This is weird but I think you are now at the precisely the age that I have always imagined my future babies to be. When I thought abstractly about having a baby he or she was like this; chubby, smiley, engaged and sitting up tall (and bald, of course!). How you are at this exact moment is what I (naively) thought having a "baby" would be like.
Which is probably why right now it's just so fun to be your mama, Ellerie. You are so happy. I love taking you on errands because you're so engaged and smile at any stranger who passes into your line of view. When someone grins at you and you grin back, I feel like I might burst with pride. If your smile makes me this thrilled, I don't know what I am going to do when you're actually carrying on conversations, giving speeches or standing up for what you know to be true. How will my heart hold all the love and joy and pride I will feel? It seems impossible, but surely, it is not.
A lot has happened these past couple of months and I feel whole again. Not just functioning. Not just going through the motions. Not just keeping us both alive with some great days thrown in at random. But truly whole. The difference between surviving and thriving (for me) appears to be about 8 months. The shift was monumental and permanent. Your dad asked me how I knew this and all I can say is that something flipped in my brain and what was unbalanced is now balanced. What was upside-down is now right-side up.
And oh man is that making this life so good. The other night you were up in the middle of the night and we sat in your dark room and I rocked you as you drank from your bottle. I was tired but I was content. Because this? Holding you, my healthy baby girl? This, my love, is the dream. I will get a limited amount of nights just like this: you and me, silent and rocking, drinking milk at one in the morning. I held you tightly and focused just on the warmth and weight of your 21 pound body. I held you tightly and listened to the sweet sounds you made as your eyes fluttered open and closed. I held you tightly and felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I didn't possess this perspective five months ago and I can be sad about that or I can relish in the fact that I am now able to enjoy it fully.
(Guess what I am choosing to do?)
You know this by now, but I'm not a big fan of looking back wistfully because all it does is keep me from noticing what's currently happening. And what's currently happening is happening so quickly. You're growing and developing at an alarming rate. Every day you have a new trick and are learning a new skill. Every morning your tiny teeth are showing more and you've picked up a new facial expression. You are getting closer to moving on your own (leapfrogging is your current mode of transportation) and you can pull yourself up to stand. It's amazing to witness your growth.
A long time ago, week four of your life to be exact, I talked about how I was learning that parenthood was like "The Woods" and that the goal wasn't to "get out of The Woods" but it was to set up home within them instead. I remember writing those words. I remember how challenging things felt as we adjusted to life as three. I remember imagining a time far off in the future when I would be able to see straight and think clearly again.
I think I can say that we made it, my sweet girl. We're here. Still very much in The Woods but also comfortable in our carefully built home with a small garden in the backyard. This life and our days are not "perfect", but they are wonderful and whole and most importantly, they are ours.
Ellerie, you are awesome. My heart stretches and expands daily to try and hold all the love I have for you. Thank you for being exactly you. Thank you for being patient these past nine months as I (slowly) develop and re-develop into me.
yours forever, Mama.