Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Chloe

Dearest Chloë,

Today you are one. --Actually, today you have been one for three-and-a-bit days. But with your Grandpa Shafer visiting, and your birthday party, I haven't had much time to sit down and write this, and the days don't make such a great difference as they did a year ago. Though the weeks and months certainly do. You've changed so much even from last month, and the difference between today and a year ago today is tremendous.

You were a big baby, a healthy baby, born after a long labor into a sunset. (That's where the and-a-bit comes in. It's nighttime now, and you've just gone to bed, willingly, with your new ladybug planetarium night light.) Right after you were born, one of the nurses taking care of you came to me and said, "You are awesome!" She said it because I had just given birth to an eight-pound, three-ounce OP baby without drugs, and I laughed, but I felt awesome. I had you.

(I also had a ton of endorphins and enkephalins bouncing around my system, I'm sure.)

The first couple of weeks after your birth didn't go as well as I would have liked. You got bad jaundice, partly because we were having feeding troubles. You wouldn't latch on, or if you did you wouldn't stay on, and I hurt a lot and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I remember that my mom, your halmoni, took you away crying after a feeding session, because I was crying too. She said, "I think she's hungry." I snapped, "I know she's hungry!" and kept on crying. It didn't occur to me that we had a truly serious problem. Luckily, your dad had called the pediatrician and they had said to bring you in, so when you were eight days old they checked you over, sent us to St. Luke's (where your cousins Addie and Raegan were born) and ended up sending you to the NICU at Toledo Hospital to be put under the blue lamps to treat you for jaundice and weight loss. You spent four days there, which made your identifying bracelet with its "age: 8 days" funny when you were released. Your dad and I camped there the entire time, except when one of us went out to get something to eat or home to shower. Your grandparents came to visit, too. You lay under the lights, placidly, and slowly went from orange to pink. At your last heel-stick to check your bilirubin level you screamed, as you hadn't for your first, and I was glad to hear you sounding like a normal baby, even though I hated to hear you cry.

As far as we know, there were no lasting effects from the jaundice, but I felt terrible knowing that I had half-starved you and put you at risk for neurological damage. I still do. It triggered post-partum depression (not very serious, but enough that I had to be treated for it), which made your first few months a mostly unhappy time for me. I'm sorry I wasn't able to enjoy you very much then, though I don't think you noticed. You were still slowly recovering from the last of the jaundice, since we were nursing, which made things slower (but the pediatrician approved, so we continued). And a newborn doesn't do much but sleep and look around and eat and sleep again. I was always the one to get up with you, after the first couple of nights, because you usually wanted nursing--and I was mortally afraid of letting you be hungry, ever, after the NICU episode. This may be why you've been 50th percentile for height but 90-95th for weight for almost your entire life.

Once you were about three months old, and able to hold up your head, you became a lot more fun. You started showing hints of personality. You didn't sleep as much as I could have wished, but you get that honestly, from both of your parents. I was excited about introducing you to new foods at four months, and taking you to see my side of the family at five. At six months you were sitting up, playing with toys, babbling, and trying out a sippy cup; at seven you were thinking about crawling and discovering your feet; at eight you were starting to reach for people (mainly me) and eat some real table foods. At nine months you were crawling everywhere and starting to cruise; at ten months you were treating the world as your plaything and me as your chewtoy; at eleven months you were standing on your own, dancing, and learning to communicate--especially "up" and "down" and "WHY DID YOU TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME I HAAAAAATE YOUUUUUU." All along you've been curious, happy, sure of what you want, sure of our love, and we've loved you more every day.

And here you are at twelve months, one full year. If you were walking I'd have to call you a toddler. You're not, quite, but you're perilously close. If you've got something to hold onto--Daddy's hand or my shirt or a wall--you'll step confidently along, but we haven't yet persuaded you to try taking a step unsupported. Your Grandpa Shafer says that someday you'll just do it without realizing it. You can crawl fast, and climb stairs without a thought. You've just learned how to climb down from the couch. I don't think you've realized you can translate that skill to stairs, but it's only a matter of time.

You're eating table foods almost exclusively now. You won't accept baby food by itself, though we've spread it on toast and mixed it with pasta and you'll eat it that way. You're happy with both bottles and sippy cups, and we're still nursing, though your teeth (eight now) are in the way more and I may start actively weaning if you don't stop gnawing on me. I'm still a little afraid of letting you be hungry, which I'm in turn afraid will make me make you overweight. It's something to work on. But you're healthy and the doctor isn't worried, and you're happy to eat almost everything we give you, so I think we're doing well.

I took you outside today and you crawled around in the grass, looking with interest at the fallen twigs and the cicada molt, insects fleeing as you trampled the ground. You cried and screamed when I stopped you from crawling onto the sidewalk toward the street, and then into the neighbor's yard, and then onto the narrow bit of porch that dead-ends over the garden and that I wouldn't have been able to retrieve you from. You have such a temper. You get it from me--hot but short-lived. People keep saying you do (your grandparents, mostly, and your Aunt Bev). I hope it won't get you in the trouble mine has gotten me. I'll try to be forgiving of it.

You get a lot of your looks from me, too, but your eyes are like your father's, changeable but mostly gray-blue on the outside, golden brown on the inside. You got your first haircut the other day, just a trim of the bangs, and it makes you look older. You had a fringy mohawk in your first several months, which I loved, but I love your not-quite-a-toddler looks now, too. You are a beautiful baby.

We read with you a lot. When we nurse in your room, you generally point to the bookcase afterward, and I pull out books and read them to you--or as much as you'll let me before you turn the pages. You turn them at my request if I've by some miracle finished the page before you're ready. You respond to other commands, too--"Give me that, please," when you've picked up a bit of trash from the floor, or "Stop," or "Let go." (Most of the time.) You got a bunch of toys for your birthday, including a shape sorter, and you've already figured out that you're supposed to put the blocks through the sides, though you haven't figured out why they don't fit when you shove them haphazardly at the holes. You're fond of knocking toys together to hear the different sounds. You got a foam puzzle mat for your birthday as well, and I put part of it together on the landing because you like to crawl up and play there, and it's hardwood flooring and I thought the mat would be softer. It is, but you prefer to sit on the hard floor and tear up the mat one piece at a time. You're a funny girl. You love the "Where's Chloë?" game, and you clap your hands to your head sometimes, either to cover your eyes or to say "Oh no!" I'm never quite sure which, but I can never help laughing when you do it. You growl sometimes, for no reason we can tell. We growl back, which pleases you. I call you Chloë Bear and Baby Bear because of it, and you answer to those names (as well as all the other ones we call you, though usually when you're Whiny Butt you're in no mood to respond to any name).

You laughed at me the other day when I came downstairs. I don't know why. Your grandpa says you would pretend to cough on your strawberries, then start giggling. You don't laugh a lot in general, but that only makes it more precious when you do. You laugh sometimes when you're held upside down, or when your daddy is tossing you around, or when you reach toward me at dinner with messy hands and I jump back in mock fear. You're never worried that I'm really avoiding you; you just love the game. You cling to me, and to a lesser extent to your daddy, and while it can be a bit wearisome it's also precious, and I'll miss it when it's gone. I love your hugs and your upraised arms (though I'm trying to say "You want up?" to get you to talk, since you don't have any words yet), and your small warm hands on my leg as you're standing, looking around, secure on home base but thinking about making a run for it. I know you will before long. I'll be cheering you on, but I'll be a little sorry not to have all your affection and confidence to myself (sharing with your dad, of course).

I have loved having you as a daughter more than I thought I would, more than I feared in those first dark months, more than I hoped when I was pregnant with you and when your dad and I talked about having a child. I don't even mind the diaper changes, or I wouldn't if you didn't wiggle so much. You are your own brand-new person, my bright-eyed girl with her finger in her mouth and her mind in constant motion, fitting together the pieces of your world. I'm glad I'm one of the pieces. I'm looking forward to year two: learning to walk, learning to talk, learning about boundaries and colors and family members and probably time-outs. Helping you become more you. I want more of you. Happy birthday, baby girl. I love you.


1 comment:

Tom Pellitieri said...

What a wonderful post! Please be sure to print this and put it somewhere safe (fireproof?) for her, and you, to share in the future.