Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love notes

I have been reading a book called Infant Massage recently (it's about infant massage, if you couldn't guess) because I'm hoping it will be a special way to take time out each day and bond with my daughter. Apart from getting me really excited to hold my little baby girl, one of my favorite chapters is about how bigger kids need to be touched too. The author pointed out that kids actually process praise and affectionate statements only 15% of the time when they aren't being touched as opposed to 85% of the time when they are being touched. So this morning when Isaiah woke up, I decided that as I was getting him dressed, I would try a little massage. It was a double bonus for me because not only did I get to spend a long time touching Isaiah's impossibly soft skin, I got to practice the techniques I read about. I massaged his legs, feet, tummy, chest, face, arms, hands, and back while I told him what a strong, beautiful boy he was and sang some of his favorite songs, and then I ended in a back scratch because I know he loves to have his back scratched. I felt good about it, but I didn't expect any drastic change in our relationship because of a single morning massage. After I had gotten his clothes on, though, I was carrying him downstairs for breakfast and he cupped my face in his little hands.
"I love you," he said, completely unprompted, as looked right at me with his breathtaking eyes, and then he gave me a tight hug and patted my back. Needless to say, I'm hooked on infant (and toddler) massage. Starting off this day with a reminder of how in love I am with my little boy was a frillion times better than any cup of coffee I've ever had.

The pictures this week are of Isaiah getting ready for his baby sister. He is feeding the baby doll from my grandma while they sit together in a laundry basket. He will sometimes rock the doll and sing "husha baby" and he really likes to pat her back until I make a tiny burp sound. The other picture is of Isaiah using some items he confiscated while I was organizing baby things. He loved the bib because it has a train on it, of course, and he was fascinated by the pacifier even though he couldn't remember how it worked at first. For quite a while, he tried sucking on it backwards with the handle in his mouth until I finally flipped it around for him. He walked around for a couple of hours with the pacifier in his mouth until he finally forgot about it and I discovered it later under the piano.

Michael and I took a refresher prenatal course that our hospital offered to second (or third or fourth) time parents. We did the normal overview of the stages of labor and breathing techniques, but our teacher (who was just the right amount of hippie for us) also wanted to show us some hypnobirth and waterbirth videos. The difference in the way Michael and I felt watching birth videos during our first prenatal class two-plus years ago and during this class was so vast it surprised me. When I watched similar videos before I had Isaiah, I was focused on the pain the women went through, and I didn't really view the process as beautiful. In fact, the one thing I came away knowing was that I absolutely did not want to have a mirror positioned so I could see the birth, and I shouldn't expect my baby to be cute immediately after he came out. This time, though, I watched the babies emerge with palpable excitement and anticipation, and when the parents looked at their newborns for the first time, both Michael and I teared up with them. Instead of seeing the blueish, vernix coated newborns as kind of cute, but also a little yucky, I felt a huge surge of oxytocin coursing through my veins and blossoming love for my little girl I haven't met yet. The waterbirth video was my favorite to watch because even though both the featured couples spoke Spanish, I could understand them, and hearing one mother exclaim "Mi amor, mi amor... o, pedazo de mi corazon." (My love, my love...oh, piece of my heart) brought back the overwhelming memory of the moment when I had finally birthed Isaiah and my pain was instantly forgotten as I heard myself say "Oh my baby, my baby." Michael and I both agreed that we would never have felt that way in class if we hadn't experienced it ourselves.

Thinking of how wonderful giving birth to Isaiah was, even though I had not been looking forward to it one single tiny little bit, and even though it was undeniably painful, made me think of how strange the joys of being a parent are. Michael and I discussed it as we were falling asleep last night, and he agreed completely. When Isaiah was only a few months old, I remember a single friend holding him while we chatted in a coffee shop. She told me that she absolutely loved to hold babies, but one of her favorite parts was that she knew that as soon as the baby cried or pooped, she had the freedom to pass him right back to his mom. I understood what she meant, but I remember thinking that I would gladly take back my crying pooping baby to care for him. Although taking care of Isaiah when he is "easy" is fun, there is a kind of ineffable joy in taking care of him when he really needs it. When he is scared and he clings to me, when he is hurt and his tears leak onto my shirt, when he struggles to fall asleep in his own bed for two nights in a row but Michael gets him to do it on the third night, when I wipe the p.b.j. off his face or tickle him back to happiness during a tantrum, I feel a special connection to him because I know I am needed. I feel so proud of him and of myself as I watch him grow up, and I know I am growing up with him.

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