Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dear Mia: Part 2

Obviously I started writing this 4 months ago... having a 5 month old is a time-suck, who would have thought?

1 month old

Mia Jane, you are here. You are present in our lives now, in every way. I don't even know where to start this, or where it will end, or how far I will get in one sitting as you are strapped to my chest right now in the baby carrier because today you will not let me put you down.

1 month ago your dad and I walked into the maternity ward at approximately 8 in the morning and said at the front desk, "we are here to have a baby." It was the most surreal experience to be driving among rush hour traffic on our way to a most life-changing event, while everyone else was simply heading to work as if it were any other Monday.

We were ushered us into a small room where we waited for a nurse, a nurse who listened to your heartbeat and told us "I don't want to jinx anything, but her heartbeat is awfully low on your belly for a breech baby." I almost screamed, "I DON'T CARE. You are not sending me home without a baby!" I kept my cool and spent the longest 10 minutes of my life waiting for the doctor to come in and do an ultrasound to confirm that you were still upside down when it comes to birthing.

We spent the next hour or so talking to several other doctors and anesthesiologists about my health history and the risks of the surgery. Before we knew it your dad was given hospital scrubs to put on, and I was whisked away to the operating room. It was the most surreal and scary moments of my whole life. Your dad couldn't come with me, so I was alone in a sterile room full of strangers in nothing but a hospital gown. I was made to hunch over the side of the bed so they could put a spinal block in my back. They told me it would burn. It felt like a million tiny bees stinging my back. Everyone tried to be jovial and make small talk. Who can make small talk on the cusp of an event like this? They asked if I was alright. I was terrified. I've watched all of the baby shows on TV that show a woman about to have a c-section laying on the table like it's no big deal. They smile expectantly, maybe shed a tear. I'm here to tell you, I was probably white as a sheet and giving everyone blank stares. The only thing going through my mind was that I did not believe the anesthesia would work. I would have bet millions of dollars that they were about to cut me open and I was going to feel every single slice. I told myself that even if I could feel it, I could speak up and tell them, but that somehow wasn't enough. It wasn't enough when they pricked me up and down my body to ensure that I was numb. It wasn't enough when I tried to move my feet and couldn't. I was certain that I would end up suing the hospital because my spinal block did not work!

Finally they brought your dad in. He sat next to my head and the doctors began working. He talked to me softly about the beach. He told me to picture myself in the Outer Banks. It felt like eternity. It felt like they must be digging a hole to China to get to you. All this time you were "right there," I could see your feet kicking from the inside, so why was it taking them so long to get you out?

Then a nurse shouted "Oh, I see a baby butt!" and someone tapped your dad's arm and he looked up and jumped off of his stool shouting "Oh my God!" I heard you cry. And, oh how you cried, a loud raspy wail. And suddenly you were being held over the curtain. It was only a second, but I memorized your face in that second. I'm certain I could draw an accurate portrait from that moment. It's amazing how much information a brain can process in a split second.

You looked perfect, not like a swollen, goopy newborn at all. You had a perfectly round head and a pink face. I noticed your head of dark hair. I was so sure you'd be bald, but there you were with hair darker than mine. I noticed the dimple in your chin and wondered where on earth that came from.

And then you were gone. They took you away to weigh you and clean you up, out of my line of vision. I told your dad to go with you. I could hear him talking to you, telling you we were so excited to meet you. You laid with your skinny breech legs sticking straight up into the air and grabbed onto your daddy's finger.

An anesthesiologist came and held my hand while I went through a roller coaster of physical ailments. I felt like a might throw up, so they adjusted some medication somewhere. Then I suddenly felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open. I felt silly that I had waited for your for so long and been so excited I couldn't sleep, and now I felt like I might just fall asleep before I even got to hold you for the first time. Then I felt like there was a weight on my chest, like I couldn't breath. Someone pointed out that there WAS a weight on my chest. Apparently there was a pan sitting on my chest where the doctors were putting my (your?) placenta (ew).

Finally you were brought over to me. The only thing I could say to you was "hi," over and over.

When they were done stitching me up I could finally hold you for the first time and we were wheeled into a recovery room.

The rest of the hospital stay seems blurry to me now. I was on pain killers and was in so much pain I couldn't get out of bed. Your dad took over and took care of both of us.

On the second night we were told you were losing too much weight, and your dad and I found out quickly that we were the only ones who had your best interests at heart and we had to make decisions for you regardless of everyone else's opinion. You didn't take to breastfeeding at the beginning because it was just too much work for you. We had to give you some formula to get your weight back up, and it broke my heart the way you chugged from the bottle like we had been starving you.

The doctors and nurses called you feisty, because you clearly had your own opinions on what you wanted to eat. I have a feeling that because of those first few days I will forever be concerned with whether you are getting enough to eat. I'm sorry in advance.

We still have to work at the breastfeeding, because sometimes you are just so hungry you can't be bothered to go through all of that effort. But I am trying to do what's best for you and I know breastfeeding is it, as hard as it is.

I can't believe a month has gone by already. The first few days home from the hospital were a rude awakening. Your dad got sick of me moaning and groaning every time you cried in the middle of the night. If it is any indication of how far we've come, this morning at 3:30 I fed you and just stared at your sweet face thinking about how lucky I am. I smiled while I stroked your chubby legs and watched your tiny toes curl up.

I fall in love with you a million times a day. I swear, I look away for just a second and when I look back at you I've already forgotten how beautiful you are and I am bowled over all over again.

You make the strangest little animal sounds. Sometimes you are braying like a tiny horse or mewing like a kitten. You squeal while you are falling asleep like the brakes on a car. I might just record it and play it on blast when you are sleeping too late when you're 16, to remind you that you once kept me up all night with your array of barnyard noises.

I love to watch your hands. Sometimes you clasp them to your chest, or you let them float up into the air like tiny birds. You have long fingers that looked like talons when you were born, and funny little thumbs that are as long as your other fingers. The sensation of your hands on mine is one of the best in the world, they are so soft, like tiny feathers brushing my skin.

(Almost) 5 months old
Mia Jane, I read back what I wrote 4 months ago, and I know some of it was sugar-coated. There's no doubt I was heart-breakingly in love with you, but lord, those first 6 weeks were HARD! And over the last 4 months my love for you has multiplied in ways I could not fathom. The idea that tomorrow I will love you more than I do today makes me think my heart will burst. How can it contain this much love?

Some women give birth and the clouds part and the angels sing and they are just simply smitten with their newborn. I am sorry, but I was not one of those women. I loved you, yes. I would have thrown my body in front of a moving bus for you, yes, but I fell in love slowly, just like I did with your dad. You were a stranger to me until you were about 6 weeks old. A very demanding, exhausting stranger. Then one day during that 6th week I was laying on the couch with you snoozing in my arms, and I put my face against your little head and look a long breath of you, and I thought, "What would I do without this? I could not go on living if anything happened to you." And that was the moment you had your momma wrapped around your finger for life.

Following this there were a few weeks were I became a little obsessed with your well-being as the thought of losing you nearly crippled me, but things have leveled off now. I enjoy you. I try to absorb as much of your babyhood as I can. I try to memorize your hands and your smile and all of your facial expressions, but I already can't even comprehend that you are the same baby we brought home 5 months ago, the same baby who did nothing but sleep, eat and poop. Literally, nothing else.

Now you play and you laugh and you babble. You sit up all by yourself. You express opinions and preferences about what you are doing. You love the bath. You suck your thumb. You have a distinct personality. You smile at me every single time I look in your direction, and I die EVERY TIME. It NEVER gets old.

We started you on solid food last week. You hate it, but you tolerate it. I knew it would be a struggle after how long it took you to get breastfeeding down (we are old hands at that now). You take the cereal into your mouth. Sometimes you spit it out, sometimes you swallow it, grunt, gag and kick your leg on the high chair as if you are a contestant on Fear Factor and we are feeding you live crickets and you WILL SWALLOW IT, goddammit, because you are going to WIN at eating solid food!

We've been working on sleep training for a few weeks now, but you are not taking to it very well. I've read a million books and websites. I could probably be an expert on training other people's kids, but mine seems untrainable. All of the books are about how to teach your baby to fall asleep on her own. None of the books discuss what to do when your baby knows HOW to put herself to sleep, she just WON'T. At nap time I put you in your crib and you usually just roll over, suck your thumb, and go to sleep. At bed time you just refuse. You are a willful, stubborn little girl. We're working on it, even though I've just had the realization that this is the first step of you not needing your momma anymore. This is the very first thing you will learn to do on your own.

You play very well by yourself for periods of time. Sometimes your dad and I are right there on the floor with you, but you are in your own little world. You talk to yourself, squeal and toss your toys around and hardly look in our direction. I was like this as a kid, very willing to play all by myself, and it's so strange to start to see myself in you already.

You smile easily at your dad and me, but are very serious for everyone else. You hate to be held by strangers for longer than 30 seconds, even when I am standing in your line of vision, but you love to watch people and especially kids (and you LOVE to watch the cats, you even put your hand out to pet them sometimes).

Strangers often comment on what a content baby you are, and you really really are an easy going girl... as long as momma is close by. At this point in your life, you would rather be with me than anything else in the world, and snuggling you and kissing your neck brings me more joy than anything ever has. I am savoring this time of your life. I had heard, of course, from other parents that as trying as babies are, the payoff is worth it, and I really did not understand that until you. I didn't understand how something so hard and exhausting and emotionally draining could be "worth it." The highs would have to be unbelievably high to outweigh the lows. They are.