I’m trying to write your third month letter today, since you’ll hit that milestone tomorrow – but I’m having a hard time. It’s been one of those days where I’ve miss you so much, I almost have to not think about you for a bit, just to make it through the day.
Three months, and we’ve hit the end of that “fourth trimester” – that first three months after you were brought earthside to meet us and be part of our family. The completion of the year it took to make you and grow you and birth you. It almost feels like the end of a magic spell, this miraculous period of time in which you were a new, new baby soul, and we were your brand new, fresh parents.
Which isn’t to say the newness and the magic have worn off– on the contrary, I think we’ve seen so much growth and change from you in the last month, since the last time I wrote, and I know our love for you has quadrupled every single day.
But now, in as you’ve hit three months, it’s quite evident you’re not a new newborn anymore. You’re still an infant, still a tiny little girl fresh and new in the world – but from appearance to personality, you’ve clearly moved out of the newborn phase.
You’ve continued to grow, your cheeks gaining this fullness, your head so full and round. You continue to be long and lean, too skinny for most of your 0-3 clothes. You even still wear some newborn onesies and leggings. You’re a delicate, elven-fairy girl still, that hasn’t changed.
You’re growing in the newborn hair that you lost, and it remains full and thick at the back. You have enough to make a little ducktail ponytail if we wanted, and every time I comment on it, your papa starts singing the Duck Tales theme song.
Your eyes continue to change color. In certain lights, that green of your papa’s shines through the deep newborn blue. You might still end up with your mama’s hazel eyes – but for now, your eyes are jewel-like blue-green – the color of deep ocean. Your lashes are growing thicker and fuller, and you have such a pretty, pretty face. Although, of course – that’s not the most important thing. You are a great many other wonderful things besides pretty, even already, even this young. But it’s hard not to notice what a beautiful little baby you are – people keep mentioning how you really look like a little baby doll, just an impossibly perfect baby. She has such a grown-up little face, they’ll say, she’s so mature.
And it’s true, you are – you continue to be such an alert, advanced baby. You are so aware, constantly looking and watching and observing. You really never had that oblivious newborn phase – even a few days old. Even a few minutes old – your auntie Jeannie mentions how even in your first hour, when your papa held you in the nursery, your eyes were busy, looking around, taking in this new world. And as you grow, you continue to be so observant – watching people and changes in scenery and setting. When we take you outside, you stare at the trees and the clouds and the sky, and become so peaceful. I think that’s why you have a harder time being out in public for longer, and are harder to soothe when fussy in public, and don’t always like to be in a carrier – you notice everything, you are sensitive to how many people are around you, who’s holding you. You are particular and sensitive, and that’s OK, those are good traits to have.
Your personality has bloomed so much in this third month. We saw inklings of it, in the second month – but in this third month you have become such a happy, expressive baby and you’re such a joy to be around. Smiles abound with you, especially in the morning. You have a way of ducking your chin then breaking into the hugest smile whenever you recognize your papa or me, and it’s still the best feeling in the world. You really are such a happy baby. I explain to people, you’re so content until you want something; and yes, you’re a baby, so you cry and sometimes get very mad indeed if we don’t give you what you want in a timely manner – but as soon as we do, you settle back into contentment. You’re not a baby to cry and wail for hours for no reason. You either want to be changed and fed, or snuggled and bounced, or sometimes (and this is usually the situation that actually makes you mad) to go home – or rather, BE at home, and not in your carseat en route when you’re tired or hungry.
You are learning to play, just a bit – you’ve always loved your jungle mat but now you are fascinated by it. You’ve started to noticed the individual hangings, and not just the general light and sound and movement. You watch one spin and recognize that the sound goes with it. You reach out for toys and sometimes pull them to you. You’ve also started to notice screens – TV and computer – which means Papa and I have to be aware and start limiting our time as well. I admit that in the early days and weeks, TV was a savior when one of us was bouncing a sleepless you at two, three, four in the morning; or even more recently, for the long hours in the afternoon when you are sleepy and want to nap, but only if someone is holding you. But now, you start to train your eyes on the TV if you notice it – so Papa and I make sure we turn you away, and turn the TV off, turn on music or take you outside instead.
The absolute best thing that happened this month is you laughed. You laughed! It was so wonderful – you’d been getting close for a few days. You smiled so big, and would make little humming noises, mmm, mmm, mmm – but couldn’t quite figure it out. Auntie Jean got a single giggle out of you one day while both Papa and I were at work – but then, on a Saturday before he and I went to our anniversary dinner – we’d been working on you all afternoon. Doing all your favourite silly noises – blowing raspberries, horse lips, piggie snorts, and your absolute favourite, wolf howls. You were getting closer, but it wasn’t until Papa wiggled you back and forth on the footstool that it all clicked.
You laughed, you giggled and squealed, and you kept laughing for nearly thirty seconds. It was the absolute best sound I’ve ever heard, besides when we heard you take your first breath. I had the instinct to get my camera going, and I captured it all on film so we could share it and watch it a hundred more times. Your papa and I both teared up when you laughed, and I can’t really explain why except it was a magical sound – to hear you so happy and gleeful, to hear you perform this new skill, to express your joy.
You react to us, to people now. Making your favourite sounds does make you smile, or give a little giggle. You hum and coo and talk back to us when we talk to you. Certain periods of the day, I swear you’re really trying to communicate, because you’ll coo to me and I’ll coo back, and we go on like this for a while. Neither of us are saying real words, but you’re aping that conversational rhythm – making sounds and responding to those you hear. We sing to you and you watch with this thoughtful expression on your face. Your coordination is improving along with your social skills. You are coming to understand that certain things you do make certain parts of you move. This month, you seem to have discovered you have legs, and a tongue. Your tongue is constantly going, darting in and out, or sticking out – you’ve become quite the drooler and bubble-blower. You love to kick your legs – not just on your jungle mat for kicky-legs time as we call it – in your cushion or in your car seat, you get those legs going – kicking up or out, rotating in and out, bending your knees, just lifting them up and holding them there.
You like to be held sitting up a lot more, now. One of our favourite positions is to have you on my lap, with my arm curled around you. You’re cuddled into my arm, your back against my chest and arm – so you’re still very secure, very cozy – but you like to look out at the people talking to us, or your papa sitting on the couch, or even just up at me as I talk to you. You’re gaining really excellent head control – holding it up almost all the time when you’re sitting or being held up, able to turn and look in a different direction. You’ve not yet mastered holding your head up on your tummy though – and I think this is honestly out of disinterest on your part. You were doing such a great job holding your head up and moving it during tummy time in the first several weeks and months after you were born. This last month, however, as your eyesight and coordination has improved – tummy time presents you with a clear view of your hand, and you’re getting so good at stuffing your thumb, a couple fingers, or most of your fist in your mouth. You spend most of tummy time these days sucking on your hand – and are completely content to lie there and suck on it, and not lift your head. Only if we pull your hand away and hold it do you start to lift your head – mostly because you’re so mad we’re keeping your hand from you.
You do love those hands near your face so much, and it’s one of the most endearing things about you. We were so transfixed by your hand near your face in your 3D sonogram – we thought it was a one-time occurrence we happened to catch in an ultrasound. But since birth, you have needed one or both hands near your face as often as possible, especially if you’re sleepy. Sometimes you fall asleep looking like The Thinker. Last night, you were down for the night in our room, and we knew you were sleeping – but you were making so much noise over the monitor. I kept sending your papa in to check on you, you were so noisy, we figured you had to be waking up – which is unusual these days. Each time, Papa came back and said you were still asleep. Only when I went to bed an hour or so later did we realize what had been going on – you’d worked both hands out of your swaddle and up near your face, your fingers just softly touching your cheeks. How does she do that? I asked your papa as he got ready to tuck me into bed next. I swaddle her so tight and she still got both hands out! Your papa smiled that crinkle-eyed smile of his. Well – you heard her wiggle and fuss for an hour, he said, now you know what she was doing!
You really are (and have been) a great sleeper, and your papa and I are both grateful for that. We aren’t well rested, per se, but you allow us to get good chunks of sleep that allow us to function without feeling completely exhausted and dead most days. Really, since you were a couple weeks old, you’ve been a good sleeper for your age. From two weeks or so on, you’d sleep for 3 or 4 hour chunks, sometimes even 5 or 6, and for that age, that’s incredible. Just before I went back to work, you were sleeping through the night, from about 8:30 until 5,6, sometimes even 7 AM. You don’t nap much during the day, or at least, not for very long, and usually only if someone is holding you – but I’ll take a mostly full night of sleep over frequent naps during the day.
Since I’ve gone back to work, you seem to have sensed the change, and have picked up a middle of the night feeding, usually around three AM. But it’s still very doable – we nurse for the last time usually around 7:30 or 8 PM. We play music and your papa continues to read Winnie the Pooh stories to you. Many nights, you fall asleep as you’re nursing, and seem startled to wake up and find yourself off the boob. But you are heavy and cuddly in my arms as we burp, and then swaddle you. Your papa and I take turns bouncing you, and usually, it doesn’t take long for you to fall completely asleep in our arms. We get up, and walk you slowly through the house to our bedroom – the test, we call it, seeing how asleep you truly are by whether or not the standing, the squeaky doors or creaky floorboards wake you. If none of them do, we lay you in the elevated canopy of your Pack and Play, right next to our bed. Once we’ve laid you down, we wait for a minute, see if it takes…we’ve made a habit of sprinkling imaginary Sleep Dust on you – a habit we started back a month or so ago, when we’d lay you down for a nap and felt unsure whether it’d take or if you’d wake up a few minutes later. We tell you we love you, over and over again, and leave you to sleep alone with the monitor for a bit. And you really very seldom do wake up after we’ve laid you down around 8:30 or 9 – you sleep soundly through me coming to bed around 10, and your papa around midnight. I hear you stirring around 2 or 3 AM, and I get up to change you and nurse you around 3 or 4. Your papa is usually kind enough to bounce you back to sleep so I can go ahead and lie back down before my alarms start going off at 5:30 or 6:30 AM, or you wake me at 5 or 6 AM first. You seldom take long to go back to sleep, and usually both of us are up maybe 20-30 minutes each. You do like to be up at least a little, early in the morning around 5 or 6, and your papa is lucky that he gets to nap with you again after I’ve gone to work – I used to, before I went back to work, and that extra hour of sleep is something I do miss these days when I’m out the door by 6:30 some days.
The biggest change in this last month, of course, is me leaving you during the days and going back to work – and that’s why this letter has been so hard to write. I’ve put off writing about it, choosing to focus on the very fun and magical changes we’ve seen in you in the last month. But adapting to being apart from you for such big chunks of time has been the absolute hardest thing I’ve had to do since giving birth to you. Being away from you gives me this intense grief that seems ever present, whether I’m with you or not.
It’s manageable, of course. Both the lifestyle and the grief. I must be on my A game, all the time, to make sure you have clean clothes and clean bottles and milk from the milk stash thawed. To make sure your Papa has everything he needs to watch you all day. To make sure he and I have clean clothes to wear to work, and food packed, and the pump is clean and the new milk is bagged and labeled and frozen, and the house isn’t a wreck, and we see our family and friends every so often. It’s exhausting, but part of me is a sort of ambitious perfectionist, and I admit it feels good to work so hard and achieve so much during the day. It makes the down time I do get – whether with you or your Papa or alone – a little more enjoyable. There is less guilt that I should be doing something else, something more productive. I know that most days I’ve been up since 5:30 and worked all day and I deserve relaxation on the couch, or swinging with you, or an early bed time.
But underneath, it hurts. It hurts so much to be away from you. I honestly have to just not think about it much. If I thought about how much it hurts and how much I hate it and how sad it makes me – I’m not sure what I’d do. I ‘d cry a lot more, certainly – and we just don’t have time for me to cry all the time. I can’t think about it much, because it makes my heart ache with this deep, heavy sadness to think about being away from you. If I think about what all I’m missing and how I can’t be there for every feeding and every smile and every cry, that I can’t be the first one to comfort you, I’d break down and I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I need to do – all the things you need me to do for you.
I can’t hardly even write this without bursting into tears, I’ve had to stop two or three times and take a break until I can control my emotions and write again – and that’s why I delayed discussing this. So often, we feel pressured to put a happy face on our situations. We want to present our best front to others, and cover up the cracks and the holes in ourselves. I’ve tried so hard to focus on gratitude as it comes to going back to work and leaving you – I am grateful for you, in the first place. I am grateful that your papa’s and my schedules make it possibly for you to be with one of us 80% of the time. I am grateful that when one of us can’t be with you, your Auntie Jeannie takes care of you – because she takes care of you not just for income, but with genuine love for you, with genuine concern for your well-being. And I am grateful that if she can’t watch you, your Auntie Emi or Auntie Laureny or Marmee will. I am grateful that I only work ten minutes away from our house, so I can come home every day at lunch and nurse you in the middle of the day, cuddle you and cup your soft head, stroke your plump cheeks. I am grateful your Auntie Jeannie will bring you to me on Monday lunches when I don’t have the car. I am grateful I work at a place that supports me pumping and has a safe room for me to have privacy so that I can continue to feed you breastmilk. I am grateful you are such an easy-going baby, and that me being away from you for long stretches of time doesn’t throw you for a complete whirl, that you seem to be only a little extra fussy on Mondays when you realize I’m gone again, instead of having melt-downs every day. I am grateful – so incredibly grateful – for the weekends we have together, when I hardly put you down and treasure every moment, every wake up, every feeding.
I am grateful – but this is hard. I’ve listed pages of changes you’ve gone through in this past month alone, and I know that me being at work means I’m missing some of these changes. I’m missing smiles and giggles. I know there are times you cry out for me, specifically, and I can’t be there, and you have to wait for me to comfort you. I hate that this time with you so young and little is so fleeting, that it will be gone so fast and I’ll never get it back – and I can’t be with you at least 40 hours a week. I’m missing chunks of that precious time with you, and yet I would give anything to be there. I knew that this would be hard – I have literally dreaded leaving you since I was pregnant. More than once, I’d think about going back to work after having you while I was driving, and I’d start crying at red lights, in the middle of traffic – just even thinking about it. Living it has been that much harder. I admit that I am jealous of those who get to care for you when I’m at work – I’m grateful for them, but I am jealous they get to be with you, enjoy your company and your sweet disposition. Time with you is a treasure, and although I hogged you for 12 weeks, I have to give you up almost every day.
And yet I do it. I do it for a variety of reasons. The obvious ones are that we – you, me, your papa – need me to have this job. We need my income, we need the health insurance for all three of us provided by my job – the income and the insurance I am lucky and grateful to have.
And more than that – although I would snap up the opportunity to stay home in a heartbeat – I do it because I need to set an example for you, in the future. I do it because it’s a good life lesson you’ll need to learn, eventually. I don’t mean the specifics of me working and being a mom – we don’t know yet what kind of job you will have one day, whether or not you will want to be a mother, and if you do, whether you will work or stay home. I don’t mean my situation exactly should be an example for you.
I mean, quite simply, that I hope to show you that sometimes, we have to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes, we have to do things we’d rather not – because in the long run, it’s worth it. Or because someone we love needs us to do those things. Sometimes, it would be easier to give up. It would be easier to complain about how unfair it is. It would be easier to have a bad attitude and sit in bitterness. But I hope that someday, I can help you understand that the easiest path isn’t always the best path. That hard work pays off. That the people we love are worth sacrifice. That even faced with an unfavorable situation, we can find grace and determination to not only survive but to thrive. That the situations we find most difficult are what make us strongest.
And you, my darling, are already a brave, strong girl. Loving you, caring for you, sacrificing for you – that makes me stronger too. This third month has been the hardest month of mothering yet – even the wild, sleepless first week or two were easy than this pain of being away from you. But you do make all of my hard work and sacrifice and grief worth it, my Ari – being your mom makes me want to be stronger and more patient and more generous and more good-natured. And that, I suppose, has been your gift and your lesson to me, this month. I can’t be bitter and jealous and impatient with you. I can’t even carry bitterness and jealousy with me when I’m away from you. You being in this world, your sweet innocent self makes me want to be the best woman I can be; the most kind and the most giving and the most loving and the strongest and the bravest. I hope in month four and all the months and years to come, I can keep doing my absolute best to be the mother and the friend and the woman you deserve to look up to.
All my love,