Dear Anand, I meant…

Dear Anand,

I meant to write you this letter when you turned one month old, on Saturday, but I was too tired. Sorry, kiddo, but I suspect that will be the normal state of affairs around here for quite a while. Even though you are, as babies go, an astonishingly easy baby, and even though we have a tremendous amount of childcare here for you and your sister, we're still barely coping. Infants are just hard. It's the whole 'wake up three hours after you fall asleep because the baby is hungry, then spend two hours trying to get him to eat and then settle down to sleep, which he only does for three hours before he wakes you up again, rinse and repeat' thing.

But aside from having a stomach the size of a pea, which is really not your fault, you have been a very good baby. You cry when you're hungry or uncomfortable, and that's about it. Oh, or if you want to be held. You like snuggling. So there's a fairly predictable routine to run through if you start crying -- feed you, check diaper, bounce you for gassiness, walk you around, snuggle. One of those will pretty much always fix the problem, and most of the time, we can even fix it with just food + snuggle. Which is pretty sweet.

I meant to write out your whole birth story, but it was very similar to your sister's, so perhaps you can just reference hers. The only big difference is that my water broke in the early morning, and after I dragged Kevin and Kavi out of bed, and we got me to the hospital and Kavi to Jarmila's house, your dad and I sat around for a few hours waiting for labor to commence. Which it didn't. No contractions, no dilation, no effacement, nothing. So after four or so hours of that, they came in and said that since I'd had a previous c-section, they didn't think it was safe to try to induce, and that after the water breaks, there's a much increased risk of infection, so they generally want the mom to have the baby within twenty-four hours. But you showed no inclination to actually come out. Hence, another c-section, which was a bit disappointing, but which was also in many ways a relief. I knew what to expect, and it was very much like the first time around (which a bit less shockiness and a bit more sleepiness and no vomiting, hooray), and at the end of it, there you were, loud and happy. Apgars of 8 and 9 and you peed on the doctor on your way out, I hear. Well done.

At the hospital, a little later on, one of the nurses said that you had the softest baby skin she'd ever encountered. I can't compare as much as she can, and I can't remember how soft Kavi was as a newborn, but your skin is certainly incredibly soft. This second time around, I've taken a lot more time to just snuggle you, with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible, which is supposed to 'promote bonding' which I think is just a fancy way of saying that babies feel insanely good against your skin. I didn't understand with Kavi what people saw in babies -- they just seemed like a miserable amount of work and worry, and the first six months with her were a brutal gauntlet we were just trying to survive. But with you, I've been finding some of the pleasure, some of the joy. Which mostly comes down to you being soft and warm and fragile.

Although you're already much less fragile than you were. You're making excellent progress on holding your head up by yourself (not quite there yet, but so improved!), and you've put on weight awfully well. The doctor was impressed at your one month visit, so good job! I'm not as afraid of breaking you as I was, and I have to give at least some credit to how good you are at eating. You, like your sister, spurn my left breast, but at least you, unlike her, have very little trouble latching on (hard) to the right one. Admittedly, there are times when I'm feeling chewed to pieces when I'm grateful to have the option of pumping and giving someone else a bottle to feed you (and I'm still pumping the left to try to maintain some milk supply there too, mostly in case you ever get strong enough to deal with that inverted nipple and latch directly), but mostly, breastfeeding is just so much nicer than pumping.

(Little boy, when you read this in ten or twenty years, you may be embarrassed to read your mother talking about you breastfeeding. I don't know if you will be, but if you are, deal with it. That's just life, I'm afraid, and I'm quite sure, given my history, that it will be far from the first time you've been embarrassed by your mother. So it goes.)

The first few days of nursing were horrible, as expected -- lots of difficult getting a comfortable position for both of us (why did I not remember to bring a boppy to the hospital?), especially with the c-section making it very difficult to move around much. And then, once we'd gotten that part down, a few days of yelping pain every time you latched on, and with every suck (those sucks were more like bites, let's be honest). If it had kept on like that, I don't think I could have kept doing it. But, as people kept telling me, about a week in, it got much, much better.

Thank god I had people telling me to give it a week, because I'm pretty sure I would have given up otherwise. And then I would have missed out on how good it can feel, having you latch on and suck, and how sweet it is, when you fall asleep at the breast. When you're stressed out or unhappy or sick (you have a cold today, all sniffly), it's nice to have the option of giving you the breast to suck on. It's wonderful to be able to be that comfort for you, even if, at the same time, there are times when I resent being a milk cow. Times when I'd really rather be up and accomplishing things. Between moving in here and starting to renovate there, not to mention teaching and e-mail and phone calls and the like, there are so very many things to do. My to-do list is long, and I am still tripping over boxes.

I try to remind myself that nursing you also counts as accomplishing something, even if I can't check it off a list. And that since we're not planning on another child, this will likely be the last chance I have to experience this, and that perhaps it would be best to try to relax and enjoy it. When I stare into your eyes, you stare back. In a few weeks, you'll learn to smile. There's a transient beauty to these moments, a grace, that I am trying to remember to savor.

Most days, I do okay at remembering to enjoy you. It's so much easier, this second time around. And if you are a good baby, I suspect it is in large part because I am a much more relaxed mother. Not nearly as terrified as I was with baby Kavya that we would, through our ineptitude, do lasting grievous harm. Though I do still periodically check to make sure you're still breathing, just in case. I trust that we are decent parents, and that Jarmila is a wonderful nanny, and that you will be surrounded by care and love for many years to come. I'm sure that isn't all there is to make a good parent, but it's most of the job, I think. Paying attention, being there, loving you and letting you know you're loved.

That much, I think we can do.

Although, boy, it's definitely harder now that there are two of you!

love,
Mama

P.S. Dear Kavi, I know I owe you bazillion letters. You've been so good and patient, letting us take care of baby Anand's needs first, entertaining yourself and mostly not getting into too much trouble while we're distracted. Be patient just a little longer, angel-girl. Mama really needs a little nap...

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5 thoughts on “Dear Anand, I meant…

  1. Oh Mary Anne, what a sweet letter. I’m so happy it’s easier for you the second time around. But I must confess you scare the hell out of me, talking about how exhausting it is with an infant. I’m due in 6 weeks and my husband is deployed and I have no family, no nanny, just my best friend who will be here for a few weeks, then it’s all me, all the time for nearly 6 months. I have no idea how I’m going to do it. I just keep reminding myself that it won’t last forever…

    Enjoy those precious, happy moments… and please keep writing about them! 🙂

  2. Oof, Kristina. That sounds hard. Okay, here’s what I would do, if I were in your situation:

    – prep as many meals as I can now, of things I like to eat. So for me, that’s be making big batches of curry and dividing them into smaller portions for freezing. My friend Nilofer also made herself rice and froze that in small portions. Plus, stock up on ready-made food, both in the pantry and freezer. And beverages — to make milk, you need to keep drinking, and even if you love water, it’s nice to have a change. Eat takeout if you can afford it. Have fruit in the house.

    – be sure you have a good supply of newborn clothes, because babies will go through 3-6 outfits a day, easily, what with the somehow managing to pee through their diapers and poop up their backs. The only things that fit Anand right now are Carter’s NB size — all the 0-3 clothes he has, and he has a ton, are too big. So we’re doing laundry almost every day, because after two days, he’s out of clothes! With more clothes, we could do the laundry less often, which would be a help. For fall, I’d recommend long-sleeved sleepers or gowns, and I’d get at least a dozen of them. Luckily, Carter’s is cheap!

    – other than that, I’d just try not to do anything else. Your goal is to keep you and the baby fed and as rested as possible. Clean is a bonus. The first week or two it might sleep a lot, so use that time to sleep and recover from the birth. Give yourself permission to watch a lot of tv and just rest, snuggling the baby as much as you like.

    – oh, and if you end up with a screamer, once he’s fed and clean and wrapped up, it’s okay to walk away to another floor and let him scream a little if he wants to. It won’t hurt him, and you need to maintain your sanity too.

    🙂

  3. Oh, two more things. It should get a lot easier after six weeks or so; most babies start sleeping more at night around then, and are sleeping through the night by three months. Kavi didn’t, but she was an outlier. 🙂

    And I’d highly recommend a sling. The Moby or Sleepy Wrap are good for newborns, and while they’re a bit confusing the first time you put them on, you learn how to use them quickly. And after you get them down, they’re invaluable for letting you keep baby happy while you walk around the house and get things done.

  4. Thanks so much for the suggestions, Mary Anne. I’m trying to be super-organized right now. I’ve started freezing meals and stocking the pantry with necessities.

    I have a sling-type carrier and the Moby Wrap is on my registry. I’ve been going back over your posts after Kavi was born and making notes about your recommendations. That is one of the things I love about your blog– you give practical advice about what works and what doesn’t.

    Thank you!

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