Your Daddy and I are trying hard not to blink these days, because if we do, we will surely miss one of the 10,000 new things you’ve started doing lately. Someday when your own children are born, people will say “oh, they change so quickly”. And while I hope I’ll have raised you well enough that you won’t roll your eyes to their face, it will sound terribly cliché to you. It did to me. But just FYI, they’re more right than you’ll be able to imagine. There’s a reason grown people will sit and stare at their sleeping babies- it’s because they know that sleeping baby is changing right in front of them and will be different by the time the nap is over. (That and they’re paranoid the kid will quit breathing- but you’ll learn about that when your own baby is born, too.)
The last three months have been the most breathtakingly amazingly beautiful of my life, and at the same time the most exhausting and difficult. You have changed me, Baby Girl. You have changed your father. You’ve changed our marriage, our families, our life… Your Dad and I were a little older than most of the first-time parents we know. I was 31 and Daddy was 32 when you were born. We were pretty complete people with a little living under our belts. Or at least we thought we were. See, we knew intellectually what we were getting into. You were very much planned for and desperately wanted. We read all the books and asked 45,000 questions of every medical professional and experienced parent we could get to hold still. (Don’t worry- we didn’t use force. Much.) But deep down, we knew that despite all our planning and research, we were in for the ride of our lives. And Viv, you have very much lived up to that prophesy!
In the past three months, you have transformed from a snuffly, grunty little blob who pooped every time she ate to a juicy, round, pink-cheeked little Buddha who smiles and laughs at her goofy parents’ stunts. (And who only poops every 3-5 days. Can I thank you for saving that up for Daddy the last two times? Love ya, kid!) I can’t explain it quite fully, but the way I love you has changed. When you were first born, I loved you with a fierce protectiveness for your physical well-being. You slept most of the time, as newborns do. The first weeks of life can be a bit unfulfilling for a new Mom in that a newborn is so… disconnected. You didn’t really need ME (aside from my breastmilk) in particular, you just needed to be held and kept warm and fed and generally to finish gestating for a while. You weren’t unconscious, but you weren’t really in a relationship with us yet. So the only way I could demonstrate the enormity (look it up… I’ll wait…) of my love for you was to do my absolute damndest best to see to your physical and functional needs. I fought hard to breastfeed you- I was simultaneously smugly victorious and incredibly relieved as you gained weight. I worried obsessively over you being warm enough, a practice which drove your father into an enormous sleep deficit during your first few days. When you became jaundiced, I stepped up the breastfeeding and adhered to the bilirubin blanket instructions as though they were handed to us by Jesus himself. Your Dad and I probably used enough Boudreaux’s for a sumo wrestler’s tushie, because dammit, our baby wasn’t going to have diaper rash. When I first went back to work, I drove over to the daycare every single day at lunch to breastfeed you to keep you from getting one more bottle. You slept, as you still do, curled against me on your side, where we can breathe in tandem and you are never far from the sound of my heartbeat. And I’ll be honest, Viv… I thought myself a good Mom because I was always prepared with a binkie and a change of clothes. But sometimes… like when I couldn’t make you happy at 3 a.m… I didn’t feel like YOUR Mom. Sometimes I felt like an imposter just trying to do right by this gorgeous wonderful little baby until someone who knew what they were doing was going to show up. I loved you tons… it was just that sometimes I wasn’t sure it was enough for you.
Gradually, over the weeks, we got to know each other. And you woke up from your newborn sleepy snuggly coma. You were slow to the social smiles, no doubt because you were premature. But Viv, the first day you looked me in the face and smiled ON-PURPOSE-AT-ME-BECAUSE-I’M-MAMA…oh, sweet Jesus… I was completely and totally overwhelmed. You know those tons I loved you before that? Add about a hundred million of them. It was finally there- the recognition, the look on your face, the happiness to see me, the instant calming effect of me just picking you up. Finally, you knew… this is Mama, she loves me and she makes it better. (And she has the breastmilk… but I’m sure that’s entirely ancillary.) It was then, sweet Baby Girl, that I quit feeling like an imposter. I started trusting my instincts more after that and you seemed to relax as well. Now, I feel as though I know you almost as well as I know myself. I guess that makes sense, really, because you were so recently a part of me quite literally. You are this person, this little girl, and you clearly understand who I am to you and that makes you happy. It makes it all so incredibly sweetly worthwhile. All the long nights, all the frustrations, all the panic, all the hard work of trying to make certain you knew me and could trust me to do everything within any power I’ve ever had to make sure you’re safe and happy- they’ve resulted in this adorably joyful baby who lights up when I walk into the room. I am so grateful to get to be your Mama and I promise you I will never quit using all my powers (and maybe some other people’s too) to keep this bond between us.
Shortly after you and I got right with each other, you started responding to your Daddy’s goofy self the same way. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy you make your father. He was born to be your Daddy and he absolutely lives to make you smile. I know he struggled at bit at the beginning much in the same way I did- loving you more than he knew what to do with, but unable to do much except see to your most basic needs. Vivi, please write this down and tuck it away for later- if you choose to marry a man, MARRY A MAN LIKE YOUR FATHER. He will never ever be the Daddy who “babysits.” He has, from moment one, been my full and complete partner in parenting. He’s quite often even better at this gig than I am, and I’m thrilled by that. He loves you (and me) in a way that puts no limits, no conditions on what he will do for us. I mentioned you’ve changed our marriage and I want you to understand that it’s for the better. Seeing your Daddy with you, how he anticipates your needs and thrives on your joy, it has only made me love him more. And while our time alone is shorter and … um… less adventurous maybe (I know- EWWW, Moo-om!) I know neither one of us would change a thing. He is the best kind of person and the best kind of man. One of the smartest things I have ever done was picking him to be your Daddy.
So, at the end of three months, we’ve gotten into a nice little rhythm at our house, you me, and Daddy. Part of that comes from you settling into a more predictable routine just as a matter of being an older baby. Part of it is the result of the hard work your Daddy and I put in. We read a lot in the beginning about “attachment parenting”, and to us, it just felt like what we would have done instinctively, so we went with it. And it seems to have paid off. In the most basic terms, you’re attached to us, we’re attached to you, and we’re more attached to each other. We’re in a relationship now, the three of us. A very good healthy relationship- called a “family” I believe.