Friday, May 21, 2010

Dear Hazel: Month 1

Baba holds Cadence as she reaches out to touch Hazel minutes after her birth

Dear Hazel;

Mama & Hazel, less than an hour post-partum

Welcome to the world, my little dear! Words can never express how incredibly happy, and blessed I feel to have you in my life. I know that your Baba and your sister feel the same way...we are the luckiest family ever.

Mama & Hazel, approximately 15 hrs after birth.

You arrived just a month ago, and yet you've grown so much during that short time, it feels so hard to keep up! You're a beautiful, precocious little baby with no faults to complain about, except perhaps the sad propensity to pull your own hair and scream because you don't know your hand is your own just yet. But don't worry love, you'll figure that one out pretty quick. And we love you.

So what are some of these signs of growth? Well, let's see...aside from the fact that you not only regained, but then surpassed your birth weight by your eighth day (Born 7lbs, 2oz, you made it to 7lbs 4oz...and I'm sure you've grown well past that by now!), you've gained a modicum of skills in the brief time you've been in a position to learn them!

Your very first day you began rolling from side to side, and within a couple of days, you began to coo as well! You have the sweetest little voice, little one, it's full and light and clear, simply beautiful. I love hearing you 'talk', its just the most endearing sound ever.

By day 5, you were already tracking things...your little eyes would fix on something and follow it, whether we moved you, or if it moved - you'd follow it! You even figured out how to turn your head to follow things even further, very quickly.

The first thing that got you to turn your head in the direction of a sound was Cadence...She would lay beside you and talk to you, and you would turn to try to find her. You pretty much knew from the start that you could figure out which way to look based on where the sound was coming from, and now whenever Cadence talks to you, you look directly at her - it's totally sweet.

You seem completely enamored of your sister, though you do seem to understand that she's not like the grown ups. Cadence likes to help with your diaper changes, she climbs up on her bed beside the changing table and holds your hand, talks to you, and sometimes sings "lullaby, lullaby!" to calm you down.

Though you seem to LOVE your diaper changes. Perhaps it's more that you despise having wet or messy diapers...the slightest dampness sends you into a fit, and as soon as you feel yourself being placed on the changing table, you generally calm right down. Not if we put you down anywhere KNOW when you're getting what you want or need, and are not afraid to share than knowledge.

If Cadence isn't there during a change for some reason, you look around for her...and if you two have been playing on your baby activity gym/play mat and she leaves, you inevitably begin to cry.

Thankfully, we've learned that sitting on the big orange pilates ball and bouncing seems to be a magical cure-all for you...we've even started referring to it as The Magic Bouncing Ball.

Which brings me to another point: you established some very clear communication very quickly. Within the first few days we already knew what sound meant food, which looks meant you needed to be held and walked, and what anger meant you needed a diaper change. You have been very clear that you do NOT like getting dressed, in the least, but you seem to love getting the opportunity to use your muscles.
Your favorite thing to do is to stand up! You will cry this pitiful little cry if you're awake and in the mood to stand, but we won't let you...but as soon as we help you up, there is this look of concentrated glee on your little face! Standing is just the best thing ever in the world, as far as we can tell, especially if you can stand on my belly and look up at the tiger wall hang we have over the couch.
That is one interest you and your sister have shared from day one, both would just stare and stare at that tiger. You're my little tiger baby, Hazelnut, born in the year of the tiger, with sooo much spirit in you.

On day 7 I was laying down with you on my chest, and you crawled right up my front and off of me, over my shoulder, without any assistance from anyone. And oh how well you hold up your head! You started trying to do that on your first day, and literally each day after that you could hold it up a little higher, a little more steadily, and keep it there a little bit was a seriously tangible progression, I was amazed to watch it happen.

You must be doing all this growing in your sleep. You are a very animated sleeper! I'll often find you sleeping with what I've been calling 'thriller hands': Your elbows and hands bent, fingers spread open like the choreography from the classic Michael Jackson video. And you also have a tendency to dream with your eyes wide open. Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're awake or asleep...but then you'll hit REM and your eyes will dart all over, opening and shutting, as your face flashes from one emotion to the other.

From the get-go, you have broken out in HUUUUUUGE smiles and even giggled heartily in your sleep, and it has left me wondering if your dreams, at this stage of life, feel more real to you than reality does. It wouldn't surprise me, it's probably more familiar to you to exist within that dream state than it is to exist in this world of intensified sensation and gravity.

And then you'll wake up, and look up at us with those big, bright eyes of yours, the ones whose color refuses to be pinned down...there's the slate-grey bluish color behind what seems to be brown, but in certain lights they look downright dark green...but whatever they are, they are beautiful and totally engrossing.

And you make this little face when you're studying something hard, you purse your lips into this little "ooooooooohhhhhh" shape and get very still, letting whatever momentum you had wash over you and let you melt into relaxation. It's infectious.

One of my favorite occurrences of this has been after you've just received a kitty've received many, each cat has checked you out and claimed you. Seems you're very well loved in this house, little lady.

You've been a busy kid, for one so young! Your first outing was just a trip to meet your pediatrician, who of course said you looked perfect and healthy and wonderful.

The next trip was a bit longer, since you came with me to buy some new nursing bras, and then Nana and Cadence came to join us and we went to a bookstore, and Nana read books to you two.

Then it was off to whole foods to get some food that is safe for my diet, one which is extremely restrictive and often difficult to follow, but is also totally and completely worth it...Only time will tell if what I am doing with my own eating habits while you're breastfeeding will prevent food allergies in you, my dear, but whatever the case may be, you can rest assured that I am being militant about doing everything I can to keep you from ever dealing with them.

Anyway, that certainly hasn't been the extent of your travels. Your Baba's cousin Charles got married on the 15th, and it was there that you got to meet most of your extended family on that side. It was a big day, that also included your very first car ride (which you did not enjoy, not in the least!) and ended up, somewhat unintentionally, being your first Very Late Night Out. Not that it mattered much to you, since you could just sleep whenever and whereever, but we were all extremely impressed with how good you were during the ceremony. Even once you woke up, you didn't make a peep and just took everything in quietly...such a respectful little girl!

And of course, there was your very first trip to a park. We had the great fortune of having a photo session with a very talented photographer in Riverbank Park, and the benefits of this to us went far beyond the gorgeous shots we got...We'd never been to that park before, didn't even know it existed, but it was so peaceful and beautiful, it was a perfect place for you to first experience trees and grass, and it's right on the was a brilliant day.

Oh little nut, I cannot wait to see what this life has in store for you. I am already totally and completely in love with you to the point that I can't picture what life was like before you existed. You've always been with me, you just hadn't arrived in the flesh until just now. You are so incredibly wonderful, little girl, and I love you more than words can say.

Thank you for joining us, Hazelnut. You fill out our lives in just exactly the right way.

Love Always,


Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Cadence, Month 34

Congratulations, Cadence!

You are officially a big sister now! And oh what a wonderful big sister you are, you amazing little wonderful child. I love you sooooo much you know. Have I mentioned recently how freakin' much I love you? Because I do. You are totally super awesome and I totally and completely love you, a lot, and nothing can ever change that. And I am so super duper proud of you and glad to have you in my life.

Forgive me if my letters from here on out are less thorough, life is a bit different these days, and I don't have the same kind of blocks of time or energy as I did before. Just know that any lapse in content or quality you may find here is due to my exhaustion, and does not in any way reflect a change in how I feel about you. You are still worth celebrating 1,000 times a moment, if not more.

This has been a momentous month, hasn't it? First off, there was no baby at the start of it. But that didn't mean that there was nothing of interest taking place. Right at the start, your little mind was processing the cycle of life as best it could, and this lead to a very interesting and oft heartbreaking conversation. You started off buy asking me "when are [listed everyone in our immediate and extended families] we all going to die?" I did my best to explain, that most likely we would all die at different times. I talked about life expectancy and how older people die more often than young people, so it would probably go kitties first, then grandparents, parents, and lastly one's self, making sure to qualify that that's generally how it works, but there's no guarantee, no one really knows when they're going to die. Then, you added, quite seriously: "And some people in airplanes."
"People in airplanes?" I asked.
"Yup." You were almost casual about it.
"Why's that?"
"Because so much people die in airplanes..." You continued talking (perhaps trailing off) as you then left the room.

Five minutes later, you came back and hugged my baby belly tight. Holding the baby tight, you asked "mom, when is the little baby going to die?"
"Hopefully not for a very long time."
"So we need to, you and me and the new baby and baba and [listed everyone once again] need to all be together and stay safe."

Toche, little lady.


That wasn't your only thoughtful moment, though, by far. Another example came after a conversation about how I might cry or seem scared when I'm having the new baby (I wanted you to be prepared so it wouldn't be traumatic for you). You thought about all the videos we'd watched in preparation and then turned to me and said: "Mamas, once they have their new babies, are really happy. When you have your new baby, I think you'll be really happy too, and then I'll be really happy, too!!"

And then of course, there were some more bizarre moments, but even those demonstrated the gears turning in that brilliant mind of yours. Take this one:

Me: "What's wrong?"
You: "I can't taste the sound of my voice."

You're figuring out how this world works, one oddity at a time.

And oh how you've taken to your role as a big sister!! Even before the new baby arrived, you would ask me every morning (and towards the end, in the middle of the night, too) if you could cuddle with the baby...and then you'd wrap yourself around my stomach, sometimes talking softly, or gently kissing my belly button , or tickling it (you claimed this was how the baby could feel your kisses and tickles, as well as how the baby could hear you.) It was really quite sweet.

You wanted to be at the birth, no matter what. I asked you if we should wake you up if it happened in the middle of the night, pointing out that usually you HATE being woken up with a fiery passion. You thought about it, and we discussed it, but it came down to the fact that for this very special occasion it would be ok and you wouldn't be upset, because you'd get to see the baby being born and get to meet her! Once that was settled, you got really giddy and shouted "I'm so excited! my baba and I are gonna be there when you're having the baby and we're gonna say 'oh, the baby's so cute!'"

And you know what little lady? Not only were you there, but you were an integral part of the birth. That morning, I was sitting beside you on the couch when Lily came and began to step onto my stomach (I think the kitties knew what was up, too). You quickly and silently leaned over, and grabbed one of her front paws in each hand, and then you and Lily both kind of just sat there, in a suspended animation of not really being sure what to do next, hovering over my belly. I asked you what you were doing, and you explained that you were holding her paws so that she couldn't step on me and accidently hurt me. SO SWEET.

That evening you helped Baba to inflate the birth pool, and helped to fill it up and make sure it was the right temperature. You were absolutely doting on me, no fussing whatsoever, sweetly comforting, lots of hugs, kisses, giving me water, asking questions fetching me of the biggest moments was when you went and got the scented candles you knew I wanted, without me asking you - or anyone - for them, you just picked up on the fact that I wanted them and got them for me...which involved going to the opposite end of the house and climbing up to reach them on the top of my dresser. You ran to give them to me with the biggest smile on your face...I'll never forget that simple act of kindness and camraderie, little lovebug.

And of course you were there for the big moment, safely clinging to Baba's back, a HUGE smile on your face and a look of total pride as you first laid eyes on your new baby sister. And the first time you touched her, your eyes lit up like lanterns...I am SO glad you got to be there for that, Cadie helped so much, and I am so so so happy that it was a good experience for you.

You took to your new role got to hold her, and you helped Cara (our awesome midwife, someone you repeatedly declare as your friend) weigh her that night. And a few days later, your Nainai had come to visit, and she was doing some cranial-sacral work on me, to help me recover from the birth when Hazel woke up and began to cry. Nainai wanted to finish what she was doing before letting me get up to tend to her (she was with Baba, so she was fine, just waiting for her milk) but she relented after you climbed up behind her and gently said: "Excuse me, nainai, but mama's little one is crying, so you can't do that right now because mama needs to hold her baby."

At our one week follow up with Cara, Hazel had to get her PKU test done, which involves a heel stick to collect a blood sample. Cara's method for doing this involved warming hazel's heel for at least 45 minutes with a moist heat, which is far gentler than what would have happened in a hospital...but that didn't prevent you from getting sad and very angry at Cara "because my little sister got hurt."

And of course there has been some understandable jealousy, but I have to say I am extremely proud of how you have been handling it. You seem to hold it against Baba and I, and not the baby, which is incredibly grown up of you. We try, of course, to give you ample cuddle and play time, but I'm sure it's just going to take some time.

And I'm sure there will always bee some sort of sibling rivalry, but there is also SO MUCH love. You can't go 15 minutes without declaring your love for Hazel, hugging her, kissing her, holding her, playing with her, and of course telling absolutely everyone you encounter, whether they know already or not, that we just had a new baby the other day! And it's a girl baby so her name is Hazel! and she's sooo adorable and cute!!

You've been having so much fun having Nana here, too. You two have been walkin' Charlie together, and you come back with all sorts of adventurous stories, and sometimes goodies like your new pocket dress! You play all day with her, and have even started calling me Nana accidentally...I'm afraid you're going to miss her terrible when she goes. We'll just have to convince her to stay!

There was another conversation that took place this month which totally floored everyone who heard about it. I can't do it justice, I'm afraid, since I wasn't there for it and only heard second-hand, but the gist of it is this: My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before I discovered that I was pregnant with you. She had a mastectomy, and subsequently, a reconstruction...most of her trials took place before you were born, and what she has dealt with during your lifetime happened while you were too little to know what was up or remember, so it came as a bit of a surprise to you when, while you two were bathing one day, you noticed that something was different. Mom told me you started off the conversation by saying "My mama has two nipples, but you only have one...why do you only have one?" She explained, and you two had a long talk about it, and evidently you eventually concluded that her nipple had been sick, and said "oh, that's not good!" and in the end, you seemed very glad that Nana only had one nipple, because it meant she didn't have to be sick anymore. There was evidently quite a bit more to it, but I'm afraid you'll have to ask Nana about it for more details. Suffice it to say, as always, you are an extremely thoughtful and sweet little lady.

Oh, and before I sign off, I also should mention that you bought Hazel a gift before she was born: an extremely carefully chosen stuffed possum, because you have a toy possum yourself and you wanted to give her something that could be a pair with yours. You spent hours looking for just the right thing and came away with that, and my goodness how PROUD you were of it! You presented it to her within hours of her birth, proudly, excitedly...she's too young to have stuffed toys just yet, but it sits in the changing table on the pack-n'-play, watching over her, protecting her as she sleeps.

Gaaaaaah, Cadence! Words will never do you justice. I just love you soo grandly much, and I'm tickled to pieces to get to be your mama even as you grow up and up and up. You're still my buddy, baby, and I am so grateful to have you.

And, know what? You're the best big sister ever.

Love Always,