Saturday, August 20, 2016

Letter to (Two Month Old) Sarah Lamar

Dear Sarah Lamar,

It's been another really special month with you. We've done so many fun things. We took your first real road trip and we also made a trip to see Granny. Cookie and Conrad came into town twice and they loved seeing so much of you.

So your first trip. Papa signed up for a shift in Oxford and Walgreens paid for his hotel and his driving time (and apparently the hotel will throw in the crib without charging the standard ten dollars if you ask nicely) so we decided to all go along for the ride. First trip as a family of five! You were such a trooper and was the most laid back traveler!It was a fun, whirlwind trip and I'm proud of myself because this kind of think is not always my favorite. It was a a great day, though! You and Graves were both up really late in the hotel but slept pretty much all morning the next day which was so nice and Graves only climbed in the crib with her once during your (and my!) morning nap. We had about four hours to kill until Papa's shift ended so we ate lunch at Newk's, visited Petsmart, and had dessert and enjoyed the play place at CFA. We picked up Papa and walked around the square and spent about an hour in Square Books, Jr. while it poured. You woke up for a good bit (perfect!) and we shared an early supper at Ajax and headed home. There were a few pull my hair out moments and I do HATE driving in unfamiliar places, but overall it was pretty easy. You guys are, gratefully, pretty flexible. (I, typically, am not.). Oh, and I put you in her Colonel Rebel dress since we don't make it to many (any) games these days. 

Your first trip to see Granny was such a sweet, sweet gift. I will treasure the picture always. We were finally able to introduce you to Granny and it was such a beautiful interaction. I'll never forget Granny not even really being able to sit up comfortably but tickling your tiny feet and visiting with you. Granny seems to be nearing the end of this part of the journey and it was a great joy that I got to introduce you to one of my favorite people in this world. You are named for her late husband (Lamar) and she told me today that her mother's name was Sally (we had no idea!) and when she was acting like her PopPop would tease her and call her Sally. Such a sweet connection we had no idea of. She sure was smitten with her tiniest grand girl and it was just beautiful seeing these y'all together.

Graves told me "I think she made a new friend named Granny. And she has an old friend named Graves."  

We actually went back the following week, too. We decided to make this a regular (weekly?) thing for just as long as we have left with Granny. It's too easy of a trip to make in a day, you guys are too good at traveling, and it means too much to her (and to us!) not to. Makes me appreciate homeschooling even more and how we can structure school around our life instead of our lives around a (traditional) school day.

As a bonus, the second week we got to see Papa's Aunt Beth who was in town and his brother who lives near Granny. Andrew got to meet you for the first time and he told me no less than five times how beautiful you were, just doted on you like crazy, and was absolutely precious in the way he took care of his grandmother. He's so much like your brother, Graves- just the sweetest guy who cares so much for others. When we all worked at the pool a million years ago, I wasn't always so kind to him and I still regret it. He's one of the good ones. Beth was so sweet and played with the big kids a bunch while everyone was focused on you. And then she told me that, when I was pregnant, without even knowing it was on the table, she and Peyton's uncle talked about how she thought Sally would be the perfect name for Sister Baby?!? And she told us about HER grandfather, Peyton Graves, and how he was her hero and taught her to garden and brought flowers to different widows in town each week.

We also finally made it back to church. Our first Sunday back was such a good one. I had every intention to haul you to Sunday school and the service with me (and was a little anxious about the pew experience with all three of y'all by myself) but the nursery folks seemed so genuinely excited to see you they didn't have to offer twice. You  did great- slept, "visited", and slept some more! You wore a sweet vintage Feltman dress that Cookie and I wore three decades ago and that matched your beautiful eyes. It makes me so happy to get to put a baby in those dresses again.

You also wear a lot of  vintage apparel on Friday nights when we see Minnie. I'm glad the first pair of shoes you ever wore had eyelet on them and were mine. And you've been wearing a bubble that Minnie embroidered (or cross stitched- who knows? I have no idea about hand sewing?? I wish I had her skills!) for Annie and then pulled out and did for you. It's so sweet.

Speaking of clothes, Annie learned the word "nautical" the other day. She just happened to coordinate with you one day in your sailboat/anchor outfits and I had to take a picture. I realized that, apparently, not only do you look huge compared to Annie at one month, you huge compared to her at seven years. Hahaha.

Every time you wore your fish jammies (which are now too little), I sang this song to you:
He said,"Rise and follow me. 
I'll make you worthy. 
Rise and follow me. 
I'll make you fishers of men."
I heard this song once at Calvary and loved it so much. I hope you follow Him. And I hope I can help you  understand that your worth (in His eyes and in mine) has nothing to do with your own merit. And I hope that you fish for men.
We had our last night in the sweetest "storybook" jams. Fortunately, even Annie's bedtime collection was extensive and well curated so it'll be exciting to move on to new pieces. It was something I took very seriously as a new mother  

You've been wearing a bit of Graves's old clothes, too. I know I'm biased, but you look pretty precious in your brother's sand bucket bubble, as well. Little Sallie Sunshine =)

I bought a little duck bubble in a moment of sheer absurdity seven years ago. It was too small for Annie but it was about $5 at a consignment store so I bought it in the hope of having another girl one day. I still love it and as much as I love the comparisons, it's special that you have SOMETHING Annie didn't wear.

We celebrated your biggest cousin's seventh birthday. It was a Star Wars party and you wore the 18 mo. tee DeeDee gave us at some point and that Graves finally relinquished with fancy panties because obviously.

We also took you swimming. You had been to the pool of course, but we actually put you in a swimsuit and got you in a few times this month. News flash: you and I both fit in our bathing suits. Big day. Afterwards I put the Star Wars t-shirt on you for the first time and Graves was so excited and kept yelling "Come see Babykins!!!

Another fun first was the Children's Museum. You nursed the majority of the time and ended up in a pink striped onsie because of a blowout diaper all over your clothes, my clothes, and the sling. I'd say it was a successful first visit! I'm glad I was prepared. I think it's interesting that the stuff I carry around has changed each time. In addition to diapers and wipes, with Annie I had tons of toys, diaper cream, a largish medicine kit, and a paci sanitizing contraption (ha!); with Graves I brought the Velcro swaddler, about five pacis, and sometimes even the rice sock. Now I bring a bonnet and a tiny fan (we're outside a good bit), a light blanket, a very simple extra outfit, a wet bag (even when we're using disposables it works great for dirty/wet clothes), and the sling. Some of it is me learning things over time; some of it is three unique babies with different sets of needs.

I was gone from eight to five one day for a training day for my Junior League placement and when I came home Papa had a hickey on his forearm is where you tried to nurse. He said you got a really good latch.

I pumped so much for that training and it got me thinking Back in the Spring, I was approached about a job. A job that looked strikingly close to my dream job. For reasons outside my control  it didn't work out.
One reason I felt like the timing was so good, despite expecting a. tiny infant, was because I don't know what our future will look like- we may be traveling the country, or hiking it, or fostering, or adopting. We will hopefully be homeschooling three kids instead of two. I have no idea what to expect with those things because I've never done them. I thought I did know what to expect with a newborn. But I had no idea how complicated my emotions would be. In one sense they've been a lot harder to manage and I already struggle wearily to find those elusive things like boundaries and balance. But in another sense, I've been able to enjoy a peace- one that requires shunning a to-do list and reminding myself that my worth is not in my accomplishments- that I never found in the early days with our first two. I've said it before, but this you stir up so much in my heart. Honestly, if the decision had been mine I STILL don't know that I could have turned it down. I was attracted to so much- the hours, the content area, the adorable quirkiness and earnestness of the students and the relentless pursuit of goodness and wisdom of the faculty, and the whole philosophy of education. The thought of actually having some autonomy and independence in a way I never really have was appealing, too. It would have been a bit of a hard yes, but a much harder no. And I know Peyton Herrington, stay at home dad extraordinaire except for weekends, would have fought tooth and nail to have made it work for all of us. I still think I would have loved it. But after nine months of a difficult pregnancy and then spending the remainder of what's been nearly a year coming back to an emotionally healthy place, I think it's good to give myself a pass on this year. And I sort of think I owe my children, especially Annie and Graves who have been patient with me beyond what I deserve, as much as I can give them of my full self this year. Also: that pumping was a lot of work.

We started school back with the big kids and you fell asleep during Morning School in Graves's lap with him pawing all over your face the first day. 
Hmm...a few more details about you at two months. Your  routine is about the same- your daytime schedule varies a lot but you do a good six or seven hour stretch each night and then sleep another two to three after I feed you. You're pretty unpredictable in your eating, too. If you're fussy, I nurse you. So there's that. You are so much bigger than your brother and sister were- you are around the fiftieth percentile in height and weight. When Papa saw a picture of you compared to pictures of them he goes "Oh man, it looks like Sarah Lamar ate our other two babies". Hahaha. We're completely out of the 0-3 mo. footies and you  literally spent about two weeks in the 3 mo. things. Most of what you wear now is 3-6 mo. and a few 6 mo. outfits. My mind has successfully been blown. You've gotten so smiley and you have THE best grin. I can't get over it. You'd think I hadn't done this twice before. You are getting so grown and love to hold your head up. You're such a bobble head, though, and will head butt me and bust my lip in a hot minute.

You do have your fussy moments, but overall you're so chill and not much bothers you. We love hauling you around on adventures and you don't seem to mind your brother aggressively loving on her. We love you so much, Sallie Girl. It's so much fun seeing little glimpses of your personality. We're so grateful for the precious gift you are.

You size- I can't tell y'all what a joy this is. Annie and Graves both had weight issues as babies (both were truly scary for different reasons at some points). I worked so hard to not supplement- with Annie waking her up at night and feeding her every two hours during the day long past the stage where that's typical- but I ended up having to anyway. With Graves, at around a year, he dropped off the charts (lower than Annie, who always stayed at least around the first percentile and a little more concerning because unlike her, who had been little bitty her whole life he was a very typical newborn and the percentile just kept dropping that year). Turns out our Tiny Girl, as Graves calls you, isn't so tiny. I figured as much since you've moved into a lot of 3-6 mo. things and still nurse ALL the time during the day but the numbers still BLEW MY MIND.
You're in the 46th percentile for weight and 87th for height on the WHO charts. I am so thrilled.
Sidenote: praise God our pediatrician's clinic finally went to the WHO charts, which paint a much more accurate picture of growth curves for breast feed babies.

Annie asked me the other day about nursing in public and how she thought breasts were a "private area". And we had a really good talk- that I wish I had been more prepared for and ended up following up on later- about how yes, generally in our culture beasts are considered private, and how feeding a baby is important work and not something to be embarrassed by, and how I do my best to make sure our friends and family and strangers and our Sister Baby are as comfortable as they all relatively can be at the same time- while giving a bit of preference to your comfort- and sometimes that means putting something over you and sometimes that means using discretion. And how I'm never, ever going to hide in a bathroom and feed you on a toilet like I did with her and her brother again. I can't put into words how, like a million other things, I'm so very grateful to get to do this one more time, so very grateful to have become more comfortable in my choices, and most of all so very grateful for a little girl whose life it is one of my great privileges to sustain.

We had lunch with a dear friend and two people at Chick Fil A came up and encouraged me. One lady thanked me for "letting my baby cry" (I guess because we didn't make a mad rush to take you outside or flip out about it or anything). She literally had tears in her eyes and she said she had grown children and she missed that sound. And another lady thanked me for nursing you in public (something I make a point to do every time I see a momma nursing her baby). Both interactions meant so much to me and made me realize that I should take time to encourage a stranger more often.

We've had some rough days here and there and they are so unpredictable, and mostly so out of character for happy little Sallie. It breaks my heart those tears still glistening on your little eyelashes.

I kind of got myself worked up and worried about it one night and Papa (AKA the man I've told a million times that nearly all babies have some degree of reflux, food intolerance, ect. and it doesn't mean something is "wrong" with them, they just have underdeveloped little systems) told me "She might have some hard days, Sweetie, but that's her just getting used to being alive and stuff, you know?"

Your brother adores you. More and more each day. He calls you Babes a lot and he even let you borrow Green Blankie the other day. He also told me awhile back that "it's very hard for a tiny girl not to cry". So many people remark about how much alike you two look!

Graves also told me that your hair is as soft as a lamb and your nicknames could be Scooter and "Feels Like a Lamb". Speaking of hair, Annie had a very pronounced widow's peek, Graves had chicken hair, and you seem to have a bit of male pattern baldness.

Mickey is probably your other biggest admirer. While they're surely each other's biggest fans, Mick and Bud are polar opposites in a lot of ways. One commonality they do have is a near obsession with you. Mickey texted me a Sallie Selfie after we had left one night. He whisks you away and gets you to sleep nearly every time we're there. A few weeks ago we took you away from him and he heard you fuss after a bit and he swooped in and questioned us "What are y'all doing to my girl??". I just love watching him love my babies.

A friend at church asked Annie if she liked having a baby sister and she basically shrugged and said "ummm". But she does love you. Just in a different sort of way. 

You are so expressive. I love what a passionate full face yawner you are. And I hope your bottom lip never changes. It's the cutest thing ever when you poke it out.

Minnie is very excited that you finally "look like a human" She's not a huge fan of newborns. Ultrasounds horrify her. I recently found out that when she was pregnant with me and Cookie she felt totally weird and uncomfortable about it. The funny thing is I was just telling a friend of mine who is a midwife how it took me SO long (and is still a process at times) to be comfortable with pregnancy and birth and breast feeding. Pretty much to be comfortable with bodies. Honestly when Annie was born I couldn't even describe myself as a woman (I much preferred girl) or say the word breast and both birth and nursing skeeved me almost beyond what I was able to bear and to some extent terrified me. It's so interesting how the things you fear can become things you're passionate about.

I've actually been reflecting a lot on your birth. While I think the work that I do (that all mothers do!) is hard and holy work every day, this was a special kind and I was so honored to do it for you, sweet girl. 

I had a hard week awhile back. Papa was working extra, and he had an appointment that brought me right up against the reality of our decision that you will be our last baby (this way). And I had a three day weather headache- the worst one since I was pregnant. I've been trying not to take anything strong because I don't want the caffeine to hurt you. I had been looking at some beautiful birth photography and birth stories in a group I'm part of on Facebook and then someone shared a beautiful story. It's been a while since I've played the comparison game with houses and cars and clothes but oddly- and I feel so absurd admitting this- I got swept up in it. It was the fifth time in a few weeks I had seen an amazing birth story or pictures. I thought back on your birth. The broken car and bright lights and novice nurse and bedpan episodes seemed nearly totally devoid of any tenderness and had nothing in common with these soft, serene accounts. The photographs that had become one of my greatest treasures weeks earlier seemed garish and too raw. And I got sad it was my last chance at it.I put you in one of my favorite sleepers of AP's and I thought about how it's my last chance at everything. I talked to a friend who gets this part of me- both the creative part and the compulsivity I often struggle with (wanting to do a thing over and over until it's perfect, which is not sustainable with, you know, giving birth). She told me she knew how important it is to me to capture a beautiful story and that she knew your birth was beautiful to me even if I lost sight of that for a bit. She reminded me that the important thing about my story is that it's mine. She was so right.

I decided I'm going to attachment parent this you. Not because I think it's better. Not even because you demand it like her brother did. But because Cowebs and all (good grief, that poem makes me bawl). And because, with some exceptions, I just don't really want to put you down. So I'm not.

No really, I'm being tongue and cheek about about attachment parenting. Actually, I will say (and it SEEMS like this is the reverse of that, i.e. container babies) we are making much better use of our gear than we did the first two times. I have your swing in the kitchen most of the time (why didn't I think of that before??) and sometimes move it to the study. Your bouncy seat is in the den and if I'm on our bed (not sleeping!) I really like to put you on the Boppy pillow (or my chest of I'm not doing something I need my hands for). With Annie and Graves it seems like I put them in their crib/the Pack N Play a lot more (and you do do about one daytime stretch and a good bit of her nighttime sleeping on the PnP). Partly because people recommended it and I was anxious about sleep issues but also just because I don't think I enjoyed being near a tiny person quite as much. This time, I just like to have you in the same room with me. The other day Mickey took you on the deck for about an hour and it's the longest you had been out of my sight ever. Also, it is revolutionary having my big people be big enough to trust. As responsible as she was, I didn't trust Annie alone with Graves for ten seconds at two. But I pretty much started leaving them alone with you day one. I mean, I wouldn't go take a nap or anything and I don't leave you in the middle of the floor but I secure you in something and go about my business and trust them not to do any damage. That's a HUGE thing, especially with Graves and something I wasn't expected to be a reality for years. We talk a lot about guidelines and safety and he's really impressed me. He does love to "hug" your head, which looks terrifyingly like a choke hold but is actually pretty gentle and you are SUCH a sport and never cry and rarely even wake up.

I recently wrote a lot- and thought a lot- about your name. IT was SO analytical but that's so me and I'm glad I wrote it all out so I'll remember all those thoughts and feelings and can tell you about what a gift it was to get to name one more baby years from now when you're thirty and naming your own little babykins.

One of the most special things about your first few days was finally, decisively settling on your name. There are things about your birth and first few days that I now sort of wish were different but I told Papa that, as long as it took us to pick, there are not a lot of things I've ever felt so sure about in my life. I know that sounds downright stupid in a way. I mean, it's not an issue of eternal significance. But I second guess myself most of the time, replay every situation, and analyze things to death. I haven't with this. Not once. And that feels like a gift. To be able to just rest in something and enjoy it. Much like her very babyhood, in some ways.

Names have such strong connotations. Several of my teacher friends had such a hard time with them because of knowing a million kids with every name. And Minnie originally told me she thought of a graveyard when she heard Graves's name. Where did I get my lack of a filter, you ask.I have a baby names book and one of my favorite features is that it tells who/what image the name brings to mind for most people. An old friend told me the other day that every time I mention our girl she thinks of Sally Brown, Charlie's sister.
I never realized it, but this too, is how I picture a Sally. You will likely be a bit darker featured but I associate it with a happy little sunshine person and always the color yellow.

This probably sounds weird and vain and I think it's a combination of things- how incredibly important names are to me and how long we waited to find the perfect name for you (or how long we waited for it to find us)- but not a day has gone by that I haven't thought at least once about how much I love your name and how unbelievably perfect it is for our precious girl who was simply Sister Baby for so long.

I've personally had a hard time with my emotions lately. Feelings of overwhelm, scary visuzalizations, and just lots of sadness. One day, I squeezed your paci in my hand to try to manage some of my big emotions and for some reason I thought what if I love you so much I squeeze YOU too tight? Just weird and scary.

Sallie, I've never enjoyed a baby so much. With Annie, we struggled with the reality of unexpected parenthood and carelessly thwarted plans until the moment we held her in our arms. My anxiety became really difficult to manage and we were trying to learn to be a husband and wife in the middle of learning to be a papa and a momma. I fretted about schedules even though she slept beautifully and I tried to determine what her cries meant even though she rarely cried. I imposed dumb rules on myself- like not doing anything else while I nursed her. Partly, I think, because I was ashamed by my reaction to the pregnancy and wanted to bond with her so badly. And partly because I was, every day, trying so hard to prove my worth as a mother. To the world, to Papa, and to myself. With Graves, while he was very planned, two kids was a hard transition and I struggled to learn his ways and bond with him initially. It was a full year of survival mode. I spent a lot of time exhausted, anxious, and paranoid everyone was judging what were my very best efforts. And I wasn't honest about it with myself or anyone else. This time I've worked incredibly hard to be honest with myself and with Papa. I've tried to be transparent in all the spaces it helps me to be so. I've realized it's an extremely worthwhile use of my limited energy to process all of this in real time instead of down the road. And I'm in my early 30s instead of my mid 20s. I know the hard times (and good times) are just a blip in the span of a lifetime with our Sarah Lamar. If you're asleep, you're asleep. If you're awake, you're awake (and typically in one of our arms- I ain't worried about Babes getting spoiled). And if you're crying, I almost always nurse you. The time when the solution to life's problems is that easy is unbelievably short. I'm able to be present in organic, non artificial ways. My lifestyle is much more simplistic, my anxiety is better managed, I more often notice ordinary wonders all around me, and I know where my worth lies (and it's not in how well I mother you guys, as important a vocation as it is). Those things are about as magic as the baby shampoo I'll be in the corner sniffing for the next thirty years.

Papa and I were talking recently about how weird it is that we are past our physical prime (he was talking about swimming laps). We started dating when I was eighteen and in some ways that doesn't seem so long ago. (Why is time blowing my mind so much these days?) But when I catch a glimpse of myself or look in Papa's eyes, I can see the age. And that's okay- we've worked hard since we were eighteen and twenty one- we've created three new lives and done our best to invest in them daily, we've moved twelve hundred miles across the country and twelve hundred miles back in a year and a half, we've lost people we loved and gained new friends, and we've learned a whole bunch. We're tired. But, some days- most days- I don't even mind it, you know?

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your outift is a newborn. I think that was your last time to wear it but I wanted to squeeze in one more so I could have it for a comparison picture with Annie.

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