I learned recently that in Korean culture, new parents traditionally didn’t take their babies out of the house or introduce them to family and friends for the first 100 days of life, at which time, a milestone birthday was celebrated—and still is. This custom stems from a time when childhood diseases were more common and the need for protection greater. I love this and still see a need for it, not just because our babies are the most vulnerable among us, but because we as their parents need this time, too. We’ll never have it back…
For the past month, I’ve held in my arms as much as I can a brand new baby girl. Our second daughter, Little V, I’m calling her. Where her brother brought our parenthood, where her sister brought our happiness, V. has brought our peace. She has embodied it since the beginning and in so doing, inspires it. And, at night, when it’s just us in the big chair in our own little halo in the dark, she looks up at me with a heart-shaped face I swear to you I dreamed of, one with stories to share.
These first weeks, we have spent many of our daylight hours skin-to-skin. In the beginning, it aided nursing such a peacefully sleepy babe and then it became the magical bond it is known for, among offering many other benefits. I was able to do so much of it because Ryan was home for a time and my mom was also here, bless her, to entertain H., bring me the turkey sandwiches I’ve missed, stock our freezer, fold our laundry, and simply mother me so I could mother in turn. Because I knew H. was loved and looked after I could do for V. what I did for H. when she was brand new. I won’t soon forget holding one sleeping daughter while hearing the other’s laugh down the hall, and closing my eyes with that sense of relief in knowing my living children are finally here (much more about that over on PALS).
Now we are on our own. Ryan is back at work and my mom back in California. I have the joy of H. playing at my feet as I nurse. She climbs up on the ottoman, holding her lamb and its blanket the same way I hold V. and we read all her old books that now line V.’s shelves. Overall, she is rocking big sisterhood—loving and curious from the outset—and I am so proud of her for rolling along with such a major life change. “So tiny!” she says of V. And, “Where’s baby sister? I see her?” when she wakes up in the morning. She is eager to hold her, to play, to show her things. It is hard to temper her two-year-old energy until baby sister isn’t quite so tiny.
It is also hard to give to both at the same time. I knew it would be, but I didn’t take into account the tiny heartbreaks throughout a day… When H. needs me and I’m nursing V. When V. needs me and I’m coloring with H. When I’m holding V., and H. reaches her arms up for the same comfort. Sure, there is patience and baby wearing and independent play and workarounds and more patience asked of each of us. And as my cousin Ginger put it, what attention they may ever lack will be made up for by the relationship they get to have with their sibling. There will be love and learning there, too, in ways Ryan and I only daydreamed about as we entertained ourselves in our childhood homes.
I poured so much of myself into H., around the clock, I worry that even my best attempt with V. will fall short because, meanwhile, H. is jumping on the couch or coloring the refrigerator. It’s another tiny heartbreak, but it also makes me hold on a little longer in the night after a feeding or when I put H. to bed. It means Ryan gets to do more for H. as I tend to V. and vice versa. It means I let go of more, which is why toys are still scattered everywhere so that I can type these words while both girls manage to sleep at the same time. In those ways, maybe the girls will end up with even more of me.
Whenever I can, I look a little more closely at these creatures Ryan and I made because time is moving even faster now. H. suddenly has all the words. Just shy of a month old, V., too, has grown into another phase. With new strength, she lifts her head and wants to see what else is going on. Our compressed version of the first 100 days is already changing into something else. And I’m eager to follow her gaze. Then, of course, there are the moments when I witness, throughout a day, two of my children sharing space and time, and my heart goes and breaks in the best of tiny ways.