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Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

Remember how we were worried about Miles’ weight because his growth stalled and his percentile plummeted?  (Okay, by we I mean I.)  And how I’ve been stuffing him with waffles and Quiche and all things eggy, breaded, cheesy, fried, and meaty?  And how his growth curve has recently resembled a prairie more than a foothill?

He had a scheduled weight check today. He aced it. 

In three months, he had gained almost two pounds (one pound in the last 7 weeks alone) and grown an inch.  The pediatrician is not at all worried about him any longer. 

Huge exhale.

Robin came to this appointment because I was sure he was still “off the chart.”  I knew the doctor was going to have Alarming Recommendations for us and that we would need to make decisions. 

I wasn’t happy walking in the door, and Miles wasn’t pleased to be there either.  He’s old enough to know what the doctor’s office is all about. As soon as we got past the toys and walked to the exam room, he started shaking his head.  “No.  No,” he insisted politely.   He glared at us as he was weighed and measured.  I steeled myself.

Then the doctor breezed into the room and pronounced Miles perfectly fine. 

“Really?” I asked several times.  “Really?”

“Yeah, he never looked sick to me,” she said.  Which is true.  She said that he didn’t look sick but that we should do blood tests and stool samples just in case.  Any parent knows how horrifying those three words are, how treacherous they can be.  Like, your child might be healthy.  Or he could have a bowel disease.  You know.

“It’s usually just behavior,” the doctor said cheerfully.  “They get picky and stop eating their meals, and then you start giving them snacks all day to compensate, and then they never really get hungry enough to eat.” 

It’s kind of a head-scratcher, but whatever.  I know toddlers who graze all day and are like mini linebackers.  And while it’s true that I was offering Miles snacks all day long, he never refused to eat at mealtime.  (I’m sure this will come later. I’m not claiming to be exempt from toddler pickiness;  I just don’t think it was the issue.)  So was the doctor right, and was Miles wasting away from too many snacks?  (So weird.)  Or is this just the pattern his growth was going to take because of some instructions written deep in his genetic code?  I have no idea.

Meanwhile, as we chatted with the pediatrician, Miles nabbed a ride-on toy tiger and headed for the door.  He wasn’t about to stick around long enough for someone to poke him with needles or stick things down his throat, no sir.   

Here’s a cell phone photo of him making a beeline for the lobby.  The feet on the left are Robin’s.  The feet on the right are the doctor’s. 

I’m not sure who was most happy and relieved when we walked out and let the door swing shut behind us. 

The escape artist.
 
 
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Let me be clear: pregnant women do not want your advice.   If they want it, they will ask for it.  And if they ask for it and then realize they disagree with what you are saying, they will probably go vacant-eyed and fantasize about ice cream until you stop talking.  

Mint chip.. Rocky Road... Wait, were you talking?

For the most part, pregnant women or their partners do not want to know what you think about swaddling, whether (and for how long) you believe in breast-feeding, or whether you decry pacifier use as moral downfall or uphold it as your family’s personal salvation.  It’s not that the topics of swaddling, breast feeding or pacifiers don’t interest them.  The problem is that advice givers are so invested in their own choices that their advice, rather than being neutral and informative, is actually a high-pressure sales pitch in disguise.  The expecting parent is like a person who doesn’t yet have a driver’s license but has wandered into a used-car dealership.  “You’re going to buy a car ONE DAY,” the peddler of advice is insisting, “why not buy MIIIIIINE?????  THIS ONE?????  Because I know this one is RIIIIIGHT??!?!?”  And you, the expecting parent, flounder to be polite without committing to anything.

To swaddle or not to swaddle?

My usual approach with expecting parents is to be vague and supportive on any topic.  They don’t need any judgment from me, and if they parent with love everything will probably work out just fine.  My stock phrases are “Every baby is different” and “Whatever works for your family.”  If the expecting parents press me and ask what I did with Miles, I usually answer honestly and then add one of my stock phrases.  Sometimes I finish with, “I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.” 

Swaddling?  “We did it with Miles.  Whatever works for your family.”  Pacifiers? “Miles refused to take one.  Every baby is different.”  Burying the placenta under a neighborhood tree?  “Ewwww!  I mean, um, we didn’t do that. Whatever works for your family.  I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.”

Pacifier dreams.

But I have opinions.  I’m not claiming my opinions are exclusively right or that they work for everyone.  (See stock phrases above.)  But here, without further disclaimer or self-deprecation,  are my honest opinions.  This is the stuff that I wish the future me could have flown back and told the pregnant me — the stuff I learned the hard way.

1. Baby wash cloths are not necessary.  They are cute, yes, and registering for them is fun.  But they.  Are.  Wash cloths.  Just use what you have at home and call it good.

2.  Pacifiers.  If you can get your baby to take one, thank your lucky stars.  More time on the pacifier is less time on the boob, which can be astonishingly helpful when you want to shower, make a bowl of cereal, or ride the subway in New York city without stripping.  Not that I would know, because Miles refused to take a pacifier.  He was a boob man through and through.  (In the photo at right, we put it in after he was asleep.  It didn’t last.)

3.  This brings me to breast feeding.  I recommend making it work if you can.  I think it’s better than formula (sorry!), but if you are going to breast feed, puh-LEASE don’t be sanctimonious about it.  Breastfeeding does not give anyone license to berate others. 

Plugged in.

If you try BFing and can’t do it, you are not a bad person.  If you try it and succeed, expect to have mixed feelings about it for the first several months at least.  It will sometimes hurt.  You will not necessarily feel “bonded” when your newborn wakes up every two hours at night wanting to latch on.  You will instead feel furious, cranky and tired.  You will think that all those people who described it as a beautiful experience were lying, and you will want to blow them up.   That is okay.  You (like me) may one day describe it as a beautiful experience.  And even though breast feeding in public is embarrassing and some people will freak out and give you flak for it, just do it.  You are feeding a baby in public, not masturbating, and your alternative is to go home EVERY TWO HOURS to feed your baby in private.  Just use a nursing cover or get used to being bare-breasted.

4. Those little baby outfits with the feet on them? Those are pajamas.  No one told me this.  Miles wore those day and night. 

5. Co-sleeping versus the crib.  As you may know, we slept with Miles for the first year.  Now he sleeps in a crib.  We were happy then; we’re happier now.  This really is an every-baby-is-different-whatever-works-for-your-family situation.  Whatever you do, don’t let anyone give you any lip about it.  Lie if you have to.

6. Speaking of lying, get ready to lie about your baby’s sleep.  Everyone will ask you, and no good can come of their response when you answer honestly.  In my experience, most babies sleep badly. Myths of newborns who sleep “all night” are greatly exaggerated.  Different babies respond differently to sleep training efforts, and those differences probably have more to do with the babies themselves than with anything the parents did correctly or incorrectly.  Yet the more sleep deprived you become, the more vulnerable you will be to other people’s advice, mockery, and judgment.  Protect yourself.  Lie!

Sleep is for the weak.

Different people ask about your baby’s sleep for different reasons.  Some — usually parents whose children are long grown or childless people who don’t want to ever have children — feel a cruel sense of pleasure at your suffering.  It’s true; they want to laugh at you.  People whose children sleep through the night want to confirm that they are better parents than you.  With these two types, you neither want to give them the satisfaction of knowing you suffer nor invite their unwanted advice.  When they inquire, smile sweetly and say, “She sleeps all through the night.” 

Others just want to tell you what you are doing wrong.  They may be well-meaning family members or neighbors or someone you meet in a parenting group.   They’re just sure that any baby will sleep for 14 hours at a stretch if you use their method.  Chances are good that, having tried every method, you will want to punch these people.  Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “He sleeps all through the night.”  If your baby magically sleeps all through the night, and anyone asks about it, just be vague.  DO NOT BOAST OR APPEAR TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS MIRACLE.  IF YOU DO, I MIGHT SPIT ON YOU.  Just say, “He sleeps okay.”  If the asker is another parent who looks exhausted and tortured by self-doubt, be vague and compassionate.  Try, “Some nights are better than others.”  If the asker is a friend who is genuinely concerned about your well-being but has no particular stake in the politics of baby sleep, maybe, maybe, MAYBE tell the truth, whatever your truth may be.  But do so at your own risk.

7. I won’t ask you how your baby sleeps, but I might hand you Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West.  It is the baby sleep book that saved us from baby sleep hell.  It’s my favorite because, like me, it’s more middle of the road.  It’s not a strict cry-it-out system like Ferber or Babywise, but it’s not a super-granola attachment parenting manual like The No-Cry Sleep Solution (which I tried valiantly to use for almost a year).  We used the methods in Good Night, Sleep Tight, Miles cried some but in a way I could feel okay about, and now he sleeps so much amazingly better.  He sleeps all through the night.  And I am not even lying.  Get this book.  Now.  NOW.

8. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  People will tell you it saved their lives.  Personally, I think it’s overhyped.  It worked for us about 60 percent of the time, which was helpful.  But you know what, sometimes all the swaddling and sideways laying and sucking and shhhhhing and swaying in the world does not work.  Sometimes they just cry. If you can borrow the book or DVD from someone, do.  If not, meh.  Whatever.

Dear Harvey Karp: You lied.

9.  Now for the best baby advice I ever received: Be gentle with yourself.  If you are a birthing mother, your hormones will be completely wack-a-doodle-doo for several months.  It is very possible that you will not know who you are any more.  If you are an adoptive mom, a dad, or any other kind of parent, you will still be going through intense experiences that change everything.  Everything.  New parenthood is surreal.  At times in the first weeks, I looked down at the crying bundle in my arms and could not remember its name or whether it was a boy or girl — I just knew I was supposed to appease it.  Give yourself a few months (or a year or so) for things to settle down.  You are doing a great job.  Trust me.  And, of course, congratulations!

This post is dedicated to Tina Anderson and Naomi Frame Powell, who have gracefully endured a great deal of unsolicited advice from me. 

Coming soon: The Breast Feeding Advice You Didn’t Ask For, The Stay-At-Home Parenting Advice You Didn’t Ask For, and more!

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Miles, though obviously a budding poet/athlete/astronomer/zoologist/engineer, spent most his first year being stunningly average. At every medical appointment, his height and weight came in at the 50th percentile. I for one felt absurdly proud of this: we had created a child whose measurements were in no way objectionable! No one could find fault with the length of his limbs or the rotundity of his trunk. Passers-by might make their usual way-off-base comments — “What a big boy!” or “Is he (four months younger than his actual age)? No? Well, he must be small!” — and I would smile proudly and, with great satisfaction, announce, “His doctor says he’s average!”

Five months old.

Then, at his first birthday, his weight percentile plummeted to 22nd. He had recently had some minor surgery, and the doctor said he would probably bounce back by the next appointment. But he didn’t bounce back. At the fifteen month appointment, he had dropped off the chart. He’d had the stomach flu recently, we reasoned. Maybe that explained it. At 18 months, the doctor became concerned. (It was not his low percentile that was worrisome but the dramatic drop in percentile — from average to off the chart in six months. If he’d stayed steady, no problem.)

“Often times when toddlers slim down, it’s just behavior,” our pediatrician said, meaning that they become picky and eat less. However, she warned me that we needed to rule out certain other causes for his unexplained decline in growth. We talked a little about Celiac disease (which is gluten intolerance) or “intestinal issues,” but our doctor kept the details fuzzy and the tone upbeat. We took a stool sample, changed his diet to include more protein and fat, limited snacking and milk-drinking between meals, and scheduled a weight check for six weeks later.

Since that appointment, I have thrown myself into packing the utmost calories (and nutrition) into every meal. I carry chicken sausages for his snacks, concoct quiches with bacon and heavy cream (and spinach!), whip up the cheesiest mac and cheese recipe I can find, then top it with buttered bread crumbs. I make carrot-cranberry waffles and spread them with pecan butter or, better yet, use waffles as the bread for his PB&J. I brown ground turkey, slice up spicy chorizo, and churn out cheese quesadillas with guacamole. Once, to Robin’s horror, I fed Miles butter. Just a spoonful of unadorned butter. Most parents scheme to get vegetables into their children; I view vegetables as a necessary evil. They’re low in calories and take up precious belly space. Vegetable tempura I grudgingly accept. At least it is battered and deep fried!

I know I sound a little crazy. What’s new? But the thing is, even as I have been cooking and baking and cookbook-scouring, somewhere deep inside of me I have felt that Miles is really okay. He’s perfect. His arms, his legs, his cheeks, his belly: they all seem just right. He’s happy. He’s healthy. He constantly astonishes me with his discoveries, his curiosity, his questions. He glows with joy, running toward us with his dandelion puff hair wafting in the breeze, and throws his arms up in the air for a group hug. How could a child who is so obviously thriving be sick? How could his immaculate cells hide some unknowable something wrong? They couldn’t.

We have many reasons to assume all is well. People reassure me with some variation of, “All toddlers slim down! He’s so active!” And, “He’s just burning off calories faster than he can eat them.” The pediatrician said he doesn’t look like a child who is suffering from Celiac or any other major illness. His stool test came back negative for all of the things they were looking for (whatever those might have been). Then there’s the fact that I myself was a teeny baby and am now only five feet tall. Couldn’t that explain his diminutive stature? It could. Of course it could. So I have been calm and confident. Except when I’m not.

Sometimes I can’t help but notice how much smaller he is than other kids his age. Or that he hasn’t been growing out of his clothes. In fact, other than getting more hair and becoming more agile, he hasn’t changed physically all that much for a long time. I watch him race about the playground and think, treacherously, too small. The voice of worry starts its whispery taunting.

After his six-week weight check, he had gained 9 ounces but was still “off the chart.” I bit my lip and agreed to schedule blood work. The blood work came back negative — all clear — giving both Robin and me a sense of relief. The next step is another weight check at 21 months, about three weeks from now. If he’s still off the chart, what next? What will the doctor say, and how will we respond?

My worry is two-fold. One is the pure and simple worry that something might be wrong, Celiac disease, some kind of bowel problem, or some other thing I can’t even imagine and don’t want to Google. The other is the more nuanced fear that Miles is fine. Wait, you’re thinking? You’re worried that he might be fine? Yes. Apparently, I am an extremely advanced worrier. My fear is that if we go further with tests or (gulp) see a specialist, we’ll be subjecting Miles and ourselves to needless and stressful interventions, sucumbing to a culture of fear and pathologizing our innocent child’s idiosyncratic growth pattern. Really, I should just recognize him as the healthy specimen he is and get on with the play dates and building blocks. I should tell the doctor to back off and leave us alone. Right? Right?

So I am alternately serene and apprehensive. He’s so absolutely lovely these days, but this weight thing plagues me. I understand that this is not a calamity. Parents deal with actual, real medical problems (as opposed to this phantom of a maybe problem) every day. Yet he’s my kid, and I want to know that he is healthy. I wish I knew a right way to navigate the next few months, if there is a right way. I want to stop the churning and doubting and second-guessing, just shut my brain up. Robin doesn’t churn and doubt and second-guess! It’s not in her nature, I suppose, which is probably part of why we’re together.

So, lucky you, you’re along for the ride. Would you like to see some cute photos of my perfect, obviously healthy kid? Of course you would! Here goes. And thanks for listening.

Joyful.

Barry Bear.

Fighting fires... and homophobia.

Who me? Yes, you. Couldn't be. Then who?

(Disclaimers: our doctor has been very calm and reassuring; Miles seems to be getting taller lately; and no one has even breathed the words “referral to specialist.” I just forget to focus on these things when I’m worrying. Then I reread this blog and hear Robin’s cheerful and optimistic voice reminding me of all these things. Thanks, Robin.)

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Seriously Serious

Robin was talking — 0r g-chatting, or e-mailing, or whatever passes for communication these days — with an old friend of ours who lives in Los Angeles.  The friend was saying that the more frequent blogging makes her feel like she’s right here with us, watching Miles grow up.  I glowed a little as Robin told me this because, you know, the thought of being connected to loved ones near and far makes me a little weepy and happy at the same time.  I’m that sort.

But then Robin said, “And she said Miles looks so serious all the time, very somber.  Like, he’s never smiling for the camera.”

!!!?!?!???

Sputter, sputter, snort, guffaw.   

I don’t know what she’s talking about!   Do you?

The dreamer.

 

I mean, sure, he’s not a smile machine like his friend Diego.  I get that.  But to say that he looks serious?  I just don’t know where that’s coming from.  Is she blind?  The kid’s a laugh a minute!

Playground.

 

Truly, he practically bubbles with perpetual giggles, as the following photo should make obvious.   Ready?  Here it comes.  The hilarity and glee are going to knock you out.

Jedi nap-avoidance.

Okay, so I had to concede the point; we post a lot of somber-baby shots.   I started in, huffing and puffing and filling my worry balloon, analyzing whether there’s something wrong with Miles, if he’s too serious, if he’s happy.  Robin cut me off.

“I told her it probably has more to do with our aesthetic and with when and how you take photos.”

Oh, yeah.  Worry balloon deflated.

Miles is a happy kid, but it’s a happy quiet.  His default emotional state is a sort of muted, curious amusement.  He is quiet, but he is not shy.  He observes before plunging in, but he’s not fearful.  His touch is light; his bites of food are small.  He laughs and smiles, especially when Momma is wrestling him or if he sees a dog wagging its tail or our cat Luna playing on the bed.  He’s mild-mannered (though recently prone to tantrums).  He’s just Miles.

He laughs.  Really!  But in case you’d prefer some evidence, I come prepared.

Party all the time.

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About a boy.

He trips heading into the kitchen and knocks his forehead against the doorway.  He topples while squatting to examine the grain of the hardwood floor.  He tumbles headlong from the couch while practicing, for the 38th time, his dismount.  All completely normal toddler mishaps.  Yet as I watch the latest knot form on his forehead, a matching knot forms in my stomach. 

“No falling until Saturday,” I’ve been telling Miles, trailing fretfully after him.  “Remember, we currently have a no-falling policy.  So try taking fewer risks this week, please.”

I’m not normally so hovery and intense.  Falling is part of walking, after all.  But tomorrow, a woman from the court — a probation officer, actually — is coming for a home visit.  This is a routine part of the process of Robin adopting Miles.

 Robin, what?!?  Adopting, huh?!  It seems weird, I know, because she is indisputably his mom, but Robin has to formally adopt Miles in order to be his parent in the eyes of the state of New York.  We’ve known this for a long time, and we’ve mostly just gritted our teeth and accepted it.  We want to have as many legal protections as a family as we can.  In addition to being domestic partners in the city of New York (the state does not offer a domestic partnership),  we have gone through all sorts of legal hoopla to have power of attorney, medical proxy, wills, and whatever else we could think of to approximate the many financial, property and inheritance rights of marriage. 

Adoption is the final step in Robin’s legal relationship with Miles.  And this home visit is the final step in the adoption.  In a way, coming this far is a victory about which I should be happy and relieved.  For most of the process, I’ve managed to stay matter-of-fact.  Okay, yeah, it bugged me that we both had to submit personal letters of reference to the court.  (Yes, both of us.  Although I am biologically Miles’ mother, I had to ask three friends of mine to write letters stating that I am responsible, lovely and good with children.)  And yeah, it was a pain that we both had to be examined by doctors to show that we are in good health.  And get fingerprinted at a police station.  And have Miles certified healthy.  And submit copies of our driver’s licenses, multiple official copies of our birth certificates, copies of our social security cards, check stubs, tax information, letters of employment, and so on ad nauseum.  It bothered me.  I complained a little.   

But this home visit is messing with my mind.  All I know is that a probation officer is coming to our house tomorrow and that she will check for certain safety measures (window guards, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher) and ask us for more paperwork.  And that she has the power to say that we do or do not have a suitable home.  That’s all I know. 

Will she be charming, reassuring and perfunctory?  Like, “Oh gosh, I can tell you guys are nice folks, enjoy your baby.”  Or will she be rigid and businesslike?  Like, “I see here that your smoke detector has a flashing red light rather than a steady red light.  Adoption denied.”  Or will she be suspicious and nosy?  Like, “Where did he get those bruises on his forehead? And by the way, can I see the inside of your microwave?”

All this week, my imagination has run wild with unlikely scenarios.  I’ve pictured her weighing him and looking in our cupboards to see what we feed him.  (“He’s a bit slim,” she might say, pursing her lips.)  Watching us diaper him to make sure we’re doing it right.  (“Do you always use only two wipes?  Interesting.”) Or examining him all over for bruises or marks. Quizzing us on his sleep habits.  Finding fault with our drafty windows.  Telling us our that, dear God, our Christmas tree is a hazard and why didn’t we know that?  What are we, idiots?  Why did they let us have this baby anyway??

I know I’m insane.  But it’s hard, not knowing exactly what she’ll be checking for.  It’s like trying to prepare for a test that could possibly be about all of Russian history — or might focus minutely on 18th century Russian hats.  And if you fail the test, you get to keep being Not A Real Family.  So I’m rushing around cleaning, yanking Miles down from high places, begging the landlady to please please install window guards on the two windows that don’t have them, and casting a suspicious eye at our carbon monoxide detector.  Is it adequate?  Is it correctly placed?  Should we install five more?

Meanwhile, under the panic is a growing fury.  All this because we can’t get married.  I understand that the rigmarole surrounding adoptions is meant to ensure that children are going to good, safe homes.  Through most of this madness, I have kept my mind on that.  But this week, I’m grappling with the reality of a mysterious authority figure coming into our home and judging us.  It’s making me very, very angry. 

Why are we going through this and spending tons of money on, frankly, a pretty crappy lawyer?  Why has Miles spent the first year-plus of his life with only one legal parent despite the fact that he lives with two parents?  Why was Robin unable to sign any of the consent forms when Miles had minor surgery a few months ago?  Why?  Because we can’t get married.  And why can’t we get married?  Because people are bigoted, afraid, judgmental, traditional, grossed out and narrow-minded. 

But you can get married! , I can hear some people thinking.  You can get married in Connecticut!  Or Canada!  Isn’t that lovely?  Yes, it’s very sweet and cute that we can get married in five states; Washington, D.C.; and ten countries.  Each time another state or country legalizes gay marriage, I cheer.  Maybe if we hadn’t already had TWO weddings (long story), we would have enjoyed the sweetness and cuteness of another.  And if getting legally married somewhere would make Robin’s parenthood clearly legally defined in all places, we’d do that for sure.

But in fact, getting married in Canada or Spain or Iowa would not help us avoid the need to adopt because it would not necessarily make Robin Miles’ legal parent in New York.  (State agencies would recognize our marriage, but private companies would not have to.  So, for example, Robin’s health insurer through work might not have to recognize Miles as her child.) And of course, perhaps even more important, it would not result in legal recognition of our family unit from the federal government. 

The legal issues are like a bizarre word problem in math class.**  If two American lesbians who are residents of New York City get married in Sweden and one of them has a  baby and then they move to California, what are their rights?  Are they married or unmarried, and whose baby is it anyway? Absurdly, if we got legally married, we would be in the odd position of being married (and Robin a parent) in some places but not in others.  Robin’s motherhood might be recognized in New Hampshire but debated in Arizona.  On a cross-country drive, we could be married and unmarried half a dozen times!  

Is it absurd that Robin has to apply to be a parent to her own child?  Yes.  Is it invasive that someone is going to scrutinize our home and our lives?  Of course.  Yet we want Miles to have the security of having a legal tie to both of us.  So tomorrow I will grit my teeth, answer the door and smile.  I will hand over my tax information for 2009 and a photocopy of my driver’s license ever so cheerfully.  Until then I reserve the right to be annoyed, anxious and slightly bitter. 

I think we need a party when this is over.

A family of three.

 

** Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer.  Don’t rely on what I say here!

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Happy Birthday, Miles.  Now you are 1.  

Cupcake.

This is officially your second October 11 on this earth.  One year ago yesterday, I got up from bed to pee and my water  broke.  Perching on the toilet and realizing that no one, particularly not a pregnant woman with a bladder the size of a walnut, could pee for that long, I realized what was happening.  I started calling your other mother’s name.  I called and called, but she was deeply asleep and wearing ear plugs.  So I hobbled back to the bedroom, leaking all the way, and shook her awake.  

We could not believe you were finally coming and that you would stop being this abstract source of heartburn and other, less mentionable digestive upsets, and become, for real, a human.   We were stunned, disoriented, and a little giddy.  (We still are, come to think of it.)

Early labor: still smiling.

One year ago today, after 18 hours of (mostly unmedicated) labor, a lot of very deep breaths, and a last-minute trip to the operating room, we met you for the first time.  I’ve written about that moment before.  It remains the most transformative moment of my life. 

From the beginning, you were yourself.  I’m not quite sure how else to put it, but if you ever have children you’ll know what I mean.  This probably sounds dumb to you now, reading this years later, but you were a person from the very first moment your Momma held you to my cheek.  You came fully formed, with likes and dislikes and mannerisms and tendencies and your own particular way of approaching situations.  These twelve months we’ve sat back and marveled at who you are, watching you unfurl.

So very little.

At the time of your birth you were so very new, and these were your chief accomplishments: possessing all the necessary extremities, making profound facial expressions, and sporting a head of tufted reddish hair that made the nurses exclaim.  Yet though you could not move or talk and would not have a name for a day or so, you were you.  You were already the person who now wakes from a nap pointing and asking, “Dat?”, who rewards us with crooked smiles, who chased pigeons while gripping one of our fingers for balance, and who touches new things delicately, with the tip of one pointed finger.  You’re calm, observant, gentle, mischievous, and affectionate.  You love food and wind in your hair and pointing at airplanes and being tossed up and down.

Momma.

Tonight, after your bath, we were wriggling you into your pajamas.  You kept smiling at the yellow ducks on your pajama pants, charming us.  Your Momma said, “One year ago today, you were in my arms.”  She got to hold you and gaze blissfully at your face in the recovery room while the doctors put my guts back in and stitched me up.   The two of you talked of many things; I bet she’ll tell you about it if you ask her. 

One year contains wholeness — every season, every month, and every day.  Like you, it is a template with reassuring solidity, yet it contains infinite future variations.   Who will you be as your Novembers and Februaries and Fourths of July pile up?  Very likely, you will be calm, observant, gentle, mischievous and affectionate.   You will get over your passion for airplanes, and your vocabulary, currently comprising three sparkling, jewel-like words, will grow.  (Your three words are cat, bye-bye, and truck.)  You will speak in sentences.  You will walk without holding on — maybe even tomorrow.   You will also surprise us, awe us, terrify us. 

This year was not easy for me in particular, perhaps because the stakes seemed so high.  I was supposed to keep you alive, for gosh sake, and fatten you up and lure you into sleep and stop you from bashing your head on the furniture and let you explore.   At times I was absolutely dizzy with worry.  This year was also beautiful.  We love you madly, Miles.  We’re absolutely, terribly smitten with you.  Just when we think you couldn’t get more lovely, you astound us with unimaginable levels of delectability and genius.

Already ancient.

Happy birthday, dear one.  Happy first, and welcome to your second year.

Birthday morning.

 

Gotta be me.

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Cheerios

“You bought Cheerios for Miles?” Robin asked last night, perusing the shelves to see what other tasty morsels I’d picked up at the grocery store.  Her face took on an eager look.

“No, those are for us!” I said, guffawing.  I’d been trying to follow two suggestion in Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules”: don’t eat breakfast cereal that changes the color of the milk, and don’t eat anything with sugar as one of the first three ingredients. (Unfortunately, sugar is the third ingredient in Cheerios.  Right after “modified corn starch.” Oops.)

Clearly the Cheerios were not for Miles.  As if Miles, who is just now getting one tiny little tooth poking through, could chew a Cheerio!  Miles, who has been choking on “Chunky Orchard Fruit” baby food and wrinkling his nose at oatmeal.  As if!  Bah!

I’ve been assuming that I’d be spoon-feeding Miles yogurt in his college cafeteria.  He likes foods with lots of flavor, and he will try almost anything.  However, he has recently rebelled against food with texture, and he has shown about zero interest in feeding himself.  Both Robin and I were hugely relieved this weekend when he finally picked up a piece of bread and put it into his own mouth.  It seemed like an important step.  Yesterday he extended his newfound skill to picking up a watermelon wedge and gnawing on the rind.   (I didn’t take about seventeen pictures — no, not me!)

Chomp, chomp!

But Cheerios?  Those are for kids who can handle munching and crunching.  Big, hearty kids who talk in full sentences and are nearly potty trained.  Not little babies who were practically born yesterday. 

Robin, of course, believes that Miles can conjugate verbs in French, bake a souffle, and tap dance.  She really doesn’t believe he’s constrained by the usual developmental stages.  How could he be?  He’s her son.  So this morning she asked me to get the Cheerios out, and I wisely zipped my lip.  I handed the box to her in skeptical silence.  If she wanted to try it, fine, I thought.  The worst that could happen is we’d waste some Cheerios.  Or he would choke and she’d have to pull out those moves we learned in Infant CPR class.  Whatever.  I certainly wasn’t going to speak up and be pigeonholed as the Worrying Parent. 

So she put the Cheerios on the tray.  And Miles picked one up and ate it.  Just.  Like. That.

Hand to mouth.

Robin beamed.  My eyes teared.  And he did it again.  Miles seemed matter-of-fact about it all.  He wasn’t exactly sure why Momma was snapping about 27 photos while Mommy wept joyfully into her yogurt and blueberries. 

It's no big deal, moms.

   Yes, it seems silly.  I’m sure plenty of you are rolling your eyes at me and wondering why this even warranted a blog post.  All I can do is raise my arms helplessly and say, Cheerios, guys.  Cheerios.  For some reason, they seem so grown-up to me.  Next he’ll be mixing up dirty Martinis and throwing a steak on the grill. 

Maybe I’m a little emotional about this because he’s been changing alarmingly fast lately. I’m having trouble adjusting.  His hair, for instance, is growing profusely.  He has enough hair to tousle.  Some days it stands up straight in dandelion puffs, and other days it lays in airy whorls, like meringue.  After months of playing hide-and-seek, a single tooth has broken through the gums.  It clinks against the cup when he takes a drink.  I try to picture him with an entire toothy grin, and it seems so strange.  Plus, Miles is oh-so-close to walking.  He holds only one of my hands as he chases pigeons at the playground, and every once in awhile his grip loosens, like he might let go.

Inside, I’m chanting, Let go, let go.  And also, Hold on, hold on.

What? Is something funny?

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