Month five — Henry

Dear Henry,

Yesterday you turned five months old. This letter may incoherent be a bit. We need to talk about sleep. During the day, you are nearly angelic, napping at regular intervals and falling asleep with little fuss. You usually sleep well during the first half of the night, and then something happens about 3 or 4 a.m. Your eyes pop open, owl-like, and you break out your good-morning smile. You are the earliest bird. If you should ever doubt your dad’s devotion to you, just know that he is the one who shepherded you through these early hours.

Dad to the rescue

Part of this sleep problem stems from your new mobility. You have been slow to use your arms, but your legs have become downright dangerous. You thrust and kick into my body, and after nap time, I often find you rolled onto your tummy and rotated 180 degrees from where I set you. You perform even more of these gymnastics at night and then scream in frustration when your feet become tangled in your swaddling blanket. And then I groan at you — a lot. It’s my polite form of reprimand.

Rolling away

When I complained to some other parents about your sleeplessness, they told me that I deserved it. Imagine! You are usually that most magical of creatures, the “easy baby.” This makes other parents jealous. You charm strangers with your smile and lay patiently while I play with your sister. You are easy to love.

Daytime Henry

But, Henry, someone needs to tell you about your leaky faucet. You have a river of drool running from your mouth onto your hands, which are always in your mouth, and then down your arms and over your clothes. Have you noticed? People ask whether you are teething, and I don’t know what to say. Nope, not teething, I just like to spray him down with the hose before taking him in public.

Drool

I will remember this as the month that you opened up to the world. You have become intensely curious. You gaze at toys that are out of reach and keep close watch over the food on my plate at dinner. This is one of my favorite parts of motherhood, watching you discover the world. Philosophers and scholars have long debated whether humans are essentially good or evil. Having seen how friendly, gentle, and curious you and your sister are, I know that you both are good. I hope I can teach you how to thrive in this world with that goodness intact.

Bluebonnets 2014

Love,
Mom

The middle child

I clung to a lot of milestones after losing Genevieve. When we picked up her urn from the funeral home, I would feel better, I thought. I did not. When we passed her official due date, I would feel better. Not so much. When we turned the calendar over to 2012, I would feel better. I did, at least a bit. When we passed her first birthday, I would feel better. I did, though not completely.

I thought that each of these steps would bring a monumental shift in my emotions, that I might eventually be cured of my sadness. With time, I learned that the passing of a day might bring small relief or fresh hope, but I would never be cured. Still, I really looked forward to the final step on the journey, the one that I had scrawled into my journal when I was still buried in grief: bring home a healthy baby.

I was euphoric after Henry’s birth, and I am still in awe that we got him out alive. As time passes though, I’m returning to a more normal level of happiness. I still miss Genevieve, and it’s more difficult now to figure out how to carry that sadness. Her death is bookended by two happy births. I almost feel guilty for missing her. Isn’t this the part where I’m supposed to be happy every day for the rest of my life? I don’t know why I care what other people think, but I worry that others will think that Henry’s birth somehow erases what came before.

I have a necklace with a charm for each of the kids, and when I was out shopping, a woman complimented me on it. “Wow, three kids,” she said. She sounded surprised that I had the time to get out and buy makeup. If only I were that busy.

I remember that after having Genevieve, I told Greg I wanted to have four babies, five babies, as many babies as I could have. Surely that would make me feel better. I know now that it wouldn’t. And I don’t want to be cured anyway. I will always wish that Genevieve were here, but I’m done wishing away the sadness. The missing is how I keep her with me.

The kids together

Month four — Henry

Dear Henry,

Today you turned four months old. You are finally awake and paying attention, and still, I’m not sure who you are. When I watch your sister now, I feel as though I’ve always understood her dramatic personality. Really, it’s only in retrospect that I can see how that baby grew to be Eleanor. Someday I’m sure I will understand your baby self much better too, but by then you’ll be in preschool.

Who

One thing I do know about you is that you love to watch your sister. Your eyes track her as she builds Legos, plays house, and eats cupcakes. As she spun through a ballet performance a few days ago, you laughed at her. She laughed back, and I cried as I watched you two share that moment. I know that siblings often grow up to be as different as January and July. I hope that whatever happens, you two will always find a way to laugh together.

Fun

Those toys that your sister has thrust into your face since you were a day old are finally starting to fascinate you. You were particularly enthralled with a ladybug we had hanging above your Pack ‘n’ Play. You goo-ed and gah-ed as you grabbed its legs and tried to stuff them into your drooling mouth. Then it happened. Her stitching broke. Your enthusiastic tugs killed the ladybug. You’ve found many other toys to gnaw on, but none seem to satisfy you quite as much.

Ladybug

We’ve snuggled and babied you more than the average baby, but we’re finally trying to get you moving. You’ve had a lot of tummy time lately, but aside from some push-offs with your feet, you’ve shown little interest in going. To be honest, your bulk might be slowing you. You have luscious cheeks and beautiful rolls along your alabaster arms and legs. You’re pushing 16 pounds, so you are going to need some serious muscle to get chugging.

Grit?

Henry, a year ago, your dad and I were in a desperate place. We had been trying for more than a year to have a baby, and I was losing myself in the process. I didn’t want to work. Or exercise. Or plan for the future. I only wanted to have a baby. And one year ago today, I got the beginning of my wish. I don’t think I could possibly tell you how much you are wanted and loved. I will spend my life trying to anyway.

Loved

Love,
Mom

P.S. You do have a dad…

photo_20140223_4101_r800