Monday, July 03, 2017

dear mabel / 1 month.

Dear Mabel,

I hesitate to write to you, for two reasons.

First of all, and perhaps most important, is that I don't think I can adequately express my feelings for you—the depth and width of them. I'm not sure I've ever felt this anxious, overwhelmed, or tired before. (As soon as I wrote that, I thought, 'I've definitely felt this anxious, overwhelmed, and tired—life can be hard.) But I know for sure I've never felt this much love or this in awe of a person before. (Another disclaimer: I have felt this much love for your dad, but like my mom used to say to me, it's a different kind of love; I mean, we made you. And yes, I realize that depending on how old you are when you're reading this, you might be gagging right now.) This all sounds so cliché, but it's true. Your dad and I take turns looking at each other numerous times each day, saying, "I love her so much." And sometimes I have tears in my eyes when I say it, because Mabel, we really do love you so much.

Reason number two: I'm already looking ahead to the future, to when you have a sibling. I'm already asking myself, 'Will I have time to write letters to kiddo number two?' I don't want them to feel shafted. I'm sure they will, but I don't want them to. (If you're reading this, kiddo number two—or three, or four—you can be sure that I love you just as much, even if I didn't write you any letters, or take as many photos.)

(Another side note, to you, Mabel, and to any future kids: Your dad and I have joked but also meant it that Mabel is getting a crappy draw too because she's our first, so we're gonna make a lot of mistakes with her that we hopefully won't make with the rest of you. I mean, you should have seen us trying to get a onesie over her head for the first time. "She still has soft spots!" I wailed, almost in tears.)

Despite the reasons above, here I am, writing to you. I can't promise it will be every month, but I'm gonna try.

You're one month old! And oh man, have you grown! I knew you were growing of course, but I see you, lift you, carry you every day, so how much you were growing wasn't as obvious to me. And then we took your one month photo and compared it to your one week photo... wow.

You went from just under 5lbs (2.25kg) at birth—4.5lbs (2.035kg) really, if you count the weight loss after birth—to just under 7lbs (3.1kg) now. You're also 5.5cm taller than you were at birth. Yay, Mabel! (And yay, Mommy; I think I deserve some of the credit.)

One of the first hurdles most moms and babies have to overcome is learning how to breastfeed. And babe, we're lucky, or a good team, or both, because so far, so good. It was a struggle at first, a steep learning curve, and I can't even tell you how many people saw and touched my boobs in the hospital, but we figured it out. You eat like a champ and my nipples only hurt some of the time. We're still practicing different positions, but our current fave—the football hold—is working well for us. High five! (Again, depending on what age you are, you're probably so embarrassed right now.)

Speaking of eating, you turned into a spit-up machine around two weeks old. Your dad and I sometimes get panicky about it: "It's so much! The couch! It's so messy! Did she spit up everything I just fed her? What if she doesn't gain weight?" (Okay, so maybe it's just me who gets panicky. Your dad is calm, although he does worry about you gaining weight. When you spit up on him he just tells you, "It's okay, I love you.") From my googling, I've learned that you're what doctors call a "happy spitter." It doesn't bother you at all.

But! Speaking of your dad being calm, let the record show that he has his moments, too. He hates hearing you cry. I mean, I do, too, but it's normal; babies cry. When you cry, he gives me this look, like, 'Will you get over here now and feed her? She's crying, she needs you, she's our baby, help her!' (Also, when I was pregnant with you, he was constantly worried I was gonna squish you when I slept on my side.)

I just realized I said "speaking of" twice, so let's just continue with that. Speaking of crying, Mabel, sometimes when you're sleeping, you start crying just a little bit, and you whimper, and while I know you're okay and that it's probably just a bad dream or something, it breaks my heart. The same thing happens when you wake up from your naps. You cry because waking up is hard, or you're hungry, or you don't feel warm and cozy anymore, and it kills me. Just like I'm sure it's going to when you cry in the future, about your first skinned knee, your first breakup. But then, just like now, I'll tell you, "I'm here, baby. I'm here for you, Mabel."

The first question almost everyone asks me is, "Is she a good baby?" I don't have any other babies to compare you to, but I think you're a good baby. Aside from when you're waking up, you only cry when you have gas or are hungry and we don't get to you fast enough. (Plus, I think all babies are good babies.)

We gave you a soother for the first time when you were three weeks old. I wouldn't say you love it—you definitely prefer my boob—but it comforts you and lets me finish showering or pour a much-needed cup of coffee so it's win-win for both of us. And I know this sounds so parental, but your dad and I think you are so smart because you hold it in your mouth by yourself! Or, you try to at least. You still haven't mastered control of your arms so sometimes you end up pulling the ring instead of pushing and it pops out and then we hear your little heartbreaking cry. But Mabel, you are a problem solver. You grab the ring with one hand and then push on the side of the soother with your other hand. This doesn't always work either, but you try.

Oh! Another thing I want to remember. When you wake up, or you finish eating, you stretch. I mean, you s t r e t c h. Your arms go way up high, and then way to the side, and your head turns one way and then the other, and you make little baby dinosaur noises, just like I teased your dad about when we started dating. Your mouth even stretches! You make these facial expressions; oh man, they kill me. I wish I could capture them in words, but I'm just not that good of a writer. I'll try to explain one: Sometimes when you look at us, you form a perfect tiny O with your mouth and it's like you're saying, "Oooo" but you don't actually make any noise.

When you open your eyes wide, wow. Sometimes they look dark blue, other times, grey, and still other times, brown. We'll see. But every time we see your eyes, your dad and I say, "She's beautiful." I still don't know who you look like. Your dad says you have my double chin (sorry about that; we call it the Pottle chin; blame your grandmother). All of the Chinese staff at the hospital said you look like me. One nurse said, "Hi, little foreign lady" when she came in to check on you. But everyone who knows your dad says you look like him. I hope you do, Mabel, because your dad is good looking. (Am I embarrassing you again?)

You like to be carried in your wrap with one of us, and almost always fall asleep. Instead of laying your head against our chest the whole time though, you often throw your head back, leaving us to support it (so much for hands-free) because you like to look around. The first time we went for a walk with you in the wrap there was a breeze; you threw your head back and I swear, you loved every minute that you felt the air on your face.

A few more things I want to remember:

+ Your dad and I are slowly mastering the art of bathing you. After one "real" bath that ended with you and I in tears, we stuck to sponge bathing you, but the night before you turned one month old, we tried a real bath again and it was a success. (This was also the night that you peed on your dad. And then peed again as soon as we put you in your little bathtub. Don't worry, I made your dad refill it with new water.)

+ You don't like sleeping in your crib, but we don't have a bassinet for you, so for the last couple of weeks, you've been sleeping in your stroller by our bed. You usually have one 3-hour stretch at night, and then if we're lucky, a 2-hour stretch, followed by tiny stretches of an hour or less. The first couple of weeks, this killed me and your dad. A great team during the day, we would turn against each other at night. Ooh boy. But we quickly adjusted and Team Zhang is strong again. We put you to bed together (I'm in charge of swaddling you and he's in charge of getting the room ready). When you wake up, he changes your diaper if needed, and I feed you. He always makes sure to give my leg or arm a squeeze, says, "I appreciate you" or "You're a good mom" before he drifts off to sleep again.

+ You don't like being swaddled, but we've discovered it's the key to getting you to sleep for longer stretches of time.

+ You're still wearing newborn clothes and diapers. We have to roll up your sleeves and fold down the front part of the diaper, but you're slowly but surely growing into them.

+ You have a little dimple on your left cheek; I hope it doesn't disappear as you grow older, but if it does, know that I kissed it many times.

+ Your dad went back to work when you were two weeks old. He WeChats me a few times through the day asking, "How are you and Mabel doing?" He comes home for lunch every day and usually comes home a little bit early at the end of the day. He can't wait to hold you and always asks, "Want me to take her?" as soon as he walks through the door.

+ In the middle of our first night at home, your dad said, "I need coffee." And he went out the next day and bought a box of single servings of instant coffee. He's been drinking coffee almost every day since.

+ Your dad is the diaper changing master. He's also the master of getting you to fart. (This shouldn't embarrass you. Gassy babies are sad for everyone involved.) Mabel, I want you to know that your dad has really impressed me. Neither one of us had much experience with babies before you were born, but he really knew nothing. He still doesn't know a lot, but he knows you. He carries you around and marches with you, counting steps in Chinese, and he rocks you, and shows you what's happening outside our windows. We are lucky to have him, Mabel.

Baby girl, this letter was all over the place, kind of like my feelings this past month, and I can't promise the rest won't be either. But the point is that I don't want to forget any of these things and I want you to know how loved you are.

You are so loved.


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