Creativity -- like human life itself -- begins in darkness. We need to acknowledge this. All too often, we think only in terms of light: "And then the lightbulb went on and I got it!" It is true that insights may come to us as flashes. It is true that some of these flashes may be blinding. It is, however, also true that such bright ideas are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky, and completely necessary.
~ Julia Cameron
These letters are kind of all in that murky gestation period and, had I more time and energy to spare, I would carefully tend them like a word garden, pruning extraneous leaves, ripping out proliferating weeds that take up far too much space, and taking a step back to view the garden as a whole in terms of its overall balance of thick vibrance, dappled playfulness, and restful space.
That said, that's probably the most poetic sentence you'll read from here on out. Ah well. Here we go.
I have some big news to kick off this month!
You just poop!
Which is to say, your indigestion is so much better! You barely grunt at all now, and no more struggling or fussiness when you have gas bubbles. You simply poop when you need to poop and burp when you need to burp. I can try to explain the magnitude of that gift to all of us, but trust me: life is good.
You also love car rides now! No fuss, no muss, unless you’re completely wiped, in which case you scream for a few minutes before promptly passing out. You spend most of the time looking at yourself in the mirror and gabbing away. Glad you have a car friend! Car friends are the best.
You have started kissing – or eating? – my face. I hold your face to mine, and you open your mouth so wide, as if trying to consume everything that is me. My mouth, my nose, my cheek.
You have started hugging me, nestling your head in my neck, your arms more wrapped around me than ever before.
I will never need anything else.
I took a brisk 30-minute walk this afternoon – the same walk that your Papa and I took on a regular basis when you were in my belly. Therefore, it’s really the same walk that the three of us took, which is really my point: I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I came home and wrote this poem:
the snowflake that landed on
my eyelash blurs trees reaching
toward the gray sky that the sun
has just managed to nudge
aside and i think of you, a
snowflake that chose to land
in our arms blurring everything
that was, catching the sun that
just managed to nudge aside a
world gone slightly gray
The trees were also somewhat blurred by the tears that mixed with that snowflake as I thought about walking with you in my belly, all the hopes and fears and joy mixed into one big ball of Mamabelly, you at the core. I sent you every ounce of love possible as you grew inside me, letting it seep from my palms, knowing that you felt that love through my skin. You calmed down when I rubbed my belly, following my hands, readjusting when I gently pushed your protruding body parts deeper.
I thought about your birth, your heartbeat staying strong through nearly 36 hours of labor, right up until the last moment when I had to help you make your grand entrance quickly – so I did. I thought about holding you, shaking and crying in my out-of-body state, calming you on my chest as we lay heart to heart for the first time, finding our new home together, with each other, in each other.
I thought about you at that very moment, sleeping peacefully at home, that same babe to whom I sang and talked, and the wonder of the miracle that is you.
Your birthstone is opal. It is a stone that holds the rainbow, a stone that connects with ancient spiritual energies, a stone that is in you, that is you. You are my rainbow, smiling more and more every day, holding everything that has ever been in your graceful, fluttering hand.
I read this in a book yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you, even though you don’t yet understand it. You will someday:
If you wrote your own characters, they didn’t disappoint you. If you told your own story, you got to pick your ending. Just being yourself never worked, but if you made yourself up, you go to be exactly who you knew yourself to be.
It’s far too easy to disappoint ourselves, to wish for what isn’t so, and to not be ourselves fully, without shame or reservation. But you know what, little one? We can constantly invent and reinvent our stories – who we want to be and who we know ourselves to be. That’s one of the gifts of living. Keep writing your story, sweet Lulu. You are the only one who gets to write it. Write it without shame or reservation. Free yourself on its pages. Let words and ideas fly and see where they take you.
Your right ear is a little wonky. Mema pointed it out. It leans out, always perked, to gather words and syllables and to capture secrets. I have to remind myself that you hear everything.
You slept from 7:40 pm - 7:15 am. (!!!!!!) Happy new sleep record!
I think you’ve begun teething. You took four small catnaps yesterday and were inconsolable in the morning. I had to give you a boob because nothing would calm you down. You also wanted to be held constantly. You lay silently, peaceful/lethargic on my shoulder for about fifteen minutes as I cooked dinner yesterday. You don’t really do that. It was precious – but not you. Your cheeks also look a bit rosy, and you’re frantically putting everything in your mouth. Your mouth is how you explore your world now, but this is extreme. Poor thing. I can’t imagine how much it must hurt to feel bone pushing through gums! I already miss your gummy smile that will one day disappear forever.
I met a woman today whose 15-month-old son weighs 21 pounds. You weigh 16.
At four months, you’re five pounds more than a 15-month-old. A sturdy 90th percentile to his 3rd.
Well done, chica.
You just rolled from your tummy to your back for the first time! I cheered you like I’ve never cheered anyone, and you responded with that blazing gummy smile of yours. We’ve been practicing for a long time now, and it was absolutely thrilling for this Mama of yours. You got a little grunty at the end, but I stayed strong and let you fuss a bit. And you finally did it, landing on your back with a slightly dazed expression. It must be disorienting, finding yourself suddenly flipped over like that.
You are more and more irresistible. Whenever I put my face close to yours, you give me huge “kisses,” your mouth in the biggest “O” you can possibly make. You grabbed my hair for the first time yesterday, and it felt like, well, love. Curiosity, okay. But also love.
Still, if you were a dwarf, your name would be Grunty. It’s your go-to sound when you’re tired, bored, sick of me putting you on your tummy. It’s my favorite sound, so lyrical and pleasing to the ear (Ha. Jokes.)
Even with the grunt factor, you’re still wondrous. For example, I started reading you the Hafiz poems as I gave you a bottle yesterday, and your hands gently flicked the pages, your eyes so focused on the page, your ears taking it all in. Another example: we peeked back at you in your car seat a few nights ago and watched you mesmerized by your own hand, kind of like you were as high as a kite. “Guys!...Guys!...Have you ever really looked at your hands?!” You’re endlessly entertaining.
Finally, you continue to be the Ultimate Sleep Champion at night. What four-month regression?? We had maybe 3-4 days where you woke up around 2-3 am and needed a quick bite, and you started rustling and making more noise, but we already seem to be over that. We put you to bed around 7:45 pm every night, and you’re pretty darn quiet until at least 5:30 am (when we often hear rustling and grunting as you push a poop out), at which point you sometimes drift back until nearly 7 am.
We can’t have another baby, because you’re spoiling us.
I put you on your tummy this morning. When I came back 20 seconds later, you were on your back with a slightly disoriented expression.
Way to tease me.
Your father and I met five years ago today. I stepped on his foot outside a Paper Source. He was in awe of the seven birthday cards I picked out for March alone. I was a little smitten when he put on glasses to read the beer menu.
He said something last night, followed by, “Did you hear me?”
I responded, “I am.”
Sometimes we aren’t our best selves. Still, we keep trying, and we keep loving.
You really are a fantastic baby.
Your nighttime routine is a dream and a half. We do a bath every other night, then put on PJs and a sleep sack, try to read a book, and have a bottle. You know it’s bedtime, you’re beyond tired, and you not only go to sleep, you stay asleep. Sometimes we don’t hear a peep until the next morning. Last night your Papa and I had two hours – TWO HOURS – to ourselves before we hit the hay.
On top of that ongoing miracle, you take both boob and bottle with ease, you’re pretty patient with nail clipping and nose sucking, you’re an impressive self-soother, and you can be content entertaining yourself on your playmat for a surprising length of time.
And you smile like it’s your job. You even smile at people wearing masks! You hear their happy voices, or see their crinkly eyes, and you know that it’s time to smile. You’re brilliant.
You’re also quite pleasant in the car now. You seem to enjoy car rides – talking to yourself in the mirror is apparently very amusing. Yesterday was the first time you squawked in over a month, and it was only because you were so tired.
This brings me to your greatest “weak spot”: naps. You continue to stick around in that fighting ring for most naps. Still, they’re slowly getting better overall. You’re better able to put yourself to sleep. Today I put you in your crib as soon as you started fussing, and you calmed enough to drift off. THIS. IS. HUGE.
You will never be this small again.
You’re not dainty, true. But you’re no moose baby like your Mama was. At least not yet – time will tell if you fully Wolffify!
I want to sew every new adorable thing into my pocket so that I can carry it around forever and pull it out when I want to return to that moment. Kind of like the movie Inside Out – each memory in a glass ball that I can project like a movie.
Moments would include the following:
You grabbing my face when I lean in close to yours, and the way you look at me, your eyes reflecting back every universe that has ever been
The way you “kiss” with wide-open mouth – kisses that now include your soft little tongue lapping/sucking my face
Your hands exploring everything now, from blankets to sleep sacks, to my brightly-colored pants, to each other, accompanied by such a focused expression, eyebrows ever so slightly furrowed
How you’re starting to turn more when you hear your name
We have two linen throw pillow covers with blue peacock feathers, and I agree: they are confusing. You love these pillow covers right now, scritch-scratching your fingernails that are somehow never short enough no matter how much I cut and file them. I thought at first that you just loved the colors. Then I thought maybe the texture was fun. Now we’re going with, “Maybe she thinks the feathers are real...Maybe she’s trying to pick them up.” You only scritch-scratch the feathers, not the other parts of the pillow, and this occupies you for minutes. I’m sorry if it’s confusing.
You’ll touch real feathers someday, I promise! In many ways, we’re like the mother and son in the book Room – secluded in this tiny, mostly artificial world.
“One day you’ll see real animals (besides Lily, the Wolff cat)!”
“One day we’ll see real people’s faces (without masks)!”
“One day it will be warm enough to go on walks!”
“One day you’ll be allowed to go into stores with me and touch things that aren’t in our house (because COVID won’t run our lives anymore)!”
Until then, we’ll keep trying to play with two-dimensional objects.
Your eyes are getting lighter. When they catch the sun, they’re a brilliant light blue – not quite as light as Pops’ or Papa’s eyes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they get there.
Your hair is such a curious shade of light brown with a hint of auburn. Your eyebrows are clearly that shade, and it emerges more on your head in the sun. You’re even starting to get a hint of wavy curls here and there. (My heart!) Will you be a blondie? Will it get lighter, or darker, or one then the other over time? Will it be curly like your Pops’ or Papa’s hair? I’m still hoping for that crazy blonde ‘fro like your Papa had.
One thing’s for sure: you’ll be long and lanky. You somehow look, well, taller, in the past few days. Less baby and more...child? That said, your potential dinosaur names – a la Little Foot from The Land Before Time – include Round Face, Milk Face, Flat Head, No Neck, or Wet Hands (because they’re always in your mouth), and Pudge Foot. So, you’re still very much a baby.
Papa came up with the most perfect nickname for you the other day: Scrunchmuffin. Nailed it. That’s exactly what you are. An adorable, floppy bundle of puffy delight.
What is it about afternoon naps?! It’s always such a STRUGGLE. Every day is the same for a while now. You go down surprisingly easy for your first morning nap. The late-morning nap is a bit of a challenge, but you manage to eventually put yourself down, often with just a little assistance. But as soon as the afternoon rolls around, some wire comes loose, and it’s almost a lost cause. You fight and fight and fight. You finally manage to fall asleep, and suddenly you’re awake again, even though you’re so stinking exhausted. It’s uncanny, the consistency, like this is just your circadian rhythm.
Today you’re actually sleeping in your crib at 3 pm. I can’t remember the last time this happened. You fell asleep nursing right before, but, hey, you’ve proven that you can put yourself to sleep, so no shame here. (Because, yes, in this day and age of parenting, so many experts are adamant about never putting your baby to bed asleep in order to allow practice self-soothing. I really need to stop reading so much.)
In other news, you’ve started gabbing more!! You’ve been pretty quiet overall until now, but there has been exponentially more voice exploration these past two days. It. Is. The. Best.
Random daily collection of things I’ll miss someday:
The precious little lip smacks
The heavy sighs
The way you clamor for a boob and how it almost sounds like laughter because you’re so excited, your body curling in a c-curve toward mine
The way you hold my hand when I give you a bottle, your fingers wrapped around mine
The alfalfa patch, which sticks straight up on the crown of your head
The way you now pull a bottle to your mouth with your hands, your head leaning toward it, mouth in its little “O” shape, lips puckered
Your sleeping positions
We always peek at you when we go to bed. You still sleep in a bassinet in our bedroom, and I make your Papa leave a light on while I open the bedroom door so I can look at you before we climb into bed. Last night you had your arms out to a T. Wiped out.
We thank you every single day for sleeping the way you sleep at night. Last night you were out at 7:40 pm, you rustled a bit in the early morning and put yourself back to sleep several times, then woke up at 7 am.
You somehow wake up cuter every single morning. Must be all that beauty sleep.
Have I mentioned that you love to give me morning kisses? Yes. But it’s just too darn wonderful to not mention again. You reach toward my face with your little hands, connect your open mouth with my face, and flick your tongue in and out. I can’t handle it.
You have started to use the letter “g” in your babbles – a wet, gurgly “g.” That’s fun! New sounds!
Your naptime fight-fuss has reached a new level. You literally hurt my eardrums with your wails this afternoon. It sounds like you’re in excruciating pain, or absolutely starving, but no: you’re just fighting daytime sleep. If this is your new naptime normal...God help me.
We discovered tiny blonde hairs on your perfect toes this morning. Discoveries like this reinforce the truth that you’re really and truly a tiny human.
You fit into 12-month-old pants now. They’re still a little long, but the hefty portion of you requires the larger size. This morning your Papa dressed you in jeggings. With the cuffs rolled up and your frog onesie, you looked truly country chic.
You love when your Papa takes you on tours of our apartment – just like you love when your Pops takes you on house tours. On some point of your tour, Papa grabs a large wooden spoon carved by your Pops to “scoop some bellies.” He passes the spoon to you, which you can now grab and hold like a champ, and you look ready to cook. Just wait until we have matching aprons! Oh, the adventures that await.
Our big adventure yesterday was a walk around the neighborhood. The weather is finally warmer for the next few days. You were still in your “abominable snowman” fuzzy bear snowsuit, but how we savored that warm sunshine! We even faced you outward for the first time! Such a big girl, silently checking out the world we passed.
The dimple on your left upper cheek is going strong, as are your forehead dimples. While the cheek dimple emerges when you smile, the forehead dimples emerge when you’re serious – concentrating, focusing, slightly concerned or unsure about something.
Hello, little wide-eyed wonder bean. We can’t decide what kind of bean you are. Garbanzo? Kidney? You seem to have outgrown the lentil and the pinto. Perhaps you’re simply our wonder bean – just like I’m your Papa’s wonder rocket. (Funny story, that one.)
Let’s see...We’re rounding out month five here, and there’s so much to share! Here are a few gems, in no particular order:
You have officially started making “razz” sounds – adorable little bubbly gurgles in the back of your throat. I can tell it’s a fun new sound, as you make it often.
We finally donned Mema’s homemade leather moccasins, and they are beyond precious. Yesterday I dressed you in loose jeggings that looked more like boyfriend jeans with the cuffs rolled, your onesie with the long “tattoo” sleeves, a gray cardigan, and your black and white polka dot hat that we have milked as long as possible. It looked like a doo rag. My little thug fashionista.
You are fascinated by chair arms – wooden and carved or plain black metal, it doesn’t matter. Not quite sure what the appeal is there, but stay that easily entertained forever, okay? It’s pretty great.
As soon as you lie on your changing table, you assume a happy baby pose, your feet springing up to your hands like a wind-up toy. When you’re not playing with your feet, you get a kick out of, well, kicking. And slamming your legs down on the table. So much energy! I get it: getting a clean diaper must feel liberating
You are so strong. When you’re frustrated or tired or just done with the current activity (or lack thereof), you’re known to arch your back and stiffen your entire body like a board. I know, I know! You can’t wait to move! You will soon, I’m sure.
When you’re drowsy, you end a feeding with a deep sigh as I shift you to my shoulder. I love that sigh. You also randomly deep sigh throughout the day, and it never fails to bring a chuckle. What does that sigh mean? I’m done? I’m bored? There’s so much happening around me, and I just need a beat to take it all in? Who knows.
I love to watch your fingers randomly opening and closing, or scratching, when you’re sitting on someone’s lap or in some kind of lounger seat, or when you’re nursing or bottling. Do you even realize they’re moving, or is it restless energy like your Papa’s toe wiggling? You also love your bare feet, curling them toward each other, rubbing them together...I would do the same thing if my feet were so soft! What a creative way to self-soothe.
You and Lily the Wolff cat are best buds. As soon as you see her, your body goes stiff, your arms flail out and beat like wings, and your eyes light up like saucers. Your left leg kicks like you’re tapping the beat to homegrown bluegrass. Everything and everyone else around you goes dark as your tunnel vision zeroes in on the wondrous black and white creature that you can’t wait to get your hands on. You get so frustrated when you can’t reach her, it’s almost painful to watch. I can imagine! Lily is such a good sport. She must love you. She patiently walks back and forth in front of you so you can reach out your pudgy hands and pet her. When she looks at you, you talk to her. How I wish I knew what you were trying to communicate! Somehow, I think Lily understands everything. Babies and animals must have their own secret language.
Today marks the unofficial one year anniversary of the COVID pandemic – the year our lives – and the lives of everyone else – turned upside down. The NBA suspended its entire season, Broadway went dark, and the three of us (you in my belly, of course) got outta dodge. We thought we’d be back in a few weeks, maybe a month, after things calmed down. How wrong we were.
Throughout it all, you offered joy and hope. Our months living with Mema and Pops were the greatest unexpected gift imaginable. Challenging at times, of course, but magical. We had dinner together every single night, introducing you to all kinds of foods. I wouldn’t be surprised if you love Wolff cooking, as you’re quite accustomed to it already. I know that it will bring you comfort, as it does us.
Goodness, I have so much I want to tell you!!
First of all, we saw so many people who love you. Okay, not so many, but it sure feels like so many after being in our little pod of five for so long.
We went on a walk with our doula, Natalie, and you laughed like we’d never heard you laugh before when you saw her. It was the most hilarious thing we had yet experienced with you. Was it her curly hair? I think you also recognized her voice, her presence. She spent a lot of time with you in those early months, and she was one of the first faces you saw after you were born! She’s very special to us, and your greeting was right on target.
We also spent some outside time with our Russell family. It was the largest group you had been in so far – eight people! Just like old times. Almost. And you, our little social butterfly, happy as could be. Mama Russ was amazed by your calm and content, virtually fuss free, demeanor. Of course! You love people.
Then, yesterday, you were reunited with your Zia Leah!! We greeted her at the door with you holding a sign that read “WE LOVE YOU ZIA LEAH!!!” that I fashioned out of blue cardstock and a pencil. We spent all day with her, and we can’t wait to spend as much time as possible with her during her visit this week. She brought you a bag of new fashionista clothes, which marked the second most hilarious thing we’ve experienced with you. The likely combination of the excitement you sensed around you and the visual appeal of seeing the big reveal of each new piece inspired you to make excited “Uh! Uh!” sounds every time Zia Leah lifted another article of clothing out of the bag. You reached for each piece and tried to jam it in your mouth. We were beside ourselves.
You’re so brilliant.
Wait – there’s more! One more VERY EXCITING update: YOU TRIED YOUR FIRST FOOD!! That’s right. You had carrots last night. And, as expected, you clamored for more. You barely even made a face! You loved them. We tried them again this morning, and you weren’t quite so on board. In fact, you were oddly neutral about the whole thing.
Learning how to eat is a whole new experience, isn’t it? Learning how you have to move your tongue in new ways, how to coordinate your lips...By the fourth bite this morning, you already opened your mouth a little more. You let me know you were done by waving my hand away. See? Brilliant.
Hello, sweet love. You are five months old today. This month has been more of a whirlwind than previous months. The first few months were foggy slow motion. We are officially out of the fog and onto the fast track.
Here are some highlights in key areas:
Sleep: Naps are slowly getting better in general. You still take shorter naps – 30-40 minutes is the current norm – but you take a few a day. That said, they are still a struggle, especially in the afternoon. I still don’t get it. You’re probably overtired from napping so little in the first half of the day, but it’s impossible to get you down, so...no answers here. Nights are a dream come true. Nuff said.
Feedings: We have a great plan right now. Five feedings a day around 7 am, 11 am, 2:30/3 pm, 5:30 pm, and bedtime (around 7:15 pm). Such a blessing to know about when you’ll be hungry next and have some relative “freedom”!
Movement: You are so strong. You seem more motivated by fine motor skills versus gross, but you’ll be moving and grooving in no time. You can pass objects back and forth as well as reach for objects and bring them to your mouth. Tummy time is less painful, and you can now push yourself up into a full cobra pose. Rolling doesn’t happen much, but I bet you’ll jump on that bandwagon soon. You’re getting better at sitting and probably aren’t too far off from sitting on your own. Watch out!
You are very vocal.
You are becoming quite the babbler! No surprise there. You have the most angelic babbling voice, so lyrical.
The grunt that drove me batshit crazy has now progressed to a full-blown Most Annoying Sound Imaginable. Truly. It’s a loud, soul-grating whine that hurts my eardrums and makes, well, anything virtually impossible. This delightful sound is new this week, and I’m praying to the baby gods that it doesn’t last long. Hopefully it’s just another case of, “Oo! Listen to this sound I can make!” before the appeal wears off. We can’t deal with it much longer. It is, in a word, awful.
You now know how to cry like it’s your job. Again, this mostly precedes a much-needed nap. I hit my breaking point earlier today after listening to your god-awful whine all morning and then hearing you scream in my ear when I tried to put you down for a nap in the afternoon. Papa had to rescue me. As he put it, “As long as only one of us hits a wall, the other one can take over – and we’re good!” Yikes, woman.
Temperament: Oh, my dear, you have such a personality already. You’re such a social butterfly, never happier and calmer than surrounded by people. As soon as we get to the Wolff house, you’re happy as a little clam. I think I need to hire a few people to always keep us company. Still, we know you well enough now to know (in general) the reason for the fuss. Usually, it’s because you’re exhausted – because you only take a few catnaps all day long. Often, it’s because you need something to change – a new position, a new toy, more attention, anything. I have a feeling you’ll be like your dad...Huh. You are also charming, stealing hearts left and right. You do this adorable “shy” move: if someone is holding you and someone else looks at you and smiles, you return a small smile, turn away, and nuzzle into your holder’s chest before turning back to the other person with another small smile. You are a happy baby who can turn into a raging lunatic at the drop of a hat. Jekyll and Hyde. Mostly Jekyll. And, of course, you reserve most of the Hyde for me and your Papa. I know it means you trust us, but it’s not my favorite aspect of being your Mama, I have to say.
Aesthetics: You are officially a fat, roly poly baby with a perfectly round face, seven chins, no neck, and hair that can be fashioned into quite a becoming mohawk. Your eyes are light blue, and all of you is absolutely perfect.
Okay, as per usual, I didn’t intend this letter to be so long and likely incredibly boring in its play-by-play depiction of this past month. I’ll work on making these more interesting, make the writing a little better – especially as it’s the only writing I’m doing these days. Maybe each month will be a bit better quality as my brain cells slowly multiply and the new parent stupidity dies away. No promises.
I love you so, my sweet Emmylou.