lulu letters: month 4


It seems so natural to think that all the action is forward. Actually, backward is just as forward if you can appreciate the circle instead of the direction.
~ Anne Lamott


Dear Lulu...


1.16


Last night you discovered your feet. We propped you up in your green donut chair on the dining room table, and you stared down for the longest time. I wasn’t sure what you were looking at until you started moving your feet. You were the most hysterical dinner entertainment for us, spastically straightening and bending your legs over and over again, completely bewitched by your penguin booties and occupied during all of our leisurely 45-minute dinner. Forget toys! Just put you within view of your hands...or, now, your feet, and you’re good to go. Done and done.


1.17


You have a new friend – a fan friend. When you see the spinning ceiling fan in the Wolff kitchen, you light up like a Christmas tree. You crane your neck to see it, completely entranced, and huge grins consume your face. As your Zia Leah says, “Fan friends are the best!”


Your movements are still pretty spastic, and you startle easily, but your head is less and less bobbly. Pops loves to sit you on his knee, facing outward, and you just look around. You hold your head up all by yourself! It still looks, well, heavy, but you’re doing it, my girl. So strong.


You get better and better at reaching for things, manipulating your fingers in your attempts to grab. It’s remarkable to witness the small new masteries every single day. You held your bottle all by yourself for a few minutes yesterday, and it takes you less and less time to uncurl those tight fists.


You do get a little frustrated sometimes. We put one of your stuffed blocks on the dinner table tonight and placed your hands on the table. You sat there huffing away, crazy eyes at their finest, eventually talking to the block and willing it to move. You were vibrating with energy, trying to touch it. It bordered on cruelty. But every day moves you closer to mastering that daunting task!


We FaceTimed with your Papa today, and you had so much to say to him! We miss him. At one point, you started babbling over me! I would begin to talk, and you would jump in, the loudest I’ve ever heard you. “Hey, guys! I have stuff to say, too!” We’re listening, baby girl! We’re always listening.



1.19


You’ve been sleeping like a champ here. Two nights ago, you slept from 8:45-6:15! Last night you passed out at 9:30, we did a brief nurse around 5, and you slept until 7:45!


How we’ve loved our staycation with Mema and Pops. It will be hard to go back home to just the two of us while your Papa works all day, but we’ll soldier on. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting, even without fan friends – and cat friends! You love looking at Lily, and she loves checking you out in her own quiet way.


You already love dancing, especially spinning. We were dancing to Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason last night, me in front of you, you in Mema’s arms. I spun around, and you thought that was the funniest thing you’d ever seen. We even got some chuckles! I spun over and over again, and you chuckled every time.


You also got a kick out of looking at your feet as Mema made them dance on the dinner table. I love the surprises – not knowing what will set you off. Such a special aspect of parenting...


1.21


Hello, little darlin’,


The country has a new president and hope for the future, and last night was unbelievably peaceful and calm. You went to sleep at 8:15 pm and stayed asleep until 5 am. WHAT.


Like our country, you are moving in more and more directions. Pops told me that you scooched yourself 90 degrees in your sleep sack the other day! Those legs go crazy in that sack.


We’ve been practicing rolling together on your playmat. Yesterday you seemed to actually enjoy being on your tummy for about a minute! Unbelievable. No fuss, no head shaking or nuzzling your face into the playmat. Nope! You were wide-eyed and looking around, with even a hint of a smile. You are such a drama queen when it comes to Tummy Time, but you seem to be ever so slowly embracing it.


A few days ago, you rolled from your back to your side - your first roll maneuver on your own! You had your pink ballet socks on, sans pants, and you reminded me of the hippo ballet from Fantasia with those turkey thighs and cankles and feet that now look downright dainty in comparison to their duck-like appearance when you were born.


Today you rolled from your side to your tummy, though you weren’t too pleased when you ended up on your tummy...We also got our second Lovevery box with a crinkly bag and a soft book and a big mirror and rattles and teething toys, all to help you at this stage of development. A friend told me about an app – Wonder Weeks – to help me learn all about your developmental “leaps”, but I like the Lovevery approach better: a little (old school) booklet with key points and how I can support you.


Reading about a typical three-month-old, I kept thinking, “Wow! That’s you!” Pretty amazing how babies develop so similarly. Still, you’re already ahead in several areas. Not trying to be an Einstein Baby Mama here, but I was pretty proud to know that. You’re already reaching and grasping for objects and bringing things to your mouth. You’re also starting to splash in the tub.


I sometimes wonder if I’m not reading enough about your development. I’m enjoying just winging it, witnessing each surprise shift, using intuition for how to engage you. So far, it seems to be working well for us. I’ve also read enough about sleep and nursing to last a lifetime, so it’s a great opportunity to do less research – which is good for this Mama sometimes!


Speaking of sleep, you now fight sleep like a champion in the ring! On my shoulder, grunting louder than I’ve ever heard anyone grunt in my life, arms flying out as you push against my legs and try to propel yourself anywhere other than toward the inevitable: dreamland. It’s draining, yet laughter serves as a welcome release. My little lunatic warrior woman.


ps Tonight at 9:21 pm: the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Pretty cool.



1.22


I left you with Mema and Pops for about five hours this afternoon as I went to get my first haircut in a year. I returned home afterward and, for a split second, everything had returned to before you were born. I thought, “Okay, time to make dinner!” before thinking, “Wait...someone is missing…”


As we drove into the Wolff driveway, I saw Pops holding you up to the window. Your precious round head and wide eyes staring through the gently falling snow was all my heart could take. You smiled as soon as you saw me walk in the door, and when I reached for you, you started making small, excited sounds, as if you suddenly realized how hungry you were (and how much you missed me, I’m sure). You nursed fiercely for 30 minutes straight. My love, my touch, my milk...primal needs. Makes me feel pretty special, I have to say.



1.23


Last night you laughed as I re-swaddled you at 3:45am, as if to say, “Hi, Mama!! Is it time to play?!” Nope, sorry little dudette. Time for a quick snack, then back to sleep. You were quite restless, in and out of sleep until about 6:30, when I put you on our bed between us and, as per usual, you drifted off into a deep slumber. You slept there until almost 8. I hope you always do that – fall asleep between us like that.


I woke to see you and your Papa sleeping side by side, both heads tilted to the right, peaceful as could be. I don’t think I’ve ever been so filled with gratitude.



1.24


You’re really figuring out your hands. You can now, with great effort and concentration, “grab” toys that hang over you with either your fists or open palms, curling your fingers more and more around them, and bring them to your mouth. Yes, we’re slowly entering the “everything in the mouth” stage! How exciting. You’re reaching for more things we put in front of you, and we can prop you up to a sitting position leaning against us – your body in a slumpy c-curve that accentuates the way your cheeks and chins rest on your chest, apt to slowly keel over at any moment, but stronger and stronger every day!


Tummy Time is less and less painful. Yesterday you smiled and talked to the mirror that I put in front of you for a few minutes straight. We also tried the exercise ball. You looked like a baby yoga model, arms propped under you and legs straight out behind you in Cobra Pose. You’re not sure if you like it...I think your passionate babbling was something to the effect of, “Mama, get me off this f-ing thing STAT!”


In the evening, we just stared at each other, you in your green donut, me next to you, holding your hands. You were so calm, so at peace, so happy (so tired). How do you grow more adorable and more precious every day? How have you not reached an apex of cuteness? It defies the laws of physics.


We had a perfect bedtime routine. You are more and more interested in books. Your Papa and I gave you a bath and read you two goodnight books, I gave you a bottle, and he rocked you to sleep.


You slept from 8:20 pm - 7:15 am. Let’s do that every night.




1.25


Today is your Mama’s birthday – and what a beautiful day so far.


A few fun facts: Your Mama has the same birthday as Virginia Woolf, and today was the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Broadway musical RENT! Writers and musicals...As your Papa learned early on, I’m more “singing and dancing” than “rocking and rolling.”


Your Mema had very special gifts for us: seven of the books that people named as their favorites in the book of letters that people wrote to you before you were born. I knew that, months ago, when I mentioned that I had to collect them all for you, she pocketed that comment. I, of course, forgot all about it, and was overcome with joy to open them last night.


The night before my birthday, you slept from 8:45 pm - 6:15 am, and we snuggled in bed when you fell asleep after nursing. We never really do that! Not sure why...It was beautiful. Your Papa made me the world’s most perfect poached eggs and spinach for breakfast. Then you napped for nearly an hour, your first time napping in an unweighted swaddle, allowing me to do my workout and take a shower by 9 am! Now, at 11, you’re napping again, allowing me to write this. We all had lunch, then you slept on me while I read.


Every year, my Mama tries to text me at the minute I was born: 1:41 pm. This year, we both forgot. But you were sleeping on me then. Of course you were.


By the way, your smile breaks hearts open. The way it fills your face, it literally looks like you’re trying to take a huge bite out of life.



1.27


You have started sucking on your lower lip and smacking like an old man with no teeth. No idea what that’s about – guessing it’s just you discovering your mouth. Whatever that is, it’s hilarious, and you smile so big when I mimic you.


This morning, I heard you gabbing to yourself this in your bassinet. You often wake up peacefully now. I see your eyes suddenly pop open in your crib, looking around. It’s such a simple part of who you are these days, but, like everything else, it’s wondrous.



1.28


Last night went better than I dared hope. You successfully slept from 8:30 - 5:15 in your unweighted sleep sack. Our sweet babe is growing up! You are truly a miracle baby, my love. Yeah, you rustled and tustled throughout the night. Your Papa sleeps right through it, but it must be my superhero Mama ears that detect every kick, sigh, lip smack, and scratch. You are a scratching fiend these days! You scratch the couch, your nursing chair...and this morning I awoke to the sound of a little mouse. I peeked in your bassinet, and you were wide-eyed and calm as could be, your arms out to a T, little fingers scritch-scratching both mesh sides of your bassinet.


The VanBruinisse resemblance comes out in full force when you raise one eyebrow in the very serious, slightly uncertain look I catch you making sometimes, to nothing in particular. I wonder what’s crossing your mind in those moments.


You go down for naps with slightly less fight these past few days – sometimes no fight at all! It all feels easier, little by little. I sense when you’re getting sleepy, and we start the routine, rock in the rocking chair, you in your sleep sack, listening to Lulu’s Lullabies – the playlist I created on Alexa.


You have started nuzzling and falling asleep right under my chin. I think it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s home.



1.29


I want to share you with everyone I know, with the world. I want them to hold you and kiss you and snuggle you. Rub their hands on your fuzzy head like a lucky charm. Smell your otherworldly baby smell. Tickle your skin, so soft they can barely feel it. Look in those ocean-blue eyes and see a wisdom and depth they didn’t know possible in someone who so recently joined this world.


I want you to see their faces in person. To learn them, these people who love you so much, by absorbing them through all senses. To breathe in their faces and voices and smells and touches and catalog them in your rapidly expanding brain.


Video calls are not enough, but it’s all we have. So I’ll share that way and try not to be heartbroken until it’s safe to share you in person.



1.30


This morning I rode my emotions. Let them wash over me. Has this ever happened before? It felt like the first time. Your mama, at 36 years old, finally sitting with an emotion and not letting it knock the wind out of her. Maybe it happens all the time, under the surface of consciousness. Maybe I was just more aware of it this time. Either way, it inspired hope, and I like to think that it shifted something in me just a little bit.



1.31


Breastfeeding is f-ng hard. Am I a bad mother because I don’t love it? No. Do I feel guilty and sad and disappointed that it still feels so f-ing hard? Yes. Am I angry sometimes? Do I get frustrated with you and tell you to just latch and stop killing my raw nipples? Do I feel the heat rising as I listen to you passionately fuss-cry right next to my left ear? Do I hate that I have to resort to a boob sometimes to calm you the heck down? Do I question my distaste for letting you use my nipple as a pacifier? Do I feel annoyed with myself for using the f-word so often, for having low patience, for crying out overloaded emotions that I can’t breathe away because my whole upper body hurts from hefting your growing body and helping you relentlessly unlatch and re-latch with a wider mouth because you’re killing my nipples? Emmylou, for God’s sake, open your mouth! Yes. Yes, yes, yes.


It doesn’t help that these feelings all usually surface late-morning, which exacerbates the monotonous Groundhog Day that is this entire year. I’m so freaking restless, and my emotions are frayed. I pull at them like loose strings, try to tie them together into some semblance of a whole, but they end up in a tangled heap at my tired feet. Eventually they scurry away like little string-mice, giving me some space to appreciate everything that I don’t ever want to take for granted.


These are the things that perhaps many mothers don’t share with their children, or with each other, or with the world. Women are supposed to be nurturing, and women who struggle so much to have a baby are supposed to be happy and grateful and not take anything for granted.


I wish I could be that woman. I read memoirs of women who write things like, “I was never impatient...It never felt hard...It was hard, but I never minded.”


I don’t believe them.


Motherhood is hard, my Lulu. I love you more every day, every hour, every moment. You have become my entire world. You are a piece of my very being externalized, a piece that I never knew was missing until you were born and I held you in my arms, leaving my body and yet being more in my body than ever before.


And it’s still hard.


And that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be.


I’m reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle right now, and it’s exactly what I need to be reading. Permission to just be myself, as I am, rather than shunning parts that aren’t in line with how I’m supposed to be. Being my wild self. And I am a wild self, that’s for sure. You will be wild times times two, because your Papa and I are both wild – which is why we butt heads so often and why we love each other so fiercely, without reservation.



2.1


You roll easily from your back to your left side. My little roly poly, a pudgy c-curve every time I get you from your crib, where you always wake peacefully now, silent and wide-eyed, just hanging out until I wander in and we greet each other with smiles the size of Texas.


You constantly try to eat your hands. Today you tried to stuff them in your mouth for five minutes straight during our “play time” on your nursery floor. Your frustration grew as you voraciously tried to fit your entire fist in there.


You played piano for the first time! We’ve reached a new era where I can play with you on my lap because you can hold your head up enough. You stared at my hands the entire time, so I scooched close enough that you could reach the keys. You managed to get your curled fingers on the keys and press down enough to make a small sound. My heart bled profusely.


You love the song Head, Shoulder, Knees, & Toes, so near laughter every time I sing it and touch your corresponding parts. You’re also a fan of Itsy, Bitsy Spider. We have somewhat of a routine, you and I. We do two “playmat sessions” every morning, in between your two consistent morning naps. Practicing rolling, doing airplane...you can now be on your tummy for up to five minutes at a time without fussing! Maybe it’s only two minutes, but it feels like forever.


You have a tiny bald spot on the back of your fuzzy head. It’s so darn cute. Baby pattern baldness.



2.2


Last night was rough, but, as per usual, you greeted the morning with soul-shaking smiles. They are the most contagious smiles I have ever seen, a rainbow spreading through every cell of my being, brightening the darkest moments, snapping me out of myself.


You’ve started looking up at me more and smiling during nursing sessions. Such a little imp, but so freaking cute, beyond comprehension.


We’ve been doing our daily “exercises” recommended by the baby chiropractor: bringing your opposite legs and hands together, pulling you up to sitting by your hands, more tummy time. Everything is more fun on the floor now. I started putting the phone in front of you during tummy time, so you can see someone’s face on FaceTime. You love it. Baby in the COVID 21st century, what can I say? Here we are.


You can sit up with your head away from my chest as we read together. (“Read together”...that phrase elicits unbounded joy.) I put toys in front of you and try to channel psychic mind power to sense which toy you so desperately want to reach for. You’re not quite there yet, but give it a week!



2.4


We made it outside for ten minutes to explore the winter wonderland. Bundled you up in your puffy purple snowsuit and trudged through nearly two feet of unbroken snow. Somewhere in that frozen sea, we lost one of your mittens - a sign of true adventuring!


We want to bottle up your smell so we never forget it. I can’t imagine not smelling it anymore. It’s one of the million things we take for granted…


You’ve started holding your bottle with one hand, super close to the top, like a rockstar holding her microphone.



2.5


We no longer fear evenings. In fact, we look forward to them. (WHAT?!) Last night we put you to bed at 8:15. You woke up as soon as Papa put you in your bassinet, but I knew you would put yourself to sleep. We heard you rustle around for a while, moments of quiet when we held our breath until the next small sound, but, eventually, silence.


We have been waiting four months to have our evenings back, and they have finally arrived.


You looked like an angel sleeping in Mama’s arms yesterday. “Transcends earth cuteness,” as your Zia Leah put it. You are perfect – your sweaty little palms, your slightly mangly big toenails, the pink creased line in your neck when you lift your head...


Your Papa just said: “I can’t wait ‘til your head starts growing away from your body!” We can’t wait to see your neck.



2.6


I just realized that the clicking when you nurse is completely gone! Your tongue tie, if you indeed had one, seems to be resolving. Nursing has been easier, and you’re better able to latch even when I’m very...full of milk.


Your neck is also straightening out, though you still have a slight tilt when you sit up, which is kind of funny. Boy, are you ready to sit! We can now hold you out on our laps, and you hold yourself up like a champ, bobble head and all. You resemble a Muppet, or a puppet, one of our hands on your back, the other on your belly. And when you’re in your green donut, you do little ab crunches, pulling your head off the pillow. You’re a Buddha baby, rolls lapping over each other.



2.7


You’re so smiley these days. You especially love when I sing to you now. Nothing makes you smile and laugh more than singing and dancing. The other night you cracked up, completely full of glee in your green donut as I sang and danced to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” while I cooked dinner. That’s my girl. Other recent favorites include Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now,” the opening song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and “When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You).” Great taste. Very well-rounded.


You love lying on your side. I always find you in that position after a nap in your crib, or in your bassinet in the morning. You rolled from your side to your tummy – and back! – a few times already, me cheering you on from the sidelines. I see you rolling around, reaching out to help me turn pages of a book we’re reading, or playing with a blanket, and I think, “Wow. You look just like...a baby!” Becoming such a little human.


I forget things that are no longer there, which is, again, why I try to keep track here. Some things remain the same, like your tiny pillows of shoulder fat. They now get lost in all the other pillows, but when you were born, they were probably the only fat you had. You look like you’ve had biceps since birth.


Zia Leah asked recently, “Do you notice all the changes, or is too gradual?” I notice every new thing, no matter how tiny.



2.8


I decided to not return to work. It was going to be too much in too many ways. Just you and me, kid.



2.9


Rule #1 of being a person: Poop when you can.


That’s your Papa Wisdom of the Day.


You’ve learned lesson #1.



2.10


You hit a new record last night, m’dear. You slept from 8 pm - 7 am. Let me repeat that: YOU SLEPT FROM 8 PM - 7 AM. You woke me up throughout the night with your surprisingly loud smacking/sucking sounds and congested snorting, but that’s even better because it means that you soothed yourself back to sleep! Miracle baby.


I’m trying a slightly new nap approach, and you just slept for 40 minutes in your crib IN THE AFTERNOON. This might be a first.


By the way, your hair continues to get funnier and funnier. It’s now perpetually in “orangutan” mode – sticking up on the crown of your head in all its fluffy glory.



2.11


My love for your Papa is the sea. It’s deep, and it sits low in my belly, a warmth spreading slowly, small waves that lap at my heart. Mysterious somehow, yet intuitively known. Always there, beneath the surface, nourishing and healing.


My love for you is the mountains. It’s expansiveness feels almost out of reach, too much to hold inside. It bursts, high and strong. An ancient wisdom, an eternal force, that I’m constantly experiencing for the first time.



2.12


You slept from 8 pm - 7 am three nights in a row. This new normal is life-changing. You’re also getting better at putting yourself to sleep for naps. I’ve been putting you in your crib drowsy but not asleep, and you usually put yourself to sleep. If not, we try again, and you usually go down. This morning your morning nap was 50 minutes versus your usual 30-minute catnap.


Mornings are more stable in general, while afternoons are completely hit or miss, but every hint of consistency feels momentous. Yes, I know, I know – it will constantly change. But it no longer feels like complete chaos around the clock.


I’m going to try feeding you more at each feeding to space them out more. You just downed 7 oz at 11am, so a win! And last night was the first night in memory that you didn’t clammer for the boob an hour (or less) after a bottle. THANK YOU. I actually got to eat a hot dinner.


You’ve been babbling a lot more since yesterday! It subsided for awhile, but it’s back in full force, and it’s the most lyrical sound I’ve ever heard. So musical already.


You also seem to have discovered Happy Baby Pose! I showed it to Zia Leah on FaceTime: “See?! It’s actually a thing!” Her mind was blown.


Oh - and you seem to be a little more attached to me. You seem calmer with the bottle if so give it to you. It’s heartwarming, but means it’s more difficult to get a break.


2.14


Today is your Mama’s second favorite holiday. Yes, it’s commercial, but that’s no reason (in my mind) to forsake it. It’s a celebration of love, a reminder to connect with those you love and appreciate and to love and appreciate yourself.


You spent most of the day with Mema and Pops so you’re Papa and I could have our first time alone since you’ve been born. We made a leisurely pancake brunch, went for a snowy hike at Taughannock, and watched a full movie with an afternoon glass of wine.


I said at one point, “Do you know what’s strange? This doesn’t feel so strange…”


You have been with us for ⅓ of a year, and you’re still so new.



2.15


Happy four months, my love!


You are 26 inches long and weigh 16 pounds – 97th and 90th percentiles respectively. The doctor was shocked when I told her you’re sleeping from about 8 am - 6:30 pm and eat up to seven ounces of pure breast milk during your 5-ish daily feedings.


That’s my girl.