Anna is three months old, and the best way I can sum up the past month is: everything has changed, and everything has stayed the same.
Certain things are the same. Anna still prefers to be held, fights naps, and wakes up at least twice at night to eat. And just like every other month of her life, Anna had another cold. The closest thing she has to a schedule is: happy in the morning, fussy in the evening, and always needs to nurse and/or sleep when it’s time to go to the bus stop.
And so much is changing. She’s always loved to chew her hands, but now it’s a full-blown obsession. She chews them frantically, as if she’s trying to shove them in her mouth and swallow them whole to keep someone from taking them away from her. I’ve seen more finesse at a hotdog eating contest.
These days she has more happy and awake time, she started rolling, and is even flexing her hands to grab toys. One day Tom was holding her and he said, “Whoa! I haven’t heard her laugh before!” I ran into the room, furious, because I’ll tolerate a lot of things but I draw the line at passing milestones without me.
So, yeah, she laughs, too.
The kids are impatient for more more milestones. They’re ready for her to talk, and every time she does tummy time they lay on their bellies and encourage her to crawl.
“She’s doing it, Mommy! She’s getting up!”
Inwardly, I laugh, because these kids have no idea what they’re in for. They love Anna right now because she is beautiful, cuddly, and IMMOBILE. When she finds David’s Legos and crashes through Mary Virginia’s painstakingly-curated picnic, ALL BETS ARE OFF.
For now they’re just as obsessed as they were the day she arrived, and the largest portion of my day is telling the kids to stay away from Anna, get out of her face, touch her toes PLEASE. They don’t listen, no matter how emphatically I ask, redirect, or plead with them.
We’ve started a foul system with Mary Virginia. If I catch her in Anna’s space more than four times in one day, she loses Anna privileges for the rest of the day. When I told Tom about the system, he told me that you actually get five fouls in basketball. Just for that comment, Tom got his first foul.
Things are changing, but they’re incremental and hard to notice. Anna looks and acts completely different than she did three months ago; she couldn’t hold up her head and weighed almost half as much as she does now.
Our family has changed incrementally, too. At first doing anything felt overwhelming because of the unpredictability of a newborn, and there is just SO MUCH TO DO. In the past three months we’ve struggled and stammered, but we’re figuring it out. As in, once after getting David from the bus, I walked down the street while nursing Anna, pushing a double stroller, and mediating a conflict about a balloon.
There are so many hurdles every day that seem insurmountable. How am I going to get all these kids dressed in time for school? When will I find time to nurse Anna? Will dinner ever be ready? How can we possibly survive the stomach bug?
One by one we stumble over each obstacle, make it to the other side, and once we’re there we discover with delight that Anna is laughing.
There’s an intimacy between mother and child. It’s different than any other relationship I’ve known because it’s instant and strong but also confusing and hard-fought. When my babies were placed in my arms for the first time, I simultaneously felt like I’ve known them forever and also like I’m meeting them for the first time.
One day, if you have children, you’ll understand the complex and beautiful bond. Perhaps you’ll lament to me about your baby who wants to be held all the time and I’ll smile and say, “I loved holding you and never once complained about it.”
Our relationship is just beginning, and already so strong. It’s going to grow and change as you do, but its cornerstone will always be trust, belonging, and love. Eventually we’ll have a history of inside jokes, arguments, and the fact that no one can rub your back quite like Mama. But now the bondis forged by smaller things that only I know. Like how you rub your feet together when you sleep, and how you hold the collar of my shirt when you eat. It’s made in the quiet moments of the early morning, and the difficult hours of pre-bedtime fussing, bouncing, and shushing. That’s when it’s just you and me, Mother and Child. I love you so much.