Just the other night, your papa said, man, she’s been here eight weeks. Just eight weeks.
Eight weeks felt like an eternity. Or I guess what I mean is, the actual time you’ve been here with us feels like an eternity. To say out loud, eight weeks, two months — those phrases sound like a short amount of time. An impossibly short time — surely, you’ve been with us forever? I remember my mom, your grandma Marmee Suh, saying to me while I was pregnant, once she’s born, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without her. You won’t be able to remember what it felt like to live life without her. It’s so true. It’s only been eight weeks — the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of years and decades. But now that you are here and we have spent a good chunk of time with you, I really can’t remember what life was like before you.
I suppose you could say some of the newness of having a baby is worn off. I still have moments of that holy wonder and shock — this is my child, I made her, she belongs to me and I am her mother. But they’re spread out through the day now. Every single moment isn’t a moment of wow, woah, how anymore. We’ve settled into our roles as mom and dad and daughter, and while your papa and I aren’t experts yet, we seem to have managed to learn how to take care of you well enough to the point where some (some!) of the time, it feels easy and familiar.
I am cherishing every minute I get with you these days. I will admit, there were a few days here and there, around weeks five and six, where I got a little — not burnt out, exactly. But I felt more comfortable in my mothering skills, and I’d had weeks of being home and taking care of you, and I took it for granted, a little. I set you down whenever I had the chance. I tried to buy a little extra time in bed snoozing before I got up with you. I still loved being with you and being a new mom — but I was happy to have my arms free, or get more accomplished during the day. And then it hit me that this maternity leave home with you won’t last forever, and I was coming to the final weeks home alone with you every day. I really thought about what it would mean to leave you with others for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Do my 40+ hours. I couldn’t imagine it. I’d known it was coming, all along, but I’ve been dreading going back to work after having you literally since I was pregnant.
I won’t focus on that now, because we still have some time left, and I want to enjoy every minute, instead of weeping off and on all day long like I did that day. After that day, I stopped taking this new mothering time for granted. I knew my time with you would be limited once I went back to work, and so the more menials tasks of taking care of you stopped seeming like chores. It is a privilege and a delight to rock you to sleep, even at four in the morning. I am lucky to have you fall asleep on my chest, and I spend even more time looking at you, drinking you in, stocking up all these memories for when I go back to work. I’ll be wearing those moments of bonding like armor as we all transition into this next stage together.
Our schedule lately has become predictable enough that these last few weeks have been a real joy. The early days were special in their own way, but they were exhausting also, and it was a lot of you and I learning how to work together to communicate and understand what we needed from each other. At two months old, you have grown enough to be a little easier to please and a lot more delightful to be around than even before.
You and I get up for the first time in what I personally considering morning between 5 and 7 AM — maybe so late as eight but not as often. We let your papa sleep for a while, as he usually does the late night work of putting you back to sleep so I can fall asleep sooner after nursing you. And honestly, I don’t mind. As much as I love having Papa with us, I love our time together in the mornings. You are usually really chipper and happy in the mornings, and we are almost always alone, so I almost feel sorry for anyone and everyone who doesn’t get to spend the early mornings with you. I’ll change you while Kitty wakes up and blinks at us, and then falls back asleep. The sunlight is starting to stream through the windows and the birds are singing and the squirrels are wrestling, and it’s a calm and peaceful time.
After nursing, most mornings, I try and get you to nap a bit more — a luxury I will miss in a few weeks when I go back to work. For the most part, you are agreeable to being swaddled and cuddled and rocked back to sleep fairly quickly. A lot of times, I’ll set you down on your Boppy Lounger cushion, where you seem to sleep best, and I’ll just snooze on the couch until you wake up again. Some mornings, you’re not into sleeping, and we’re up from 7:30 or 8 AM on. On those mornings, I try and take you outside, sit in our swing or walk slowly around the yard. I bring you to the various trees and bushes in the side yard, and you gaze up at them with wide eyes, watching, taking it all in.
If you sleep, you wake up again about 10, and either way, you’re ready for another diaper change and nursing session. You’re usually even more cheerful at this mid-morning session, giving me tons of smiles and coos. Sometimes, you’re so smiley, you can’t finish nursing because you want to grin up at me and lose your latch for a second. I love to talk to you and stroke your head while you do. After burping, I’ll put you on your jungle mat to kick and exercise, and I usually try and tidy up either the house, or myself, or if I’m lucky — both. We don’t do a ton of housework these days, but I do try and wipe down the kitchen, cycle the dishwasher, and sweep. In our den, I’ll fold blankets and return the room to rights after the mess we’ve made of it the night before.
At eleven or eleven-thirty, we go wake up your papa. I go to bed a little earlier, so he gets to sleep a little later. I like to take you in to our bedroom, turn off the fan and turn on the lamp, and start talking to him. Once he’s awake, I’ll lie you down in bed next to him, so you can coo and smile at him. That usually gets him moving, and we all transition back into the den. He’ll get down in the floor with you once he’s good and awake and talk to you while you kick on the mat or sit in your chair.
Most days, we eat lunch at home; leftovers or Papa makes him and me sandwiches. Occasionally, usually on one of his days off, we like to take you out and show you off — running by Piper’s for coffee, and then to Midtown Market for sandwiches we eat at the park, or downtown to eat at Kirchoff’s and visit the Rock Shop. We usually don’t stay out very long, because we like nothing better than to be home, cuddled up with you — and you like that best too. But it’s good for all of us to get practice keeping you happy out of the safety of our home, so we try to take small trips out and about at least a few times a week.
The afternoons vary — some days, your papa has to go to work, either driving himself, or you and I take him so all of our friends at the restaurant can see you and oo and ah over you. Most days, we come home and hang out at the house — continuing your cycle of diaper change, nursing, bouncing, kicky-legs time. Sometimes we run by friends’ houses to visit them, or they come to us. Your Marmee visits several days a week, after work, or your Auntie Jeannie or Auntie Laureny come by in the afternoons or evenings to keep us company and get their fill of Ari snuggles. Our home away from home is the Hensel house, where we have all the baby accesories we need to be comfortable out of the house — including a birth ball so we can soothe you at your maddest. It’s nice being with people who are well-used to child care and jump in to give your papa and me a break from time to time. We love-love-love holding you and loving on you, but it’s great to have some close friends who will scoop you up so we can eat a meal with both hands.
If your papa doesn’t have to work, we usually enjoy some family time — especially the closer we get to me going back to work. Our days with all three of us at home together are limited, so we love to be home together, just enjoying each other’s company. We might run errands or do chores, but we love to stay home; watching shows, taking walks, sitting on the swing while Papa grills, reading to you or playing you music. We take turns snuggling you, bouncing or rocking you, changing your diaper. You and I nurse and nurse and nurse — you’re often sleepy and chill in the morning, but in the afternoons, it feels like all we do is nurse.
These days, we call 5 PM – 7 PM the Witching Hour. It was 2 AM – 4 AM when you were a newborn, but these days, it’s the evenings when you’re hardest to appease. Case in point — it’s 5:12 while I’m writing this, and you’re getting wound up in your chair — Mama’s going to have to take a break to bounce you. Only bouncing or nursing will make you happy during this Witching Hour, and sleep — even a nap — are very unlikely. If any time of day is stressful, it will be this evening time — especially since this is prime time for people to invite us out. I always want to see everyone out at dinner or over at someone’s house, I know everyone wants to see you, but it’s hard. You tend to be fussier, and are much harder to soothe. It requires a lot of work on my end — not that I mind the work, but it makes it hard to enjoy either my visit with whomever, and difficult to enjoy my evening with you because you’re so unhappy and I’m trying to find a way to pacify you and prevent you from one of your rare fits.
Luckily, about eight or eight thirty, the Witching Hour is over and you’re back to your usual laid back, cheerful self. We change you and put you into pajamas, and nurse you one last time. I usually get you on the ball, even though Papa offers — he does the bouncing at our late night feedings, so I don’t mind taking one more shift, and plus, I like to watch you fall asleep for your biggest chunk. Usually, you fall asleep pretty quickly — especially if we’ve been out and about and you’re exhausted and have been mad.
You sleep for your longest chunk then — lately, you’ve been sleeping from 8:30 or 9 until two or three AM, and that’s absolutely fantastic. This gives your papa and me some time together in the evening, when we’re able to relax and talk to each other, cuddle each other, unwind from his work and my hours of childcare. You’re never more precious than when you’re asleep — your eyelashes are grown in long and full, and they rest on your soft, round cheeks as your sleep. You still usually work at least one hand out of your swaddle and it gently touches your cheeks. You look like such a precious angel babe, and even though I’ve spent a good chunk of the day wishing you’d be content to chill next to me or near me for more than five minutes, once I get to put you down for a few hours at a time — I miss you. I want to snatch you right back up and cuddle you.
I make myself take a break. I remind myself that my time to myself, my time with your papa is in short supply, and it’s OK to put you down and walk away for a while. I content myself with occasionally standing over you as you sleep. I look down at you and sigh with happiness, and continually tell your papa, she’s so perfect, isn’t she? She’s so, so beautiful and perfect and I can’t believe she’s ours.
I’ve learned to take advantage of this time you’re sleeping. Even if you’re sleeping reasonably well through the night, we’re almost always up earlier, and most of your day time naps require me to hold you the whole time — so I’m not napping as much as you are. So after a couple hours having quality adult time with your papa, I go to sleep either on the couch if we think you’ll be up sooner rather than later, or in the big bed if you seem deep asleep. This is where your night owl papa comes in handy — he’s always been a night owl and seldom has to work before the afternoon, so he’s happy to stay up keeping an eye on you as you sleep on your cushion. He draws or plays games and if you’re out much past midnight, he lays down on the couch and snoozes until you wake up for your last, late night feeding. It’s usually around two or three AM, although sometimes as early as one AM, occasionally as late as four AM.
He wakes me up, and I admit, I’m not at my best at this feeding. It’s the reason I sometimes sleep on the couch first — getting up from my comfy bed is hardest then. But I only complain internally for a minute or two, and once you’re latched on and your eyes are fluttering shut as you nurse, I’m happy to be with you again. Papa chitchats as we nurse, and I burp you. You are hysterical when you burp late night and half asleep — you look so, so tired, and almost confounded with me that I would make you burp when you so clearly want to be asleep. Your sweet papa lets me go back to bed — after I’ve kissed you a hundred times, and him half a hundred, and he rocks you to sleep while I get into bed. It’s usually (usually!) not long before you’re asleep, and he brings you into the bedroom and lays you softly in your cosleeper next to me.
Then we’re both in bed, and most nights, we hold each other close and take a minute to be grateful for the day, and for our little family. I’ve thought more than once that the thing that makes parents so proud of all their children accomplish, little and grown, is the fact that when babies are first born, they’re so very vulnerable and needy. I know I spent the first month just praying I was doing everything you needed, that I was feeding you enough and nurturing you enough and stimulating you enough but not too much. I think at the beginning, we parents are just astonished that we’ve been given responsibility of this tiny, precious thing, and every day that we keep you alive and happy, it’s like getting points, or passing a particularly hard level on a video game. At night, when your papa and I finally get to go to bed — that’s our level up. Whatever the day has thrown at both of us — and we’ve had some pretty hectic, stressful days — we’ve survived it. We’re going to bed happy and in love with each other, and with you, our most precious girl, asleep and healthy and happy, and that feels so rewarding.
As we look ahead to your third month, I can’t help thinking about how much you’ve grown and changed in this second month. You’ve truly changed from a little newborn to what we jokingly call a real baby. You’ve lost that thin, froggy look you had when you were first born — you were so tiny, your features so big and pronounced in your wittle face. Now your cheeks are fuller and you’re slowly but surely filling out. We’ve finally put away the newborn clothes — you were wearing them up until that second month marker. I’ve started to see chub wrinkles at your wrists and thighs, and I think you’ve hit another growth spurt as you are constantly hungry and constantly sleepy.
You’ve really developed your own little personality this month. Everyone, from the day you were born, has commented on how alert and bright-eyed you are — and that’s only grown as you have. You are always looking around, you are incredibly aware of your surroundings. Everyone comments on what an extraordinary, perfect little baby you are. You seldom fuss — sure, you’re an infant, you cry when you’re unhappy. But as soon as we change you/feed you/comfort you — you’re right back to your cheerful, easy self. You don’t spend hours or even long minutes fussy, once we give you what you want, you’re good to go. You’ve learned to recognize the sound of your papa’s and my voices, and nothing is better than you realizing we are near and looking for us, meeting our eyes and breaking into a huge, gummy grin. You’ve tried to giggle a couple times, but couldn’t quite get the hang of it.
Even the doctor says you are a perfect baby girl. He literally said that. Every time he’s seen you since you were born, he’s seemed really impressed with you — perhaps because you really were so small when we first brought you in. You came home from the birth center at just over five pounds — you were so wittle. And so he’s seemed really pleased with how strong and healthy you have been all along. On your two month check-up, you weighed 9 pounds and 6 ounces (that’s just over three pounds you gained since two weeks) and 22 1/4 inches (just over three inches from when you were born). She’s gained three pounds in a month, he kept saying, wow. He commented that every single thing he checked looked good, really just a perfect little baby. Mama and Papa aren’t surprised, we knew this all along — but it’s nice to hear that she’s doing so well, confirmed by a medical professional and not just our biased affection.
You got your two month shots, which was physically difficult for you and emotionally difficult for me. We’d had a hard time at the doctor’s office anyway — it coincided with feeding time, and we’d already planned to nurse after your shots, so we were just waiting. But the wait time grew long and you grew mad, and we ended up nursing for a few minutes before the doctor came in. So I was ready to nurse you, as soon as the nurse finished with your shots. I made your papa hold you down, because I didn’t know if I could do it. He hated to be the bad guy, he did such a great job but he was a little shell-shocked. She just grabbed my fingers so tight, he said, wide-eyed. And her eyes got so big, she was just shocked! You screamed and cried, and I’ll admit, I dropped a few tears listening to you scream in pain. But as soon as Papa handed you to me, and I got you nursing, you settled. You were so mad, you couldn’t even focus on nursing for a second, but we talked to sweet to you, and you ate, and your face slowly turned from red back to your normal peaches-and-cream. And by the time we drove home, you gave us a couple smiles. You clung tight to us that night, but you had no fever, no tenderness, and aside from sleeping a bit extra, you were your normal self the next day.
You’re still doing a great job at nursing, and I’d even say it’s gotten better and better in the last month. Sometimes your right latch was not super comfortable, and I couldn’t tell why. I didn’t think it was your latch so much as me and my set-up. But in the last few weeks, it’s gotten a lot better, and with that, nursing is almost always a pleasure — which, is good, as we do it a lot lately. You’re definitely growing, still long and lean and a little too small for some of your 0-3 clothing. So we feed pretty frequently during the day, and I’m trying to pump once a day so I can build a stockpile of milk for you when I go back to work. It makes me a little anxious, all the logistics and preparation — but so far pumping has gone well, and both your papa and your Auntie Em have bottled fed you with increasing amounts of ease and success. So it makes me feel a little better for when I’m not at your beck and call every day — but it sure does make me try and savor each nursing session. I always think you look the prettiest when you’re nursing. Your big eyes are starting to slowly change color, deep blue on top with flecks of green starting to appear underneath the blue. Your nurse and gaze up at me with those big eyes, and those new eyelashes growing in, and you’re just so beautiful. You smile and your cheeks rise up. The newborn hair that fell out a few weeks after birth is starting to grow back in — although the back hair has always been thick. You just stare and stare at me while you nurse, and I pet your head or hold your hands, and I totally get why breastfeeding is so good for bonding.
(Aside to the readers: Y’all — breastfeeding is hard. I mean, it’s not hard; we’ve been really lucky to have a very smooth nursing experience. But feeding your child from your body is demanding. It’s incredible — it’s a miracle almost as impressive as pregnancy itself. Nursing mothers, we never miss a feeding. We are present for every single one. A real night’s sleep is a dream. We wrangle our boobs around, we get sensitive nipples and weird milk pains and we have to struggle not to leak and we have to try and feed our child in public without feeling weird or awkward. I’m so pro-public feeding but man, it’s hard. I want to not care, because I don’t, not really — but I’m so aware people around me could be judging me. It’s that sensitive empath thing, I can’t help wondering what others think and whether they’re cool with it or they’re offended. There’s always that weird I’ve just gotten my boob out in public feeling, and always a little fear that someone might make a rude comment. I’ve never had anyone do that, and I’ve been pushing myself to nurse anywhere and everywhere — but I have to remind myself it’s still just been two months and I’m still getting dexterity in positioning, as well as still growing that wall to block out others’ judgment. All this is to say — breastfeeding is hard. This is not an attempt to bad mouth formula moms — I believe everyone should do what’s best for them personally, and honestly — to say that I get why some moms might choose formula. Breastfeeding is hard! Again, we’ve been really luck to have had a really good experience — I was a C-section mom, and that makes breastfeeding harder and less likely to succeed. I have giant boobs and a tiny infant with a tiny mouth. That made it hard to get our latch right at first. I never wanted to quit, but I got why some moms did. It takes a lot out of you! I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about supporting those moms who do make the choice to make it a priority — because it’s a lot, and for some people, it’s just not practical or possible. Because even when breastfeeding is easy, it’s hard — and what has made it easier for me has been having such a great support system of friends who are lactation consultants and friends who are just hardcrore, nursing moms who have tips and support whenever I need it. Those girls have kept me going and gotten me through any struggle or hiccup we’ve faced!)
I have to stop myself writing now. I could go on for days, I love talking about you — because I love watching you experience the world. I love watching you learn and develop and love. You are slowly becoming your own little person, and I think how years in the future, you will be this exploding personality and we will know your moods and your dreams and your strengths and your flaws. This month has transitioned from Crash Course in Babies and Mothering to Let’s Meet This Little Girl. We have loved getting to know you, to not just take good care of you but also enjoying our time with you. I can’t wait to see what the next month brings…