5 months

Oh how time has flown by. I’m beginning to understand what they mean when they say “the days are long but the years are short.”

I expected that I would update more often, keep track of milestones and the like, but now that you’re here sometimes I forget about this blog entirely. I guess it’s good that I’m more busy interacting with you in the present than with writing letters to the idea of your future self.

You still seem to have above average physical capabilities. You’re already rocking back and forth on your elbows and knees and scooting backwards, a behavior that typically doesn’t occur until 6 months or later. You started doing this at around 4 months and 3 weeks. Every so often, including just now actually, you seem to almost crawl forward a bit. Won’t be long now! We will certainly have our hands full, keeping you out of trouble!

Shortly after your 2-month doctor’s visit, I started exclusively breastfeeding. This might sound ironic to some but it’s actually out of laziness. Mama J and I just really hate washing dishes that much! Bottles are particularly cumbersome to hand-wash and we do not have a dishwasher. It seems my milk supply is adequate now and you seem to be enjoying the extra cuddles. I generally feed you in the side-lay position, so it gives me an opportunity to rest and take a break too.

You’ve been smiling and laughing for quite some time now. I remember the first time you really undeniably laughed with us was actually on New Year’s Eve. It was such a beautiful and precious moment that I will never forget!

Right now you’re on the floor, on your tummy, wiggling around and looking up at me, laughing and smiling as I speak to you, while my phone changes the words from audio into text. By the time you’re old enough to read this letter you won’t remember that you have heard these words before. I likely won’t even remember saying them in this exact arrangement.

You’re still fussy as ever, but you are also an incredibly happy baby. Your emotions can change drastically at a moment’s notice! Sometimes you even alternate between laughing and crying simultaneously! Things like that are why one of your many nicknames is “crazy girl”. Another one of your nicknames is “banshee”, because you seem to enjoy screaming as loud as humanly possible. You don’t only do this when you’re upset, you also like to do it when you’re happy, and during the moments in between when you can’t make up your mind. You can often find Mama J and I sporting earplugs.

You’ve also taken up the hobby of babbling. You don’t copy our noises yet, but you do seem to babble in direct response to our talking to you. Your whole life you seem to have been capable of making the sounds “leh” and “lay” and it makes me wonder if I should teach you the word “leche” for milk first! Perhaps you can say “leh lay” until you have teeth! (Mama J thinks this is funny though because leche is used as a curse word on Guam!)

Well I could go on and on but I should probably stop myself here, I think I’ve written enough for today.

I haven’t forgotten that I still need to write out your birth story again. Ironically I’ve told it so many times now that I’m kind of tired of doing so which is why I haven’t gotten around to it yet. At this rate I might be telling you in person before I get around to writing it down on this blog!

-With love, your mom, Ari

Is this real?

I still struggle to believe I’m really, unarguably, a mother now.

I find it incredibly difficult to wrap my head around the fact that you are here, right next to me, a new and unique human being.

I remember when you were still just a little bean with a tiny flickering heartbeat. I remember the first time I saw your tiny little hands and how they melted my heart. Through ultrasound waves we watched you grow from a mere clump of cells into a fully formed human baby. Modern medicine truly is a marvel.

I even remember the first time I really felt you move and knew for sure it was you, because you rolled around while we were having an ultrasound and I saw it happen at the same time that I felt it!

I’m so awe-struck at the fact that you’re really here now. I don’t feel any different, I feel like the same old me just now I happen to have a baby in tow. Not sure what I expected.

I wonder when this will stop feeling so surreal. Regardless, I feel lucky to have you!

-With love, your mom, Ari

Nothing could have prepared us for you!

My darling Birdie, this is a hard letter to write. It is filled with blunt honesty and uncomfortable topics. Parts of it might hurt your feelings, but I hope you know that is not my intention. I need to share my true feelings with you, and you need to know that motherhood is not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, motherhood is probably one of the hardest things I have ever endured and I’m just getting started.

It takes two people to make a child, but at least three to raise one.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over 2 weeks since you were born. It feels both longer and shorter than that. But a mere moment, but also an eternity.

It’s been hard since we came home from the hospital. Honestly it was hard even in the hospital, but at least we felt safer knowing we could call a nurse to help if need be. At home we have practically no help with you and it has been incredibly stressful.

You are a very fussy baby. You have been since day one. You like to cry loud, hard, and long. I need to take a video of you crying to show you when you’re older, to show you the reality of raising a newborn, so you’ll understand what a stressful commitment it is. We were completely and utterly unprepared for how hard it really is, but we both knew there was no way to truly prepare ourselves.

I realize now more than ever that I really am not cut out to be a parent. But here I am, so I will try to fake it till I make it. I know many people find themselves in this position, wondering what the hell they got themselves into, but many of them say it gets easier over time and is entirely worth it. I really hope that’s true.

The truth is, Birdie, your moms are losing their damn minds. We are really in over our heads. I’ve made up a little saying: “It takes two people to make a child, but at least three to raise one.” It’s so incredibly difficult, even with both of us being able to be stay-at-home-moms. It doesn’t help that the reason is because we’re both disabled though, our limited mental and physical energy makes this parenting thing just that much harder.

I want to give you the best life possible, which is why we are definitely never having another baby. Trying to stretch ourselves between multiple children would frankly be irresponsible of us. It was irresponsible of us enough as it was to have you in the first place!

I hate to say it but I want to be honest with you even when it’s hard: I was not in a good place to have a baby when I became pregnant with you. I was so overwhelmed by the grief of losing April that it completely took me over. I became completely obsessed with becoming pregnant again and it drove me crazy. I truly do not know what I was thinking, I can’t even relate to myself from back then.

The month I found out I was pregnant with you was the month I had finally started to think clearly again and was ready to give up. I had realized that I probably wouldn’t make a good parent and it was likely for the best that I kept failing to get pregnant. I was waiting for my period to come to resume taking my birth control. But that period never came, I was already pregnant and it was too late.

I chose not to get an abortion because I couldn’t stand to after losing April the way we did, and I expected to lose you the same way anyway. And as I’ve said before, I loved you from the moment I saw those two pink lines. I am someone who considers life to begin at conception and it would take an enormous toll on me to end a life, especially one I had longed for so intensely. So despite the fact that I technically still had a choice at that time, I felt like what was done was done and I had to accept the consequences of my actions.

I was truly shocked that you survived to full-term, and also survived the process of being born. I still constantly expect you to die. I check your breathing hundreds of times a day and I’m incredibly paranoid about things like sleep safety. You really hate sleeping in your crib though which just makes everything that much harder! Mamma J and I have been sleeping in shifts and taking turns taking care of you, so that someone is always awake to supervise you. Since you prefer to sleep on us, on our bed, or in your car seat, the only real compromise is to keep a close eye on you at all times.

One of the ways in which you’re “easy” is that you’re not too picky about your food. You take to both breast and bottle quite well, and you’ll accept your formula whether or not it’s warmed up in advance. You are an incredibly hungry baby so this comes as a huge relief. As time goes on and my milk supply increases I find us breastfeeding more and more, but it’s a lifesaver to be able to give you a bottle in a pinch!

I don’t want you to think motherhood is all doom and gloom either though. It is very rewarding, and the difficulty of it makes that even moreso.

You’re an objectively cute baby. Everyone that meets you comments on how cute you are without any prompting! I was surprised at how adorable you were right after being born because I expected you to look more alien-like at first. You honestly resemble many stock photo babies, you could easily be a baby model!

You’re hilarious too. You make the silliest faces! We even find humor in your fussiness. You get so worked up about the littlest things, so ridiculous! You’ve already given us so much laughter and joy, I can’t wait for you to laugh along with us.

You’re notably strong for a newborn too, people are always surprised that this sub-8lb infant is so good at fighting back already! Since day one you’ve been stubbornly breaking out of your swaddles and doing a surprisingly good job of holding your own head up. I hope you will continue to be strong as you grow up, as I know it would serve you well.

I’m amazed at how much personality a brand-new person can have. I’m excited to watch you grow and to grow alongside you.

Even if I wasn’t the best person for the job, I’m willing to do it. I’m sure I’ll make countless mistakes along the way, but I will learn from them. Some days will be easier than others, but I will always try to do my best for you.

I’m so glad I was able to meet you. I am honored to be your mother and I hope to live up to that title.

-With love, your mom, Ari

Birdie was born this week!

And by a literal miracle, alive and well.

I’ll share the full birth story later when I have the time and energy, here’s the TLDR version:

I got induced, and my water did break, but we failed to progress.
Luckily my contractions were somehow never actually painful? It was weird.
Due to some fetal distress and risk of infection from broken waters, cesarean became necessary.
My spinal failed, so I had to be put under. Partner cannot be present when general anesthesia is used.
We both were unable to witness her birth, which is very disappointing.
Turns out though, the cord was triple-wrapped around her neck.
Since she never attempted to leave through the vaginal canal, it was loose enough for her to cry immediately.
She was able to avoid the NICU and/or death, because we opted for induction and that induction failed.
As I said, a miracle.

Just wanted to update all my Non-Birdie readers. The full version will be addressed to her.

Genuinely never thought we’d make it this far

It’s the week of your due date… I would say “time flies” but I know that it actually crawled by at a torturously slow pace.

Before this month is through, we will have met you for the first time. That much I can feel assured of, it’s highly unlikely they’ll make me go over 2 weeks overdue.

I just hope you and I will both survive the process of bringing you out here into the outside world. We’ve made it this far and somehow with no complications, so maybe that luck will continue.

I’m just not sure how cut out my disabled body is for childbirth. It did surprise me how relatively well it took to pregnancy though. It’s been incredibly hard, don’t get me wrong, but still things have gone much more smoothly than I expected.

We have found that chocolate covered dried date fruit are actually quite delicious. They’re even a hit with Mamma J, who is notoriously picky!

I’d been dutifully scarfing them down by themselves, enjoying the texture but burdened by that one-note saccharine sweetness. Dates have at least three scientific studies linking them to easier labor, so they are one of the only “pregnancy miracle foods” that has any sort of evidence of being more than a meer wives tale.

Anyway, after suffering through the date’s blandness for a little too long, we decided to pair them with baker’s chocolate. Not only was it incredibly easy to make, the simple recipe turned a chore into a treat! The deep bitterness of the chocolate is offset by the severe sweetness of the date, and vice versa.

Pregnancy has brought with it so many new experiences. I don’t think I ever would have eaten dried dates if it wasn’t for you. You’ve already changed my life so much and you’re not even born yet.

“Are you ready?” I keep being asked this question, to which I honestly reply: “No! Not in the slightest!” I know nothing can prepare me for how much my life will change once you are here with us in the outside world. I wasn’t prepared for how much my life would change just in the time you’d be growing inside of my body!

Are you ready to be born? Are you ready to begin your life here on earth? It’s much less warm, cushiony, and safe out here. But there’s so much more to experience! It sure feels to me like you’re getting bored in there! I hope you will find the trade-off worthwhile.

I know raising you won’t be easy. But I have found that some of the most difficult things in life are also the most rewarding. I can’t wait to learn from you, to grow with you.

I can’t wait to get to know you. I want to know everything about you. I want to know your favorite foods and animals, your favorite colors, sounds, textures… smells! All of your favorites. And all of your least favorites too! I want to hear your voice, I want to look into your eyes, I want to hold your hands. I want to be with you. I want to laugh with you and cry with you. I want to succeed with you and fail with you. I want to live with you and I want you to outlive me, but only once we’ve had plenty of time together.

I want to be your mother. And I am and always will be, but I hope to be worthy of the title. I hope to earn your love and respect through dedication and hard work. I hope that you will have joy in your heart when you call me your mom. That is my biggest aspiration in life now, because you are now the center of my universe and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not that I want to lose myself in this new identity, I know I still need to be my own person outside of my role in motherhood. But knowing that your eyes will be on me, looking up to me, makes me want to be the best version of myself I can possibly be!

I stand at the borderline between my old life and my new one. I’ve been traversing this purgatory for months now and I finally see the gateway to the next world. A world with you in it, the world I’ve been looking forward to. It’s so close but still so far. I’ll be counting down the minutes. This too shall pass, and this will all become but a distant memory.

See you soon, Birdie!

-With love, your mom, Ari

October

We’ve finally arrived at the final month of this pregnancy, which also happens to be my favourite month of them all.

Autumn is now in full swing. Most trees have at least a touch of color to them though many are now fully changed and are beginning to drop their leaves. It’s been raining much more often, and the temperatures have finally dropped.

Halloween decor and costumes can be seen in just about every store… though this has been the case since late August! Spirit Halloween stores have been gradually popping up in every unrented building. Pumpkins galore since early September too, you can’t walk into a grocery store without passing a big bin of carving pumpkins. Everything is really ramping up now, as the month of we’ve all been anticipating has actually arrived.

October has always been about more than just Halloween to me though. Something about this month has always just felt special and significant. The colors in the trees and the smells in the air… having finally settled into the new school year’s routine… and honestly it being pumpkin season definitely helps, they’re one of my absolute favorite things!!!

I myself was conceived in late September or early October. It makes sense to me that I would feel such a deep connection to this time of year. When I was spiritual it was the time of year I felt the most connected to “god.” I still feel the most connected to the earth in this time… I have to make an active effort to live in the moment because it’s such an ephemeral time and if I stop paying attention it will suddenly be winter again before I even realize what had happened.

I feel so grateful to know your birthday will be in this month. Something about it just feels so correct, as if this was planned from the dawn of time.

As you probably know, my internet and art alias is Ari “October”. I’m sure people in the future may speculate that this is because of you, but that was something I chose long before you were ever thought of! I always thought October would make a nice name, so of course I thought to use it in some way when creating an alternate identity for myself.

I hope you’re planning on making your debut sooner than later, my poor body has grown so weary. We are now officially 38 weeks along, and you used to measure a week ahead consistently in the early scans, so it really could be any day now. I’m so excited to meet you face to face, to finally hold you close to my chest. My arms long to feel your weight in them… I’ve been scooping up the cats a lot lately to maintain my sanity!

I love you babygirl, see you soon.

35 weeks

Only 5 weeks remain until your due date, and who knows when you’ll actually arrive…

I feel guilty that I haven’t written as much as I’d have liked. I become more and more afraid of childbirth as that day approaches, I’m so afraid that I won’t make it through and this will be all I’ve ever left for you, and it will never be enough. No number of letters could ever replace us having a real face-to-face relationship though, and I just have to accept that my limits are what they are, I simply haven’t had enough energy to muster up the creativity to write.

You have become quite large and heavy. I am in a lot of pain, and so looking forward to not being pregnant anymore. It’s so strange how I can feel you inside of me, even when you’re not moving around, I just gently press around on my belly and I can feel the shape of your body. When you do move, it’s very visible from the outside, and it feels so very strange! Mamma J gets freaked out by it, which is really funny. She’ll put her hands on my belly only to gasp and pull away when you move, and then she’ll do it all over again. To be fair, it really is freaky to have a whole living human being growing and moving around inside your body! Maybe one day you’ll know what I mean, if you end up going through this yourself. If that’s something you’d want then I hope you get to.

Pregnancy has been really, really hard on me. It’s not something I’d recommend to anyone who isn’t completely sure they want their own biological children, and it’s not something I understand going through multiple times voluntarily. Mamma J and I have both decided we are not doing this again, no matter what happens now. Not only would it be very financially irresponsible considering we technically don’t even make enough to support even one child, but my body is not exactly cut out for this kind of stress, and mentally I don’t think I could handle raising two or more children at the same time. I have been dealing with antenatal depression and I’m sure that will continue on into postnatal depression… I hardly have the energy to deal with daily chores and that’s besides the physical pain, discomfort, and fatigue! Between you and 3 extremely needy cats, our hands are already incredibly full! And if somehow we were to lose you now, or any time really, I can’t see myself even wanting to try again for another child. The difficulty of pregnancy coupled with the immense grief of having lost two children is just not something I think I should put myself through.

I am so nervous about childbirth. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to try to deliver you vaginally, or if it’d be better to schedule a cesarean instead, because I could end up needing one in an emergency anyway. But a caesarean isn’t something to be taken lightly, it’s a major surgery with it’s own slew of possible complications and a much longer recovery time. It’s better for both of us if I’m physically capable of vaginal delivery, but I’m just not sure what my body is safely capable of. My mother got extremely lucky, she had very “easy” vaginal births both times with no complications at all. Her mother however, had cesarean deliveries with both of her daughters. Somehow I doubt I inherited whatever made birth so easy for my mother, that just doesn’t seem like me, everything always has to be overly hard and complicated for me! I really fear being in labor for countless hours and attempting vaginal delivery, only to be rushed off to an emergency cesarean anyway, causing me injuries in both my birth canal and my abdomen. That wouldn’t even be the worst scenario, but I don’t want to and don’t need to get into all of that.

Life is crazy, Birdie. You started out as two tiny, separate cells that met up inside my body to form a zygote, and from there you’ve just grown and grown and grown. I remember when you were just a little bean, still considered nothing more than a clump of cells by many people. It was the most incredible thing though, to see your heart beating, and your impossibly tiny body squirming around. To watch you grow from such a humble beginning has been such an awe-inducing experience. By the second ultrasound you’d already taken on a much more familiar human shape, and I remember being obsessed with your perfect little hands that already had 10 fingers despite being only millimeters in length. By the time we had the 20-week anatomy scan, your facial features had formed enough for us to see an uncanny resemblance to Mamma J! Now in approximately 5 weeks, maybe more maybe less, we will finally get to see you in the outside world. You’re already developed enough that if born today you’d still need special care but you’d have an incredibly good chance of not only surviving but thriving. It is truly amazing to me the journey we have been on together, and I look forward to continuing it. It won’t be easy but I believe it will be worthwhile!

I’ve loved you from the moment I knew you existed and I will never stop.
Thank you for existing.

-With love, your mom, Ari

Privacy

I recently came to realize it’s for the best if I don’t share certain details about you on this blog.

I will no longer write your real first name, details of your/our ethnicities, and other such things that could be used to find you in the future. I have also decided I will not share the exact date of your birth here when you are born.

Too many people overshare about their children on the internet, and it can be uncomfortable or sometimes even downright dangerous for the child as they grow up. Sharing full legal names, birth dates, exact names of cities lived in… these pieces of information can be used to track a person down and it is much easier than most people think it is.

I write this blog not to use you as “content” as many social media influencers do. This blog is FOR YOU specifically, and I keep it public for the sake of family members who want to keep up with your story, and to reach others who have similar experiences to mine in some way. So it is completely unnecessary for me to share every single detail about you and your life to everyone on the internet.

Privacy is something many people take for granted in this day and age, something they don’t consider at all. We all know we’re being spied on by companies like Google, so we figure “why not just put everything out there? They already know everything about me!” But the thing is, Google is just trying to find the best way to advertise to you generally. That’s gross in it’s own right, but it’s generally not dangerous. Random people on the internet can be literally out to get you. There are people on the internet who track people down for heinous reasons. I want to make a feeble attempt to protect you from those types of people.

I’m sorry if this scares you, but honestly it is something that is completely reasonable to be afraid of. We should not be so eager to give away our identities when it can be so dangerous. I use an alias on all parts of the internet for a reason. That is part of the reason I do not use Facebook, because they force you to use your legal name and share it with everyone in the entire world.

When you use the internet, Birdie, please keep your safety in mind. It will be your own choice how much you share about yourself, but do be mindful about how that information could be used by others.

Impending parenthood

31 weeks along today.

Today we went baby shopping for the big essential expensive items. Your grandmother paid for everything with money from the pandemic stimulus, for which I’m extremely grateful. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She is so incredibly excited to be your grandmother and it’s absolutely adorable.

Money will always be tight with us, because both Mamma J and I are disabled and on SSI, and they pay us a pittance because we’ve never been able to work. I need to change the subject now before I go on an angry rant about capitalism…

Baby shopping was extremely stressful, I was on the verge of a breakdown the entire time. I guess the gravity of the situation really began to weigh on me. You will be here so soon and there is nothing I can do at all to truly prepare myself for it. I feel entirely unequipped to handle the new responsibilities that will be mine. 

Luckily I found I am in no way alone in my feelings, it’s just typical antenatal depression. That’s not to make light of the issue, but it is very common, and it doesn’t make me an inherently worse mother. Thank goodness!

I’m really hoping that I don’t fail you. I hope you’ll be able to appreciate just how hard this is and be willing to forgive my shortcomings… I wish I could be the mother I think you deserve but I’ll never have the money, energy, or physical capabilities. Nonetheless I will try my best and I will love you with all of my heart.

Saying your name is making a wish

Dearest Birdie…

We have been calling you [Birdie’s real first name, redacted for privacy] more and more lately. It feels like wishful thinking, like every utterance of that name is a prayer for your survival. We have decided that no matter the case, that name is now yours. I don’t think I have it in me to try again if you don’t make it, anyway.

It’s hard to believe we are already 30 weeks along now. I remember when you were just a little bean. Now you are a fully-fledged baby with a very high survival rate if born early. In only 7 weeks you will be considered full term and will likely be born anywhere from 7 to 10 weeks from now.

I keep thinking about how autumn is just around the corner and how excited I am for my favorite season… And then I remember that you will also be born during that time and nothing will ever be the same after that. I’m so full of anticipation, but also anxiety. 

I have never been the primary caretaker of a human child before. My only experience with infants is with infant felines. I’ve never even lived in the same house as a human baby at all. I’m overwhelmed by the responsibility I will have to keep you alive and healthy, it’s so easy right now with you in my belly.

That’s not really to say that pregnancy is easy though. It’s been rough. I am in a lot of pain from weighing so much and from my organs shifting around to make room for you. Acid reflux is a cruel curse, I have to be very cautious in what I eat and how often I eat in order to not anger that daemon. I can’t bend over for more than a second, and I can’t squat down without assistance nearby to help me back up. I have to sleep only on my left side, because I can’t sleep on my back or we will both have our blood flow cut off by you compressing a major artery, and I can’t sleep on my right side because of the way stomachs are shaped, it causes acid reflux. My left hip is in agony because of this. My knees aren’t very happy either. I don’t know why people pressure people to have children when it’s this physically painful and exhausting.

To go through all of this only for you to not survive would absolutely break me.
I need you, Birdie. I need you as much as you need me. Our fates are indelibly intertwined. 

Please keep being okay in there my darling.
-With love, your mom, Ari