Tiny Tabitha

12 08 2014

Two weeks ago, in a mad and unexpected temporal mudslide (a doubly apt metaphor because it was that fast and felt that much like an out-of-control disaster, and also because in retrospect, it was a bit giddy and sweet as chocolate ice-cream), we welcomed tiny baby Tabitha into our family: or at least into the open arms of her family members; she’s been with us since November, but it was only last-last Monday morning that she became a real and present presence here to hold. At some point I’ll probably get around to writing the labor-and-delivery baby story (what there was of it), but for now I feel like we’ve told it so many times that writing is redundant, and there are too many other things I want to say, while I can still remember them–that one isn’t in danger of being forgotten!

Shiny new baby, in her first day's light.

Shiny new baby, in her first day’s light.

She’s a beauty–but everybody’s baby always is. She looks, to me, a little bit like my brother as a baby, or at least I see my mom’s family in her features, in more subtle ways than how it’s easy to see Matt’s mom’s face in Evanny. She’s got long feet like my brother, and long fingers, and a bit of the Gott jowliness even when she’s not exhausted, and her hair looks like it wants to go his crazy color–it’s way, way blonder than Evanny’s ever was, but it’s redder-and-yellower than the clear/white fuzz that true blonde babies grow. And compared to her sister’s fuzz-paucity, she has so much of it! She had the grace to come early, leaving us 2 extra weeks of babyhood-with-Daddy at home, and most everyone agrees that that also means she had the grace to be so small still: they’re easier to birth that way. Considering that Tabitha at 38 weeks was almost the same size as Evanny at 41, though, Matt’s inclined to insist that we–me and the doctors alike–simply miscalculated. He said all along that she would be a July baby, and into July she blossomed. And her early arrival has been such a gift: time to get to know her brother’s voice while he’s still here most days, instead of only sporadically across the school-calendar month, time for us to spend relaxing in small moments (and letting the kids run wild laps around us and each other) with the Mumfords, whose Darcy was right on time–the babies were supposed to be a month apart, and the summer almost over by the time we had two to share, and instead Tabby cut it down to 19 days and gave us two extra weeks to spend sharing meals and baby clothes and fresh-grown kale and playtimes. Time to putter with house projects while Dad and Mammy hang out with the kids, to plan a few more summertime activities with our boy and girl: they’d each managed a swimming pool, backyard hose-and-splash-pool, playground fountain, swimming in the lake, sidewalk chalk, vast gallons of ice cream, and a blueberry picking outing already, and we’ve added art on the porches with a new hand-me-down easel and a new box of paints so far, with a few more things up our sleeves for the last weeks, if we can get the right rhythm of weather and free time to come together, so that they can remember this summer as being a summer, even if it was also the summer when their sister arrived.

It’s been a hard two weeks for me–probably to the point where I’m making more of a big deal of this than it really is for them anyway–because I’ve spent a lot of time sitting around on the couch–holding, bonding with, feeding, and resting with a newborn, which is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, emotionally, mentally, physically, for both of us, but I can see the sunny days slipping by, melting like lemon popsicles down the window-glass, and I ache to be walking laps around the pond, walking the Beaver Creek boardwalk or the Green Lakes laps, breathing in the soft conversations of leaves before they fall away. Winter’s going to be so long–again, when in some ways it feels like it only just ended–and summer, so short, is so close to gone already, that it’s heartbreaking to be missing even these little pieces of it. But we’ve been resting on the new deck, too, getting our leaf-noise in that way, and taking short walks to the playground or our friends’ house, and eating warm, juicy, fresh-picked garden-grown tomatoes until we’re almost sick on them and the vines are bare at the end of each day except for the rocky green newest fruit-buds, and glutting ourselves on blueberries, fresh and baked into pies (o, blueberry pies), so we’re not missing all of it, not by a long shot!

Breathing with the trees, outside on our new deck!

Breathing with the trees, outside on our new deck!

As for the mothering of a second little girl, so, two little girls–well, I don’t really know about mothering x2 yet, because it’s still summer, so this is still the surreal world of Daddy’s home, and Caleb’s around, and my dad and grandmother are in town, so there’s almost always someone old enough to understand whole sentences and reach most of the useful surfaces in the house to fetch us diapers, wipes, or a glass of water (or, more importantly, pick Evanny up when she falls, find the toy she’s lost, or refill her sippy cup with milk for the umpteenth time today)–but mothering AGAIN is fascinating.
It’s every bit as compelling to stare at this baby’s little face, the soft down on the sides of her head, the swirls of her soft little seashell ears, her dark, dark eyes on the rare occasions they open, the sweet bow of her delicate lips, as it was her sister, and I’m blessed by having the folks at home to give me time to do it. It’s easier to feed her–no shields yet, thanks to Evanny’s long tenure as a nurser and its lasting impact on my nipples. It’s desperately sweet to be clutched about the fingers by her tiny, tight-gripped monkey hands when she feels unbalanced or needs a little extra closeness (she likes to hold my fingers pressed against the sides of her face, still and cradled, when unnerving things like a diaper change are happening to the rest of her). It’s a constant set of contrasts and comparisons: their little faces are so much alike; Tabby’s so much calmer than how Evvy was so ferocious; Tabby has a chin-quivver, where Evvy used to trill; Tabby coos and sighs, and all we heard from her sister for her first four months was screaming; Evanny’s little nursing ear has a perfect heart-shape in it, whereas Tabby’s makes an arch like a cathedral window. I used to pet Ev’s hands and pretty face while she was nursing, early on in my pregnancy with Tab, and think about all the plump, chub-o-rama babies we know, and how intellectually I know they’re adorable too, but I was so, so taken with Evvy’s tiny, delicate bones and perfect baby starfish hands, and wonder how in the world any other baby could ever come close to her preciousness. And now she’s here, and she was every bit as tiny, with those sweet, sweet little bird-bones, and her own tiny starfish hands, and I get to be taken by it all, all over again.

Warm morning bed-baby, snug on Daddy.

Warm morning bed-baby, snug on Daddy.

In some ways, everything is easier–experience makes an immeasurable amount of difference, of course, and holy hell is Tabby an easier baby! Everybody always says that thing about how the first baby was so good, and the second one was so awful, that if the second had come first they never would have had another (both Matt’s and my mother swear this about us, in relation to Brek and Adam, for example), but, thank the heavens, that’s all backwards at our house. Evanny was difficult enough to convince sane people not to do it again, but we rolled the dice, hoping she’d bring the magic eye-in-the-storm window of calm to the maelstrom that we’ve seen other thirds do (especially when they’re daughters–Simon and Dee’s youngest, Aoife, was probably our most convincing role model), and it’s worked so far (although it does seem a bit quick, scientifically, to bet on that at 2 weeks in. Matt says Evanny’s temperament was clear from day 1, though, and is just as trusting now, so we’re going with his gut, because science is time-consuming, and even an easy newborn, in a house with a 2nd grader, a toddler, 2 cats, a dog, and two teachers whose school years are breathing down their necks, takes up too much time for that.
In other ways, once my support staff scatters, I’m sure it will all be harder, because I’ll be having to do all of the things babies need done while chasing a toddler who ALWAYS wants more chasing. Evanny is eager to help, but there’s not much she can do that’s actually helpful most of the time–she’s just too tiny still. And so far the baby-sling only works one-handed, and the stroller doesn’t, so there are bugs to work out here for certain. Last night’s “bedtime” was an hour or so of me alternating between soothing little, crying girls in different rooms, then leaving the one to wail again while I went to check back in on the other. Eventually, though, Tabby fell asleep, and Evanny settled, and then I finally had a chance to go check on poor Caleb, who’d had to put himself to bed. Luckily, he was still awake for a kiss and a little cuddle and a thorough thanking for being so, so good and helpful with his sisters! But even knowing that the doom is nigh, and fearing it, there’s a calm attached to this little person that ripples through the house; she’s a tiny glow-worm light that everybody takes turns coming to, warming their hands and faces at her little flame.

Toe-connoisseur discussing delectability (their sister is just off camera, with the other foot)

Toe-connoisseur discussing delectability (their sister is just off camera, with the other foot)

The big kids (and how absurd is it that, Evanny, still indiapers, 22 months old just a few days ago, is one of the big kids?) adore her, quibble over whose turn it is to nibble on or kiss her toes and whose turn to hold her, give her kisses before they go anywhere or head to naps or bedtime. Daddy gets the baby-naps he pined over with Evanny, who rarely napped (and never in the evenings, when he got home from work and wanted to lie still with her). I get snuggly baby time AND the ability, sometimes, to walk away from her for little bassinet naps or while she’s lounging on somebody else–gifts Ev didn’t offer, because her every conscious moment was a blaze of energized baby intensity (aka, as noted above, screaming), and unconscious only happened on my or Daddy’s body.

Tabitha is nursing–by herself, from day 1; Ev did a good enough job on my nipples, apparently, that we can forego shields and just make do with the parts we came with. Tabitha sleeps the 19 hours a day that newborns are supposed to sleep–Evanny maxed out at about 9–although Tab is still irritatingly nocturnal about it. Sunday only 2 of those 19 happened at night; the rest of the night was a circus of feedings, diaper changes, hiccups, crying-and-patting, baby-cheese, clothes-changes due to baby cheese, more feeding, more hiccups, more crying-and-patting, etc. Most of the day, she’s unconscious. Adorable as a sack of pudding can possibly be while sleeping, of course, but still sleeping, and not when we’d like her to be. My current approach to dealing with this is to poke her a lot in the daytime, to try to gradually win her over to the idea that nighttime is wonderful because it’s the only time no one pesters you while you’re sleeping. This approach is not working at all yet; she’s showing a knack like her brother’s to be immune to poking and other rousing-efforts. Tabitha’s also sleeping with us at night, when she’s sleeping at all, because she won’t stay in the bassinet in the dark and quiet of night. Leave her on the living room floor in that thing, with the kids running around like loonies and the radio blaring in the hot light of afternoon, and she’s out like a limp rag for four-hour stretches. Try turning off the light and crawling under the covers in the bedroom, however, and she’ll be up crying in three minutes; the only solution to this we’ve found so far is to tuck her into Matt’s arm or prop her on an inside pillow right beside me, so when she rolls over, she rolls her forehead into my face, and I can keep close enough tabs on her to know she’s breathing all night long.

Bright-eyed (in Darcy's already-outgrown clothes), and those getting bluer every day.

Bright-eyed (in Darcy’s already-outgrown clothes)for a few more minutes, and those eyes getting bluer, every day.

So, yeah, it’s a work in progress, because it’s life, and family, and babies, and kids, but it’s a good progress. We’ve torn apart the house since she came, trying to make more rooms out of the rooms we have, and now we have fewer surfaces to set anything down on, because all of the surfaces are piled with things we’ve un-housed and haven’t had time yet to re-home, but we put a few more bits away every day, and we snuggle the baby a lot, and we treat her sister and brother like they’re older than they are, and for the most part they’re rising to it beautifully: Caleb’s been indispensable, and Evanny is shining for us a heart of pure gold where her new wee sister is concerned. She wants to hold her, she wants to kiss her when anyone else is holding her, she’s interested in her eating and her changing (and likes to reenact the latter on her dolls and pretend to take part in the former herself), she’s excited to see her if one of them has been away from the other, and in the sweetest little tinged-with-bitter moment the other day, when Matt and I got into a fight about something completely random that I already can’t remember, and were getting all (sleep deprived? Stressed about the calendar’s march?) mad and loud at one another, Evanny’s response was to seek out her baby sister to be close to her. Do I wish we’d never fight and drive her to even want to do that? Of course. But since we’re probably going to do it at least sometimes–hopefully less and less frequently as we grow up (because who are we kidding to think that turning 40 made me a grown-up, people?)–I couldn’t ask for a better way for these siblings to respond than to turn to each other when their parents are acting like unreliable children. Even at only 1 and 0.  Tabitha, you see, she’s been a gift already, to us all.

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