Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dear Maia, year one

Darling Maia,

Happy first birthday! I'm really sorry you have pneumonia.

Last week you started coughing while nursing, which made me worry at first you had an allergy to codeine, since I'd just started Tylenol 3 because of a toothache. Then Friday, your birthday, it developed into a real cold, with a drippy nose and a fever. That night I noticed you were breathing fast when I put you down for bed. I'm sorry, sorry, sorry I didn't get more alarmed by it, or think to give you medication for the fever. I did tell your dad about it, who said he'd look it up. I went to bed. He woke me up at 1:45, saying, "I'm taking Maia to the ER." He'd checked your breathing and heartrate, which were both much too fast, and taken your temperature, about 102F, and the doctor had directed him to take you to the hospital. So you went. He had me hold you while he grabbed a last thing before leaving, and you were so lethargic and hot.

You got some ibuprofen and a chest x-ray there (your dad holding you, the film between his chest and yours, so that you wouldn't scream and writhe while they took it), and they diagnosed you with pneumonia. It was mild, as pneumonia goes; they didn't even give you breathing treatment, just a prescription for antibiotics and more ibuprofen and instructions to take you to the pediatrician in a couple of days. You were due for your one-year well-check anyway. Dr. Magoun was pleased with you overall (75th percentile for everything, developing just right) but found that the antibiotic wasn't working and you had an ear infection as well, so switched you to something different, and that's working better. You perked up as soon as we got the fever down, but now it stays down without the ibuprofen, which makes us all happier since you don't like having it injected down your throat. The last couple of times I've fed it to you very gradually, and that's worked better. But discontinuing it is better still.

That aside, your twelfth month and your first year have been wonderful. You're such a happy, explorative baby. I always intended not to compare you too much to your sister, and while I do it some, it really does feel like we're starting over with you. I kind of remember how Chloë was at this or that age, but mostly only by realizing how different or similar she was to you. Now you're my benchmark for three-month smiles, and six-months sitting, and seven-months crawling (sooner than your sister), and baby high-fives and kisses and trying to eat baby feet. I taught you "Kiss Mama," sometime in the last month or two, which instantly made your dad jealous, so now you also know "Kiss Daddy," and, kind of, "Kiss Chloë." Your one-year-old self is so smart. You point to the books or your new statue from Grandpa when you want them, and turn yourself around to slide down off the bed, and move off my legs when I'm getting up from the toilet, and understand things like "Arms up," and "Lie down," and "Milk?" and "No eyes!" This afternoon you and Chloë were at the window of our bedroom, and I heard you start to giggle intermittently. After a moment I peeked behind the curtain to find you tentatively poking your finger toward Chloë's eye and laughing when she was dodged. You both seemed to be enjoying the game, but I put a stop to it anyway. I love to hear your laugh, but maybe not at that potential price.

You love to laugh, much more so than your sister. Your very early months were a bit of a trial, especially the night colic. But as soon as you started emerging as a real person, with a real personality, I had a lot more fun with you--I think we all did. You like to be tickled, of course, and hung upside down, and to play peekaboo, and have raspberries blown on your belly; but you also like being jounced up and down while we make funny noises, or playing keepaway, or poking at my glasses after I've told you not to. You have a sunny smile that you bring out when I come into your room to get you after a nap, and when I come home from work at night, and when you catch sight of me unexpectedly. Sometimes it takes my breath away, my great good luck in being so beloved by you. I know, the whole giving-you-life thing gets me some brownie points, but still, I'm not always sure I deserve this.

You love your daddy too, and your sister. You're so pleased to see Chloë when I get you first and we go into her room together to get her or to wake her. You crawl all over her, and steal her drink and push her out of her own chair, because you like the things she has because they're hers. Recently you've started leaning over and kissing her hair, open-mouthed, at every opportunity, which she enjoys too. You love her hair. I keep telling you you'll have your own like that...eventually. (I think you've finally got as much now as she had at birth.) You two get along very well, all things considered, and I'm so glad. I look forward to the next year or two when you can really start to play together.

You've developed well, giving us pretty much no trouble this year other than the colic and some dramatic projectile pooping while on vacation, and maybe a bit on food. You weren't all that keen on solid foods for the first few months we introduced them, but you love them now. While you've been sick you've mainly been eating cheddar crunchies (baby Cheetos, basically), which I'm not excited about, but it's better than no food at all and you won't take baby food. Ordinarily you love bananas and oatmeal and Cheerios and apple bites and soft vegetables and pretty much everything else we'll let you try. You have been eating some cheese (you love cheese) and applesauce and, tonight, some strawberry, so that's good. So far you've been a pretty adventurous eater, and I'm hoping you'll stay that way into toddlerhood. Tuesdays when your dad goes out with his friends have always been "weird food nights," first for me and then for your sister and me, and I'm really looking forward to having girls' nights, just the three of us, eating all the good things your dad won't touch.

We're still nursing, which makes me happy, especially since we've gotten past the "mauling me" and "biting me" stages and have weathered the need for formula. When I first went back to work, you refused a bottle. I worried you would starve. We took a weekend and did bottle Boot Camp until you caved (being only nine weeks old) and started accepting the bottle. When, some seven months later, I faced the fact that I wasn't pumping enough to cover my work hours and was going crazy trying and had no frozen stash (thank you excess lipase issues) to draw from, I worried that we would buy formula and you'd refuse it and, being bigger and even stronger-willed now, starve. But you didn't. You took a half-and-half bottle without comment and didn't look back. I may have muttered, "Traitor," to myself once or twice, but I was glad, overall. Now you're on whole cow's milk, and formula to finish off that one container we bought, and a little milk I'm still pumping. But we nurse happily when I'm home. You don't have a real need for it anymore, and you never indicated that you were hungry the way Chloë did, by bouncing her mouth off my chest; you got generally irritable instead. But sometimes you'll point to my chest, or gently press your mouth to my shirt, and I get the message. I'm glad we still have this together. I'll be sorry when it goes. I could probably get you weaned onto a bottle pretty easily, but I'd rather not, not just yet. If you decide you're ready for that, I know you'll tell me. You're good at telling us what you want.

You're not quite walking, but you're so very close. Your dad, and your halmoni, have seen you take a few independent steps. I haven't. But I've seen you cruising with one hand held so lightly, and I've seen you standing for half a minute or more, bouncing a little, confident, strong. I was so sure you'd be walking before your birthday, but I guess you decided to take your time. You don't have any words yet, either, though I'm starting to wonder about those times you start to chant "Ma ma ma ma." Probably having "Mama" be your first word is too much to hope for. But you do sometimes look at me with intent when you're saying it. You've also fixed your gaze at my face and said earnestly, "Bah," and I've known you're telling me something, though I'm not sure what.

We had to cancel your party because of the pneumonia, but we still opened presents and had cake (I worked so hard on that darn thing; there HAD to be cake on your birthday). You didn't eat any, because you weren't eating anything, which made me sad--not that you didn't taste the cake I made, but that you weren't up to trying something I'm sure would have delighted you if you were well. Now that you're feeling better we'll try it again soon. You did enjoy your presents, especially the bouncy ball your sister picked out and the new chair Halmoni bought you. (Chloë loves that it folds out, and has so far used it more than you. You're still pushing her out of her chair, so I guess that's fair.) You pulled at the wrapping paper, and were intrigued by the prizes inside. You stared at the computer where we were doing a web call with family and I could see you thinking: "Moving picture. Nice faces. They're talking to me. They look familiar." You're still a baby, but you won't be for long. My wonderful girl.

You're a bright girl, a happy girl, an adventurous girl, and I'm so glad you're my daughter. I worried when I was pregnant with you that I wasn't going to love you as much as I do Chloë, no matter how other parents kept reassuring me I would. I didn't see how I could avoid having an internal competition between the two of you, and Chloë had the edge of being less care-intensive and more familiar. But it turns out that when you have a second child, she doesn't get some negotiated share of a compartment marked "parental love." She gets a new compartment all her own. You have a sister, but you still have all my love. I've had a baby before, but you are still the first you, still an amazement and a mystery and a happy surprise, even in familiar wrapping paper (someday you'll stop wearing everything your sister wore). And you get the advantage of a mama who's had a baby before, even if she doesn't apply everything she's learned (like: when the baby gets a fever, do something). I love the baby you've been and the toddler you'll be, and the family you've given us by being part of us. I love you, Miss Baby. Happy birthday.


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