Friday, September 30, 2011

Twelve Months

The big day has come and gone. My sweet girl turned one year old last Wednesday, on September 21st! We had her birthday party, in the theme of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, at our house the Saturday before. It was a great day of celebration and we were surrounded by many of Lily's biggest fans. We had 12 adults and 6 children (including the birthday girl) and it was really just right for a first birthday party. It was very special to have our parents and siblings here, and we were only missing my husband's brother, his wife, and their son, who couldn't travel because they're getting ready to have our brand new little niece any day now!

Even though it was a relatively small party, we worked very hard the week leading up to it to get everything ready. The night before the party felt a lot like the night before Christmas. We put Lily to bed and tiptoed around the house setting up decorations and putting out presents, and when it was all done my husband and I looked at each other and had one of those "can you believe we're doing this" kind of moments.

Early the next morning we put out balloons and picked up her cake (which turned out so cute -- the bakery copied it perfectly from a photo I found on the Internet years ago) while welcoming our first party guests.

The day went so well and I think Lily really enjoyed herself. I wasn't sure how she might react to it all, but she couldn't have done better! She was happy and excited and in a sweet mood despite all of the activity around her. She got several new toys and lots of new books and clothes.

Every morning since the party she seems so excited to play with her new things. All year we'd been trying not to fill up the house with an excessive amount of toys, so I think she was really ready for and excited to have some new ones. And as far as eating cake goes, our girl acted like an old pro! You'd never have known it was her first time to try it. She loved it!

On top of all of that, my mom stayed the entire week with us and was able to be here to love on Lily for her actual birthday as well. We had a great time together.

Now, since this is probably the last detailed month-by-month update I'll post, here's what life looks like for Lily at age one:

Eating: The big news this month is that Lily has made the switch to cow's milk. We began gradually introducing it about 2 weeks ago and she likes it a lot, but she won't take it cold. I run her sippy cup under warm water and then she gulps it right down. We've said goodbye to formula for good and I haven't nursed her for over a week. The transition has gone more smoothly than I even imagined and I think that's because it was the right time. I'm beyond grateful that the "right time" for both of us coincided with my overall goal to try to breastfeed for the entire first year. I hope you can read my sincerity in those words because I truly mean it. I know quite a few precious moms who would have loved nothing more than to have been able to breastfeed their babies, and I know that it just doesn't always happen that way despite every possible effort. So I don't take that privilege lightly by any means.

Breastfeeding was one of the more challenging things I've ever done. In the beginning it was pretty close to hell on earth for me but we made it through some rough patches until it was WAY better, and I'm feeling overwhelmingly thankful and satisfied that we did it. I'm not at all ashamed to say that even though overall it was a great experience which I wouldn't trade for anything, I'm happy and relieved that it's done.

Sleeping: Nothing much new to report on sleep schedules. Lily's still napping twice a day, around 10 AM and 2 PM for about an hour each, and she goes to bed around 8:30 PM. It seems that our night-time pattern changes frequently, though, as any new thing works to disrupt her sleep. Last week was a stellar week as far as sleep went and we all felt happy and rested for about 6 days in a row... but we're back to waking up 2 or 3 times a night now and I think it's because Lily is cutting her top two front teeth. That's just my guess, but I'm sure it could be any number of other things! At any rate, she wakes up for the day around 7 AM (and this week it's been more like 6 AM) no matter how rough the night was. I don't know how she does it but you could truly set your clock by her!

Milestones: We still have a little "scooter" and I don't think she'll ever crawl in the traditional way on all fours. She gets around in her unique way very well, so I guess she sees no need to change it! She's cruising all around the furniture but hasn't taken any steps independently yet.

Like I mentioned above, Lily is cutting 2 new teeth and will soon have a total of 4. It's so funny to me when I see other children her age (or younger) with a mouth full of teeth!

Lily learned a new word about 2 weeks before her birthday. She started saying "Dada" and that's pretty much all we heard from then on. I like to joke that she finally learned the name of her very favorite person. That girl is still all about her daddy! "Dada" makes the fourth word in her sweet little vocabulary (along with uh-oh, Mama, and hi).

This month has been a big month for learning new things. Lily surprises me almost daily with things that I didn't know she knew. When I ask her if I can kiss her toes, she picks up her foot and puts it to my mouth. The other day I asked her where her hair was and she patted her head, and we did the same little game with her ear. I had no idea she could do that! I know it's not rocket science, but it's fun to watch her grow in her comprehension and other skills. This week we've been working on eating with a spoon -- what a mess! :)

Speaking of growing, at her one-year checkup today Lily weighed 21 pounds and was 30 inches long. She has gotten quite tall in the past couple of weeks and a few people have been commenting on it when we're out and about.

I know this has been a rather long post, but thanks for indulging me tonight and this entire year as I've written about Lily's growth and development. It's been quite a departure from my regular blogging but, frankly, it's been a welcome change for me. I've done a lot of healing this year, and we continue to be humbled and absolutely in awe of the fact that we have a child to raise, love, and hold here on earth. Thank you for celebrating her with us, dear friends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Girl

In the days and weeks just after I had the baby last year, I found that there were lots of things I wanted to write about that never got written. Even with the extra help (my mom stayed for three weeks) I just couldn't pull myself together enough to sit for an hour and do it. Sure, it had a lot to do with the sweet, hungry baby who now lived under my roof, but mostly it was because of the way I felt. My c-section recovery was difficult and I really didn't feel remotely normal for probably the full six weeks. Because of all of that and all of the doctor's visits and running around I had to do when all I wanted was be home with my newborn, blogging was one thing I couldn't seem to get done in the rare, quieter moments.

It's still a struggle even though I think about at least once a day. It's hard to take the time to sit still and write out what's on my mind in any form that's longer than a facebook status (and, trust me, I'm not one of those who "puts it all out there" on facebook). And so today since my daughter, who prefers to be held and rocked for her entire nap time -- which I don't mind, by the way -- is actually napping in her bed, I want to share one of the stories that almost got lost in those early postpartum days last September.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a little figurine that I have, a keepsake from my childhood that my mother bought for me. It's a sweet porcelain girl in a yellow dress with January, my birth month, written across the front of the skirt. I'm not one of those people who has every toy she ever played with as a child or boxes and boxes full of fond memories from my childhood. There are just a few things I've managed to save, and January Girl is one that I truly treasure. I'm sure she wasn't very expensive, but we didn't have much when I was a child. Feeling nostalgic, since I first wrote about her I've been searching the Internet for the eleven others in the same line of Lefton china figurines. I can usually find them for around $15, and that's 30 years or so after they were made.

In the past two years I've collected nine in addition to the one I've had for as long as I can remember. They're not super easy to find, so it's been fun to search for them every few months when the thought crosses my mind and try to snatch one up when I see it on an eBay auction. This isn't something I'm proficient in, by the way. I'm not a big collector of things in general. I usually have my husband do my bidding (literally) since he's the one with the eBay and PayPal accounts in the first place. To date I lack only February and March and then my sentimental little collection will be complete.

Now, back to the story...

Almost a year ago I went in for my scheduled c-section early on the morning of September 21st. If you're reading this you probably know my story. We'd been praying for and hoping for the baby we were about to meet for nearly nine years. Seeing her face for the first time in that ice-cold operating room at 12:27 PM was a dream come true, my longing fulfilled.

Later that evening when we were finally alone, just the three of us, and still feeling swept up in the emotions of the day, my husband gave me a precious card and a small box. I couldn't imagine how he'd had the presence of mind to get me a gift in the midst of all of our preparations for the baby, but I wasn't really surprised. It's completely in his character to do such a thing. I opened the package and inside was the sweet little September Girl figurine, with a yellow dress just like my January Girl. He had searched and searched for her and paid more than three times what I normally pay after finding himself in a bidding war with another prospective buyer. He did it because this one, the September one, was important to me and he knew it was. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts he has ever given me.

I know that ultimately it's just a knickknack, but I love that he knew it would be special to have our daughter's birth month. And somehow he knew that sharing that simple childhood memory with her meant something to me. Lily will grow up seeing the same figurine on her dresser that was always on mine, and it's those kinds of things that work together to gradually fill the hole that recurrent miscarriage left in my heart during all those years of waiting, wondering, and loss.

I love seeing our matching January and September girls together at last. Each year as summer turns to fall, she'll have a place of honor in our home as we celebrate the birth of our real-live September girl.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Letter to My Daughter

Dear Lily,

In two short weeks you will be one year old! It has been the most wonderful, challenging, beautiful, and chaotic year of my life. Sometimes I still can't believe that you are real, that you are here, and that you are ours.

There are so many things I want to tell you and teach you. I pray that we'll have a lifetime to try to cover it all, but for now I want you to know how special you are. Your daddy and I waited a long time for you. One day, when you're a little bit older, I'll explain to you how you weren't the first baby that God created inside Mommy's womb. There were six other precious ones who, just like you, were fearfully and wonderfully made and were so loved and wanted in our family. For reasons I won't understand here on earth, those babies -- your brothers and sisters -- went to heaven before we could meet them. That makes us sad, but we trust the One who made us and loves us and understands it all. And we know that one day there will be such a sweet reunion when we're all together again.

Lily, God made you in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. Even though Mommy and Daddy got married in 1998, you weren't supposed to be born until 2010. Despite everything that happened before and despite our odds, you lived longer than 6 weeks and 9 weeks and 12 weeks. You lived and grew inside for 39 weeks before you were born all pink and chubby and healthy. Now you've grown from 8 pounds to 20 pounds and it's going by so fast that we can hardly keep up.

A few times in my life I've seen a beautiful wildflower growing and thriving in some crazy place where it shouldn't have made it, like in a tiny crack in the middle of some concrete. That's what I think about when I imagine how God allowed you to grow in my tummy. Sometimes He does things that seem impossible to us and leave us totally in awe of His power and goodness. I'm reminded of that when I look at you.

I wish I could tell you that, because of all of that, we are going to be perfect parents who never get tired or frustrated. Even though we had to wait so long for you and even though we love you beyond words, we're going to make mistakes and we're going to fail sometimes. You'll have to be patient with us because we're still new at this and we still have so much to learn! We are aware, though, that you are a very special little girl and for some reason God chose us to be your parents. We plan to keep trying to do the best job that we can, and most of all, to pray for you and remind you every day with our words and our actions how much we love you and are grateful for you.

You didn't come to us by accident or mistake! You are here as a result of many years of praying, pleading, crying, hoping, trusting, and believing (and yes, sometimes doubting). Daddy and I will always, always give God the glory for giving us you, our little miracle girl. He is so much bigger than our plans, our doubts and fears, our worries, and our hurts. I hope you'll always remember that, and always take the small things and the big things to Him -- knowing that He's got it all in His hands.

I know that we can't protect you from life's disappointments forever. All we can do is pray that God will use the difficult times and the trials that I know will come to teach you and help you to grow in your faith in Him, just like He has for us. It's easy to trust Him and find joy when times are good, but it's a whole different thing to do that when they're tough, and I know that's something you'll have to learn on your own. We have lots of stories to tell about the lessons we've learned while waiting for you.

It has been a remarkable year! As much as we adored you the very first time that we saw you, our love has increased substantially as we have watched you grow, learn, and change. I can't imagine how our hearts could hold any more love in them, but I know that somehow, with each passing year, they will.

I love you with all of my heart, Lily Rae!


You and me: together at last! 9/21/10