dear miss etta z,
i cannot believe you are four months old already. you fit in just perfectly with our little family.
i cannot imagine mornings without your full-body-face-squishing pandiculation as i un-velcro you from your swaddle. i cannot imagine greeting friends and strangers without your million watt smile and bright eyes. i cannot imagine breakfast time without the way your sister engages with you — making silly faces and voices to make you grin. i cannot imagine smaller laundry loads devoid of your drool-drenched clothes.
i cannot imagine outings without your little chubby body accompanying mine — on picnic blankets during soccer, in my lap while we sit in the river, around my waist while i wear you, or gazing back at me content while i push you in the stroller. i cannot imagine noon without getting you ready for nap time — swaddling you up just right, nursing you, and setting you down to fall asleep on your own. or bedtime, where the ritual is essentially the same except you also get some back rubs and thigh kneading and we roll your little burrito body around on the bed. this is followed by kissing you over and over again on the cheeks, which promptly gets you squealing and giggling. i do not want to imagine life without your sweet giggle.
not all mamas get this with their little ones. recently we learned of some heartbreak people we love have experienced when their babes were taken to heaven much too soon and unexpectedly. and so this month i held you even closer, inhaled your scent even deeper, and said prayers of thanks for all i’ve been given that i deserve no more than anyone else.
for you are wonderfully and awesomely made. and though you are my daughter you are not mine. you are child of our Lord’s, a daughter of the earth. and for however long you are entrusted to me –short or (i desperately pray) long– i will love you fiercely and humbly.
i love you. love, mama
as i type this it is 9:16 on tuesday evening, july 15th. your third birthday. you are on the futon eating strawberries and watching the lego movie with papa. today has been a very good day. for the record, you don’t typically stay up this late. in fact, many moms i know are flabbergasted that i put you to bed between 6:00 and 7:00. however, birthdays are so so special. at least papa and i think so. so, basically, you get to do whatever you want to do on your birthday. and, thus, today was a very good day.
before i get started on how awesome our day was, can i just tell you how freaking weird it is to have a three year old?! i can’t believe you are three already! i can still vividly remember the day i first met you (which we revisited over pancakes this morning) and since then time has flown. seriously. they (they being every parent before me) tell you that it goes by in a blink of an eye. boy, they were not lying. it’s easy to forget that when the tough stages seem so long (newborn sleepless nights, infant teething, toddler surliness) but always in hindsight those more difficult, trying bits are always just that. bits. bits out of larger chunks of speedy awesomeness. bc that’s what it feels like to be your mom. just chunks of days filled w awesomeness. then a bit of holy shit. and then back to chunks of awesomeness. thank you for being so awesome. you are three, girl! it has been so much fun getting here.
so july 15, 2014. you woke up later than usual (thank you so much) and eased yourself outta bed and onto mr. hippo [readers: he's a large pillow-shaped stuffed hippo]. you two had a chat. i made my way down bc i couldn’t wait to tell you happy birthday. it is, after all, the first year where you have been old enough to anticipate your birthday. you’ve been planning it and talking about it for at least the past two months. which is, like, eternity for an almost-three year old. i sang you happy birthday and you threw your arms around my neck. you were so excited. it was adorable.
papa made raspberry-vanilla pancakes and scrambled eggs. i made the table and the doors pretty. you couldn’t wait to blow out the candles. we spilled watermelon-pink-lemonade-coconut-water drink all over the table in our excitement to celebrate. mama forgot the candles but you didn’t forget to remind me. ugh. i love how your brain works.
after breakfast, we sat on the couch and watched you open up the presents from us. you are so cute in how you spend such good time w each present after you open it: taking a good look at it, telling us what you see, trying to figure it out before you move onto the next one. your economy of movement and focus isn’t always precise but it sure is beyond your actual years.
papa left for work so he could get back early to celebrate the late afternoon with us. so you and i settled in and played in the basement while harriet took her morning nap. when she was up, we were all ready to head out on a walk to tattered cover, which was followed by a pizza slice at anthony’s and then a walk back home.
the way home took us past the denver skate park. you floored mama by not only asking to go to the skate park before you had even seen it (or ever been there before) but also by promptly and unabashedly wheeling your bike right up to the first bowl (i don’t actually know what anything at a skate park is called bc that is one thing i have no familiarity with whatsoever) and diving right on in. fearless. dare devil. girl, you seriously are going to do some amazing things in life bc i don’t know any other three year old or thirty year old that would tackle something so foreign and unfamiliar and new to them with such courage and confidence and non-plussed, bad-assed attitude.
but i shouldn’t be surprised! you’ve always faced challenges head on. you might pull the shy card now and then but, overall, you’re up for anything, scared of nothing, eager to try new things, and also conquer them. today was no different. and it was extra special for me to watch you do this on the day of your third birthday. it just seemed so apt.
you’re silly, ramona. (see the photo above? you learned you can roll your tongue [something inherited from your papa] and find any excuse to do so.) you make me laugh. you make me beam. i am so proud to be your mama.
and more and more you and i have become a team. you seem to be catching on to how much fun we have together. we have inside jokes. we have tickle fights. we have daily “rituals” have activities we do each day that make us happy and smiley and giggly. we have ongoing stories and conversations. you tell me to “don’t be too serious” or to “smile and be happy” if i need that reminder. and i am amazed at how much you offer to me: “i love you.”
and the way you include your sister! you search for her first thing in the morning or after your nap. you work hard to make sure she’s content: pacifier, smiley faces, tickling her toes. someday she’ll join in on the inside jokes we have together and i’m so proud at what you are doing now to make her feel loved and included even though she can’t can’t quite keep up on her own yet. i’ve told you this but: you are such a kind, loving, fun big sister. thank you for making it easy on mama.
ramona. after some quiet time to recharge from our long walk, we got a special visit from lashley and koan, who popped by just to see you and say happy birthday! (kola: if you couldn’t tell she was short on sleep and long on sugar…). you seriously are so so loved by so many great people.
from that (i know. can you believe we’re not done?!) we went on to lakeside amusement park to give you a ride on the ferris wheel. this year you were finally tall enough for it and you’d been wanting to try it since last season. after we whet your whistle with that you wanted more. you went on the matterhorn and the flying dutchmen with your mama! and, then, you even begged for more. all our tickets were gone so it was time to go. but we’ll be back. seeing you “living on the edge” for your three years of life is amusing and exhilarating. you’ve got way more courage than i ever had as a little one. i am thoroughly impressed.
and that’s what brings us here. you (now asleep curled up into papa, who is also snoozing) on the futon with the lego movie going on. it’s so dear. happy third birthday, sweet minka moo. thank you for your zest, your spirit, your silliness, your listening, your new ideas, your patience, your spunk. thank you for your goofy faces and voices, your persistence, your make believe, your willfulness. thank you for being you.
i love you. love, mama.
wasn’t ramona’s party fabulous looking?! i couldn’t have done it without the help of party planner extraordinaire, nicole, from hey! party collective. she’s also my new business partner in our event space, 3126. more information on that awesomeness soon…
ramona would only be able to sleep if slung up on me or if i was next to her in bed. i thought this was adorable. this was also doable since i had no other children and nothing to do except hang out with her.
harriet seemed to know, right out of the gate, that those sleeping habits would not be as easy for me to accommodate. so she takes two power naps in her car seat or in the sling while we’re out and about in the first part of the day — never staying asleep for more than 20 minutes. but never cranky about it either.
then she takes one four-hour nap around noon. one more power nap comes sometime in the early evening. and then she goes to bed promptly and easily around 7:30 or 8:00. no fuss. no hysterics. swaddle. hat. ceiling fan. a quick nurse on each side. and then down in the co-sleeping pillow. often a little awake, falling asleep on her own. WHAT?
i never thought a baby could go to bed so easily. cross your fingers this isn’t just a phase. it blows my mind every time i put her down.
thank you sweet baby, for knowing just what your mama needed.
what are you little one’s sleeping habits? did it change much from kiddo to kiddo? what tricks worked for you?
Harriet, Miss Etta Z, H, Little One.
Welcome to the world. We’re so glad you’re here for so many reasons. You’re ours. You’re our daughter. We’ve been curious about you since we first found out we were pregnant (it was July 2013 and we were visiting friends in Nashville). And, if all goes as planned, you’re the baby of the family; you make our PowerDriver clan complete.
My pregnancy with you was hard. This owing mainly to the fact that by the time the first trimester was done (a stressful time as we thought we lost you and mama was just so so exhausted all the time) it was winter and boy was it a rough winter. We barely left the house and so –cooped up and mama tired– I gained a lot of weight and your sister was stir-crazy and our little house just felt so incredibly small. I wasn’t too good at finding ways to let off steam or get the wiggles out. We watched a whole bunch of PBS and Disney. We were grumpy, confined, mad-at-old-man-winter people.
You were due on March 21, 2014. I was pulling for March 16 because that evening had a full moon. Your sister, waiting four days past her due date, was born on a full moon.
Well, Saturday, March 15, was a weird feeling day for mama. It was the weekend before St Patty’s Day so my route to and from the restaurant was crowded with revelers. I was annoyed. I took this grumbling out on the kitchen floor, which I furiously cleaned on my hands and knees. Diri had said she would do this for me but, for whatever reason, I could not wait. After I cleaned the kitchen floor –every single square inch of that silly little kitchen– I cleaned/swept/mopped all the floors in the house. And then cleaned the bathroom. I have never in my life had so much energy and motivation to clean the way I did.
My lower back started to hurt immediately after I was done with this. I became annoyed at myself for putting so much strain on my back and my body so close to my due date. I had just gotten over a pretty bad cold and now I went and did this to myself?! Overall, all day I just felt completely off — physically, mentally, emotionally. Even now reading this I am so annoyed at myself. Though opinionated, such grumbling and being peeved is not my forte.
I tucked your sister into our bed around 8:00. After reading her a handful of books, I looked at her, choked up and teary eyed, and said –this just popped out of my mouth: “Ramona, I’ve had so much fun just the two of us.” It was, I realized shortly after, a sort of goodbye in order to say a new hello. My body sensed what was about to happen but I still did not know.
She fell asleep instantly and my contractions seemed to start the second I shut the bedroom door.
These contractions felt different than the Braxton Hicks I’d been experiencing the last couple of weeks. I started timing them –hoping but skeptical that they were the real deal– and texting a couple of friends who I’d been giving play-by-plays to throughout the pregnancy (thanks Tessa, Tara, and Erica!). Still, though, I didn’t pay too much mind because I more felt funky than anything else.
I felt off. I felt warm and flush and weak and shaky. Crap! I thought. I don’t want to get the flu so close to my due date!
Then my mama, your Nona, texted at 8:30 to say she was looking at the nearly full moon and thinking of you (see the first image on this post!). I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor.
I wasn’t even convinced I was in labor when I went to the bathroom next and there was what could only be bloody show. I had never seen it with Ramona. I knew this meant things were nearing but I understood it didn’t mean they were imminent. I called Maren, our midwife, to tell her this and that I also felt like complete crap. I think I even apologized for cleaning my house and tweaking my back. Maren told me to have some dinner and go to bed.
Ten minutes later, walking to the couch to sit down and eat some warm soup, my water broke.
I called Maren who said she would be there in a couple of hours. I called Papa who said he would come right away (can you believe he left the restaurant in the middle of Saturday night service?! He’s quite the man). And I called Nona, bursting into tears the second I heard her voice, excited and nervous.
I noticed the water coming out of me was tinged with brown, which I was pretty sure was meconium based on other birth stories I’d heard and read. I told this to Maren who said she would come immediately.
Like with your sister, my water breaking put us on a time crunch: you need to see signs of labor and have labor progress fairly quickly otherwise there are health concerns for the baby. This is especially true with the presence of meconium.
Papa came home and got busy right away setting up the birth tub, helping me tidy the house, and getting himself ready (a shower!). I walked around timing contractions and making sure the little things were in order around the house. Ramona was still fast asleep in our bed.
Soon after, Maren arrived, and we chatted and made sure whatever she needed was accessible. I had to keep walking and moving to keep the contractions going. When I rested they seemed to slow down. Papa and I walked around the block and I tried going up and down our back stairwell. I quickly realized how tiny our home was as there was nowhere to walk to! Ten steps and you reach the back door from the front!
Around 11:00 Diri and Dido picked up Miss Minka. I quickly cuddled her in bed while she slept and then picked her up to carry her to the door. I inhaled her scent realizing she wasn’t going to be my littlest girl anymore. You were!
By 12:00ish, my contractions were not messing around. I tried to get some rest but they were too strong and I was also too worried about them stalling out. Castor oil was taken sometime around this point to get things to (hopefully) speed up.
The next seven hours were long and I am not a patient person. Your sister’s labor was no longer than seven hours total so I had assumed labor with you would be shorter. It was hard for me when seven hours came and went and you still weren’t here. I knew I was going to have you and have you at home but I was frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking.
When contractions intensified, I got in the warm tub and labored there for quite a while. It felt good and, thankfully, did not slow down my contractions. I was flanked by Papa and Kimmy (my friend and doula who arrived around 2:30AM). They were helpful in reminding me to breath, make low sounds, and focus on sending my energy down. I stared at a paint splatter on our ceiling’s wood beam for hours while pressing the heels of my palms down the length of my thighs. Girl, it hurt.
I moved to the toilet when I need to poop as well as to be in a different place. I found a position that seemed to help and then started at a corner of the bathroom floor. The people around me faded away and I became my most animal self. Truly. I made noises I’ve never made before and flapped my lips and hummed and went completely into my own head space. It was tough and necessary. Wave after wave of contractions took over me.
Finally I yelled out –with a bit of unexplained anger at everyone there– that I was going to push! And push I did. And I kept contracting and pushing and knew you were so close and making your entrance soon. Papa and Maren carried me –mid-contraction– from the toilet to the tub. I gathered myself, caught up with the proper breathing, gave a few “test” pushes, and then pushed you out in one swift and final push. 7:01 AM, 10 hours after this all began.
The cord was around your neck but the midwives easily got it off. And there you were, Harriet, in my arms, covered in vernix and wailing your little lungs out. I couldn’t believe it. And yet I could.
A full moon and you were here.
And this is a feeing I had immediately: you were undeniably meant to be in our fold. And soon into that day, March 16, 2014, it felt weird to imagine life ever happened without you.
Mama and Papa were exhausted. We’d just pulled an all-nighter! We climbed into bed and stayed there the rest of the day. People brought us brunch and doughnuts and dinner and we were just completely enveloped in love and adoration. How could we not be? Look at you!
We love you, Etta Z.
I love you, always and forever.