The results are in, and you are a big kid. 12 pounds 10 ounces three days ago. You’re such a champ, and such a darling little sidekick. You are still sleeping well, eating well, snuggling all the time. We’re still muddling through each day oblivious to the clock. I really don’t know how many naps you take in a day, how often you eat or for how long, how many night feedings you need, or what’s the longest stretch you’ve slept at once. (Actually, I think your first “Sleep Through The Night” happened last week when you went from about 10:00 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., but as luck would have it that was the night Jacob and Meredith decided to rouse us at 1:30. GO FIGURE.) I do know what your eyes look like when you’re sleepy, how your body feels when you’re hungry, and how you like to be held. This seems to be enough for now.
It’s a summery Monday afternoon and you are playing on your little quilt, kicking your legs and looking at the toys hanging above you. Underneath you is my yoga mat, the carpet, and the soft layer of gym mat that makes our play space such a comfy, inviting spot in the center of our new home. I’m so thankful for all this, and thankful to think how you’ll grow into it. Today as we drove from Jacob’s preschool to the library we waved hello to our old house. It was a good place and holds fond memories, but I’m hoary it’s done. It was too cramped for our now-big family and you’ll never know that chapter.
You spent your fair share of time in it, and almost always you spent it screaming. We’d go back to do laundry and pack our remaining belongings in those early, crazy weeks of your life. You hate your carseat, so those visits always started badly. And you hated that I couldn’t hold you. I hated it, too, and tried to compensate with ridiculous attempts at “packing” while snuggling you in a sling or a wrap. It was never very efficient and it was always sweaty, and I think that made you hate it even more. I hated it, too, and it was only worse when the water heater exploded and the basement flooded and everything began to mildew and stink. Then we abandoned hope of order and purging and just started evacuating as quickly as we could.
That flood and the chaos it imposed and the improvisation it demanded and the hidden strength it called forth was a small-scale tale of the whole experience of your arrival into our world. I had intentions and convictions about the calm I felt would be necessary to add a Number Three. That’s why we handled the matter of where we’d move in the fall, when we first knew of you: That way by the time you arrived we’d be snuggled into our new home with everything in its place and plenty of time to spare for lying on the couch. What a fairy tale! Instead the house we bought turned into an epic project, the scope of which was easily ten times what we projected in our ignorance. So there I was six feet up a ladder, paint all over me, furiously rolling our new ceilings as fast as I could, just a few weeks before you were due. And then while Daddy worked literally around the clock on the modern luxuries of plumbing and electricity (we moved in with no shower or tub and lived for the first two weeks with no power to the bedrooms) I did the absurd: single-handedly moving us from The Old House to The New House one van load at a time, nine months pregnant, in sweltering summer.
I spent many moments deep in my most private thoughts contemplating the meaning of all this. These moments of surprised submission were woven into the hours and hours of stress and anxiety, as I kept downgrading my expectations. Nevermind a prepared nursery by third trimester; drywall was all I really wanted. Nevermind settling Jacob and Meredith into their new room in the basement so the upheaval of a crying baby wouldn’t distress them; being nestled snuggly into the soon-to-be office by our bedroom would keep us all feeling safe and cozy through this big transition. Nevermind having a couple months to sink into new rhythms and conquer potty training (again!); a week would be plenty. Nevermind laundry being essential for moving in… or for you being born… or for the postpartum helpers’ departure… Perhaps this week we are finally going to hook up those luxury appliances most people think they can’t live without, but only because we’ve decided drywall and tile aren’t strictly necessary, actually.
I’ve wondered over the last year what the meaning of all this might be for you – for your story. I thought your story would be the one where, finally, Daddy and I had learned to live with margin. I wondered how we might see you come to embody that in your own life; how you’d flourish and grow into this gift of sanity we were giving you and ourselves.
Instead, in our long marathon towards that goal of margin and sanity, we were in deeper and crazier than we’d ever imagined before. I feared this and grieved it. It’s not what I wanted for you. Even my whole pregnancy was an endless frustration: I went into it strong and fit, with visions of staying healthy and keeping the excess weight off. Instead I was sick almost nonstop through the first half, even in the hospital once with a kidney infection resulting from too much stress to take care of myself, and I put on almost twice the weight I wanted to. From the first weeks with a mysterious arm injury that sabotaged my running and yoga routines until I lost all momentum, I began learning that I was not going to be the boss of this venture in any way at all.
So then I wondered (and I’m wondering still) how perhaps you will be gifted with an ability to survive beyond your own estimations of yourself, to roll with the punches and go with the flow instead of enjoying the luxury of calm order. Maybe you will know how to improvise, a skill I am only now internalizing.
Maybe all this will come as a surprise to you since finally we are settling into those ideals I presumptuously imagined we could attain simply by desiring them. So there you are: playing in the middle of our quiet, beautiful margin. I’m happy about it. Happy for the lessons I’ve learned in humility, in patience, in perseverance, in letting go. Mostly I’m happy that we finally found what we were looking for and that perhaps you will be the better for it. I know I will.
I’m happiest of all about the time I finally have to love you and Jacob and Meredith, and the contrast I’ve experienced amidst the craziness and how it’s given me a taste for doing nothing, and an appreciation for the chance just to be with you. This, too, is a luxury, though I could argue equally well that it’s a necessity and a choice; somehow these things all get muddled together in the real world. Anyway, the Number One thing I’ve discovered this year is affection for my people: a preference to just be with you instead of being busy doing All Of The Things. Maybe the cultivation of this new desire (to do nothing) was the key to attaining margin. Maybe all along I just had to want it.
The best thing in all this is that your darling presence and dependence and uncomplicated sweetness has reminded me what my other two little people are made of and how very fond of them I am, down under the calcified layers of failures and imperfections and irritations and limitations and expectations unavoidable in the relationship of parent to preschooler. More than just managing them, I am remembering that I love the silly stuffings out of them – that they are as adorable as you are and that I have ridiculous names and even more ridiculous songs for them just as I do, now, for you.
I’ve never been good at affection. I’m a Type A person with unending interests. That side of me sees a happy baby (or a sleeping one) as a perfect chance to sneak away to iron another shirt, send another email, maybe take on a new project like a huge non-profit start-up, an epic professional trip to Europe, or the renovation of a big old house. But what I’ve discovered this year is that I don’t like all that stuff as much as I like to be with my people, so the last two months we’ve spent mostly on the couch, as close and boring and happy as we possibly can be, and if I’m not snuggling you, it’s a good bet that I’m snuggling Baby #1 or Baby #2.
It’s good this way. This is something I’ve learned, but it’s not a fact (those are a quick study) it’s a feeling. It’s a new appetite. More than the value of margin or minimalism, more than the importance of perseverance and patience and the power of the human spirit, affection is what I’ve learned by your arrival.
I love you.