The first month is a blur of sleep deprivation and wonder at bright eyes and itty bitty everything. This baby girl? She’s so beautiful.
Mary Virginia has spent her first month finding her thumb and holding her head up remarkably high for her age. She performs both skills as well as most two-month olds, so I think that places her squarely in the “advanced” column.
She hasn’t smiled yet, probably because she’s already mastered the only facial expression she needs; this girl was born with a scowl and hasn’t stopped furrowing her eyebrows since. I mention her scowl so much because I love it…and not in a “mother’s love” sort of way, it’s much more selfish than that. I love it because I was born scowling. If you have babies in your family, you know that the highest compliment is saying that the baby looks or acts like you. Well this baby girl got her sour expression from her mama, and I couldn’t be more proud.
Now that it’s been a whole month since I’ve had more than three hours of sleep, I’m so tired I’m starting to have trouble with subject-verb agreement. It’s actually fine, though, because the only person I have conversations with is a toddler. And when that toddler finds a pretzel on the floor and makes me talk on it like a phone I have to pause a moment and wonder, is this really happening or am I that tired?
People often ask me how Mary Virginia is sleeping. She’s a month old, she’s sleeping just like a one-month old. She wakes up no less than every three hours, and she’s up for almost an hour to eat, burp, and get a new diaper. On REALLY GREAT nights she goes right back to sleep. On bad nights she’s up for two hours while Tom and I beg, plead and bargain with her to just please, please close her eyes. There is nothing more terrifying than looking into a bassinet at 3 a.m. and seeing a fed, burped, freshly diapered baby looking back at you with big, blinking eyes.
Since my baby is always scowling, she looks back at us like, “What fool thought it was a good idea to put me down?”
And then we laugh at her because how can you look at that scowl and not laugh?
One of my favorite things about the newborn stage is this: you cannot spoil a newborn. Once my doctor told me that, every mama instinct in my body stood up and cheered. My instincts agree, this time should be spent holding my baby, nursing my baby, and shopping for ponies with diamond-studded hooves for her Super Sweet 16 birthday party.
For three months, we don’t have to worry about schedules or sleep training or ruining her chances of getting into college her by holding her too much. We just bask in the overindulgence of snuggling and eating hot fudge sundaes for breakfast. So that’s what we’re doing. David has me on a tight regimen of helping him find tractors and re-connecting his train tracks, but when I’m not doing that, I’m holding my sweet, scowling baby girl and kissing her fuzzy head.
Having a second child is a completely different experience than having a first child. There are so many things we know how to do and expect this time. We weren’t blindsided by the effects of sleep deprivation, or the time commitment and lifestyle changes that come with breastfeeding a newborn. But there are also times when Tom and I look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say, “Do you know what to do? I don’t know what to do.”
Even though it hasn’t been long since David was a newborn, there’s plenty we don’t remember. Or maybe, just maybe, Mary Virginia is a different child than David.
For example, David wasn’t bothered by dirty diapers and Mary Virginia is. As a newborn David fell asleep in the car; Mary doesn’t. He slept through barking dogs, wild cheering Virginia Tech fans, and smoke alarms. Mary Virginia is sensitive to noise and light and if I’m holding her, she can’t fall asleep even if I’m just talking. Maybe the biggest surprise is that, though boys have the reputation for it, David never peed on us during diaper changes. Never. Meanwhile, our darling daughter always pees on us.
Looking through that list, David seems like the perfect newborn. He wasn’t, but even if he had been the world’s easiest newborn, he was way harder than Mary Virginia. Because, at the time, having a newborn was the scariest and hardest thing I’d ever done.
This time, it’s still hard and grueling, but it’s not quite so scary. The sharp edges of my anxiety are dulled, and I’m my breath doesn’t quicken any time my baby isn’t directly in my line of sight. In fact, everything is easier this time. Nursing is easier, changing diapers is easier, giving baths, swaddling, recovering from labor, even dealing with sleep deprivation; it’s all easier.
Since I’m not so unsure and scared, I have time to appreciate how precious, how fleeting this time is. The newborn stage is long, my goodness is it long, but it’s also so so short. Realizing that, knowing that it will be over soon, is helping me soak in this time with my daughter and appreciate the tiny toes, soft skin, the way she snuggles under my chin, and what an overwhelming blessing she is.
Dear Mary Virginia,
You’re one month old! You’re getting bigger and your cheeks are getting chubby. Sorry to break it to you, but taking care of a newborn often feels like nonstop damage control. At this stage, it’s easy to reduce you to a set of problems — sleep and laundry and dirty diapers and spit-up. Every morning, I give Tom a report of how little you slept and we shake our heads at your little scowl and say, “shame on you, sweet sleepless Mary.”
But you’re so much more than The Reason I’m So Tired. This is maybe my favorite thing about being a parent: when I look at you, all I can see is the future, what you will be and how you’ll change. We’ve just gotten on this ride, and my heart is beating with excitement and anticipation, and oh my goodness the love.
So let’s go — wherever this ride takes us, your daddy and I will always hold your hand when you need it, and let go whenever you can convince us to. But no matter what, we’ll be on the sidelines cheering you on. Always, because we love you more than you’ll ever know.