Two weeks ago I left my training hospital for the last time. I had one month to make up after my maternity leave, which I completed, and then I turned in my pager and my badges and checked in with medical records about unsigned notes, and then I left the building.

It is surreal to think I won’t be a resident there anymore. It’s more surreal to think I won’t be a resident at all anymore, at least not for a few years. I’m waiting for my application for a medical license to finish wending its way through the maze of bureaucratic red tape it has to go through and then I will be a licensed physician. When I practice, I will be on my own, making my own decisions without someone supervising me. That is, quite frankly, terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong — my program has trained me very well and when push comes to shove I am confident in my ability to know how to help people and/or know when I need to ask for help in order to help people, it’s just that moment of realizing that even if you don’t need them, the training wheels are completely gone. Even though I don’t think I’m going to crash and burn, the possibility exists. That is scary. I suppose I could make the argument that it should be scary, and that if I were to be cavalier about the part where I have someone’s trust and health in my hands I might want to re-think my profession.

When I think back to where I was in July of last year, I can hardly believe how much has changed. Set aside my personal life (having a baby is completely cheating when it comes to major life differences over one year), and I still hardly recognize the intern who cried every day on the way to work for most of the first month. At my exit interview, my program director told me he had been very concerned that I was so shy that I would wilt and fade, those first few weeks. I didn’t. I bloomed. I am not generally a poster child for self-esteem but I really am proud of my work this year, and my evaluations over the course of the year back me up. I learned so much about being a good doctor, and a good resident, and also I learned some medicine while I was at it. I still have a lot to learn, heaps and piles of it, but when I look back over this year I will always be able to say that I did very well. I am grateful for that.

Sufficient unto the day, as they say, so I am trying not to worry too much about all of the challenges which are going to crop up over the next few years. It’s hard to do, since I am a worrier, but I have to try and focus on one step at a time. Next, I will worry about what to wear and where to go on my first day at my new job. Then I will worry about what comes after that. What a blessing it is to have this year to think back on and realize I have already made it through some rough waters, and come out better for it. As one of my favorite Pinterest pins says, I can do hard things. It’s been a very long year in very many ways, and it’s over now. Time to move on.

Here we are again, another month down. Another month of waking up every morning to exclaim how big he’s gotten overnight. Another month of marveling at how very different he is now than he was (insert time frame here — yesterday, last week, last month). This month I celebrated the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant, and as a result we’ve entered a time frame where I remember where I was and where he was this time last year. I remember those feelings of wonder, pressing my hand against my still-flat(ter) stomach and thinking of the tiny life inside me, barely more than a bundle of cells dividing rapidly. I have all of his ultrasound photos up on the bulletin board still, and in a few short weeks we’ll be at the date of the first series. Baby, the label says, with a small arrow in case you missed the appropriate smudge. He was the size of a poppy seed, an apple seed, a peanut, and now he’s being referred to as my bruiser, the future linebacker, and mistaken for a six-month-old. What a crazy thing this life-building process is.

My parents were here this month, helping to take care of the baby while I went back to work. I thought for certain I would be ready to have my house back by the time they left, but instead I miss them more than I think I have since I watched my father leave me alone at boarding school 19 years ago. I have gotten used to peeking into their room (aka my craft room) in the morning and seeing them there, sharing coffee over breakfast, having them here when I come home. Some of my missing them is missing another set of adult humans to share baby-holding duties with, but more than that I miss them in particular. Watching my father with his grandson was a daily delight — the two of them have a special bond, that’s all I can say — and listening to my mother talk to him brought back memories of those sing-song tones being used with me and with my sister. The morning after they left, my mother called me on her way to work and I held the phone up for the baby. She said, “Hello my little pookienoo!” and his eyes got very wide; he looked at me as if to ask how did I get his grandmother in that tiny box? As I write this, he is having his morning nap, and all I can think is, he should be napping on my dad, this is their nap time. I miss them. It was a joy to have them here in a way I never imagined it would be, and I miss them terribly.

About two weeks ago, my mother spotted two little tooth buds in the baby’s mouth, lines of white on his lower gums. I had seen them earlier but thought I was misinterpreting what they were. With that information, his increased fussiness and the part where his sleep schedule has gone crazy make a lot more sense. We gave him Tylenol and he napped for three hours that afternoon, poor little guy. I’m trying not to use it too often, but it does seem to help. He hasn’t liked the cold teething rings, preferring instead to gnaw on cloth or rubber. I acquired the oh-so-trendy Sophie the giraffe and she has proven to be tasty. I keep hoping those little white lines will pop through and give us both some relief, but so far they are hanging out under the gum, content to give my poor baby fevers and discomfort.

Also new this month are the oh-so-close-to-rolling-over maneuvers the baby does on a regular basis. By the end of this week, he has flipped almost completely over, with his belly and hips flat on the ground, but that one arm still tucked under so it’s not all the way done yet. I was really hoping he’d get the hang of it before my parents left, but he hasn’t yet. I am told that he is supposed to go from belly to back first, since it is easier, but he shows absolutely no interest in doing so. I probably don’t give him enough tummy time, but when he is on his belly he’s either perfectly happy to just hang out or totally frustrated and over it, so rolling is not really on his agenda. I’m not worried; he’ll figure it out eventually.

I have to put toys on the table now while I am eating with him in my lap. It’s usually a little Eeyore with a mirror/rattle on the bottom that my mother got for him. I have to do this because he has decided that reaching for stuff on a table is the best thing ever, and as a result he will grab my plate, food, silverware, or anything else within grabbing distance. I am also discovering this means he wants to help mama type, or move the mouse. Busy baby is very busy!

A few days ago I was in the baby stuff store and saw an 8-day-old. It was startling to see him next to my baby and realize how much has changed in just four months. Our pile of outgrown clothes is getting big and now includes a stack of 3-month sized items, while the wardrobe he is actively wearing is increasingly made up of 6-month size clothes. It seems like every day I try to put him in something only to discover it doesn’t fit anymore, and I look at some of these outfits thinking how tiny they look, then remember they were big on him once upon a time. Given that his father and I were both in the less-than-25-percentiles growing up, I expected to have a small baby. Surprise! The growth charts continue to insist he is mostly average height and slightly above average weight, but he seems huge to me.

It’s so odd to write these little posts; I’m never sure what to include. Surely I will remember the big things, like rolling over and teething. So do I comment on minutiae, those little things which probably don’t mean anything to anyone other than me? He has developed incredibly thick earwax this month, gobs of bright orange stuff. My husband thought I had been scratched by the cat until he realized all those lines on my chest were courtesy of our son, whose fingernails remain talon-like even after being trimmed. He snores. He has a tiny patch of eczema over his right eye which is intermittently itchy. When he poos, wait for the second (or third) round before changing his diaper, because they never come alone. His stork bite gets very dark when he cries. His belly button still occasionally seems to ooze a bit.

One time this month, he was fussing in his pack-n-play and just as I leaned over and his eyes met mine, his sound of choice was “MAaaa.” I know it was pure coincidence, but my heart still skipped a beat. I know the day will come soon enough that he says it and means it “for real”, but I can wait. I’m learning the value of taking every minute for itself, this baby time is flying by so fast, and so I can definitely wait.

So many changes in one month!

Our big change this month is that we have moved out of the small house we loved so much into an enormous place in a much more rural area. In our old house, we could walk to the grocery store and often did so. I miss being able to do that very much, but on the other hand our new house is beautiful, and it is a neighborhood where children still run around without grownups constantly watching to make sure they don’t get run over or accosted by strangers. We have an enormous park nearby, a small playground down the block, and the closest small town has festivals, train rides, and a gorgeous library. It is a lovely place to raise a little boy, even if getting groceries is a little more of an expedition than it used to be.

Speaking of expeditions, this month we took a road trip to visit my family. My mother drove out to pick us up and my sister drove back with us, for which I am very grateful — I am definitely not up for a solo road trip with the baby. The time with family was lovely and involved a lot of visiting with many friends I don’t get to see nearly enough, including reconnecting with one of my best friends from college. I loved showing off the baby, but it was also nice to feel functional outside my house again.

Baby got the hang of smiling right before our road trip, and did a great job of charming everyone he came in contact with. His little giggles, chatting, and smiling just grew more and more over the course of the month, and I delight in watching his personality emerge. He is cautious in large groups or new environments, getting very quiet and taking everything in with his enormous blue eyes (we aren’t sure yet if they will stay that color, but they certainly are striking in the meantime), but with more secure surroundings he is ever eager to share his perspective on life.

After we got back from our trip and all our visitors were gone, BWB had a week of working nights. As I think I’ve mentioned before, when he is on nights I barely see him, and this week was no exception. He would get home around one or so, crash, and sleep until eight or nine, getting up right as I put the baby to bed. His shift started at midnight, so he’d leave after I went to bed, repeat the next day. Essentially, I was a single parent for the week, and goodness gracious did that suck. I love my son, I love spending time with him, I want to soak up every minute of his life, but I also like being able to eat, shower, or use the bathroom without the pressure of a tiny person needing me immediately. I don’t know how true single moms manage, I really don’t.

After this week of insanity, BWB had a day off, and the three of us plus dog went hiking. I had found a state park about 30 minutes from the house with some interesting-looking trails, and we headed over there to check it out. When I was growing up, my family used to go out to a state park to go hiking as a family, so this had some serious nostalgia factor for me. J slept through most of it in his carrier, but the rest of us had a great time. It was almost too hot, but we are hoping that when the weather cools off a bit more we’ll be able to get back out there as a family again. With BWB’s work schedule right now, managing to find any family time is remarkable, but that should get better in a few months. In any case, the hiking was a great hit and I am looking forward to more family hikes in the future.

We haven’t managed to make it to synagogue again yet, thanks mostly to BWB’s work schedule. I do take the baby to church with me most Sundays, and he is a big hit there. We sit in the back, for easy escape in case of meltdown, and our priest likes to take him into her arms while she is waiting for the final hymn to end. I say in case of meltdown, but most of the time he makes it through just fine. He loves to look at the lights through the stained glass, and seems to enjoy the music. Hopefully this fall we’ll make it up to temple more often — I find that I miss it, and I know that BWB does as well.

After church one day, at the very end of social hour, our priest and her partner, D, were sitting with us. D started to tickle the baby’s feet and make silly sounds and oh my goodness but did he laugh. He threw his head back and shrieked with laughter, he laughed with his whole body, he laughed and laughed and laughed. He hadn’t done anything like that before, and hasn’t quite been that amused since. It was hysterical, this little guy filling the whole hall with his peals, and of course we were laughing too. Pure joy.

I have seen reference to babies at the end of the third month “hatching”, suddenly becoming aware of their world and interacting in a way they hadn’t before, and I have definitely seen that this month. My mother has said in the past that it is sad that just as they start to get interesting, you have to go back to work. While I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever found my son uninteresting, per se, I understand what she means now. He is beginning to play with his toys, hands, and with me; I see him staring at objects and I know he’s working out in his head how he might be able to touch it. I love watching him discover the world. He is a delight, and is delighted with so many things.

Of course, with the close of three months my maternity leave is also ending. My anxiety about the end of maternity leave in the week leading up to starting back to work was intense. How much milk do I need to make sure he has? Will I be able to find time to pump? Will I be able to function without worrying every second I’m away from him? I know that he will be just fine, especially since I am leaving him with my parents this month. I am far more worried about myself.

Three months, and I can’t believe how big he’s gotten (even though he is still tiny) or how much he has changed since he was born (with so much growing left to do). How do I slow time down so I can catch up?

Time is flying. This month everything changed and nothing did. Baby is still the most amazing creature I have ever laid eyes on, and I still wonder daily how it is that we got so lucky.

What I have always loved about babies is watching them watch the world, and through that experience rediscovering wonder. I am finding this is all the more poignant when the baby in question is my own son. As he starts to see more of the world, I was the little gears turning in his head and know he is taking it all in, absorbing. I love it.

Early on this month, we heard little half-giggles. He’s still not outright laughing, but makes these sweet little cooing-giggle noises which make me laugh and laugh. They (and his smiles) still occur most frequently first thing in the morning and when he is on his changing table, looking up at those bugs.

We had our first excursion to synagogue this month, the new one which is farther from our home but where the amazing rabbi is based. We were late, and it turned out that during the summer the Friday night services are lay-led and very short, so we ended up missing the entire service. We were immediately welcomed, a small flock of grandmas fought over who got to hold the baby first, and nobody cared that I wasn’t actually Jewish. I can’t wait to bring my son into this community on a regular basis.

Two evenings this month, the baby slept 6 hours straight. I, on the other hand, kept waking up to make sure nothing was wrong. It’s a start. Usually, though, he wakes only 2-3 times a night, which doesn’t seem so bad, really.

Another first this month was going out in the stroller. We had been using carriers exclusively and never managed to get the adapter to let us put the carseat in the stroller, so we just waited until he got big enough to go in without it. Our first walk was the whole family, dog included, and baby seemed to be fascinated with the whole facing out business. He spent a lot of time watching the clouds go by — a glorious pursuit, in my opinion.

At his two month appointment, baby had fallen off his height chart curves a bit, but is still hovering in the range of average for both height and weight. He took his vaccines (all four of them) like a trooper and other than being a little out of sorts for a day or so had no ill effects. The doctor said he looked fantastic, and I quite agree.

The second month was a funny one, with no major milestones but many small ones. Month three is shaping up to be a big one, but I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of this month, relatively speaking. Even without big events the days seem to go screaming by like nothing before. I’m trying so hard to appreciate every day I have with him, to be present as they come. He makes it pretty easy.

As soon as we found out we were having a boy, I knew our interfaith childrearing was going to start fast and early. The bris (or brit milah), customarily performed on the 8th day of life, was going to force our hands with its timetable. We knew we wanted to make sure it happened, but neither of us knew exactly what would be required. Early on, we talked to one of the rabbis at the synagogue we had become most comfortable with and were attending regularly. She seemed pleased that we wanted to have one, and didn’t break stride when we pointed out that I am not Jewish, assuring us the text could be adapted for non-Jewish parents and grandparents. We were encouraged, and BWB set out to find a mohel.

On the recommendation of the rabbi, my husband contacted a very nice gentleman and explained to him our situation. The mohel said he was fine with our intention to have both a bris and a baptism, but it did mean he wanted a rabbi present and fully informed. No problem, we thought, as we had already covered that with the rabbi. This, however, is where things got strained. Suffice it to say, the rabbi did not ever actually come out and say she actively would not attend, but she did make it clear she was… unable to do so for unclear reasons. We found ourselves in the hospital with a baby, a mohel, and no rabbi.

Our priest (the one from the church I stumbled into in March) came to visit us in the hospital. I mentioned that we were having trouble and that I was worried because BWB was taking it pretty hard. He had started talking glumly about just having it done by a doctor before we were discharged, and none of us were happy about that option. Our priest told us she would work on it and get back to us. A few days later, she gave us a name and told us she’d see us at the ceremony.

God does indeed move in mysterious ways. The rabbi that we were put in contact with is amazing. He said his congregation is about fifty percent intermarried and that he wasn’t concerned about the baptism at all. “We did it first, after all! It’s just another ancient welcoming ceremony.” He called me because he wanted to make sure I was okay with everything and to answer any questions, and I felt so listened to, so supported, and most importantly so included.

The day of the ceremony, I was a little bit of a wreck. It was in our living room, which meant I needed to get the house clean enough for guests. (It was passable, and nobody said anything.) I didn’t get the challah out of the freezer early enough to have it baked in time, but there were kosher hors d’oeuvres (even though nobody really ate them). Mostly, I was trying to keep myself busy and not think about the fact that some stranger was going to come into the house and wield a scalpel at my son’s most tender parts.

In attendance that day were the rabbi and mohel (obviously), my priest and her partner, and one of my dearest friends. My family had come in when the baby was born but wasn’t able to stay for a full week, and his parents had been unable to travel. Not to be bested by the difficulty, we set up Skype on one of the iPads and his mom and dad were able to be the proud grandparents at their grandson’s bris thanks to the fact that we are living in the future. The ceremony itself was lovely and had no awkward moments of pseudo-“inclusive” language that felt rammed in where it shouldn’t be, which I appreciated. When the mohel stepped up to do his part, he spoke about how it was the duty of every father to see his son circumcised, and that there was some kind of loophole made to allow someone trained to do it so that the father didn’t have to do it himself. (I’m a little hazy on the details; I was nervous about the cutting about to happen.) So then he says, “But here we have a strange situation, because BWB is a doctor, and therefore is qualified to circumcise his own son. So, BWB and I have talked about it, and he will be doing the circumcision.” I did not appreciate this joke, and chuckled nervously.

It quickly became apparent that he was not, in fact, kidding, and my husband had every intention of taking a scalpel to our son. Suddenly, the prospect of a stranger cutting my son’s genitals seemed not so bad by comparison. (Sorry, honey. We don’t operate on family members for a reason!) My stress level increased, easing somewhat only after I realized that the mohel was doing all of the difficult set-up part, leaving BWB with the relatively easy task of the actual cut. I had been told I could step out of the room, but I stayed. I think the wine helped the little guy, because other than two soul-piercing, anguished screams (I may be overstating this a tiny bit), the baby was a trooper. His mom was a wreck, but they gave him back to me very quickly and that made things better for both of us. (Mostly me.)

Even though we had a tiny crowd, I felt surrounded by love and welcomed. I’m hoping the baby could feel it, too. When the rabbi and I talked about the bris prior to the ceremony, he emphasized that this ceremony is all about recognizing a baby and his family as part of the community. He made it explicit that he included me in that welcome, wholeheartedly and without reservation. I appreciate that enormously, and know that it is remarkable for us to have found someone as generous in spirit as he is. This welcome into the community is why it has been so important to us to make sure he has a bris and baptism. We are fully committed to raising our child with the help and support of both of his communities, and are so grateful and blessed to have found two communities willing to help us do so.

I’m a little over halfway through my maternity leave and have figured out some things which I wanted to share with my future self and anyone else who might happen across this page. God willing, I will be on maternity leave again sometime in the next few years, and if my memory lately serves as any indication I won’t remember a single thing from these three months, so I’d better record it now while I have the chance. There is tons of advice out there for maternity leave, things like “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which is a good one!) and “put the baby on a schedule” (which didn’t work for us at all), but this list is the stuff keeping me sane right now that I don’t want to forget. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

1. Give yourself a routine. Any routine.
This is totally different than “put the baby on a schedule”. It’s not even “put the baby on a routine”, although that one is helpful, too. I am someone who thrives on ritual, and I have found that it is helpful to me if I do some of the same things every day at roughly the same time. For example, make a pot of coffee in the “morning” (aka, whenever I get out of bed the last time), and start out the day by checking my to-do list (see #2). Do something routinely every day that you do only for yourself, for your sanity, and to remind yourself that you exist as a person separate from your tiny partner in crime.

2. Make a to-do list, then ignore most of it.
After spending a year as an intern, a lot of administratrivia has piled up around us, along with some long overdue correspondence. Add to that the mountain of thank-you notes I now owe people, the bills and paperwork associated with a new baby, and everything which accompanies moving house and job, and you have a pretty heft list of things to do. I’ve long been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which advocates a system of to-do lists broken down by project (to oversimplify), and one of his key points is to collect these to-dos and ideas out of your brain so that you don’t have to keep fretting over them. I embraced this early on and dumped all of the piled-up things I need to accomplish into my things-to-do software. It’s a very long list. Instead of looking at the whole list, though, I’m picking one or two tasks a day to move into my “Today” list. It’s slow going, but I am making headway on long-outstanding things, I feel productive but not overwhelmed, and I’m not stressing out over all the things I should be doing but can’t manage while taking care of the baby. I should have done this a lot sooner, and I’m hoping this is a lesson I can carry through beyond maternity leave into working-mom-hood.

3. Get dressed in the morning.
Seriously, put on actual pants and a shirt you wouldn’t mind going to the store in. For that matter, brush your hair and teeth. This is along the same lines as FlyLady’s Get Dressed to the Shoes, although I can’t stand shoes so I skip that part. I’m not talking dressed to the nines here, I’m just saying it made a huge difference in how I felt after I started making an effort to put on something other than lounging-around-the-house clothes. The first couple of weeks, forget it — there’s too much recovery going on, and too many leaks from too many sources on both mom and baby to justify anything other than jammie pants and a nursing tank — but after that, this has been another sanity-saver. Who knew a pair of jeans would make me feel human again?

4. It’s like a surgery rotation.
Sleep when you can, sit when you can, eat when you can, …use the restroom when you can. (Surgeons are more vulgar than I’ll type out here.) There’s a survival mentality of taking care of an infant which is awfully close to following around a senior surgical resident. (With all due deference to senior surgical residents, of course. Ahem.) That is to say, in both cases you aren’t entirely certain of the schedule, since unexpected things happen and the nap/surgery may run much longer than expected or that feeding/conference could end up being cut short for some reason. Similarly, they may squawk and fuss, but they’ll live if you leave them without you long enough to visit the restroom or grab something to eat. When the opportunity arises to take care of your own needs, do it. Right that second, and without guilt. Maslow’s hierarchy rules here, and you need to remember to put yourself ahead of the vacuuming, dishes, blog post writing, or anything else that might distract you from being able to be fed, rested, and fully ready to take care of the items higher up on the pyramid.

5. The baby will figure out his patterns… eventually.
I thought the baby needed to be on a schedule from day one. I am certain that for some mothers having the baby on a schedule from day one is helpful, however, this has not been the case for us. There were definitely days around week three when I questioned whether my child would ever manage to settle on a pattern of any kind, much less a predictable one based in a 24-hour diurnal cycle. At week six, when the baby emails started out, “By now, your child will probably have settled into a routine…”, I was despairing of all hope for sleep or sanity. Yet here we are, running up on two months, and I have realized that my son has decided to take a long nap at roughly the same time every day, that he goes to sleep at roughly the same time, and our mornings are roughly predictable. It’s a very rough schedule, but it’s a schedule nonetheless. I imagine it will change, then change again, then change some more, as we go through this year and the years to come, but I’m starting to believe that yes, it will turn into a schedule and no, I’m not doing something wrong that we haven’t regimented his life by now. Hang in there and have faith, it works out eventually.

6. Be gentle with yourself
There will be days that you don’t get anything done except feeding and changing the baby. Many of them. That’s okay. There will be days you’re in tears at the thought of leaving him, and moments (not days, yet) where you wish you were already back at work. Also okay. It’s okay if the Today to-dos don’t get done, or if neither you nor the baby makes it out of pyjamas. I’m horribly hard on myself under most circumstances, but I’m trying very hard to quash that critical voice for the time being and just be here with this baby and soak him in to the best of my ability.

It’s been an interesting ride these last few months, from surviving the last few days of internship while very pregnant right through yesterday’s two-month immunization experience. I don’t expect it to get any less interesting as time goes by, either. My little guy is already showing off his personality and preferences, not to mention a stubborn streak a mile wide. I think our mothers will have the satisfaction of watching both BWB and I raise a child just like us, which it the best blessing and worst curse I think a mother could ever give. I’m assuming that next time we do this, it will be completely different — after all, no two babies are the same. I’ve seen enough friends and patients go through this process to know it’s rarely the same game twice. I am hoping, though, that some of these lessons, particularly the ones about how I, personally, handle this period of time the best, will make next time less of a guessing game and more a time of discovery. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the second half of the leave I have right now.

My son is now one month old. He has existed outside of me for one month. It seems like so long, and so short of a time all at once. How has it possibly been an entire month? I can’t believe we’re here already, and yet here we are.

I see so much growth and change in him already. Physically, he is longer and heavier. His stork bite is fading, and his eyelashes are getting longer and darker every day. I see more of his father in him as time goes by, but then sometimes he looks at me and I feel like I’m looking in a tiny mirror. He has held his head up since day one, but now he pushes up on his arms in a way I am pretty sure he is not supposed to be able to do yet. He likes to stretch his legs out, shoving his head up under my chin or over my shoulder.

He smiled for the first time a few days ago, at my father. I walked into the kitchen to find him grinning at my dad and I got all excited. My father didn’t understand why I was making such a fuss until I managed to explain it was the very first time. Even now, my dad is the only one he’ll consistently smile for. He smiles at BWB and me with increasing frequency, though, and is at his most smiley in the morning.

There is a bug mobile from IKEA hanging over his changing table, and it is one of his favorite things ever. Sometimes I think he fills extra diapers just so he can go visit with his bugs. He also loves the play mat with forest animals on it, and will happily occupy himself watching Mr. Owl or cooing at Mr. Squirrel for a good twenty minutes at a time.

We don’t have a schedule yet. That’s not quite true, we have a rough schedule. We get up in the morning and change out of nightclothes, then usually he has some quality awake time and can handle the play mat long enough for mama to grab something to eat. Then he eats and sleeps in cycles for a while, then has a longer nap at some point. After a long nap, he eats, then will have more awake time, and then back to eat-sleep quick cycles until it’s time for bed. I put him in a gown and a night diaper, and I’ve started putting a little bit of lotion on him as well, and then we settle in for the night. He usually sleeps for anywhere from 2-4 hours in the first chunk, and then wakes up every 2 hours or so after that. I’m hoping he’ll decide to sleep longer soon.

Lately, we’ve been struggling with gas or reflux, something that makes him more fussy and more prone to waking up from a sound sleep straight into screaming bloody murder. It’s startling, to say the least. I think he also confuses “hungry” and “tired”, and insists on nursing for anything that registers as discomfort, including wet or dirty diapers.

I’m grateful that we’ve finally hit our stride with nursing — we had a rough start but seem to be doing pretty well now. I have an oversupply, which is a problem in that it contributes to his gas and makes it hard to nurse sometimes, but of the wide variety of problems one can have while nursing, this is one I’m not complaining about. I’ve started to pump in order to take advantage of it, and BWB will be venturing into the world of bottle feeding soon.

I love feeding my son. I love looking down at his content little face as he pulls back from my breast with a trickle of milk from the corner of his mouth and knowing that I’ve fed him well. I love how it feels to hold him close to me and feel his little hands grasping at me. He makes these adorable little noises while he eats.

It is still marvelous to me that he is here in our lives. I look at him and can’t believe we have him. How did we get so lucky? I love looking at his tiny hands, tiny feet, tiny ears. I love watching him discover things, watching the gears turn behind his blue-grey eyes. How amazing is this? How precious is this tiny life that has been given to us. I wonder if that feeling will ever wear off.

Motherhood is everything I imagined it would be and nothing like what I thought it would be, which is about what I expected. I’m trying very hard to be present with my son every day and not let a single day go by taken for granted. I know that the next two months are going to race by just as the first one has, and then I will have to go back to work and won’t have so much time to be with him. That thought kills me, so I try not to dwell on it except to remind myself to soak him in while we have each other all to ourselves.

Who knew so much could happen in one month?

At 4:30 in the morning, I woke up and knew I was going into labor. By 6:30, the contractions had gotten pretty strong, and by noon we were in the hospital. At 2:30am the next morning, my son arrived.

It wasn’t the labor I expected — after 10 hours of intense back labor, I asked for an epidural despite my intentions to avoid one. After the epidural we had one set of complications resulting in a lot of doctors and nurses crowded around my bed and what my husband describes as the scariest 20 minutes of his life. We hit a few more bumps before the night was over, and I had to remind BWB repeatedly to be my husband, not a doctor. In spite of all that, it was still beyond anything I could have hoped for. At the end of the very long day, they put a perfect little boy on my chest and he was here.

For forty weeks and three days, I carried him around with me. Even before he had started to resemble a tiny person more than a miniature manatee, I was talking to him. He took Step 3 of the USMLE exams with me in December. I probably looked like a crazy person in the hospital halls, explaining to my abdomen that we were going to have to remember to do a really good neuro exam on our patient this morning, or promising that as soon as we got one more note written we’d go and get something to eat. For the last month or so, he had terrible hiccups which tended to start after every time I ate. We played games with his feet, where I’d push on them and he’d slide them down the side of my belly, pushing out somewhere else. I knew where his back was, and would rub it while I was working.

It’s funny that I went over by a few days, because at 35 weeks they told me they were worried about preterm labor. That didn’t happen, obviously, but from then on it seemed like it could happen any day. I wasn’t ready, though. Honestly, I would have been happily pregnant for another month as long as I could have not had the prelabor nonsense — the false starts and contractions keeping me awake all night, those weren’t pleasant at all. Up until that all started, pregnancy was pretty wonderful. There was a person inside me, my son growing from a few little scraps of DNA. It’s amazing, pure and simple.

So there we were, in the labor and delivery room, and they put this little person on my chest and it’s my son, our baby boy. How does one even describe that moment? It’s still surreal, to this day, to think this little person is the same guy I whispered to in the hospital stairwells. I get a little choked up every time he gets the hiccups, remembering how it felt before he was born. I think a piece of my heart has permanently been removed and embodied in my little guy, and I’ll be vulnerable forever because of it.

As I write this, our son is curled up on my chest, sleeping. He’s a tiny miracle, and I still can’t express the depth of my amazement that God saw fit to give him to us. He has arrived, our lives have been totally turned inside out, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I. You know. Or your body knows, even if your brain does not yet comprehend; your body knows and begins to prepare in small ways, subtle changes of your breath, the energy in your limbs, there’s something restless and exhausted brewing in your bones. Your body knows, and as you look up at me with question in your eyes I see the answer there too, at the bottom of your soul or the pit of your stomach or somewhere equally deep and hidden, somewhere a still, small voice whispers calmly: yes, it says, yes, it is time.

II. Your daughter is clutching. At your hands, your bedsheets, the crochet yarns and hooks, her heart, her shirt, her husband’s hands, his shirt, her hair, your IV pole as she helps you to the bathroom. Her hands are tight around anything and everything as she twines her fingers into your life and will not let you go, not for a second, not for a breath, not for anything in this world or any other.
It is her husband who yells, under his breath in the hallway when he follows us out the door, closing it behind him, screaming in harsh tones as quietly as he can so you do not hear him (although you know what he says, you always know, but you don’t let him know you know, because he needs to be angry right now) — his fury is upon us when we do not control your pain, when your pain medication makes you too tired to speak, when you do not eat, when you do not like what you are eating. He is too clever for us, he knows our language of palliative care and hospice is code for giving up and throwing away, and he will not hear it. He is the one who yells, and he will sue us, all of us, and this hospital, he will sue us all until you are not dying anymore.

III. It is the time between when your body knows and when you know and when your family knows, it is the time between when I am shredded. To play God in that time for me would be first to fix it, miracle cure or laying on of hands or amazing self-healing fix it, but if not to fix it then to turn the clock forward days or hours to the time which follows. When your eyes understood what your body had known, and the papers are signed and the family is weeping and you are waiting, in that time there is healing of a different kind which is needed, so needed, but I am not God and I do not want His burdens, and so I cannot move you ahead to that time any faster than you can move yourself. But you move me, in the time between, waiting for you to catch up to yourself. You move me, and I am grateful.

Note: there is not an actual Ann, which I feel I must explicitly state for depressing legal reasons. Or rather, there is not one Ann, but have been many over the last year, and I am grateful to all of them.

Last year, my goddaughter’s mother let me know that my brilliant godchild, who was 7 at the time, had been asking questions about Easter. Her parents are not especially religious, but wanted her to have some exposure to spirituality and religion and so they hired me. (We joke about this often.) Unfortunately, since I am not local to them anymore and haven’t been for some years, my ability to do things like take her to church regularly is a little bit hampered. As a result, last year was the first time she started to really inquire after this whole Easter thing, beyond Cadbury bunnies and dyed eggs.

Please explain Easter, then, to someone with limited exposure to Christianity in particular or God in general.

Um, okay.

What follows is what I sent her. I found it while sorting out my extremely neglected email inbox, in a reply to me from my sister, who mentioned she thought I should post it here. Since my sister is also brilliant, I decided to do just that.

***

Dear S,

Your mom told me you were asking about the Easter story, and I thought I’d give you my version of it. I wish I were there with you to talk about it in person, but in the meantime, we’ll try this!

A very long time ago, there lived a Jewish man named Jesus. He was a very wise man, a holy man, and a rabbi, which means teacher. He taught people about God, and said that God wants us to love each other and be kind to one another. At the time Jesus lived, there were a lot of rules about who could be friends or hang out with each other, and Jesus pretty much said those rules were stupid, that people should be equal no matter what they believed or how much money they had. People started to follow Jesus around and listen to him speak. Some people said that they thought God had sent him down to earth. They were saying that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. They called him the King of the Jews, because the Jewish people are waiting for the Messiah to come and lead them.

The people in power were scared of Jesus because the things he said challenged their authority, and because change is scary. They also didn’t believe he was the Messiah and thought it would offend God for people to follow Jesus and say he was the Son of God when he really wasn’t. So they decided that Jesus should be executed, killed for his beliefs and the changes he was trying to make in his world.

Jesus knew that there were a lot of people out to kill him. There was a Jewish holiday dinner, a Passover Seder, and he gathered his friends together to celebrate and eat. During dinner, he told them that they should always remember him, no matter what happened. He said that every time they shared bread and wine, they should think about what he taught them, and remember that God loves them and wants them to be good people.

The scared people took Jesus and had him killed. The way they did it was to put him up on a huge wooden cross with nails in his hands and feet. They put a crown of thorns on his head to make fun of how people called him King. It was pretty bad. Jesus’s friends and students were scared and upset at losing their friend and teacher. After he died, his friends came to take him down from the cross and carried him to a grave. At the time, graves were like big caves, and they would put a huge stone in front of the cave to seal it up. They sealed him in the tomb and went away to grieve.

About three days later, some of the women who loved Jesus came to visit his grave. When they got there, they found the stone rolled away from the grave, and the tomb was empty — there was no body in there! She thought someone had come to steal the body, and was very upset. An angel appeared and told her not to be afraid, that Jesus had risen from the dead and would see them again. The women ran to tell the others, but on the way they were stopped by Jesus himself. Jesus told them not to be afraid, and that God would bring them all to Heaven to be with him again after they die.

Jesus appeared to all of his students later, telling them that they had to keep doing the work he started, but that he would see them again after they died. He sent them into the world to do good work, and then he went to Heaven to be with God.

Easter isn’t about Jesus dying, it’s about the part after that, the part where he lived on after he died. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he rose from the dead. When we’re baptized, we are recognized as part of Jesus’s family, children of God, and we have a responsibility to do what Jesus taught — to love everyone, even our enemies, even people who are mean to us, and to work for justice and peace in the world. My home is also a Jewish home, and Jews don’t believe that Jesus was literally the Son of God. However, they do also believe that it is important to be a good person and that God wants us to work for peace. BWB says he doesn’t have to believe that Jesus was God’s son in order to believe that he was a wise and holy man who had a lot of good ideas about how people should act. I agree!

I know this is a lot of information, and some of it might not make sense. If you ever have any questions or want to talk about this stuff, you can always ask your mom and dad to call me, or see if they can get a video conference going so we can see each other. I’d like that even if you don’t have questions, because I think you’re an awesome kid and I’d love to talk to you! But especially about things like this, I’m always happy to talk.

I miss you and hope school is going well! Many hugs and much love from both BWB and me!

Love, me

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