My Daughter Turned A Year Old Today

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And just like that, a year is over.

Babies manifest the passage of time in a dynamic way. One day they’re tiny, the next day they’re not, and suddenly they’re not even babies anymore.

On this day last year, my mom was quite literally feeding me a chicken leg in between contractions that were three minutes apart, before we met my midwife at the hospital. She insisted I needed the protein for the final few hours of labor. She was right. That chicken saved me, and Matty, who she also fed.

People say, congratulations for making it to a year, but I don’t think we deserve much credit for anything. Eva, as those of you who know her, just crushes it at life. Her fearless approach to every new encounter delights and inspires us, but perhaps her greatest gift over the last year is allowing us to maintain our freedom. Being well-rested and of good cheer, Eva let us proceed normally with adult pursuits. She has reliably gone to bed every night around 6:30pm since she was six weeks old, so Momma can get out to her happy hours and dinners as before. She also knows never to wake up before 7am, because her parents need sleep to function. And she travels with us to cities around the globe — she’s logged 22,295 miles on planes, and who knows how many on trains, boats and automobiles.

A hopeless nostalgic, I take photos and keep journals and blogs because it makes me sorta sad that *this moment* will never be, again. Our memory cards are exploding with images and videos and data from the last year. I’ve used an app to log every hour Eva’s slept, every minute she’s nursed and every diaper since her first week of life. It’s proven so helpful for understanding her natural routines so we can just go with her flow, and in packing, since we know how much stuff she consumes or uses over the course of the day. But a year seems like a nice stopping point for the relentless tracking.

Incidentally, the Washington Post just ran a story this weekend about how digitally saving every memory could actually be confusing us. If we save everything, how do we know what’s worth remembering? I think our hearts and brains figure that out. I was talking with my mom on the phone this morning and she recalled how, when I was one, I figured out how to turn my body around to go down steps legs and butt first. And how my hands kept grabbing at her collarbone when I was lost in a nursing haze. Little memories, tiny things, my momma can remember like they were just mere moments ago. She reminded me that that’s something transformatively powerful about your momma-baby relationship. It’s living and growing and changing, but also imprinted in your heart and mind forever.

The Lactation Station (And Other Nursing Adventures)

This is how Eva and I spend a lot of our time together.
This is how Eva and I spend a lot of our time together.

Someday when I am old, I will look back on these days of new mommahood, when at least four times during the workday I find myself in a windowless 3’x5′ room, on the other side of the wall from our national security correspondents, attached reluctantly to an electric breast pump while overhearing conversations about the ramifications of unilateral disarmament.

To be clear, I think nursing is awesome. I truly enjoy providing both physical and emotional sustenance for Baby E in one loving act. It’s really no sweat, either, since Eva is my only baby. My Chinese great-grandmother nursed seven (7) babies in total, earning her the respect of many generations and lasting evidence of her hard work — mom tells me my great-grannie could actually fling her drooping boobs over her shoulders. Impressive on many levels, that lady.

But the difference between nursing a baby and pumping milk for a baby is like the difference between visiting Venice and going to the Olive Garden. Pumping is tedious and soulless and in my case, always really awkward when I emerge from the lactation station and make eye contact with the national security guys who surely overheard my pump as they were discussing war and Syria and what not.

I am glad I had a daughter, because maybe one day she will have a baby of her own, and she, too, can experience the wonder and the weirdness that is motherhood.

Waiting For The New Human

An ongoing debate. (Photo by Denise DeBelius)

I’m now at that stage of pregnanthood where I feel like the Kool-Aid man, about to bust through a wall going “OH YEEEEAH.”  But Fetus is not scheduled to arrive for another two weeks, which means I’m maintaining my regular work schedule, minus the air travel. 

For those who have been through this sort of thing or are just curious, here’s what we know: The baby’s active and his head is down, in the optimal position for delivery. He/she is still getting properly oxygenated, and midwife is estimating he/she is at about seven pounds right now. (It didn’t stop some various pals from guessing birth weights at 27 lbs, however. Stiles data-vizzed our pals guesses for birth date, weight and sex.)

Really healthy and smooth situation over here. I haven’t had any back pain or skin weirdness and usually my shoes fit fine. (The exception is after my chili cheese dog binges, which are normal in my diet.) We are generally set with our baby stuff, thanks in large part to the two showers from this summer, and my online shopping problem.

I switched to midwives instead of an OBGYN practice about four months into the pregnancy. (If you are interested in the reasons why, reach out to me anytime.) The midwives are fantastic and they catch babies at the hospital, so there are surgeons nearby should they be required. But our hope is to let everything go as spontaneously and medication-free as possible. Now we wait.

Advice For New Moms From Some of My Favorite Mothers

Me with my Mommy when I was one and a half.

This Mother’s Day I am feeling especially grateful for my mama, who’s been as amazing as usual as I confront becoming a mom myself. Granted, I’m probably TOO attached to my mom; we travel together a few times a year, talk every morning and I seek her out for everything from cooking lessons via Skype to answers to thorny life questions when I need wisdom/understanding. (When I told her about my ambivalence after learning I was preggo, her response was, “Well, if the baby comes out cute you could probably sell it on the black market for at least 40 grand.”)

This is all to say that I’ve never under-appreciated the connection between moms and their children. So in preparation for this fall’s arrival of Baby Hu-Stiles, I sought out advice and product recommendations from some of my favorite-girlfriends-who-are-also-moms. I’m overwhelmed that these brilliant, beautiful women — one who I’ve known since 5th grade — took the time to share these personal insights with me, and with you. Happy Mother’s Day.

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