anniversary and Patrick’s second birthday, catching up with friends, planning parties and so many new memories to make. Whew. Wild ride doesn’t begin to describe the next four months. But I want all of that, too. It’s been a rollercoaster year already and I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would—and yet, still less than I wanted to. I guess that’s another kind of balance—content with what I’ve done but still wanting to do more.
Life is good and sweet now. It’s not an impending apocalypse, the sleepless nights are not impossible to cope with, I can anticipate the light at the end of the tunnel when new baby is sleeping through the night and I might get more than 2 hours of sleep at a time. The future is bright and shiny and smells like fresh-from-the-bath babies and fresh-from-the-printer books. Even in my less than three hours of sleep exhaustion and nine months pregnant discomfort, that makes me smile.