Dear Winifred

Dear Winifred,

Oh, boy— has mama got a lot to say to you!  We just got home from our first trip as a family, to Madison, Wisconsin, for the American Cheese Society conference, where mama spoke on a panel and took a big long test and where you slept through nearly every educational session that mama and daddy wanted to attend, and then to central Illinois, to visit your great grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins, and dear friends.  You, little one, were a hit.

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I’ll get to the details of the trip later, hopefully, but for now I want to be sure to remember all of the changes that you’ve gone through over the last two months.  These last few days, especially, I’ve marveled at the baby before me, who certainly resembles the sweet babe I held in my arms in the late morning of June 8th, but who seems so much bigger, so much more alert, so much EVERYTHING that I can barely stand it.

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You find new ways every day of telling your dad and I who you are.  You are strong and assertive and never afraid to ask for help.  You so full of joy, so in love with this world, so comfortable in our family.  You are completely and totally YOU, in everything you do.

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You sleep at night for many hours at a time, something I’m afraid to even write.  I don’t sleep those hours.  I can’t.  You change so much every day that my night is spent tossing and turning processing it all, mourning the day that has passed as a day we’ll never have again and expectantly awaiting the next, new day as a day even more full of joy and revelation that the last.

While we were traveling, you pushed your bedtime later and later each night so that you could stay up and giggle on the bed with both mama and daddy looking over you, and by the time we were headed back to Madison to fly home, you had stayed up until midnight central time (one in the morning at home!).  I was worried; since you had been such a good sleeper, we didn’t really have a bedtime routine to speak of.  You would let me know sometime around 9 or 10 that you were hungry, we’d nurse, dad would burp you and you’d either fall asleep right away, or lay down in your crib quietly while we went about wrapping up our night, in and out of your room, watching West Wing episodes and talking about our days on the bed a few feet from your crib.  Soon, you would drift off to sleep, indifferent to the sounds around you.  How were we going to move your bedtime earlier if you had been putting your own self to sleep?  I avoided making a decision about sleep philosophy (Ferber cry-it-out isn’t my style, but I want you do have the skills to sleep on your own) because who needs a philosophy to watch her baby drift off to sleep on her own?  I didn’t need to worry— in the days since we’ve been home, you’ve adjusted your sleep all on your own, falling asleep an hour or so earlier each night, and sleeping throughout the night each time.  You, my dear, are a miracle.

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In the last few weeks, I’ve often woken up to find you laying quietly in your crib, tossing your legs and hips from side to side, cooing to yourself, occasionally letting out a shrieking giggle over something hilarious you’ve just thought up.  When you see my face appear before yours, your eyes light up, your smile grows wider, and you giggle again.  That, or you wake up hollering at my sleepy self because your diaper is wet and you are ravenous, but in those circumstances, that’s to be expected.

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You have so much to say these days, all, oooohs and aaaaaahs in different tones, with a few consonant sounds thrown in just to trick me into thinking you’re some sort of loquacious savant.  You love to have conversations back and forth, and I love when you go on and on and on as though you’re speaking in complete sentences in your own completely adorable language.

You’ve taken to trying to use your tongue when you speak, too, sticking it this way and that while you chirp and coo, and you’ve discovered that your mouth is a pretty good detective tool for figuring out all of the nooks and crannies of your hands, the Ergo straps, and mommy’s tank top, shoulder, arm, face, etc.  You’ve been blowing spit bubbles at strangers, in between shooting them pensive looks and the occasional side eye.  I love you, you serious goofball.

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You, more than any baby I’ve ever met, loathe a wet diaper, so much that you sometimes cry in anticipation before it’s wet (don’t worry, you’re totally healthy— we even ventured to your pediatrician in Tribeca on a weekend just to be sure!).  You don’t suffer fools or anything else, for that matter— you’re clear in your communication with us, and as we’ve gotten better at understanding what it is you need, our days have only gotten sweeter.  I follow your cues for nearly everything— when to nurse you, when to change you, when you need that rattling cow like you’ve never needed anything before— but I’m also finding that my intuition and my own cues are pretty keen, too.  I need to be the one to remind you to rest your active brain, to make sure you have access to things you want to learn but also remember that you will learn and interact with anything and everything in front of you, even to the point of frustration and exhaustion.  We’re learning each other, and I’m learning myself.

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Before you were born, I researched and examined all kinds of parenting techniques for the early months and years.  I made decisions about what we would introduce you to and when, how we would foster your gross motor skills development, your independence, our bonds.  Then you came, and it turns out that you know everything about you.  You know how to grow every day.  You know how to learn.  You know exactly how to develop.  My plans were nice and all, but you’ve got this- you’re a pro, completely capable of being a baby all on your very own.

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You are fascinated with your hands, exploring them at every chance you get.  You’ll hold your fist in front of your face, completely still, and stare and stare.  You wave your hands around following them with your eyes and chirping.  You slurp on your fingers as you finish nursing, or wiggle them under your pacifier to let me know you’d rather soothe yourself.  You rub your hands together like a scheming baby villain of the cutest sort.  You grab your blanket or shirt and pull it out away from you, just to see what you can do with that grip.  Best of all, you’ve started using your hands to find your mama and daddy, grabbing dad’s glasses or mama’s collar, setting your hand on my belly while I change your diaper, wrapping your arms around us when you sleep on our chests, and gently gripping and releasing my finger rhythmically while you drift off to sleep.

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I’ve shocked myself with what a relaxed parent I can be— she of the weekly calls to her OB, the stress and the worry, the pathological anxiety.  We go with the flow most days, and you catch a nap in your carrier on a walk, nurse in the backseat of the car while I snack on blackberries, catch a little sun on your legs for a few minutes while we walk.  I mentioned to Bridie, the pediatric nurse practitioner we see, that we had chosen that particular pediatric practice because your mama tends to be a bit of a hypochondriac worrywart (and they make a point to not foster unnecessary fear), and she was shocked at my characterization of myself.  Or maybe she was being nice, but I like to think you’ve mellowed me out, little one.

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I don’t have a clue who you look like more, your daddy or me.  You’re a little like a chameleon, taking on the characteristics of whoever happens to be snuggling you at the time.  When you sleep, I can so clearly see your daddy’s calm in you.  When you laugh, I can see my own enthusiasm.  When you furrow your brow or straighten your mouth in quiet concentration, I see the both of us, along with our families back through the generations— my own grandmother and great grandmother, even your four-greats grandmother, Martha McCasson, whose portrait at my grandparents house always made me stand up a little straighter.  You are your own person, my dear, an aggregation of all who came before you transformed into something, someone, entirely new.

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Your nap ought to be coming to an end now- in any case, we’re both due for a walk, a little sunshine, and some snuggles in the carrier.  I love you, little one, and I am so grateful for you.

xoxo,

Mama

PS: I’m so sorry, but these are too good not to share. (Yes, that’s totally turnover in your hair, and yes, I’m pretty sure your dad polished it off before clearing you of crumbs.)

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