lulu letters: month 9

Updated: Sep 15

Hello, sweet pea.


Welcome to our ninth month together. You somehow bring more and more joy, and we have found our version of chaotic flow. If I had to describe you in one word, it might be “dynamo.” You are my heart and soul and spirit all wrapped up into one enchanted bundle of wonder.



6.17


You sound like a tiny Darth Vader, breathing audibly, little inhales and exhales, all the time.


You have also learned how to throw things. I don’t think it’s fully intentional, but give it time.


I broke down yesterday afternoon after you refused to settle down for a nap – after four attempts. Papa stepped in...and you passed out quietly.


There are two philosophies when it comes to getting young children to sleep. There is 'sleep training,' which basically involves putting your kids to bed and listening to them scream all night; or there is "attachment parenting," which essentially involves lying down with your kids, cuddling them, and then listening to them scream all night.
Jim Gaffigan, My Dad is Fat

We never really had to do sleep training, but now that you’ve regressed to waking up twice many nights, I’m finally maybe going to try it, because, well, it might be time. Every nap this week has been a struggle, and I’m nearing the edge of the proverbial cliff.



6.18


What a start to month 9, pumpkin face!


You are moving. Last night, you mustered your way across the kitchen to me. It was a clumsy, creative combination of crawling on knees, one knee and a foot, downward dog rests, and belly scooching, but, by golly, you did it. And you were all smiles of pride as we cheered you on. This morning, you full-on crawled all over the apartment. How you mastered it overnight is a miracle of babyhood. It’s a whole new world, little bean, and you are thrilled. I watched you crawl over to the piano books and pull them off the shelf, crawl over to the high-top chairs and spin them, then crawl under the coffee table. So much to explore!


You have been waiting for this freedom since birth – maybe before. You were always so active in the womb. At your 20-week ultrasound, the technician remarked on how active you were, and Papa rolled his eyes. “Aren’t all babies that active?” I beg to differ. I knew you would be a mover, even as I continued to hope that you would be at least somewhat lazy, as I was. The Universe doesn’t give you what you can’t handle, right? I guess it thinks I can handle a lot.


Oh! One of your top teeth broke through the gums! Those teeth are coming in so fast, in rapid succession, it seems.

And then...we have naps. A common sleep schedule for eight-months olds is waking around 7 am, first nap 9/9:30, second nap 1/1:30, then bedtime around 7 pm. So far, you woke at 7 am, napped at 9:15 am, and went down again at 1:15 pm. For both naps, I put you in awake, you fussed for about a minute, then settled yourself and fell asleep.


It helps to have so much motion and so many activities these days, I’m sure! You spent the morning crawling around, and we went to our first outdoor Story Time at the local library before lunch. You loved it, watching the kids, listening to the songs, smiling as I helped you wiggle and jump and dance...


Today feels, dare I say, easy. As Pops says, “Just when you think you’re going to lose your mind, something shifts.” Maybe it only shifted for a day, but I’ll take whatever I can get!



6.19


There’s a phone app called Voila that morphs photo faces into cartoons. You are the cutest cartoon baby I’ve ever seen, Lulu. It really had you to a T – your fuzzy, funnily parted hair, your perfect little nose and mouth, your eyebrows, your one wonky ear...Pixar should model babies after you.


Tonight you surprised all of us with how much you ate at Mema and Pops’ house! I gave you a pinto bean/spinach mash along with smashed potatoes, and it’s uncanny how your little hands went right for the green stuff. You love to feed yourself now, perfectly content to sit in your highchair, shoving food into your mouth with your fists and, more and more, that beautifully developing pincer grasp.

7:30 pm...I’ve birthed a devil child. This is a new level of pre-sleep screams. It’s literally the exorcist. I finally reach the point of, “Maybe she really is in pain?” when your Papa comes in to rescue me from the brink of insanity, and you immediately calm down. I tried his exact technique tonight, and it worked exactly 0%.


Sometimes, my darling child, you leave me at a complete and utter loss.



6.20


Today we celebrated yet another very special day: Father’s Day! Your Papa’s first. We spent the day with Mema and Pops, brunching and showing off your new moves and playing with a bowl of water and cups on the lawn. Is there anything more fun than water play outside on a summer day?


You are a destructor – especially of anything your Papa builds. Today we were trying to show Papa that you figured out how to move from sitting to crawling (just happened this afternoon). We put multiple toys out of your reach, but you only showed your new trick in order to knock down the tower of blocks he built. Ha.


Your gift to your Papa (and me) tonight: falling asleep like you used to, on the bottle, still on my shoulder, sleeping transition to your crib, all silent.



6.21


You are a little conductor sometimes – waving your hand/s in the air and babbling away. Who are you talking to? What are you saying? How I wish I knew.


Your babbles are back in fuller force again! Yesterday, as he got you out of your car seat, Papa said, “Are you happy we’re home?” and you replied with what sounded like, “I know that!” (“A doh dat!”) You’re still a fan of the letter “D.” So much “da da” and “doodle e doo” and the like.

We just had another bout of the exorcist. The word “spirited” doesn’t even begin to describe the Jekyll and Hyde reality that engulfs naptime. And then, when I swing you really big like Papa suggested, you start laughing and look and sound like you’re mentally insane. It’s actually kind of creepy, but it adds a touch of levity to an otherwise...challenging...situation. Today I took a break from rocking and sat you on your changing table to offer something slightly different in the hopes that you would be able to catch your breath rather than continue to gag yourself with your breath-pausing wails. As soon as you sat down, you saw your diaper balm and calmly reached for it. Silence. And as soon as I picked you up again, we were back down the rabbit hole.


Woman.



6.22


We were all awake from 2-4:30 am straight. That hasn’t happened since week one.


In brighter news, you are more of a master mover every day. You even roll gently from your belly to your back so you don’t thump your head on the hard floor. Brilliant.



6.23


You slept from 7:15 pm - 6:30 am. I can’t remember the last time you did that. At 9 am, I set you in your crib for a nap. You simply rolled over and fell asleep. I can’t remember the last time you did that. You slept for nearly two hours.


Let’s do this every day.

Flash forward to 3 pm: I just spent a full hour trying to get you down for a nap. Yet another new level of exorcist screaming. I rocked you. You screamed. I gave you my right boob. You didn’t seem interested and started screaming again as soon I stood up. Papa finally came in to try. I gave you Tylenol because, yet again, I thought, “Okay, maybe actual pain??” We rocked more. I read you a book, and you were fine, then burst into screams as soon as I stood up. I tried a bottle. You drank a few ounces and weren’t interested in anymore. You started to root toward my left boob. I nursed you. You cried throughout. Then you finally, finally, FINALLY fell asleep.


WHY, CHILD, WHY?!?!?!



6.24


Hello, little love of my life.


I have so many thoughts and feelings flooding my brain, swirling around and around.


This whole napping journey has been at once frustrating, exhausting, and, most of all, heartbreaking for me to see you in such a state. I so desperately need a break that, at times, I let you cry hysterically for a few minutes in your crib. I’m not one who carries many regrets, but I’m beginning to have deep regrets about every time I’ve let you cry. I need to stop reading so much about tips and strategies and how to cope with sleep issues. None of it helps. Every baby is different and, clearly, I’m doing all the “things” and none of them work. That’s one of the problems with reading about babies: More times than not, I end up feeling, for whatever reason, like I’m not doing quite the “right” thing. That I’m perpetuating an issue that could lead to sleep deprivation for years to come and make you overly dependent, etc etc etc. Absurd. You just need love right now.


Your ever-wise care provider talked to me this morning about perhaps starting from square one. Throw everything about sleep out the window and give up any semblance of a fight. Remove the negative association you seem to have at the moment. That might mean having you fall asleep whenever you fall asleep, on me. I fear you getting overtired (yet again, another apparent “no-no”), but I’m willing to try this approach. Clearly, putting you in your crib is often traumatic right now. The fact that it’s often is even more mysterious. Sometimes, you’re perfectly fine. Why? Why is that? I need to stop questioning and go along for the ride.


We never really seemed to get the hang of baby-wearing, and I already wish I’d let you nap on me more, spent more time skin to skin...Here I am, my heart crying with the loss of what never was. Going down a rabbit hole of shoulds, which is never therapeutic.


I’m so sorry for all the times I let you cry, even for less than a minute, rather than just continuing to hold you. All the times I – perhaps – took too long to come to your side when you were fussing because I was in the middle of something, even though I talked to you throughout. Am I f-ing up our/your long-term attachment? Yikes. I was just thinking yesterday about how sweet it was to rub your back and sing you to sleep as you held my hand through the crib bars. But now it just feels sad, like that scene in Dumbo, and I think, “Wow. I’m not helping her learn to self-soothe at all right now. I’m just scarring her for life.”


I want to hold you all day long right now and never let you go. Let my love seep from me to you. I will continue to do my best and, when that’s not good enough, to take a step back, shake it all off, and try another, completely different, approach, until you feel safe and content. And you normally are! Happy, social, well-adjusted...There’s just something about naps.


Your care provider says that our children often teach us the most difficult life lessons. I’m learning. I’m trying (usually trying to do too much, which is part of my issue). I’m here for you, always, I promise. I love you so much.



6.28


My angel face…


It has only been four days since I wrote to you, but it somehow feels like a lifetime. I have a piece of paper filled with scrawled notes about what’s going on. I suppose I might as well just share them in order, from top to bottom. For once in my life, not overthink it:

  • You say a very clear “Na na na!” when you’re done eating. Way to be clear!

  • A few nights ago, you turned toward me after finishing most of your bottle and promptly fell asleep on my shoulder. It was a beautiful thing.

  • You are a little scientist, always exploring and trying to figure things out. You recently lifted the edge of your suction cup plate...Uh oh.

  • Your babbles include more consonants: “Bababa...wawawa…”

  • Your favorite book is Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton. I don’t know what it is about this book, but it’s magical for you. It’s the only book that immediately calms you down if you’re worked up – and the first book of yours I’ve memorized. I was really hoping it would be something a little more nuanced, like When the Sun Rose, but, hey, I’m all for simple pleasures.

  • You love walks. You always sit in silence for most, if not all, of the walk, and now you often sit with your knees bent and ankles crossed, loungin’ as you chew on your stroller straps or teething toy.

  • We’ve been enjoying some morning family walks. Your Papa said recently, “We’ve reached the point of not caring. Walking in our pajamas, you have food all over your sweatshirt…” Yup. That is us.

  • Are your lips getting more...luscious? Is that a weird word to use for your child?

  • You’re officially a Master Crawler. Everywhere, all the time, tolerating being on a lap for a few minutes at a time unless there’s a book involved. You make the funniest sounds – tiny breaths, rasps, babbles...So much to say as you explore.

  • I spend so much time planning your meals, it’s utter insanity. I consider it my current little/big project – researching, learning...After spending every spare minute of a day working on your eating spreadsheet (I know, I’m a lunatic), I think, “Okay. Why do I do this to myself? This is nuts. Cut back, Jamie. Just stop.” But then I feed you a meal like mixed chicken with zucchini and cilantro along with some smashed butternut squash and potatoes with nutmeg and think, “This is pretty awesome.”

  • You assume the funniest mermaid/model side pose every so often during your crawling escapades. Time to take a little break? Make sure we’re still watching you? Whatever it is, it kills us. You always lie on your left side with your right hand resting on the side of your butt and your right leg casually crossed over your left.

  • Your upper lip shape seems very Dutch. It reminds me of Renaissance paintings, a bit convex where mine is concave. Like a tiny pursed beak.

  • Your new favorite toy at the Wolff house is a small stuffed mouse that “sings” Christmas songs when you push a button. As soon as Mema presses the button and hands it to you, you roll onto your back and smile, kick maniacally, hold it over your head, and talk to it. I wonder if you’ll recognize those songs at Christmas time…What a fun new friend – and definitely more snuggly than your fan friends of yore.

  • Your “I’m done eating” sounds are growing incrementally louder, to the point where you kind of scream like a banshee. Prolonged screams. They’re your Papa’s favorite sounds. (Ha.)

  • Bedtime has been pretty darn amazing lately with you falling asleep on me and a smooth transfer into your crib, where you swiftly assume your butt-in-the-air sleep position. However, tonight you must have been in pain, because you would not settle in. I finally gave you Tylenol and heard only silence from your bedroom, where your Papa rocked you to sleep. Or you just hit your wall. I honestly have no idea. But you haven’t screamed like that before bed in a long time. Did we just drug you unnecessarily? Maybe. It is what it is. I was ready to watch Alias and enjoy a leisurely glass of wine, or three. Is that so terrible?

  • I’m so tired of naps. Just so tired of the whole thing. That’s enough about that for now.

  • Every time we visit Mema and Pops, Pops greets us by saying, “Did you bring my Emmylou?!” He looks at you in your car seat and says, with the biggest smile imaginable, “You did bring my Emmylou!” You greet him with the biggest smile imaginable. As he carries you into the house, he says, “Look! You’re at our house!” Every single time.

  • We had a first for your morning nap today. (By the way: officially down to two naps a day, for better or worse.) I read you a few books in our special chair with you lying on your back, and, when I was done, you turned your head to the side with it resting on the chair arm, and lay there, silent, until your eyes gradually closed. I carried you to your crib, where the transfer went without a hitch as you rolled to your sleep position. Wow. It was perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

  • You had to get a COVID test. WHAT?! Yes, you apparently had your first virus/cold, even though you don’t seem very sick...and you had to get a test to rule it out. Negative, of course. And you were such a champ as the lady stuck a Q-Tip up each nostril (not brain-deep like us adults have to have, praise be, because I can’t even imagine that).

  • You have a rather hate-hate relationship with your changing table as of late. As soon as you lie down on it, you go berserk. It’s complete and utter mayhem. I think it’s because you assume it’s time for a nap. The fury is real.

  • You’ve started making low guttural sounds when you crawl. It sounds like the villain in a horror movie, yet it’s coming from you. All 19 lbs 3 oz of you.

  • We’ve started playing a fun game: “Where’s Mama?” I crawl around the edge of the couch or kitchen island, say, “Where’s Mama? Come find me!” and you come crawling, a huge grin bursting across your face when we make eye contact. You clearly understand what I’m saying. Oh, my heart…

  • You very quickly learned how to navigate small floor lips – the mini “ledge” between different rooms at the Wolff house. You lift your knee and foot it over, easy as can be. You’re also starting to enjoy the challenge of crawling over legs. You’re becoming a lean machine, relatively speaking. I can imagine you as a future gymnast, which is ironic, as I was always the complete opposite of anything even resembling a gymnast.

  • Sometimes you are so serious that I try to make you laugh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you look at me with the straightest of faces, sigh, and go back to whatever you were doing before. Sometimes you won’t even look at me. Already giving me ‘tude? Unreal.


6.30


You just broke me down again. These, forgive me, fucking naps. Why?


Why, child, why?


Why?

Today felt like the most challenging day for me yet. Mema came over to rescue me, and you finally napped from 11-11:45...and then 4-4:30. That’s it.


Miraculously, bedtime was easy beyond belief. You were incredibly restless in my arms, but I put you in your crib quite awake, and...you put yourself to sleep within three minutes.


That must be a gift to me. Thank you.



7.1


Moo, Baa, La La La put you to sleep twice today. For your morning nap, I recited it about five times to lull you to sleep. Tonight it was just us, as Papa is with his family. You got fussy, so I pulled out the book and did the same thing. I rocked you to sleep reciting that book. Too stinkin’ funny.


I learned a bit about how you learn to chew! Yup, your Mama geeking out again. Bear with me:

  1. First, you suckle, which mimics nursing/bottle feeding. Good for purees.

  2. Next, you munch. Your jaws move up and down, but you haven’t yet learned how to keep food on your gums, so you just chew briefly. Good for mashed food.

  3. Then, you use your tongue and cheek muscles to keep food on your gums. This is called lateralization. You also gain jaw strength and endurance. Good for dissolvable foods like Cheerios and puffs.

  4. Finally, as a toddler, you master diagonal/rotary chewing. You use your molars to cut and grind. Good for whole foods – like apples.

You are definitely getting better. I daresay we’re nearly, if not already, at the “puffs” point! So exciting. You’ve tried so many new foods these past weeks, including:

  • mashed potatoes

  • apricot

  • buckwheat cereal

  • mushrooms

  • rice delicata squash

  • pinto beans

  • plum (not a fan)

  • cottage cheese (neutral)

  • pear (also not a huge fan?)

  • polenta

  • turnips

  • smashed blueberries

  • Brussels sprouts

  • and cucumber and raw apple in your mesh thing

We made it through two more allergens unscathed: peanut butter and wheat (in the form of adorable star-shaped pastina). Woot woot! Still mashing and smashing foods, but lots of different textures happening, and you’re fantastic with all of them. I’m so proud. And spices galore! Basil, coriander, smoked paprika, parsley, cilantro (didn’t even bat an eye at that one, which was shocking!), dill, herb medleys...I also put some ground flaxseed on yogurt. We like to keep it fancy around here.


Tomorrow we try our allergen of the week: fish. Won’t smell so great, but, you know, here we are. Can’t wait.


You somehow use your tiny ezpz cup like a pro even though we only practiced about five times. You hold it in your pudgy little hands with your head tilted downward and rise with red, watery eyes, breathlessly gulping if you get too much. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I cheer and clap for you and you flash the biggest toothy grin, beaming with pride and joy. My baby girl.



7.2


We have turned a book corner this week: you are suddenly so intent as we read! Sometimes you like to turn the pages yourself, but you often sit on a lap and watch with the most focused expression and dimpled forehead as we read them.


I made you “mischief baskets” and placed them in various places you frequent around our little home: on the bottom shelf of the bookcase near the refrigerator (where you like to pull out my piano books), under the television table (in front of the cord you’re drawn to), on the bottom shelf of my craft shelves (near the basket that holds my foam rollers, which you’re also drawn to), near the entryway (near the shoes you love so much), on the bottom shelves in your room...I love watching you discover the baskets. If you could talk, I can hear you saying, “Oo! What’s this?” Trying to create some novelty in our small space...


You’ve started crawling by dragging your knees rather than lifting them and banging them on the hardwood floor. Ingenious. You also discovered how to open drawers. Life is pretty thrilling, isn’t it?



7.3


This morning’s nap was a two-man tag team. I tried Moo, Baa, La La La...and I swear you were on to me. An hour and a half after I started, you finally went down and stayed down. We’ll see how long you sleep. Currently stuffing food in my face before you wake up.


You just woke up. You slept for about 20 minutes.


One nap at a time.



7.4


Happy July 4th, little bean! You wore a blue faded denim dress with tiny white polka dots and bright red leggings with tiny white polka dots – until, just as we arrived at the Wolff house, you pooped through the pants. So, you donned jeggings for the rest of the day. And you had your first beef hamburger for lunch...and devoured it like you hadn’t eaten in days. You literally cleaned your plate for the first time: burger, avocado, yam. That’s about as American as it gets right there, my love.


Sparklers: Big hit

Firecrackers: Not such a big hit


Your Papa’s learning.



7.6


I will miss your mouth smacks. You make them when you’re eating, or, well, randomly. As if you’re trying to get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth.


You are growing in so many ways, my love. Your chewing is progressing, your pincer grasp – mostly your right hand, which is interesting as you eat with both – is developing a little more every day. Yesterday your favorite part of your oat finger was picking up the cooked blueberries. What a delicious challenge for you.


You’ve started pulling yourself up on your knees, using sturdy toys or laps, and you can now gracefully move from crawling to sitting. When I hear your “thump thump thump thump” stop, I glance over to make sure you haven’t found anything iffy and see you just sitting on the floor. It’s hysterical. As if you’ve found a good spot for the moment to just be before continuing your nearly nonstop movement.

When you want me is also more clear now. You usually let me know by crawling over to me and fussing. It’s pretty special to be wanted like that. Thank you.


Bedtimes have been easy overall, and I’m never sure what the night will bring. Once in a while, you sleep straight through until 6ish, but I still count on you waking for a comfort snack somewhere around 4 am. Sometimes you go back to sleep and sometimes you wake right back up again, unsettled. If it’s after 5:30, I often bring you into our bed and attempt to snuggle-nurse you back to sleep. Yesterday morning, you fell asleep right next to me, your head on my pillow/chest for maybe the first time, where you slept until 7 am. This morning, you were exhausted when I carried you in at 5:30, but you couldn’t settle into sleep. Who knows.

Tonight you barely wanted to read at all before bed. You swatted your bottle away about halfway in and tried to settle in, but just couldn’t do it. I tried the bottle again, and you passed out finishing it. These are the “reports” I always give your Papa after I close your bedroom door. I will miss these reports someday.


By the way, thank you for rolling with my not-so-graceful bed placement. Your mattress is so low in your crib now (so we’re prepared when you learn how to pull yourself up on the bars), and it’s always a clumsy transfer from my arms. But, if you’re tired enough, you simply roll over to your tummy as if to say, “Good enough, Mama. I got it from here.”

Another first tonight: you had a post-bed wake-up tonight, the first in a long time, and I saw you quickly roll up into a sitting position (in your monitor). There’s something especially sad about a baby crying in a sitting position. It looks particularly pathetic. Your monitor image is black and white, which also leant a horror film slant…Plus, you’re about 90% asleep when you wake up, as evidenced by how easily you fall back asleep again, so you were basically sleep-sitting, which is also kind of creepy (?)



7.7


You now fully understand the magic tissue box and pull those tissues like it ain’t no thang.


One of the moms at our mom and baby playgroup today encouraged me to buy wooden toys from Europe or the US as the paint on toys made elsewhere (including the esteemed Melissa & Doug brand, from which I have many toys) has lead?? Good grief. Even the Amish-type toys I’m buying you are somehow bad for you. I give up.

I want to memorize your perfect sleeping angel face when you’re passed out completely in my arms.



7.8


This morning I watched you pull yourself up to tall knees and try to balance there. Higher and higher you move…You’ve been pulling yourself onto my lap more and more, which is the sweetest thing in the world – like it’s your return to home base every so often. I’ve dreamed of such a thing for as long as I’ve wanted to be a mama. Being a home base, having my baby crawl all over me. This is the life, little bean. Or should I say: this is our life. Anyway, tonight I was playing the bongos along with some reggae tunes, and you pulled yourself up to your feet as you attempted to play them along with me! That’s the closest you’ve come to standing. It never ceases to amaze me how you “suddenly” do something like that. It’s a slow progression, a rapid succession of “clicks,” and a sudden BOOM: Check that off the milestone chart!

Mema took us to see a barn full of goats and sheep and horses! You were unsure about the whole thing, staring silently in our arms, trying to figure it all out. You looked at me when I did the animal noises, like in Moo, Baa, La La La, as if you understood the connection I was trying to make. That was our big country adventure today!

Tonight’s dinner was downright leisurely. You sat for 20 minutes, happy as a clam, scarfing down your turnip/turnip greens/avocado/quinoa mash thing like it was the most exciting thing you’d ever eaten. I still can’t get over how much you go to town on foods like that and seem overall “Meh” about breakfast foods – cereal and fruit and yogurt and even the oat bites/bars I make for you (which you’re a little more excited about because you can eat them more easily with your hands). Veggie girl all the way. I love it so much.


After you finally finished dinner, I braved a whole new world and gave you your first dissolvable puff. It felt momentous. I started with half, then ⅔, then put the entire Cheerios-sized puff on your tray and watched as you used all your focus to pincer-grasp that puff right off the tray, use your front teeth (all five!!) to nibble on it, and eat it like you’d been doing it for years. Blowing my mind.

Just now:

Papa: “I don’t know what you’re feeding this girl, but this is a crazy poop.”

Me: “Quinoa!”



7.9


You were all babble this morning! “Dodle odle oh…”, your Donald Duck throat noises, and a new one: making the “O” shape with your mouth. My cousin Carly used to do that, and it was adorable. It was her “funny face.”


You are learning how to pull up on furniture, and you are so determined. We see you struggling to pull up with all your might, frustrated and trying to maneuver when your feet and legs get in the way.


You. Love. Cords. We spend half the day redirecting you away from them. Do you love them on their own, or because you’re trying to see if you can get away with it?...Sometimes you try to trick me, I think, by trying a side route, super fast. Ha. Five stars for effort!


You are such an explorer. Pulling up the edge of the carpet, opening drawers. This is so much fun.


Bedtime routine these days is as follows:

  1. Bath every night, after dinner. You just started showing excitement about your bath! Arms flapping and excited “Huh huh huh!” as you try to wriggle out of my arms.

  2. You are a maniac after your now-nightly bath, and it takes all of my remaining daily stamina to get you into your diaper, PJs, and sleep sack. I still manage a quick “massage” with lotion (the same lotion we’ve used since birth, so note to self: buy a lotion I really like, because it lasts nine months), but you start to roll over and crawl away naked toward your toys about five seconds after I lay you down. You try to escape out of your room – often into the bathroom, which fascinates you these days – about five times before I finally manage to wrangle you into your pajamas and sleep sack. I’ve mastered the “put baby’s legs in pajama legs whilst baby crawls away” technique.

  3. We “brush” your gums and five teeth with the finger toothbrush. I try to do some semblance of brushing while you suck on it for a few seconds before losing interest.

  4. You fall asleep on me some nights, not all. Lately, it has been easier, which is always a blessing.

Tonight you fell into a deep sleep pretty quickly on my shoulder, and I savored those moments. I already feel a hint of nostalgia for what I’ll lose someday – namely, you falling asleep on my shoulder.



7.10


You are so much more interactive.


As of yesterday, you understand the game of chase. First, I chased you. Crawling, I said, “I’m gonna get you!” You started crawling away and squealing with delight. Then, I said, “Come get me!’ and crawled away. You followed, smiles galore.


I’ve been showing you how certain books have different textures – scratchy areas, soft areas...This morning was the first time you followed my lead and reached your hand out to touch the textures in a book.


We joined a Zoom baby shower today, and I shared some words, inspired by you:


  1. Keep sharing your story. (This friend had a long journey, ending with the magic of IVF. Sharing my own journey to you inspired many people I knew to share their journeys, and many of them thanked me because fertility journeys can feel so lonely and isolating.)

  2. You will feel incapable and question everything you thought you knew about yourself, but you are an incredible mother and there’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about doing the best you can, whatever that is each day, and knowing that it won’t always feel like your best. You’ll often feel at a complete and utter loss - and that’s okay.

  3. Don’t research too much. Ask women you trust and trust your instincts

  4. Get a lactation consultant. No one tells you how hard it is to nurse. Both you and your babe have to learn and figure it out together, and having support was a godsend.

Finally, I shared words that a dear friend of mine shared at my shower, which someone shared with her in early motherhood: At night, when you’re up nursing and exhausted and feel all alone, look up at the moon and know that you’re part of an incredible community of women. A sisterhood of mothers. You’re never alone.


We are never alone, my chunka munka, my beautiful pumpkin face, my daughter. We are never alone.



7.11


You are all about food these days – happier and happier at mealtimes. You’ve mastered the “thumb scoop” and “fist mash and squeeze” methods of getting food into your mouth. Five stars for creativity.


The way your right arm strokes under my arm and your left arm strokes my leg or rests on top of my hand as we read with a bottle in our chair before bed...I want to hold that feeling of complete and utter joy and serenity in my heart forever.


And that huge toothy grin! It’s getting bigger every day, and it is everything.



7.12

Once your baby starts to walk you’ll realize why cribs are designed like prisons from the early 1900s. This is clearly because toddlers are a danger to themselves. The main responsibility of a parent of a toddler is to stop them from accidentally hurting or killing themselves. They are super clumsy. If you don’t believe me, watch a two-year-old girl attempt to walk up stairs in a long dress. It looks like a Carol Burnett sketch. Also, toddler judgment is horrible. They don’t have any. Put a twelve-month-old on a bed, and they will immediately try and crawl off headfirst like a lemming on a mindless migration mission. But the toddler mission is never mindless. They have two goals: find poison and find something to destroy.
Again: Jim Gaffigan, My Dad is Fat

We can already relate to this. Last night your Papa said, “She’s an atomic bomb. It’s like she’s trying to injure herself.” You now crawl while holding an object (another mini-milestone), and you stand strong with not a whole lot of support, mostly on your tiptoes. It’s shaky, but I can’t imagine it being all that long until you stand unsupported. You’ve learned how to pull yourself up on some furniture – namely, the ottomans. I hold you standing with one hand after baths so I can use my other hand to wrap the towel around you.


This weekend was just the three of us. It was magical and exhausting, all of that QT, just the three of us. Yesterday, after our second adventure to see a barn full of goats and sheep and horses, you napped in the car, from 1:45-2:30, which meant you were awake until bedtime. We actually all watched part of a Disney movie together, because, by 4 pm, your parents were running on fumes. You were spellbound for twenty minutes straight – hilarious and frightening – until you started to get restless. Kind of wonderful, allowing yourself only 20 minutes! That was the first television you’d watched since we all started eating dinner together. You used to sit between us on the couch and watch a bit of boob tube with us while we scarfed down dinner, waiting for your witching hour that, at least for now, is no more.


I love that we eat meals together. You and I eat breakfast and lunch together, and Papa joins us for dinner. You eat a shocking amount of food sometimes. Last night I made a version of “Mama surprise” – like the “Papa surprise” your Pops makes: a one-pot wonder. Yours included pasta cut into tiny pieces, tiny pieces of green beans, smashed carrots, and black beans that I added in an attempt to congeal everything together and make it easier for you to eat. That didn’t work, so I then added some mashed yam, along with a dab of butter and various spices. Such a palate you have, m’dear! So many flavors and textures and colors! Black and green and orange and tan...Your eating habits are impressive.


Bedtimes continue to be pretty good overall, though you are not uncommonly restless. You’ve started sitting up to reach for books on the night table, reaching for a new one soon after I start the one I thought you wanted. When it clearly becomes a game, I nix it and, though you often fight a bit, we settle into songs and/or one book on repeat. Baby Cakes, a current library book, is a bit hit these days, as is Jimmy Fallon’s Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA. You like that one better than his Everything is MAMA, which I don’t take personally, because I think the animal sounds in DADA are pretty fun, too.


Last night, you fell asleep as I sang along with an instrumental version of Castle on a Cloud, changing “Cosette” to “Lulu”:


There is a lady all in white

Holds me and sings a lullaby

She’s nice to see and she’s soft to touch

She says, “Lulu, I love you very much…”


I looked down at you, my perfect angel sleeping so peacefully as I held you and rocked you to sleep. Welcome to Heaven, I thought.

Then...tonight. Tonight was honestly the most glorious bedtime we’ve ever had, you and I. You drank your bottle as I read Goodnight, Moon, then, with one ounce left, you calmly rolled to your side and tucked into me, your right arm wrapped around my waist, as you do when it’s time to settle into sleep. You were tired, but you just looked up at me and smiled. You gabbed quietly to me. I smiled at you. You giggled at me. I sang to you. And we rocked. Your eyes slowly closed more and more and, about three songs in, you peacefully fell asleep. Zero fuss. I repeat: zero fuss. A picture-perfect sleep experience.


I held you as you slept, and it felt as though I held...mountains. Ocean. Sky. Tall, ancient trees. Wind and rain and sun and snow. Purples and greens and yellows and pinks. All that has ever been. All the love there has ever been. All the joy I’ve ever felt. Right there, in my arms. In my heart. In my bones. My soul rocked to sleep right along with yours. Except that I wasn’t asleep – I was dreaming awake. I was dreaming that I was a mother, holding my precious miracle baby. A baby I’d dreamed of my entire life, before even I was born. And I was living that dream. I am living my dream.


My dream is you.



7.13


You met Lee Ann today. Lee Ann who has known me my entire life, rather like a magical fairy godmother.


I greeted her by saying, “A mini Donna Bride!” I used to call myself Donna Bride when I was around the age of four. (Donna was my favorite babysitter, and...I guess a bride sounded princess-like?)


Lee Ann responded with, “You’re a real Baby’s Mama!” I also used to call myself “Baby’s Mommy.” It’s a funny story that I’m sure you’ll hear on multiple occasions over the years. In short, yet again, it’s true: you have made my dreams come true.



7.14


Here are your stats, as of today:

  • Height: 29 inches, 92nd percentile

  • Weight: 19.7 pounds, 67th percentile

  • Head: 44 cm, 75th percentile (Papa’s very relieved about that.)

As Zia Leah put it, you’re our “tall, lean, normal-headed girl.”


Our pediatrician suggested trying one longer nap versus two...Most babes are shifting from three naps to two at this point, but you might have your own agenda. I’m willing to try anything!



7.15


You are nine months old day – ¾ of a year.


Here are a few CliffsNotes for you at this moment in time:

  1. You are full of life. Even your crawl is far from tentative or clumsy or, well, quiet: SLAP SLAP SLAP SLAP go your hands. So determined. A barrel of energy.

  2. You love mealtimes. Lee Ann said, “I’ve never seen a nine-month-old sit for so long, so content, in the high chair.” You sit for 30-45 minutes, especially during dinner. It’s remarkable.

  3. You are happy as a clam – pretty rosy in general these days.

  4. Naps are hit or miss, but ever so slowly getting easier. The exorcist is gone (at least for now, but I like to think forever…) You eventually fall asleep at night in no more than 30 minutes, and it’s often shorter.

  5. You gab pretty much nonstop these days, and I want to record every adorable sound.

  6. You’ve just started getting a little more clingy. It is the sweetest experience of my life. I’m in the kitchen, and you crawl up to me and try to pull yourself up on my legs. Or I’m pumping on the floor and you crawl into my lap and hug me. What a gift to be loved so much.

  7. You have your Papa's energy and my independence. Look out.

Well, here we are. Yet another month of letters to you, far longer than I intended or thought would come to fruition. Ah well. Need I remind you that your Mama is...verbose? Also desperate to capture as much of you as possible on paper. I could have written much more, so you're welcome.


Let me close with one more Jim Gaffigan quote:


Every night before I get my one hour of sleep, I have the same thought: "Well, that’s a wrap on another day of acting like I know what I’m doing.” I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake.

I love you to the moon and back. And perhaps I'll write a CliffsNotes version of these letters someday so that more than four people have the patience to read them.