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All Done

nursing

“Mama. Mama.” Tiny mewls.

“Shhhhh. Mama’s right here.”

Mike nudges me softly.  “She’s in the other room.”

“Huh? Oh.” I wrench myself from sleep. My body weighs a thousand pounds as I drag it from the bed, across the room. Her door so close to ours I’m opening it as I’m closing mine.

“Mama. Mama.”

“Scootch over.” She wiggles and I realize she’s halfway down the bed. I pull her up towards me and I can practically hear her smiling as she smacks her lips. Her feet are like ice.

“Let’s pull up the covers. Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

I pull the covers over us as she presses her cold feet into the tops of my thighs, squirms into my arms and latches on. It hurts. She nurses like someone drinking who hasn’t tasted water in days. It’s a starving kind of pulling and tugging. Her strong-still-small hands knead at me the way a kitten kneads its mother-cat.

When she was newborn her little feet wriggled against my soft belly, toes digging into my new-mother body. Now her feet reach down to my knees. But here we are still, mother and child, nursing in the early morning hours.

She’ll be two in two weeks. And then we’re done. With this, this part of our relationship. We – I – have to be. She doesn’t understand yet. I’ve told her, again and again, but she has no frame of reference for this.

“Mama is taking her milk to New York City and leaving it there. In Central Park, at Bethesda Fountain. When Mama comes home, the milk will be all gone.” I show her the calendar. “See? This box is today. This one is tomorrow. Here is your birthday. And here is the weekend Mama takes the milk to New York City.”

She stares at me, enormous indigo eyes, her serious face framed by wild, golden hair. “Mama mee-oke? Eva need her mama-mee-oke,”

“I know baby. For a little while longer,”

“Mama take her meee-oke to New Yoke City. Put it da Def-da foun-ten.”

I have so many feelings about this. All the feelings. This has been her main source of comfort her entire life. It’s our go-to for security, safety, nourishment, love.

Think about that. Think about something you’ve known and loved and cherished your entire life being taken away from you. Permanently. Without your consent. You’d grieve, right? Feel angry and heart broken. I am steeling myself for this. For taking this from her. My first betrayal as a mother.

When we nurse, she is, again, a newborn in my arms. My tiny, perfect babe. But she’s not a newborn. She’ll be two in two weeks. I don’t want to breastfeed a preschooler. I just don’t. So I’m being selfish. Taking my body back. No more. All done.

She suckles and squirms. We’re curled on our sides, belly to belly. She pulls her feet from off my thighs and drapes her legs over my hips. Her long, strong legs. I wrap an arm around her waist, stroke her back, breathe deep the sweet smell of her head. The sun is making the night sky pink as we drift back to sleep.

Happy (Early) Halloween!

Little Miss Eva as Annie Oakley and her trusted steed, Pony Boy*

You’re welcome. 😀

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Photos courtesy of Stephanie Gill Photography.
Gorgeousness courtesy of my daughter, Eva.

*Annie Oakley didn’t really have a horse named Pony Boy. But Eva sure does!

Snippets

Eva 2 months old

I remember…

…settling into the sofa, knowing I wouldn’t get up again for the next eight hours at least. Mike leaving for class or work, my chest tightening, deep breath, we’ll be okay. Stockpiling the end table with liters of water, pistachios, roasted almonds, dried cranberries, dates, dried apricots and dried cherries, a cup of coffee hot and creamy, an extra pair of breast shields, a nail file to file down sharp newborn nails, my phone, and all the TV remotes. Comfy clothes and lots of pillows and just me and Eva for hours and hours while she nursed, napped, nursed, napped, nursed throughout the day. I would tuck her, naked except her diaper, inside my loose shirt to keep her skin-to-skin. Leaving the sofa only to change her diaper or use the bathroom. Michelle or my mother would come around lunch time to fix me a sandwich and hold her while I ate. If they had a little extra time I’d hop in the shower while they cuddled her. I watched two seasons of “Call the Midwife” and season 6 of “Mad Men” this way…

…how terrified I was of dropping her, or of someone else dropping her…

…touching my face in the shower, my still half-paralyzed face, a face I’d spent years analyzing for flaws, hating and picking and feeling ashamed of. Touching this face with my fingers and feeling not my face, but my daughter’s face instead, and suddenly being overwhelmed with self-love, something I had not ever experienced in my entire life. Touching my belly, still big and round, now soft and squishy. Loving this big soft belly that housed my daughter, wanting to show it off and proclaim to anyone who would listen: THIS belly made this baby! This belly was her home! This gorgeous, big, round, squishy belly! How Eva kneaded my belly with her toes and how I was so happy and glad that my body was soft and big like a pillow for her tiny body to curl into…

…how proud and delighted I was when, at her three-day check-up, I learned she had gained six ounces since her birth, instead of losing weight like most babies do. My milk was making her nice and fat and I was amazed and thrilled when the doctor told me how she was thriving…

…the dark downy fur across the backs of her shoulders and her lower back, down into her bottom. My little monkey baby…

…how her fingers reminded me of an old lady’s fingers, how they were somehow familiar, like I’d seen those old lady fingers before, on my Aunt Sue maybe?…

…how she snuggled her face into my bosom after nursing, as if it was the world’s most comfortable, coziest pillow…

Mama, Papa, Baby and dogs

Little Bits

 

Newborn baby, mother, and dog

I remember…

…the morning light filtering through the tree outside our bedroom window and Mike coming in with a smile on his face and a hot cup of coffee for me. My heart so full it might burst, our tiny, perfect child tucked into my arm, the two of us in a comfortable nest of pillows, her little hands massaging for more milk, suckling, suckling, suckling. I remember being so amazed that I was able to breastfeed, that I was making milk and that it was making her bigger every day. I have a thousand fuzzy cell phone photos of her little head on my breast, nursing, then milk-drunk and fast asleep…

…feeling afraid each evening as the sun went down, scared because the day was ending and no, I wasn’t ready for that, please don’t let the day end yet. Tomorrow she’ll be bigger and we’ll be one day closer to real life, going back to work, commitments and responsibilities. I wanted this time, this perfect peaceful time of rest and bonding to last forever…

…being afraid to turn off the lights and say goodnight because what if, when I woke up in the morning, she was gone? I worried about SIDS until my chest closed and I couldn’t breathe. I remember talking about my fears in our Newborn Parenting Support class, tears streaming down my face, what if what if what if? I read everything I could about it, knowing the information would either make my fears worse or ease them. It eased them. I did everything they say to do to protect her but even now I still worry…

…my father calling every day on his lunch hour, to check in, offer to bring me lunch, ask to hold the baby even just for a few minutes. Of course, Papa. I would say. Come! Hold your granddaughter… and then I could slip away and take a hot shower knowing Eva was in arms and listening to a beating heart that loved her…

Sweetly Sleeping Infant

…waking up in the middle of the night with her, so tired, so tired. Little cries. Is this really my life? This exhausted magic? Change a diaper, tip toe through the little dark apartment, her breath on my neck, little hands to her tiny mouth, small sucking sounds and chirps. My heart fluttering and my eyes bleary, the red light from the snake tank our only light. Shapes in the shadows, shhhhh, its okay, we’re okay, nothing can harm us, we’re safe…

…my mother bought us these incredible steaks and Mike fixed them with vegetables for a fantastic dinner, which we ate in bed against a pile of pillows, the baby on my knees, so small, so sweet. Awake, alert, watching us with her newborn eyes…

…my father, who’s never done a load of laundry in his entire seventy-five years of life, folding my sheets and pajamas and Mike’s underpants while I nursed a hungry baby…

Breastfeeding a newborn

…watching my beloved husband fall deeper and deeper in love with his daughter every day…

Father and Newborn Baby

 

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

9 months pregnant

38, nearly 39 weeks pregnant – the night my water broke

Eva and me, 9 months post-partum

38 weeks, nearly 39 weeks postpartum

Exactly nine months ago today I pissed myself on the landing outside my front door while leashing up the dogs for a walk. Except it wasn’t actually pee. Just, you know, amniotic fluid. Still blows my mind.

Tomorrow Eva will be nine months old. I can’t wrap my head around it. On one hand I feel like she was JUST born and on the other hand I can’t remember my life without her in it. How is it possible that just a minute ago she looked like this:

newborn baby

And now she looks like this:

8 month old infant standing

Trippy trippy trippity trip.

She’s completely mobile now. She crawls super fast, pulls herself up on everything from the coffee table to my legs. She’s started cruising – taking wobbly steps while she she moves along furniture, the side of her crib, whatever. She loves bath time, chasing the dogs, licking their bowls, pressing her face into the screen door, going for walks with her papa. She still nurses nearly every two hours but also eats whatever I’m eating. Most of it ends up in her hair or on her lap, but every day a little bit more ends up in her tummy. I’m still squeezing her into my favorite of her nine-month outfits, but her twelve-month clothes fit better. She sleeps in her crib from about 7:30 p.m. until her first feeding after we’ve gone to bed, then I bring her into our bed to snuggle and nurse. Some nights she sleeps long stretches and some nights she wakes every twenty minutes. On those nights I remind myself that she will never again be as small as she is right now. And I take a deep breath, exhale, then smell the top of her delicious head, press my lips to her forehead and thank heaven for the gift of her in my arms.

In some ways I still feel like we are very much one unit, she and I. Like I’m still pregnant, almost. For 18 months my body has belonged to her and its been an incredibly profound experience. I’ve never used a stroller, but wear her every where. She’s never taken a bottle and so I’ve never left her with anyone for more than a couple of hours – and I can count on both hands how many times I’ve done that. I had no idea that I would be so comfortable belonging to someone else completely – but its been incredible. Like this was what I was born to do. This is why I exist. To mother this child. To care for her, protect her, nourish her, bathe her, encourage her, watch her, learn from her. I’ve never felt so alive, so full, so happy in my life.

But I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been days (and nights) when I felt like my heart was in a vice grip. Once when she was three months old and wouldn’t stop screaming I drove her to my mother’s house, handed her over, and went upstairs to sob until I had no tears left. The thought of spending the day with a screaming baby (she was not sick or dirty or cold, no diaper pin sticking her – she was just having a bad day) was too much to bare and it was either take her to my mother’s or put her in her crib and leave. I was lucky to have my mother so close by. And lucky because I knew it was normal to have that kind of day. But I think I’m especially lucky because those days (and nights) have been so far and few between.

So here’s to nine months of boundless joy. My love, my heart, my soul, my Eva Milan.

 Newborn portrait

Empress Eva, 5 days new

8 mo old at Farm Fair

Last Sunday, at the Pierce College Pumpkin Patch and Animal Farm

Piecing it all Together, One Post at a Time

I did not intend to let so many months pass without a single post here. I thought that during my maternity leave I would write daily about my experience in new motherhood. I thought I would do so many things on my maternity leave. Twelve weeks of projects! Twelve weeks of accomplishments! Twelve weeks of doing All The Things. But I ended up doing just one thing during those twelve weeks: I loved my baby. I held her skin-to-skin for weeks. We cranked up the heater and neither of us wore clothes unless we absolutely had to. I pressed my cheek to hers and breathed in the scent of her newness. I studied her every feature, memorizing each eyelash and fingernail. I danced with her, sang to her, read to her, cried with her. I bounced her and rocked her and nursed her and every day fell deeper in love with her. The world fell away the moment she was born and nothing else mattered. I forgot about emails, phone calls, texts. I stopped reading blogs, watching television, checking Facebook. I didn’t do laundry or grocery shop or fix a meal for probably five months. (Thank God for Mike.) An old friend said motherhood had made me “lame” and I thought, you know what? I might be a totally lame friend, but I’m a fucking great mom. So, I’ll take it.

When Eva was seven months old I went back to the little hand-written journal I’ve been keeping since I was eleven weeks pregnant, to re-read all the entries since her birth. I hadn’t been blogging, but at least I’d been journaling all the wonderful moments I had wanted to capture forever. But there were only three entries. Just three in seven months. The realization was crushing.

That said, not for a second do I wish I’d spent a single moment doing anything besides loving my baby. I knew going into this that her infancy would speed past and I was determined to soak up every moment. And I really feel like I did that – I relished every day. But I do wish that I’d been able to write every day, even just a few lines, to fill in what are now blanks. So many moments have slipped like sand through my fingers. So I’m hoping to spend some time in the next few weeks using this space to write out the bits and pieces I do remember, in an effort to try and recapture as much of those early days as I can. Because more than this blog is for me, its for her now. I want so much for her to grow up knowing how treasured she is and has always been. And when I finally drop dead (hopefully a long time from now) at least she’ll have my words here to come back to.

In the mean time, here’s her birth announcement, which (of course) I intended to post last February…

newborn birth announcement