September 11, 2016

Dear Aria {one year in}

Dear Aria,

You're a year old. I have celebrated the joy of your first year by crying so many tears. Apparently motherhood makes the stoic cry all the time.

I have cried because your first year is over and because it went so quickly. I have cried because I didn't savor the more difficult first-year moments that didn't go fast enough. I have cried because you make me so happy. I have cried because you're not the tiny pink newborn I cuddled peacefully the first night of your life, when I couldn't sleep a wink for staring at you.

I looked back through my photos of you from birth to now. I reminisced over every phase you went through, every subtle change in your appearance. I realized, with a feeling like relief, that I like you best exactly as you are now. If I could go back, maybe I would revisit an earlier stage for a moment or two. But I'd want to return to one-year-old Aria very soon. Because as much as I sometimes miss the squishy days, the first smiles, the gentle coos—if I went back, I would miss the person you are now even more.

I love your seriousness about books. When I'm busy in another room and you've gone curiously quiet, I can usually find you sitting on the floor near your bookshelf, a pile of board books fanned out around you as you pore over every page of one before moving on to the next. Sometimes I find you seated near my bookshelf, squinting at a page of a dusty old book in a foreign language as if you actually comprehend its sentences.

I love your enthusiasm for dogs—an affinity you did not learn or inherit from either of your parents. I love the "woof woof!" sound you make when you encounter any mammal smaller than a horse.

I love how you're lingering on the cusp of walking. You stand alone, quite proud of yourself, before plopping joyfully onto your cushily diapered bottom. You inch your way down halls by leaning gently on the wall. You can get anywhere you want to go and acquire almost anything you want to get your hands on. You hide from me sometimes, listening quietly as I rush around in a panic hoping you're okay before I spot you under a table, behind a door, crouched in a corner.

I love your insatiable curiosity about what's in the kitchen cabinets. You're learning what you're not allowed to touch; so you open the cabinet door to simply stare at the punch cups and electric griddle.

I love your willingness to dance at the first hint of a beat or hummed melody. You're so full of movement and exclamation. And yet, I love how, without fail, the rhythm of the day calls you back again and again to nurse peacefully, leaving your tummy and my heart both full. I love how you say "Dat! Dat!" when you are hungry. I'm unsure why this is your word for feeding, but I ask, "Do you want some milk?" Your eyes widen, your knees bending compulsively to push your petite frame into a series of jumps. "Dat! Dat!" you squeal again with anticipation, until I pull you close.

I love the way you look at your daddy as if his presence lights your world. Intuitively knowing when it's time for him to come home from work, you crawl to the front door and pull yourself up to watch through the window expectantly. When he appears, you bounce and giggle, waving and calling "Dada!" And I wouldn't trade the mini handprints on my front door for all the shiny Windexed glass in the world.

I loved who you were. I love who you are. I hope you've enjoyed your first year as much as I have.


March 31, 2016

Dear Aria {six months in}

Dear Aria,

Have you really been in my arms for half a year? The days and nights have sped past.

It becomes increasingly obvious to me that you are your own little person, separate from me. Most of the time you seem quite content to do your own thing, at home playing happily alone with only quick check-ins from mama. (Mama pauses to watch you in wonder far more than you are aware.) This week I left you with kind strangers [to you] in the church nursery for the first time. As I walked away from the room, you were sitting straight and tall without assistance, playing and smiling. It stung a little. I admit it was somehow satisfying when, after half an hour or so, your number appeared on the sanctuary screen, my signal that you still do want to be close to me.

Your unique personality emerges more each day. You have definite preferences for specific toys and books. You study those books with the patience of a child much older, and with the seriousness of a scholar. You lean toward and even kiss people you love. You generally prefer thinking and observing, but when you feel comfortable, you sing, babble, and squeal with the best of them. Your daddy and I often remark that your personality seems much like both of ours—more cerebral, usually biased toward being in our own heads over interacting. Before you were born, we half-jokingly prayed you’d lean toward artsy introversion. We said we wouldn’t know what to do with an athlete or a social butterfly!

But you’re still so young. Your personality and preferences will likely evolve enormously over the coming years. After all, your now-reticent mama used to perform solo song and dance routines on the empty stage of the big city mall as a child, demanding attention from passersby.

No matter what it blooms into, your developing personality is beautiful. If you like books and music and art, if you scribble away in a journal for sport and prefer the company of wildflowers to your boisterous elementary peers—I love it. If you like skateboarding or horseback riding or basketball or making everyone watch you do magic tricks—I love it. You may end up being vastly different from your daddy and me in every way we can think of. We pray that God gives us wisdom and humility to help you nurture that fascinating personality into its fullest for Him.


January 11, 2016

Dear Aria {four months in}

Dear Aria,

We've made it through a lot already, you and me. You've only been on this side of the womb for four months, but we've tackled so many challenges in that short span.

First, birth—that was quite an experience. I loved it. It was beautiful, exhilarating, intense work for both of us. After hours of your little body not moving down, you bracing yourself insistently inside with that stubborn arm raised, we made it work. You and I (and the homebirth team of our dreams) worked together, and you were born. Our first accomplishment.

Then there were those early days when I hadn't yet learned your language. You cried and cried, and I cried too because I thought I had tried everything and still couldn't help you. I just couldn't read your cues yet, little one. I'm sorry I didn't learn to interpret them sooner. But we've mostly got that figured out now, haven't we? We're like a well-oiled machine most days, or partners in a pretty dance. You communicate what you need in the best way you know how, and I usually understand before you even get to the crying part. We've got this.

After the early days there were weeks of sleepless nights. You seemed to think that day was for sleeping and night was for playing, a pattern you were clinging to from prenatal months. At first I resented the lack of sleep. A few times, at four in the morning, I had to apologize to you for my frustration. I wish I could go back to when you were that tiny and instead of resisting, smile down at you and rock you and admire your smallness. Eventually you figured out what nights and days are all about. Now when you wake briefly to nurse in my arms in the wee hours, I cherish those silent moments (most of the time).

And nursing. Sweet little one, who'd have thought there would be such a learning curve for both of us there? There were weeks when your every meal brought me to pain-provoked tears. There were stretches of time when attempting to nurse elicited hungry, frustrated cries from you as well. But we got help and pushed through. Now you're a nursing champ (hello, fifteen pounds at four months!) and I treasure the sweet excuse to steal away alone with you every few hours.

Just when we had settled into a happy nursing relationship, it became apparent something in the food itself was bringing you pain. After heartbreaking days and nights watching you cry, your little body contorting, I took most of my favorite foods off the menu. It was entirely worth it to see your happy smile and peaceful demeanor gradually return. We figured that one out, too, and it was so rewarding.

It's only been four months. Being a mother is as new to me as being a baby is to you. There will be plenty more fresh experiences and obstacles ahead. But I promise you this: all these early challenges you won't even remember have set the precedent. We'll keep meeting challenges with patience, grace, and prayer. We will figure things out together. You won't be alone, and we won't give up even when the challenges bring pain and tears. We push through, together. We have years of this ahead of us. Good thing we've gotten so much practice in four months.