June 22, 2014

Eloise's First Month

I can hardly believe that Eloise's first month has already come and gone.  All the cliches about how fast it goes and you can't believe how quickly they grow and it's hard to even remember.... they're true.  I have tried to savor these moments, hours and days with great intention and yet, it seems as if the true "newborn" is already gone.  She busted out of newborn diapers and clothes in about two weeks' time.  She's moved from the cradle in our room to her own room and crib, all of twelve feet away.  It took 22 days for her umbilical stump to fall off and when it did, it felt like the last little bit of her tiny newness fell to the floor with it.  Her hair is falling out, her thighs are filled with baby rolls.  We are already entering the second phase of her babyhood and I hope with every ounce of my being that I will remember what this first phase was like.  I want to remember her tiny little monkey arms, wrapped around my neck.  I want to remember the way her head flopped forward when I sat her up in my lap to burp her.  I want to remember the milk that remains on her tiny mouth after I pull her away from nursing.  I want to remember the sweet baby noises that we never even heard Clara make.  I want to remember the way her body curls up so perfectly and relaxes when I hold her on my chest, as if she remembers how to be in that spot and to feel my breaths and heartbeat.  I want to remember the duck fuzz hair and how soft it felt under my chin as I rubbed up against the top of her head.  I want to remember how warm and squishy she feels and the shape of her perfect little body, complete with a giant round tummy.  I want to remember her beady little eyes, still blue for now, and how they stare at mine with newborn love - I really do believe it's love - and make me melt into a puddle.  I want to remember what eight and nine and ten pounds felt like, weighted against my body with total trust and safety.  I want to remember how she smells faintly of baby shampoo and baby lotion and breast milk poop and spit up and how those four smells all mingle to create something so sweet and delicious that I cannot stop kissing her and breathing it in.  I want to remember her tiny fingers and toes and those itty bitty nails that I'm too afraid to cut.  I want to remember how she looks swaddled up in a blanket with her hands up by her ears while she sleeps.  I want to remember it all.  Everyone says I won't and that thought makes me feel panicky for time to stop, for this babyhood to keep on lasting.  I know, from Clara, that I will love the next stage and the stage after that and the stage after that... maybe even more.  But this first month of life on the outside, it's a beautiful and sacred time and I have just simply loved it.

I read an article recently about how mothers who have support of either a hired doula or family/community support after having a baby not only experience less post-partum depression, but that they are sometimes filled with a kind of euphoria that exceeds that of their "typical" mood and demeanor.  I am deeply thankful for the enormous support I've had from my own mother the past month and the hours she has given to Clara so that I could focus on savoring these kinds of moments with Eloise.  I'm thankful for the support of our community who has seen to it that I have yet to cook dinner on my own in the four weeks since she arrived.  I'm thankful for the health of this baby and the lessons learned from Clara's first few months that make me appreciate that wondrous miracle and take nothing for granted.  I'm thankful to not be pregnant (oh BOY am I thankful to not be pregnant!).  All of that has contributed to enormous joy this past month.  I truly have experienced a kind of euphoria, a deep and satisfying happiness and peace that may only be explained by hormones, adrenaline and love.

Eloise is a delightful baby.  She eats well, she sleeps well, she rarely fusses and when she does is almost always soothed by being held and maybe a little paci time.  At her one month checkup she already weighed ten pounds... over two pounds gained since she was born.  She loves to nurse and I'm thankful for the opportunity to nurse her without the same level of stress, anxiety, worry and pressure that I felt when nursing Clara.  Every single time I watch her eat I marvel at what an incredible thing it is.  She still sleeps  much of the day, but typically goes 4-5 hour stretches at night between feedings which means I'm only waking once or twice.  We've had a couple of nights that have been even longer, but I know not to get too hopeful or cocky about that.  We're starting to see more and more smiles in the past week or so and to watch her recognize us and respond with that basic gesture is heartwarming, to say the least.  She's a snuggler and loves to be held or worn.  The general consensus is that she looks like her mommy, at least for now.  She's tracking with her eyes and loves watching lights, mobiles, ceiling fans and other things that move, like most babies.  She loves to be outside.  Eloise already recognizes and clearly adores her big sister.  It's amazing to me to watch the connection they've already forged and the way that she seems to naturally love and respect her big sister.

So many have asked how Clara is doing with it all.  I'm afraid to jinx it because, let's be honest - she's three.  But I could not have hoped or imagined for her to do any better with this huge life transition.  She is not jealous.  She is not angry.  She shows no signs of feeling displaced or rejected and genuinely LOVES this little baby.  Even though Eloise can't swing or climb trees or play doctor with her yet, Clara loves to stand near her, squeeze and kiss her head, hand her toys, cover her with blankets, play on the play mat beside her, climb into her crib with her, and hold her.  She reads to her and sings to her and tells her stories.  When Eloise starts to cry, Clara suggests what she thinks she needs, "I think her diaper is dirty.... she might be a little tired mama....maybe she has a burp to get out."  She's been a great help to me, throwing away dirty diapers, "assisting" with bathtime, or bringing me a burp cloth when I need one.  I worry about the risk of smothering with over enthusiastic hugs and snuggles, but aside from that, I am grateful that there is no sibling rivalry... yet.  I can't wait to watch this relationship continue to grow and blossom.  And I'm so very proud of the big girl that Clara has been and how bravely she has stepped into this new role.

So, I'm about to share more pictures than I'm sure is reasonable.  The first half are cell phone photos; more than I'm proud to admit are snuggling selfies.  Robert is often urging me to just live in the moment instead of photographing the moment.  But I have a notoriously wretched memory, and so while I am trying desperately to hold on to the smells, the sounds and the feelings, I hope that by also capturing these images I might be able to always remember what a wonderful month this has been.  

In no particular order...

First meal out in a restaurant.  See her under that blanket?  No?  Well, she's there.

First playdate with buddy Ben.
 And we all say: Thanks be to God.
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