Dear Felix (aka “Bebix” or Miles’s chosen moniker: “Feces”),
I always struggle feeling saddled with the blog imperative to write out milestone posts (“today you are 3 months old, and here is litany of your accomplishments!”), or compose a virtual birthday letter to a child who cannot speak, let alone read.
Although, I wouldn’t put it past you to operate our dishwasher…while we are pretty convinced Miles will assume a profession as one of the Village People (that is, if the token Indian could just turn into a hair dresser), I wouldn’t put it past you to go into appliance repair and moonlight as a clandestine minor league baseball player, not admitting to your MLB-phobic mother how you secure your extra pocket cash.
But here I am…doing the same thing I did for Miles when he turned 1. Maybe it’s because I feel guilty we aren’t throwing you a huge 1st birthday party. Maybe it’s because we only purchased you 1 gift—a toy fire truck that there isn’t a question in my mind Miles will commandeer the second it is opened, even while he readily admits that it is “Feces fire truck” when asked. (He’s already taken it out of the pantry and tried to play with it in the packaging.)
It’s not that I don’t want to put in the effort; it’s that I fear this will turn into some claptrap document that in no way intimates how much love I have for you, or that I can honestly sum up an entire year’s worth of living. Thankfully, I have a whole year’s worth of posts for you to reflect back on--it’s just a matter of me turning this into a real live document/book for you some day.
Let’s get real. You’re first year of your life was...awesome. And I use that word not in the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure way (by the time you read this, that movie will be analyzed in your college “’80s movie classics” seminar), but in the “the universe is awesome” kind of way. Overwhelming. Miraculous. I look back at the events and am even a little slack jawed that we got to where we are without too many casualties.
And way to set the tone by flying out of the birth canal in 10 minutes. No really. It was like God’s grand plan to make my pregnancies worth it—limited labor and drug-free, fast deliveries. Granted, you did some damage to the terrain on the way out and had a busted eye to prove it, but thank you sweet baby “Bebix” for your birthing moxie. (Seriously, both my boys made it such that I never had the opportunity stew over epidurals, even though as you were both on the way out, I think I demanded a heroin injection right after I screamed something about not wanting to poop during delivery, and if the head doesn’t come out completely, we are pushing it back in and I’ll scalpel my own abdomen.)
What’s both fun and unnerving about having more than one child is that you quickly realize that you are not the expert you knighted yourself as after your first baby crested the 2 year mark. Heck, there are times I feel feckless, scared, and contemplate, “did I really do this before?” While everyone says “don’t compare your children,” the reality is that you do pit one against the other, merely as a point of comparison…and soon I realized so much of your life has been “Miles never [gave love bites that left bruises] [crawled that early] [obsessed about toilet seats and dishwashers] [threw himself against any soft surface and laughed] [intentionally scaled any collapsible item in the house] [nursed a wet wash cloth as vigorously as his mother].” Translation: you are such a dynamic and individual child with your own set of preferences, skills, and very distinct personality traits that makes this parenting thing even more fun…and at times, I won’t lie, nauseatingly trying. Case in point: changing a diaper. While the equipment is very familiar having another boy, you are THE HARDEST BABY to change. I don’t know where you get your flexibility or MacGyver troubleshooting skills to release you from any diaper hold I put on you, but so often diaper changes are peppered with 3 minute intermissions of me chasing around and wrestling a crawling, screeching, naked bottom around the house. (Note: that’s also a self admission that I do not change Felix on a changing table/bureau any longer. I decided early on that his naked twist and retreat maneuver is far easier to battle when he’s on the floor or a bed rather than a piece of furniture from which he can swan dive off of.)
I will never forget the gorgeous “tan” you had early in life, which landed us at Children’s Hospital a grand total of 4 times in 1 month to get your heel prick bilirubin test. And there was the urging of the on-call pediatricians to give you formula, but I trusted my gut (and kellymom.com) and kept breastfeeding. It was a defining “Mommy moment” when you just know what you are doing is okay-when your gut trumps $100,000 in medical school debt and a pediatric board certification.
And what about that bout of colic? Let’s skip that song, shall we?
And then the moment that changed the trajectory of our year, and as each month has passed, spread a thick layer of anxiety on my soul to where the end of 2010 had me stripped of my strength and confidence as a good friend, wife, and mother…my prayer for you is that you will never remember your Dad’s battle with cancer. It wasn’t the longest or most trying of all cancer battles (and please God let it be over), but it all exploded right when you were born. Instead of spending my maternity leave focused on getting acquainted with you, my energy shifted almost completely to getting Dad help. I don’t regret it because it is what needed to be done--I would do anything for your Dad--but I carry with me sadness that I cannot really emotionally access the first few weeks/months of your life. And in truth, I’m angry. And I am only now starting the process of grieving the bonding time we missed—grieving your being cared by an emotionally distracted and fractured mother who is only now putting in motion the work necessary to deal with all that our family endured. What’s left to say but I’m sorry. Luckily, we had a community of loving arms in family and friends who made sure you were cared for when I wasn’t there--the same legions of people who rallied around us during my complicated pregnancy with you!
But let’s settle the score in one area during those first few months: I certainly was there each night when you got up 11 zillion times. Yes, I counted. 11 zillion. And the one promise I made to myself was that as distracted as I was with Dad’s battle, I would not give up on breastfeeding or pumping—as long as you didn’t give up on me. I can now add pumping in the garage at Emory while Eric was getting his neck and tongue sliced and spliced as one of my “fun” places to pump—right up there with the back of my father-in-law’s minivan during a house hunting trip while Miles was still in the NICU. As aggravating as pumping in a poorly lit, dirty parking garage was, it allowed me to feel like I was still sacrificing for you and caring for you the best way I could. And here we are—at one year, still exclusively breast milk fed and pumping. (Although, we did just test you with a new cocktail of breast milk and organic whole milk, and you took it like a champ!)
In fairness, the breastfeeding wasn’t always easy: repeated clogged ducts, and there was that 2 day strike you gave me after you bit so hard that I suffocated you with my breast and scared you from nursing (and hopefully from underage hanky panky). Oh, the guilt. I thought I scarred you with my breast—how do you explain that when you get older?
Mommy guilt is pervasive…and at your 4 month appointment, when I felt like things were going swimmingly (well, beside that sleep thing…11 zillion, remember?) I walked out of the office with a baby who had a double ear infection, diagnosis for torticollis and a referral to physical therapy for a year. Ouch. I cried the whole way bringing you back to childcare. I had never dealt with an ear infection! Weren’t you supposed to be pulling on your ears or screaming bloody murder all day? I had no idea! And a double one to boot. If anything, it is a testament to your lovable personality more than it is to my negligence or idiocy. At least that’s how I rationalize it. You were the happiest ear infected baby during the day. And at night, sleeping always stunk, so I had no idea it could be a result of an ear infection. And the torticollis, that is just a testament to my mini uterus that likes to take, say, Miles’s foot and your head, and just jam them against the placenta or something, long enough to warrant a year’s worth of PT. At least you can rock the Kinesio tape; don’t baseball players use that?
And you gave me my foray into antibiotic administration to the young. We tried them all with zero success—except for the penicillin derivative that gave you an attractive facial rash. We finally made the decision to get you some ear tubes. Watching you go under anesthesia was like a scene from Schindler’s List. Okay, I know that sounds like inappropriate histrionics, but it really was heart wrenching. A gas mask, a screaming baby I am being told to hold down. But then when you got wheeled back into the recovery area, you were lying on your back, looking as peaceful as ever. (It was a novelty to see you sleeping on your back because, well, Mommy committed the sin of all sins and put you on your tummy to sleep pretty early on.) While multiple other ear tube babies were breathing off the anesthesia and waking up in hysterics, you just woke up 10 minutes later while getting your blood pressure taken, looked at me, and smiled. The nurse told us to get a lottery ticket on the way out as we were one of the few lucky ones with a baby who wakes up in a state of delight. You did puke Pedialyte on Dad in the elevator on the way home, though.
Felix, you are an utter joy. You have a kinetic personality that drives the ladies crazy. You already idolize your brother, but even sweeter, he is starting to idolize you. It’s not true that when your subsequent children pass milestones it doesn’t resonate as brightly as it does with your first child. The day you first crawled plastered a week long smile on my face. The first time you used the sign for “more” had me looking up age restrictions on Harvard applications. Your taking 4 steps into the arms of your Mahna this week had me weeping on the way to work when I played the image back in my head. I love it all…I love each new stage and each new accomplishment.
Your eyes are endless pools of wonderment and possibility—every picture we have of you, I find myself drawn to your eyes. There are so many nights I get lost in them when you nurse (and you perform rhinoplasty on me, or do a thorough dental cleaning). And there is something special about seeing myself in your face like I have never felt before. It’s hard to explain, but I sometimes feel like I am getting to know myself as a baby as I look at you often and say, “you look just like me as a baby.” You are my first baby with rolls I had to clean, and also the first to leave visible sucking and bite marks on my body when you get really happy and excited (or when you are teething). The way your face lights up when you see me makes every minute of anxiety and stress in life worth it. I have in my head this delightful sound track of all of the interesting babblings you make—not decipherable at this point, but expressive. You have a belly laugh, that combined with your head tilt and a round of applause that you seem to give every ten minutes, douses our house in excitement an enchantment. You have a wonky eyebrow, crinkly right ear, and a mess of crooked teeth that make you even more imperfectly perfect. The best way to describe you is delicious, chewable…divine. (Many mothers will recognize I’m not going cannibal, it’s just how you describe your connection to a “yummy” baby.) As much will power as it takes me to still get out of bed every night anywhere between 2am-4am when you moan out for my "breastaurant," someday I will miss the moment each night I know your mind is undressed and safely back to whatever dream world you came from…your warm cheeks against my chest, hands both tucked between your belly and mine…and I carry you quietly back to your crib, whisper “I love you” in your right crinkly ear, and make another imprint on my heart.
Happy Birthday my love,