Today is March 1st, and according to the weather channel, it feels like -19* outside. The Polar Vortex you brought with you on your birthday seems to never want to end. Welcome to the world…to Minnesota. You are 5 weeks and 2 days into your little life, and here are things we know about you:
You are sweet. Our refrain has been… “She’s just so sweet.” You are content to be held, and you need so little pacifying. A little milk, some giant burps, and you are a happy girl. You lay so still, even when you’re awake, and when you do move, it is slow…almost deliberate. It’s hard to even write this letter without comparing you to Owen…after all, he is our only context for knowing newborns. But by comparison, his movements were so angsty, so rigid. I mean this only in the best of ways: your movements are slothlike. A little lazy, but peaceful.
You are a lover of sleep, and I still often have to wake you up during the day to feed you. In fact, waking you up is probably one of the most difficult things about you – we undress you, we tickle you, and you grunt your annoyed grunts, but still your eyes remain closed as you cling to sleep. You sleep at night like an absolute champion, pretty much waking up only once – around 4 a.m. You grunt and start to squirm in your little bassinet next to our bed, slowly waking me up. We nurse, and you go back to sleep, and it’s generally amazing.
When you are awake, your eyes take in the world, and your eyebrows seem to be ever being surprised by what you see. You have this look of wonder on your face all the time. Your eyes are beautiful, Elsa. Big and bright and blue. Vibrant.
I say this over and over: I cannot believe how well nursing is going. It seemed like you came out knowing what to do, and in contrast to your hungry dragon nursing brother, you gently nurse, often coming off all on your own, gently and without a fight; whereas, he would suck vigorously on the finger I used to remove him. You finish eating in like 15 minutes…it is fast and efficient and just so, so different than the first time around.
In this past week, your fifth, you have started to make thse adorable cooing baby sounds, beyond just your grunts and occasional newborn waaahs! And I think we saw your first legit smile yesterday on February 28th – followed by more today. You make eye contact and give us these subtle little smiles that turn the corners of your beautiful eyes up. In fact, I just spent the last hour about 10 inches from your face, raising and lowering my voice, saying, “aaaaaaahhhhh, bahbahbahbahbahbah,” trying to coax just one more out of you. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
You have a big brother, who is becoming increasingly interested in you. He shows you toys. Tells you what they’re called. Helps me tell you, “Wake up, Elsa!” when it’s time to eat. Asks where you are and is highly concerned when I take him out to the van first, leaving you just inside the back door and asks over and over, “Take Elsa too? Take Elsa too?”
I am trying, everyday, to take your littleness in to the full. I know it will not last. And so we snuggle, at every chance we get. We take naps together, and I pull you into bed at night more often than I should. I wear you in various baby carriers throughout the day as we play cars with Owen or do the dishes. You curl up like a bug on my chest, your warm little exhales tickling my neck. And this is the best part of having a January baby – you and I, we keep each other warm.
There are days I am overwhelmed, unsure of how I’m ever going do all of the things in so much less time, overwhelmed by how much I am needed by you and Owen, and almost daily, overwhelmed by the thought that I have been given a daughter. And that I am the person who will show you, for better or worse, what it means to be a woman. This is terrifying.
But you, Elsa, are a gift. You are my little girl. I am dressing you in all the pinks and purples I can, and I can’t believe I get to be your mom. I love you more than I can express, and I cannot wait to get to know you more.
Things you Love: being held, being upright, nursing, baths most of the time, being talked to, being carried, the Moby wrap and Ergo carriers, pacifiers, sleeping on your belly, being swaddled, looking at lights and your jingly birds, your swing, your bouncy seat
Things you Hate: being put in the carseat, having clothes put on or taken off, when you can’t burp, being taken out of a bath, choking on fast-flowing milk, pacifiers (it’s a love/hate thing), when Owen accidentally bonks your head, when we wake you up to eat
I write this in a quiet, napping house as another blizzard descends on Minneapolis. You and Elsa are both asleep, and there is space to think, to turn all of these emotions and moments into words.
“You’re a big brother now!” These are the words we spoke to you as you came into the hospital room and met Elsa. For months prior to her birth, we’d read and reread the words to this book, hoping the familiarity of its language would give you some kind of framework to understand all that was about to be. And as you came into the room, at first smiling hugely at us, your long lost parents, then looking completely weirded out, I could see your little brain trying to process it all.
You were gentle with Elsa…giving her a tiny hug, continuing to look at us with confused eyebrows. And then, with the help of your new Elmo and a bunch of M&M’s, you sat on the window ledge in the hospital room with your dad, mostly happy for the rest of the visit. Since then, as you’ve adjusted to having a baby sister, you’ve mostly ignored her. I mean, she sleeps a lot. But just yesterday, we were looking through your very favorite Richard Scarry transportation book, searching for the ever elusive Goldbug. On one page, I jokingly had Elsa’s hand point to Goldbug…and then, for the rest of the book, you held her hand and kept saying, “Find…Goldbug…togEVer!” and my heart melted about a thousand times. You bring her things. You sometimes even sing her “a baby song,” singing the word baby over and over again in a high pitch, just like we practiced before she came. And I see you teaching her, telling her “this is a bird,” and realizing that she is a person, and I can’t wait for you and ”IIlllsa” to know each other better. You’re a big brother now.
You are also a giant.
A couple weeks ago, I was napping with Elsa laying on my chest. You woke up from your nap, and your dad replaced Elsa with you, and you laid down on top of me, your head near mine, but your feet near my knees, and I suddenly felt your kidness. You are no longer a baby. And this is so evident in your words. You speak in sentences of three or four words now all the time. All day long, I hear “Play, Mama, play. Play castle?” and “Sit. Mama sit.” You are learning specific words too – no longer are they just tractors but we point out the backhoes and forklifts and cranes and no cows (snow plows) we see in books and in real life. Additionally, everything is Grandpa…or bumpa. You talk to him on your pretend phone, you want him drawn in your coloring books, every pick up truck in every book is his.
You love to sing. And out of nowhere, you suddenly know the words to the songs we sing. It happened just last week. We were driving home during rush hour, and I’d sing, “Only a boy named….” – And you’d sing out “David!” “Only a little….” – Sling! You knew every finishing word to that song and so many more (Jesus Loves Me, ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, The Wheels on the Bus, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Happy and You Know It, The B-I-B-L-E, and your favorite “Rocko and Roll” from Sesame Street). I couldn’t believe how many words you knew. You can also mostly count to 10, you finally say the S on the end of bus, and once in a while I catch you singing The Farmer in the Dell, Twinkle Twinkle, or Happy Birthday all on your own in this little falsetto. It is the best.
You have become very aware of your posessions. Mine is a popular word around here. You take an unbelievably quick inventory of all your animals at bedtime – asking for the missing one by name before we’re even out the door. (Your current sleeping buddies are White Bear, brown bear, lambie, Lambikins, Bruce, the owl puppet, Elmo, and Monkey). We are constantly looking for “the ‘nother guy” when we play castle. You always know when something’s missing, and your life is in turmoil until it is found.
You’re also super into the backetball hoop we got you, playing “Elmo dunk” endlessly…and then slinging raquetballs all over our house. You play like a maniac when your dad comes home, the two of you chasing each other through the rooms of the house, you screaming with laughter when he pops out from behind a corner, asking him to get you as you “naken run” through the house before and after baths. Watching the two of you play fills me up inside.
Speaking of naken runs, you apparently decided you were ready to start potty training. I caught you trying to poop as I changed your diaper on January 6, and so I rushed you to the toilet. You pooped so proudly, and we made a tremendous deal of it with M&M’s and a call to dad and everything. You probably use the potty once a day now…and we’re working on making it more regular. You watch as you sit there, cheering yourself on anytime anything comes out, so excited to flush the toilet. It’s kind of hilarious and gross all at the same time.
I turned 31 during these months since your last letter. And one of my favorite stories about you happened on my birthday. Your Grandma Pam was still here taking care of us and had brought a cake to celebrate what I hope is the weirdest, most exhausted birthday of my life. She lit the candles, we sang Happy Birthday to your utter delight, and then I blew them out. As the cake cutting began, you said, “Firefirefirefirefire” for about 90 seconds straight, until finally, your sick and coughing and head-colded dad said, “Owen! Stop! Quiet.” You did stop. And looked straight in his eyes. And then said, one more time, calmly, “Fire.”
It was hilarious. It was as if you were saying, “But I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say.” You are passionate, my Owen, and determined and persistent, and I love you.
Much of these details will be forgotten. But I think I will forever hold on to the moment we came home, after three days away, from the hospital. I carefully walked into the back door, and there you were, standing in the kitchen. I picked you up, and you hugged me for at least thirty seconds…patting my back, just like I pat yours. Your head rested on my shoulder, your face nuzzled in my neck, and I felt more your mama at that moment than perhaps ever before. I had been missed. I had missed you. And we belong together, you and I. At least for now.
I love you!
Things You Love: milk, juice, baths, naked runs, videos, Elmo, Sesame Street, playing outside in the snow, our “new car,” tractors and most heavy machinery, snow plows, tunnels in real life as well as our play tunnel, playing with your dad, coloring, books, being tickled, Bear, Monkey, pretending to make a pizza with our placemats and tupperware, puzzles, throwing and rolling balls, your grandparents, visitors, Archie, Estella, climbing on the couch, going for walks, the cow by the bakery, the cat in Ace Hardware down the road, singing, dancing (especially to your Aunt Sara’s songs!), going on the potty, marshmallows, cookies, cake, ice cream, graham crackers, animal crackers
Things You Hate: getting cold and wet outside, when I wont’ sit down and play with you, when I won’t let you go upstairs or in the basement, diaper changes, when we take juice away and force you to eat breakfast, when we say no to jumping on the bed, having cream/lotion put on your face, feta cheese