To my sweet butternut squash, beebee bear, Buster Willis, bubby:
I realize your name is Owen. Chicken's name was originally Britta Jr. and Luna is most often known as Tuna, so you see how well proper names stick around in my life.
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
I love you in an obsessed way I'm not even sure how to process. I see your face in photos, and I can hear your coos. I can feel your presence. The sound of your short, hurried breaths inundates my ears. The squish of your cheeks fills my fingertips, and I can nearly smell the sweet baby smell on the top of your head. I recognize the warmth of your cheeks when I press mine against them. I experience all of this by simply looking at a photo.
And I have hundreds. Literally hundreds of photos. When you were born I began a naive journey of sorting the photos on my phone by month. I'd stay organized that way, of course. Each month of your life would be perfectly organized in folders. You were born in September. You existed outside my body for exactly two days that month. My folder -- my very organized September image folder -- collected more than 300 photos. I took more than 300 photos of you before you were three days old.
I gave up filing my photos 11 days into October.
I won't forget those first days. The early weeks. You were so small to me. Impossibly fragile. Tiny noodle legs and tiny noodle arms. But eyes so big and full of wonder and concern. Your furrowed brow of concern is already legendary. You needed me every two hours. Every two hours for weeks I was with you, nursing. I'd nurse, then I'd pump, then I'd feed you more with a bottle. The exhaustion hurt, but you were so perfect. I held you, caring for your needs, and tears would stream down my face for no reason other than being so damn tired. I don't know how many times dad walked into the room and wondered why I cried.
"I don't know," I'd think.
"I'm so tired," I'd say, and keep crying.
But I wasn't mad. I wasn't overwhelmed. Sometimes I was nervous. I'd hope I was doing the right thing or holding you the right way or feeding you enough. But the transition from Krista to mom didn't catapult me into an unknown realm of fear and anxiety.
For that, I'm proud.
Of you I'm proud.
You have entered this world so impossibly perfect. I spent nearly every waking (and sleeping) moment of the first nine weeks of your life with you. I began to learn you, to know your cries and understand your cues. You taught me how to be a mom -- your mom. I don't know what it's like to be anyone else's mom, but I know how to mother you, and I cherish it.
In nine short, fast, beautiful weeks we transformed. Your first bath was terrifying. You're so small, you're so fragile, you're so angry. Today I can bathe you with confidence and you barely let out a peep. It takes us less than ten minutes.
You don't love bath time, but you tolerate the experience. I feel the same way about showering. I took significantly less of those in the last nine weeks.
Before you were born, I imagined I'd crave a return to normalcy. That staying home with you would become overwhelming. But this week, after nine perfect weeks, I returned to work and handed you, literally, into someone else's care, and I openly sobbed for days beforehand.
I didn't know how to give you up. I didn't know how to let go of our first nine perfect weeks. I became a mother in that time. Your dad and I nestled, bewildered, into our hospital room those first two days and marveled over what we had created. A family. You. I never wanted to let those days go, so I wept.
As I buckled you into your car seat Monday morning, I sobbed into your dad's shoulder, completely unaware of how to leave the house, drop you off, and return to work. I felt devastated, like this new journey I created was being ripped away.
What if you were scared? Would you think I abandoned you? Who would soothe you or smell the warmth of your fuzzy head? Whose fingers would you grip? What would I miss each day?
I could not breathe at the thought of that loss, and I cannot explain it.
But we made it, you and I. Monday came and Monday went, and we were able to pick you up from daycare and spend our night adoring every piece of your being.
You smile now. You babble, you coo. You recognize our presence. I want to bottle every single new moment I experience with you so it's never forgotten. I scroll through photos and already feel an ache for the moments that have already passed. For the amount that you've grown.
Is this motherhood? This well of emotions and sensations and experiences I never could have imagined until the very first time we met? As new as this feels and as fresh as you are to my life, it feels like the most natural journey in the world. I'm good at you. I'm good at being your mom. When did that happen? This grand maternal ability?
You've pooped on my hands, you've peed down my shirt, you've spit up into my cleavage, you've screamed until the delicate veins in your tiny head pop, but you've never left me feeling as though this isn't exactly how my life was meant to be. I've never panicked, I've never lost my patience, I never called your grandma crying for backup (though she'd have shown up in a heartbeat).
I am good at you.
Before you were born, I felt conflicted by the idea of a baby sleeping in our bedroom. But you sleep next to our bed now and it feels like my heart is safe. Truth be told, I'll cry the day we move you to your crib.
"He's going to sleep there eventually," dad tells me.
"Of course," I reply. "When he's 10."
I joke. But only halfway.
Before you were born I imagined sleepless nights and a messy house and an insurmountable load of stress in our home. Sure, logistics are busier and there are moments I want to hide away to nap or watch endless hours of Gilmore Girls on Netflix rather than take part in the responsibilities necessary to keep our lives in order, but we're good at this. Our home is clean, our hearts are giant, and you're the best damn baby in the world.
Before you were born, I wondered what this would be like. Motherhood. How would I know how to do it?
But now I know. And I love you.