Dear Otis (A letter to my three month old son)

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Dear Otis,

You are three months old today, my sweet boy. I can see you growing right before my eyes and we’re onto the next bin of hand-me-down clothes that looked so large once. Your belly is round, legs chubbing up the way breast-fed babies get. In light of the fact that our first six weeks were filled with frustration because come to find out, your tongue and lip ties were interfering with breast-feeding and you were slow to grow and gain, this makes your Momma very happy. I have worked determinedly to increase my milk and it’s working- we need no supplementing. Gone is the curled up fuzzy newborn you, cross eyed and flopsy. Now you are blight-blue-eyed and drooling up a storm, teething already. You smile most energetically in the early morning, and you’re a gassy guy, writhing next to me in your sleep until I lift you to burp or place you on my chest where, prone, you can work it out. I can tell already that you’re sensitive and intense. You’re also cuddly. I’m always playing music and singing, making up nonsense songs to accompany every activity. You put up with being in your swings or chairs for about twenty minutes tops. You’re batting at the toys that dangle from your activity mat. You lift your chest and head and can turn it from side to side when you’re on your tummy, and it is hard to believe that time is passing and you are changing and growing exponentially. I want to hold on to the tenderness of these early times, encapsulate it, but I know already that the overarching themes of parenthood are motion and flux, adjustment, flow, surrender. Caring for you is engulfing. As Harriet Lerner writes, “To opt for kids is to opt for chaos, complexity, turbulence and truth. Kids will make you love them in a way you never thought possible. They’ll teach you that you are capable of great compassion, and also that you are definitely not the nice, calm, competent, clear-thinking, highly evolved person you fancied yourself to be before you became a mother. Your children will call on you to grow up.”

You sleep best on top of us, so your Daddy and I take turns, though most nights lately you sleep on your side and I on mine, you nestled against your food source, warmth and thrum of heart. It’s beautiful, but still I get cranky from the broken sleep, and some mornings I glower at your cheerful Dad, up and about in the golden light of morning while I am coming off a restless night, ungratifying in its restoration. But sleep is better now that you’re nursing well and it doesn’t hurt me, so we can have more seamless sleep, and I can actually dream. They say a nursing mother and baby are a dyad, forming one biological unit, matching in dream cycles and biorhythms. With you right by my side, I feel you stirring and feed you before you cry. You nurse half asleep and then we both drift off. This is leagues better than the painful disruptive nursing we used to have and if I am a mother again, I will know how to nurse gently in the night so that everyone gets more sleep. Some mornings I would rather not get out of bed, but I do and then we get on with things, changing your diaper, opening the shades, singing our songs, going into your room where you lie on your activity mat while I pump a bit of milk to freeze for later.

I have mostly given up on putting you down to sleep. We’re taught in our culture that it is better to teach you to sleep on your own, that we must train our babies, that it is more noble to lay them down in separate beds. On the ever widening fringe, there are those parents who tried once to let you cry in an effort to teach you to self-sooth, because the books and our friends told us to try it and we were vulnerable and deeply exhausted so it sounded okay, but we swiftly changed course when it didn’t work and disturbed by it, grabbed our babies to our chests. We read more about the biology of infant sleep, the latest research revealing the futility of training. Our babies borrow our circadian rhythm through proximity and time naturally matures their brains into consolidating sleep. If no books existed out there instructing us how to scuttle our babes schedules into neat acronyms, (E.A.S.Y= eat, activity, sleep, your time) how to divide and conquer the messy days of infant life, would we ever invent such concepts? Wouldn’t we just hold and nurse and sleep with our babies close? Why wouldn’t we? Louise Erdrich in an essay about early motherhood writes, “I’m am instinctive mother, not a book-read one, and my feeling is that a baby must be weaned slowly from it’s other body–mine.” Just now I nursed you again and once you were asleep at the breast, placed you in your co-sleeper on your back like we’re instructed to do, just to try it once again, and you tensed your whole body and opened your eyes as wide as I’ve ever seen, almost in terror. So I said, ok my friend, don’t worry, and put you into the baby Bjorn where you sleep now against my chest, arms and legs heavy.

I am accustomed to measuring my days’ success in small accomplishments, ticking off my list, hoping to get as many to-dos done as possible, but now I am yours and anything else I can do is a small miracle, wedged in between nursing, holding, soothing and trying to get you to sleep. Yesterday I did laundry while you slept in the baby Bjorn, and I unloaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen while you sat in your monkey chair chewing on your soft toy caterpillar. I juiced vegetables from our CSA while your Dad carried you around for a while in the Bjorn and later when you finally slept, I ate a BLT and wrote. To keep up on journaling, I talk into the microphone on my phone while I’m walking the dog and it records as text, often badly in need of correction. But it is better than nothing and I want to remember all of the nuances of this time, hard and toiling as it is sometimes. There are so many things I want to do but I have to remind myself that they can wait. Having the perfectly tidy house and yard isn’t important and time with you while you’re this little and dependent is fleeting. There have been days I struggled with you and your relentless crying and all that has kept me sane is repeating in my head like a mantra, this is only temporary. I know that I will look back on this time, and distance will color it rosy and romantic, the way nostalgia does.
When you fuss and cry, I want so badly to meet your needs and make it stop. Sometimes I snap at whomever is holding you, demanding, give him to me now, the instinct to feed or comfort you laced with something fierce, frantic and powerful. Last night, in desperation, knowing how overstimulated you were after our friends left and seeing your glaze, I had to make a choice: carry you downstairs and put you in the monkey chair on the counter while we finished making and eating dinner where you would stay blearily awake, or place you on your tummy (because it is impossible for you to fall asleep on your back) in your side-car bed. You’re strong enough to lift up your chest and turn your head from side to side now and also scoot up by kicking your legs, but SIDS dangers are so drilled into us parents and tummy sleep is a no-no until you are able to roll over yourself, that once I place you there, I had to check on you every . But it worked, and you fell asleep in nanoseconds and stayed there until two and a half hours later I was ready to sleep, so I lifted you up and nursed you and after that you slept on your Dad’s chest for two hours. I am savoring the nights I have left where it is possible for you to be on top of my chest. You weigh eleven pounds, and six point five ounces. You are twenty two and a quarter inches long. We pat your back rhythmically and shhhh and it calms you. Your warm head right under my chin and your arm hugging me- this is what I live for now.

Love, your momma

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This entry was published on August 28, 2014 at 1:14 am. It’s filed under parenthood, three month old and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Dear Otis (A letter to my three month old son)

  1. Motherhood is an amazing path.

  2. Karin Van den Bergh on said:

    “Your children will call on you to grow up” .. so true. Love it. And you never know how deeply you could love until you become a parent. xxx

  3. Laura Reiner on said:

    How beautiful it is to see your family growing and thriving! much love, Laura

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