A Response to “Letters to My Nursing Child”

{Editor’s note: Years ago after EC’s first son, H, was born, someone was writing a book called Letters to My Nursing Child. What follows is a lovely follow-up to EC’s first post about nursing her first born.}

Dear H,

You are one year old now – I see the sparkle in your eyes of amazement with the way the world works, with chasing the balls across the floor, with watching fans spin and lights glimmer. I love you and your chubby little body, your spunky noises, and inquisitive hands and feet.

I’m thankful that you and I have been able to connect in a magical way – you grew because of me. And in so many ways I grew because of you.

I was committed to giving you as good of a start as was humanly possible – I was ready to go, full of knowledge and will, but it seems that you had some other ideas for me! Our nursing bond started off painful, and our first struggles together were over your tongue’s frenulum being too short! After we had that fixed, it was months before we had what most momma’s think of as a “normal” nursing relationship. But just a few months later, the damage that was done early on allowed for creepy crawly staph bacteria to seep in through my nipples – they liked momma’s milk as much as you did and refused to go away! Momma saw special doctors, took all kinds of special medicines with big names that I can hardly even pronounce. It hurt SO much to give you what you needed, and even more imporantly, what you wanted. And It made me hurt in my heart to think that we might have to stop because those staph wouldn’t leave.

But you loved our special time together so much it was worth all of the ickies and the ouches and the tears. I’ll never regret the months that we entered into this amazing space together – a place that transended the pain and was filled with both of our love for each other.

But finally, a moment came. None of the medicines had worked, and you, well, you became a big boy, and I knew that we were developing a new relationship, and that we both would be OK. As I write this, you are crawling across the floor, pulling your favorite toy with your teeth, and looking at me and giggling – look how strong you’ve become! I deeply miss those times together, but I know that all of our struggles only made our connection stronger. Onward we go!

– EC

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First, Last

I knew that having a child would mean a lot of firsts. First smile. First tooth. First steps. First word.

But what I didn’t know was that it would also bring so many lasts.

Like the firsts, I never know when they will come. What’s different, though, is that I don’t recognize them until they are already long gone: The last time I held her in my arms and danced like mad until she finally fell asleep. The last time I lay her down in her crib, inch by inch, praying wildly that she wouldn’t wake up. The last time I nursed her. The last time I changed her diaper. The last time I helped her hop down from the slide. The last time I put her in her crib, instead of watching her climb by herself into her big girl bed. Some things she decided she didn’t want to do anymore, others I realized I could no longer do for her. I didn’t know, at the time, that these things would never happen again.

It makes me think of all the other lasts in my life that have passed me by in secret, large and small, important or of no real consequence.
I celebrate every new thing my daughter does, and I try to watch closely for the lasts.

– AC

Spring Has Sprung

Is it spring where you live? I can tell that it must be arriving soon because my kiddos are practically pounding down the door. The littlest, Little Man A, is especially squirrely and has a melt-down anytime someone steps out a door and doesn’t take him with them. I don’t blame him. If I was dependent on someone else to give me the freedom of soaking in the sun and breathing the damp but sweet smelling air I might go Crrrrazy.

Happy for Spring

This past Sunday the spring goddesses of all things living and good gave us a little mid-March treat. I know better than to put away the winter coats (although I had to stop myself TWICE during naptime today from bagging them all up and storing them deep in the depths of the basement until next year’s first snowflake arrives), but it was a nice treat anyway.

A Spring in A's Step

While the big boys filled wheel barrows with wood chips, the little guy and I decided to take a walk. I was reminded that last fall at this time he was barely walking, and now it’s taking everything I have to catch up with him. I have a feeling he and I will be pounding the pavement a lot this spring as his little legs learn the magical combination of children and summertime.

Little A

– EC

Favoritism

For as long as we’ve been together, my husband and I have referred to one another, similar to a name, as “Favorite.” As in “you’re my Favorite.” Or, “Hi, Favorite!” Our version of “Honey” or, shudder, “Baby.”

This went on for years until wee C was born. We were then both wildly aware that she was our favorite. I remember being in the hospital, my husband peering over the plastic bassinet, cooing “hello, Favorite.” I admit a little twinge of jealousy shot through me. But the minute he was out of earshot, I would turn to her and say “hello, Favorite.”

What happened in the second that C was born was that we went from being one another’s favorite to, well, we didn’t know. Just a spouse? Co-parent? Yes, all of these things, but that ring of “favorite” had left the room and latched onto a sleepy, redheaded actual baby.

Over the past year and a half we’ve broached the subject from time to time, timidly asking “am I your favorite anymore?” The other one answering with an “of course – you’re my favorite spouse!” But I sometimes worry that we’ll be overblown by our love and care of wee C that one day, in the not-too-distant future (say, 10, when she thinks we are soooo boring), when she will still be our favorite, that we’ll need to renegotiate our favoritism for one another because she will have no use for us.

We do what we can as the parents of a toddler to hopefully ward off the “who are yous,” making time for dates, listening to stories about books we’re reading, making sure the other has time to pursue passions and interests. All the things one does for a favorite.

And in case I was worried, in my birthday card from last month my husband wrote “You know that you’re my favorite, right? (Well, you and C.)”

– MD

A love of the ordinary

Someone asked me the other day how old SP was when she stopped taking a bottle, and I had no idea. I quickly rifled through my mental memory albums. I could remember her first encounter with green beans (not positive), our struggle to find a sippy cup she’d use (I think it was #6 that finally did the trick) and how relieved I was to go to the grocery store and not have to buy formula (the relief was more economic than developmental). But I had no idea when any of those things had happened.

I’d always heard that I’d forget a lot about her birth and early years (though unfortunately, I do still remember how much giving birth hurt!), but was under the impression that the forgetting would be primarily the bad things, not the good things, and even the ordinary things.

Now maybe I have a hard time remembering the developmental stuff because SP did everything on her own timetable, never matching up with what she was “supposed” to do. So I may have read 20 things that said she’d be walking at around 12 months, but since that deadline came and went, it was hard to remember when she actually hit that milestone (14 or 15 months? I think?)

Not remembering this type of thing makes me feel guilty and a little sad. Guilty, because if I were a good mom, wouldn’t I remember these moments perfectly, or have scrapbooked them or something? (Mommy guilt: the most powerful force in the universe!) And sad because when my little SP grows up and has a child of her own, I won’t be able to share these little details with her. Though knowing our bloodline, her baby will probably be doing things its own way too.

I finally decided I needed to get over it. So I can’t tell my friend when my daughter did something. So what? There’s no “right” or “wrong” time for any of this. You just have to be there for your child and go along with their schedule. Slow down, relax and enjoy all the moments—good, bad and ordinary.

Because you’re going to forget most of them in a few years anyway.

– RBVH

Neat Freak

I am a neat freak, born and raised. In my house growing up, there was a place for everything. The keys? In the wooden bowl on the stand near the door. The matches? In the white vase on the shelf in the kitchen. Spare change? In the cup on the microwave. Vacuuming was done on a schedule, Mondays and Thursdays. Books were categorized by genre and alphabetized by author. Monday was dusting day.  The lawn was mowed on Thursday.
I admit, I had a few messy years. I had a small efficiency apartment in college, and most of the time it was not fit for guests. Gradually though, throughout my twenties, I grew out of my messy rebellion. I started hanging up my clothes, doing the dishes immediately after each use, vacuuming once a week, then every few days. And then like clockwork, Mondays and Fridays. My books went from stacks on the floor to artful arrangements by color and size on the shelves.
I waged war on clutter. I raged against disorganization. I battled dog hair on the carpet and crumbs on the counter. You could have dropped by my house anytime. Anytime! I was ready for you.
After I prepared to give birth to my baby girl, I got ready for the inevitable baby clutter. The toys, the bottles, the dirty bibs. All of the emails describing my baby’s development that week told me to give in to the mess: “Give yourself a break!” “A messy house is the sign of a good mom!” “You are not alone, no one will judge you!” One email even said that if it’s too clean, it’s not good for baby. Was I really going to risk my baby’s immune system for a perfectly clean house? I wasn’t sure.
I prepared for my standards to fall. “Please, PLEASE help me with clutter after the baby’s here,” I’d implore my husband. I repeated my mantra: “A place for everything! Everything in it’s place!”
The first few weeks were a blur of bottles and diapers and burp cloths and blowouts. Laundry built up and baby items were strewn throughout the house. I alternated between bliss and blues. We lived among the clutter in a fog.
Early chaotic weeks passed into months and into glorious routine. The fog lifted. Our little girl grew from an infant to a baby to a full-fledged toddler. She learned to crawl, and I went back to my vacuuming schedule with renewed passion. “It has to be done!” I’d say, half wondering if I was doing new moms a disservice everywhere. But the lint! The dog hair! The tracked-in dirt from outside! Was my clean house a betrayal? I didn’t care.
These days, my girl is toddling around, taking her first steps through the house. I still fight the clutter, but days with only the shortest of naps have forced me to sit back a bit and relax. I’ve learned to balance the neat freak inside of me with the new mom in me that maybe, just maybe, can revel in a (tiny) bit of disorder. The books that my daughter loves to pull off the shelves in her room do get put back when she’s done, to be sure, but I’ve given up on the artful arrangement. The tall books, short books, small books, paperbacks, board books, old books and new are all shelved together. No order, no worries. It doesn’t look perfect, it looks like a kid lives here. And even I can see the beauty in the chaos.

– ALW

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