Saturday, March 30, 2013

Two Months

If you can't believe that Annika Mae is two months already, well, neither can I.

I absolutely adore the newborn phase of life--the tiny fingernails, the wrinkly hands and feet, the curled limbs, even that distinctive wail--a cry so surprisingly vibrant. And oh, that newborn smell. I could drink it up--and do. Every day is an excuse for a thousand kisses.

Hard as it is to admit, Annie Mae isn't exactly a newborn anymore. That wrinkled, puffy, androgynous newborn face has morphed into a sweet little baby face that resembles an infant more than an old man. Her hands and feet have fewer creases. Her cry is more focused, and that newborn smell is generally masked behind the traces of milk left over from the last meal.

I'd like to believe that if I gaze long enough, I'll be able to remember every detail--etch her permanently into my memory. I yearn to preserve Annie as a newborn, especially since she may be the last infant I call my own. Yet experience has taught me that memories are fleeting. As much as we want to hold on, we still forget. Life is ever-changing, with each day morphing seamlessly into the next. I can remember my child today, and yesterday too, for she was almost the same as today. Yet add enough yesterdays, and the vision becomes blurry.

And so today, I want to freeze time and describe Annika Mae in this very moment, as a two month-old on the cusp between newborn and babe.

At first glance, Annie Mae makes quite an impression with her shocking mop of hair. Everyone comments on it, leaving me to wonder what people to say to parents of newborns that look more generic. I ought to confess that we occasionally accentuate her wild hair by blowing it dry, making it stand straight up in a dance between the cowlicks and mohawks. Lest ye fear I'm cruel to subject her to the blow dryer for the sake of my own amusement, let me assure you that Annie genuinely likes it. Between the white noise and the warm air, she invariably calms down and enjoys the spa.

Annika's other great love in life is the bath tub. Her whole body relaxes when submersed in water. A couple nights ago found me at a loss as to how to calm my howling Annie. She was warm, fed, dry, and ever so furious. I finally gave up on the dry part and brought her into the bathtub with me. The very second her feet touched the water, she calmed down. It was such a lovely experience, snuggling skin to skin in the warm water. While pregnant with Annika, I craved baths like nothing else. By the end of my pregnancy, I was occasionally taking baths two times a day. (Just check out our utility bill if you don't believe me...) It seems only appropriate that Annie should love the water as much as I do. I spent so much time in the bath pondering our unborn daughter; I loved gazing into her eyes from the very same place.

For one so small, Annika is surprisingly strong. She holds her head up well for extended periods of time before she grows tired and finally lets it flop (often startling herself in the process.) Two days ago I was talking to Jason on Skype when Eli needed some help in the bathroom. I put Annie down on the carpet on her stomach, and when I came back thirty seconds later, she'd somehow rolled onto her back. While I'm sure it was accidental, I still can't believe she rolled. That night I dreamed she was already crawling. Not surprising, for when I finally woke up, I discovered that she was pumping her legs and kicking me like crazy.

It's really hard to unveil a child's personality when she's so small. As much as I love the newborn stage, I occasionally wish she'd hurry and grow up so we can chat and get to know each other. I'm hesitant to make too many predictions, for fear that these expectations will color reality. If you believe your child to be ill-tempered, there's a pretty good chance that she will be. Even so, if I had to guess about Annika from the little I know thus far, I would describe her as perceptive and observant. Beneath those dark blue eyes, not quite as crossed as they once were, she seems to be constantly learning, absorbing everything around her.

She's also intense, with definite preferences. She goes from extremely sweet to howling bloody murder in two seconds flat. Well, maybe only one second. Seriously. Try dressing her. You'd think we were torturing the child. Other dislikes: having anything put in her mouth (like a binky), getting out of the bath, and being put down.

As you might imagine, Annika's distaste for being put down is a bit problematic, especially as the fourth child to a Mom who's winging it on her own. Luckily, Brooklyn enjoys holding Annie Mae, plus we've borrowed a swing that she tolerates. There are moments when I'm in the middle of something else and Annika simply has to wait, just like everyone else. To tell the truth, however, I don't always mind her fussing wailing to be picked up. I'm often glad for an excuse to cradle her in my arms and plant a few more kisses.

As a solution, Annika spends a lot of time snuggled close to me in a sling. She seems comforted by the confinement, rhythmic movement, and close heartbeat--not surprising when you consider her environment over the past nine months. I do more baby-wearing with Annika than the others since we've swapped the infant car seat carrier for a rear facing car seat that attaches to the car frame directly. I've always found the car seat carriers to be awkward to heft, not to mention extremely heavy. So when Annie and I shop or walk, she stays close to me in the sling, leaving the shopping cart or stroller free for Eli. The sling is also very handy for keeping your baby covered and close when going out into public places during flu season. People are much less likely to touch your baby's hands and face when she is bundled right next to your chest. (Even so, many still couldn't resist stroking Annie's fuzzy hair sticking out of the sling--can't really blame 'em, I suppose.)

I'm breastfeeding Annie Mae, just like I did with the others. Judging by the chubby cheeks and weight gain (10 pounds exactly on the family scale), she seems to be doing just fine. Nursing her, however, has been a bit different than with her siblings, given her aversion to having things stuck in her mouth. Annie nurses like a champ when she's truly hungry (although she doesn't like being covered.) Try to nurse her for comfort when she's mad, however, and her face is likely to change from red to purple with anger. When she's not really hungry, she'll either pucker her mouth or lick instead of suck, as if to limit the intake of milk. And then, when I let down, she chokes, coughs, sputters, and turns away, leaving us both a soaked, milky mess. And so, even though Annika doesn't really like her pacifier (she often grimaces like it's the worst thing she's ever tasted), we've been working hard to teach her to take one anyway. She needs a mechanism to help soothe herself, and unlike Mama, a binky doesn't suddenly shoot copious quantities of unwanted milk.

What else? Annika's first smiled at five weeks. She doesn't smile often, but it lights up her entire face when she does. Mornings are her happy time, so you're most likely to catch a smile then, especially if you're Aunt Brianna. Annie coos occasionally, and naps swaddled in her cradle. She prefers being jiggled on her side or tummy to being rocked upright. She's a talented belcher, but doesn't spit up a whole lot. As for those mustard-colored baby poops, she seems to be on an every other day schedule. It's tough for any diaper to contain that much, but hey, the memory of Eli's diapers are far too pungent for me to complain.

Evenings are Annika's fussy time, meaning that most nights I simply give up on trying to get anything done and enjoy holding her instead. I discovered that she will let me crochet while snuggled on my lap, so I've finished an entire baby blanket dubbed "Downton Abbey." I credit my mother for both teaching me how to crochet and getting me hooked on the series. And as for nighttime, Annie Mae sleeps with me. With Jason gone, I don't even make any pretense about trying to put her down on her own. Not only is it much easier for me to feed her, but it's less lonely. Since I can't sleep on my hubby's arm, it helps to have our baby sleeping on mine. We miss you, Daddy!

To commemorate Annie's two month birthday, we finally took some hand and feet prints. (The "home hospital" somehow failed on this point.) Needless to say, she needed a bath afterwards.

Here's before:


And all clean.

While Annie howled like crazy at being printed, the bath brought out her smiles. Speaking of which, I think a hot shower is calling me...


Jason said...

Pure poetry, Karita...

Being separated from our little ones by time and distance is perhaps one of the most challenging things I've yet to endure (which just goes to show what a cushy life I lead). The missed daily interactions, both social and physical, account for a large piece of the longing I feel; however, there is also the nagging realization that I am missing out on bits and pieces of B, T, E, and A's development and maturing that I'll never be able to reclaim.

Particularly so with Annie.

Thank you, Kara, for taking the precious time to capture this brief moment of Annie's life in such vibrant detail. Despite the distance, somehow tonight home feels close at hand.

Susie said...

Beautiful commentary, Kara. Thank you for your insights and for being such a wonderful mother! I can't believe how much Annie has changed over the past two weeks!