Friday, July 15, 2016

Letter to (One Month Old) Sarah Lamar

Dear Sallie,

One month with you! One beautiful, amazing, glorious month.

Time will never not confound me and exponentially so since becoming a mother. On the one hand it seems like a million years ago that I felt like I'd be the first human to be pregnant forever. For some reason, I felt like I didn't get to know you as well as I did Annie and Graves before they were born. I think a lot had to do with not naming you and a lot has to do with he being in disbelief that I was really going to get to do this one more time. That seems so, so far away (even though Graves did ask me after several weeks if you were real- sometimes I can hardly believe it, too, Bud!). On the other hand, I can't believe we've had a month with our Sallie Baby. I can't believe it's been almost a whole month since we figured out that "Sister Baby" was our beautiful Sarah Lamar. It seems like just yesterday I was watching Annie and Graves hold you for the fist time and I was studying your face and trying to memorize all your little features, knowing how fast they'd change. I love you more every day and I'm grateful because it makes it easier to watch them go by.

When I started writing monthly letters for your sister and brother I mostly included details about their development and little facts about what they were doing. Milestones and growth stats and that kind of thing. But as they got older, I started sharing more of my thoughts and feelings and more stories about what they were up to. I plan to share when you hit certain milestones and experience firsts (partly because many of your firsts may very well be the lasts for our family) but I've learned I value the other more, so I'm sure these posts will largely be about our stories and my feelings on mothering you.

Backing up to the very beginning. You were born on June twelfth a little after four in the morning. You weighed seven pounds and fifteen ounces and were twenty inches long. That's the fifty eighth percentile for weight! It took us about five hours to name you but I feel in love with you immediately. I remember shaking so hard (sometimes that's just the physical response after you have a baby) and holding you and I couldn't stop smiling. I could not believe you were finally here (or that I had just done what I had just done). Your  birth, much like my whole pregnancy with you, was hands down, the hardest, most humbling experience of my whole life. But you were already everything I imagined. I could not have loved you more (although, I knew, without a doubt, I would and will with every subsequent day that I have to know you and learn your ways).

You started nursing like a champ at the hospital and never looked back. I really think you might bypass Annie and Graves one day. It seems like you eat all day every day. But I'm so glad to have a baby whose weight I'm not worried about. Maybe I shouldn't have been so offended by the receptionist at the OB's office who, the week before, said you were going to be a linebacker. Ha!

Those first days in the hospital were really special, again knowing it would be the last time. We didn't have a ton of visitors, but the ones we did were really special. Our associate pastor came to visit and prayed one of the sweetest prayers. Two of my closest friends, Mallory and Carrie, came and I had the best time sharing you with them.

And then of course your brother and sister. Annie was intrigued by you. Graves was totally smitten. And you were just blowing bubbles in their laps.

Graves told Papa in the parking lot as they were leaving that he "missed da baby". Then when Papa offered them unlimited screen time because he was so tired and really hadn't had a chance to recover from being up helping me through the labor and birth, Graves said "well, you know what's funnner than lots of TV? That baby!". Annie told us that she read in a book that newborns can only see about twelve inches in front of them so we should probably get close to you when we talk to you. She also said "My name is Ann Peyton but I like it when people call me Annie. But you probably won't be able to call me anything for awhile." And she told met that your hair feels like a kitty cat's fur. I'm pretty sure the more ways we can find that you're analogous to an animal, the more AP will love you!

Graves also wanted to know please could he take you home with him and Mickey asked the same thing. Between Bud and Mick, you are going to be ROTTEN. 

I had some hard emotions really early on, but besides that there wasn't a single part of it that I didn't love. Even now, there really isn't. I do hate to hear you cry when you have a tummy ache or something but I really don't mind the round the clock feeding or the insane amount of diapers you produce even a tiny bit. I mean that honestly. I might one day but right now I'm just soaking it all up.

But...the hard emotions.  The first day was so effortless and nice. I was so happy. Honestly, it was a rare day for me emotionally- I was so lighthearted and everything just seemed pleasant and easy without me working for it. It was maybe the most carefree I've ever been in my life.The next day the post partum hormones and exhaustion hit. I got so upset thinking about it being the last time. It's like the moment you were born the clock started ticking. I just love it so much and even though I KNOW the joy just multiplies as you all get bigger, I wish this stage lasted forever. I talked to a friend and wondered if I'll be envious every time someone has a new baby. I felt guilty about that. I told myself I needed to be sure to enjoy this. I felt so much pressure to do that.I have such a sense of closure with pregnancy and childbirth and I think I will with nursing when the time comes. All the reasons I really wanted another biological child. (We really thought for a while that Graves would be our last newborn and honestly until I saw your face I kept thinking this was a dream I'd wake up from.) But Papa reminded that Cookie will have babies and by then he'll be pretty much totally early retired and I can just go move to Nashville for a bit. And that one day Graves will attempt to convince his wife to go along with his plan of having "a hundred thousand babies" and they'll probably need some help. I started sobbing and said "What if his wife hates me?". It's so comical in retrospect. Papa said "you are not going to hate your mother in law if she's offering to move in and help with your hundred thousand babies". We were getting way ahead of ourselves. But HORMONES. You had some harder moments, too, that day. I told Papa it was so hot in the hospital room and he said "Probably the way you two cry it is."

Papa did such a great job cleaning up the house and having things ready for us  to come home so we had an impromptu play date with the cousins that evening. And took you to visit DeeDee and Grandpa Randy. And picked up the car with the new clutch (did I mention the movie like experience where our ONE CAR literally stopped working on the way to the hospital in the middle of labor?). It was a little crazy, but the good kind. They were some of the best days of my life.

When we got home, you slept and ate great for a tiny baby. And Papa sweetly made sure your momma did, too. He served me breakfast in bed and made a menu for "Rats and Cats" (the name of your brother and sister's play restaurant) and had them come take my order for him to fix.

I love the way your little hand grabs my dress or my finger and the way your cross your tiny feet when you're nursing and pretty much everything about you. I broke down and (against my better judgement) gave you a paci one night in the hospital. It kinda messed with your nursing. We took it away the next day and thankfully you went back to eating all the time. 

Speaking of Papa-  he told meme "I do love this little baby". He's been telling everybody for months how he "doesn't get attached to babies". And he IS more of a big kid person. And there are certainly family members who are more obsessed. But I think you are already doing a number on him and he's falling in love. I may be biased, but I don't know how anybody could resist your charm. You stir up so much in my heart.

We had such a fun first couple of weeks.

Right away, Annie began to comfort you the way she knew best- by reading to her" (She picked a potty book because you had just had a "potty accident", aka a dirty diaper). It seems like just yesterday Annie was your age and I was reading to her. I don't think I missed a day her entire infancy. It was probably the one thing I did consistently and with zeal that first year.

We took you to Briarwood that first week- not many people can call themselves a Dolphin by day four. We also had sno cones to celebrate being five days old and passing your first weight check. As an aside, I'm getting way more comfortable with nursing in public. I certainly try to be discreet, but I'm totally over hiding in the bathroom these days.

One of the very best things about my pregnancy with you was finding out that we'd be getting a Cousin Baby, too. I literally cried when I found out I was so excited. You and Evan are three weeks apart to the day and I can only hope they share the same love for one another that your big cousins do. It's such a special bond.

Oh, AND Papa broke his collar bone in a bicycle accident. At first he couldn't change a diaper or even hold you because he couldn't really support your neck- but we have a wonderful village and this is so minor in the scheme of things (he was listening to a podcast the other day about a man who found out he had three months to live and his wife was eight and a half months pregnant). And praise God the accident wasn't much much worse.

I did continue to have a really hard time emotionally the first couple of weeks. A neighbor came over and she asked why my eyes were so puffy. I lied and said sleep deprivation and allergies. Which, actually, both probably have some truth to them. But it want the real reason. I just really struggled with a lot of sadness over a ton of things.

I haven't had much of the anxiety I had with Annie but I have had a few dark moments. One afternoon after Papa hurt himself, we got home and I got our stuff and walked into the sunroom after him, not even thinking about you because he always gets you out. I hadn't even walked all the way in the house and put down my bags and the big kids were still in the car but I was already haunted by the image in my head.

A friend mentioned to me recently how the physical work of motherhood gets easier as small people get bigger but the emotional work is ever often ever more difficult. That's been so true to my experience. I always, always say the most exhausting part of parenting is the emotional resources it required. And (barring this nutso post partum period) that burden doesn't seem to get any lighter. The big kid part is beautiful too, I have to keep reminding myself how much I enjoy them. And when you are seven and washing your own fruit I'll be thirty eight and maybe I won't even have any desire to be up in the middle of the night providing meals to a tiny nursing person.I'm very grateful for all the physical things Annie and Graves are able to accomplish on their own and for my sweet village- encouraging and feeding us well.

And you have some...feelings too. It took some time, thoughtfulness, and creativity but I think I found a system that allows me and you to be comfortable in our room at night. And thus, we also figured out the nighttime fussiness. I will say that, despite the exhaustion and weepiness, I've been so chill about this and didn't let myself fret when I couldn't figure it out. I hopeful that's a third-child-seven-years-of -parenting-brings-perspective thing that continues.It was because I turn the air down about ten degrees to go to sleep. We figured it out because you love being outside or in the car because it's like a sauna. So now sleeping here feels like sleeping on the surface of the sun. If Central Mississippi gets ANY hotter, I'm planning to use one of my favorite lightweight quilts because the actual bedding is too hot and I have to have something covering me and just a flat sheet skeeves me out. I sort of wish one of those muslin blankets was big enough for me. I also busted out all the (super not risqué) cotton gowns my friends indulged me by stretching the definition of "lingerie" at my shower eight years ago and am wearing them instead of t-shirts and shorts. I wish my hair would go in a ponytail.Of course the obvious answer is to bundle YOU up. Papa was really gracious about the air when I was pregnant but this was the perfect excuse to jump back on the eighty degree crazy train. I did tell him what an EXCELLENT catch I am to sleep in a sleeping bag in the Winter and do this in the Summer. So we compromised and it's on 77-78 at night. Also, I didn't think you were the type of chick who likes to be swaddled. You love playing with your fingers and sucking them and stretching and kicking your legs. Basically, you already seemed too big for it. Papa and I were laughing because we swaddled AP until she was like ten months old and I took Graves's little Velcro swaddlers with me EVERYWHERE. I think you might be more of a free spirit, this one. We finally tried it and you DID hate it at first- it was like a baby straight jacket- but it worked. For awhile.

Sometimes I think "Is this like an Annie remix? Another Play Baby?" Graves is absolutely my best buddy and he was a sweet, sweet baby but between his dairy intolerance, his caffeine intolerance, his high needs tendencies, his desire to be attached to us all the time and yet do EVERYTHING (nursing, the paci, potty training, ect.) HIS way, his babyhood wore me out. You've been sleeping one five to six consecutive hour stretch and it's been SO nice. I'm setting my alarm, though, because I really don't want you going more than five regularly just yet.

Papa and I were talking about how funny it would be if we had two really laid back babies who morphed into super intense, tightly wound (though incredibly amazing) bigger people and one very high needs (though also amazing) baby who morphed into one of the most easy going people I know. I have absolutely no confidence in what James Dobson says about how you can tell their personalities at like six months!

This is kind of random but you have some pink striped pjs of Annie's and you totally remind me of Baby Huggums in them. I always thought Annie looked like a baby doll in them, too. They were so soft and warm, I got them in several sizes.And you had your first bath at home and there is no better smell on earth. I can't think of anything in the world I'd rather be doing than snuggling and sniffing you.

Oh and on Fridays, when we know we'll be seeing our Minnie, we like to wear our vintage day gowns circa 1985. And on Saturdays, we TRULY go casual. We own very, very few "word onsies" but these little Life is Good onsies with the banded sleeves (I love t-shirts with "trim") that a friend gave Annie are still some of my favorite things.

 I went through the boy boxes picked out some of Graves's stuff since I dressed him in such "sweet" things. And I sort of love you in blue and yellow. In the hospital, I put you in a little white gown with a yellow and blue rocking horse embroderied on it and it was one of my favorite things. I also had this favorite little outfits/sleeper (I never knew which it was but they're so interchangeable in the early days) with little yellow ducks on it that Graves wore. As resistant as I am to gender stereotypes, I always preferred Annie in pink and Graves in blue. For some reason I love you in yellow. I've never really liked it as a color, but it fits you. Even your nickname seems like yellow and sunshine to me. Maybe I've got a touch of synesthesia? Anyway, it's a favorite.

Sidenote: names are hard. It took Graves about three days to get Sarah Lamar down and sometimes he still doesn't fool with it and calls you random things like "wheat"?!?

Speaking of Graves, the other day Graves was ranking who he loved the most. He said he loved Mickey but not as much as Baby Sallie. And he said he loved you but not as much as Annie. I hope he never struggles with being the middle child or the only boy. His sisters are EVERYTHING to him and he serves you two so often and so well.

He told me that you opening opening your eyes at first was "very rare", but it's not anymore. He's spot on- you're so much more alert already!

Another day I was changing your diaper and he was stroking your cheeks and rubbing his hair across your face and telling you "shhh, it won't be much longer" (as he does every time I change it) and I had to go grab something. He apparently had to leave for a minute too but got back before me and when I got back I heard him saying "it's okay, Sweetie, I'm right here". He also has a few nicknames for her to add to the ever growing list (I feel like that's such a third child thing to have a billion nicknames)-- "Scooter" and "Babes". And the latest is "Baby Pie". You are loved beyond what my mind can comprehend

Also, it's been so interesting to see his and Annie's reactions to what constitutes a large part of my vocation these days. Annie mentioned to me the other day that animal babies get milk from their mommas, too and I said "oh yes, that's true! Mammals do!" And she said "You do know thar pigeons nurse their young, right?" Well no, actually I didn't. I need to stop Goggling and just know in these cases, she's right. As far as Graves, he calls nursing "sips" (e.g. "Sallie is fussing, Momma. I think she's hungry and needs some sips.") I think it's such a sweet, innocent, and cute way to describe it. He's also very fascinated by how it's both her food and beverage. I was actually a little nervous about this with him- he notices body parts and things like that a LOT more than Annie (on the subway for example) and Papa even asked me when I was pregnant if I would want to put a blanket over you or nurse in a different room. That is SO unlike Papa, who is not very modest and who is quick to talk about modesty being a cultural thing and how different people have differing levels of comfort/ideas of what's appropriate. And it seemed SO dumb to me to hide it from a five year old member of our immediate family, regardless of gender or personality. I made every effort to normalize it and !shocker! he seems to find it totally normal. But I did wonder if he'd be all up in my space. Actually, he often is, but just to pat and kiss you like every other moment of the day. Having a seven year old academic, a five year old empath, and a precious newborn who eats ALL THE TIME is so much fun. 

He's always there, right next to your head. The other day he said your hair feels like velvet and I cried because it totally does but it won't always.

After a few weeks, I also finally put you in your actual crib so I could get a shower. Graves moved the monkey stool over so he could visit with her but it's actually helpful because I'm really too short to get her safely in it on the lowest setting as bitty of a baby as she still is (and we have it low so the crib skirt will touch). Anyway, you were pretty content with yourr aquarium but really I think it was because your brother and sister were like five feet away playing Legos. I think you may be like Graves and Papa. People give them energy.

Annie did (very surprisingly) decide that she too wants "a hundred thousand babies". And also told me her watermelon dress would match an outfit of yours. And I noticed they both like to flex their toes and cross their feet . Your toes are so long, by the way. Papa's momma said his were exactly the same way. They're basically fingers

Another one of your biggest fans is Mickey. I love how much he already loves you, Sallie Girl. I love how he says you name. I love how he talks to you in the same sweet voice he talks to his dogs in. I love how last week he told me he thought you were going to be so pretty and especially how pretty your little mouth is and then you smiled at him and he told everyone about it. I love how, while Peyton, Minnie, and Annie decidedly prefer the 18 mo. + stages, he's with me and Bud on Team Tiny Baby. A grandfather is a special thing, as evidenced by your name- one P and I had never had much affinity for but now I couldn't possible dream of anything different. I can't wait to watch you love him.
The month has also been filled with those very ordinary moments I hope I never forget. We were at Briarwood, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world and Free Fallin' came on (why didn't we think to play awesome music over the speakers in the evening?!?). I sang it to you and you fell asleep in my arms. It was such a simple thing, but everything felt perfect for a minute. You were so happy surrounded by things I love so much.

 You've changed so much in a month and are already so different. You're not near as floppy and have gotten so alert. Your neck muscles are getting stronger and  you pulled Papa's chest hair the other day. You have so many expressions and your little feet are all over the place (although, you were a mover and a shaker on the inside, too). You grab our fingers and gives us little smiles. You are getting so big! Fortunately, my emotions have leveled out a bit and I don't hate it. Graves says he's going to teach you to talk soon but I think we'll hold out on that. 

So here we are at four weeks-  your daytime schedule is still very unpredictable but you nap a ton and are mostly very happy when you're awake. You do love our attention and it's in no short supply (in fact, it's really hard for Graves to feel like he has enough time with you since you can't "play" when you're sleeping or nursing). You've gotten yourself on a good little nighttime routine. You eat around one or two (when I go to bed ) and then again at seven and then sleeps another three-ish hours. You're an amazing eater. Papa teases you because you're such such a voracious eater and such a loud little nursing person. You're our little piggie and are going through sizes much more quickly than your siblings did (you're already wearing lots of three month things). 

Maybe some of it is my memory but Papa was even saying that you're so much bigger and more active than your brother and sister were at a month. You seem to be doing things more quickly (you can roll to her side and totally get out of her Velcro swaddlers now?!?) You're also more expressive than they were. I wish I knew what you were thinking. You seem to really roll with life around here. You've gotten to where you don't even wake up when Graves kisses her and "hugs" her around the head. 

 I don't want to jinx it, but I don't believe in that anyway. And we've made it four weeks. So I'll say it- the difficulty of having a newborn are- for me!- nothing compared to the hard work of gestating and this time that has been exponentially true. Now that you're  here, the only real hardship I've battled has been the sadness over so many lasts and the complicated feelings of being very excited to watch you grow up and the simultaneous fear of just that. I've tried not to be too dramatic (and I'm sure failed- like the one or twelve times when I was pregnant and sobbing and I told Papa I'd perform the vasectomy myself if I needed to) but now that I'm no longer pregnant, I'm realizing it's toil on my body even more. I feel like a new person and I'm so thankful. Even the rain hasn't been debilitating like it was. I'd LOVE more little ones one day (and Papa even alluded to how he'd probably start wanting another once you get bigger) but they ain't gonna come to us thata way! And I'm slowly but surely continuing to make peace with that.

 Sometimes I can still hardly believe you're real and you're mine. I just wanted  you so badly for so long and I wasn't sure we'd ever come to a consensus on it. But it's also funny because I remember telling Papa a long time ago how I'd like to space out our babies more than most people because I thought I'd enjoy it more. And how incredibly true that's been.

We are grateful for you, Baby Sallie. More than you'll ever know.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. The little rosebud bubble that' you're wearing has been on of my favorites on both you and Annie. It's a 3 mo. and I don't think we have very much longer in it! 

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