the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Newsletter: Marlo turns one

Dear Marlo,

Today you turn one year old. In dooce terms, that’s twelve months. Years from now when you and your sister look back on what I’ve written here and you realize that I wrote a lot more about her first year than I did about yours, I kindly ask that you forgive me. It is, after all, completely your fault. You require a lot of time and work, more than I could have planned for, and to make it up to you I promise to buy you an occasional piece of clothing that hasn’t already been worn by your sister. Like, for Christmas.

That’s the thing, though. Leta didn’t have a big sister that first year, and you do. And what an incredible thing she is for you to have. Your father and I are important, yes, but your big sister is everything to you. She is who you want to see first in the morning, and while I am in the other room preparing a bottle I always wait for your squeal when Dad turns on the light in your bedroom and you see Leta in the doorway. You sound exactly like a pig being gutted alive by a flock of mangy vultures. Totally adorable.

You call her GeeGah. Yes, that’s right. You’re already starting to form words. You can say Mama, and Dada, and Coco, and DUCK! for Chuck. You also refer to my niece Mariah as Riah. Your gift for repeating sounds is uncanny, actually, although I still haven’t been able to get you to refer to my assistant as Tyrant. That’s a difficult, one, I know. But we’re working on it. He doesn’t have any kids, doesn’t want any, and he asked me the other day why your hair is so scraggly. Couldn’t we put some gel in it, or something? CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THE NERVE.

I told him right then that his next assignment was to change your poopy diaper. The one that had come out of the sides of your pants and was now dripping on the floor. His response was to faint and hit his head on the wall. Good thing he has insurance!

I’ve written about this before, but we are not used to having such an active child. You are crawling all over the place now. Speeding in and out of rooms, up and over every obstacle in your way. Climbing up onto the couch by yourself. You are a human wrecking ball and hit your head on everything. That’s part of the soundtrack to our lives these days, the thud of your head on the floor or some other hard surface. I’m always quick to run and make sure you’re okay, but your father tells me to chill out, you need to learn the physics of your head. And I’m like, but what if in that process she suffers brain damage? And he’s all, well then we’ll know she’s a slow learner!

Other than some brief, almost unbearably whiny periods when your two bottom teeth were coming in and you were learning how to crawl, you have been pretty much the most delightful baby on the planet. At times, I can hardly stand it because you’re generally just so happy about being alive. And that mood is contagious. I dare anyone to spend an hour around you without walking away singing a show tune and skipping like bow-tied buffoon. Your giant blue eyes, your miles-deep dimples, a smile so vibrant that it swallows all the light in the room. Along with electrical cords, dog toys, rocks, and your favorite, shoes. Yummy, yummy dirt-encrusted, feet-smelly shoes.

“What does she have in her mouth?”

“My shoe.”

“Why are you not stopping her?”

“Antibodies!”

Tell you what, in preschool if some kid drags in a disease on his shoe, you’re going to be the only kid who doesn’t get sick.

It was a year ago that I was walking around all day thinking I had a chronic case of gas when really I was in labor with you. And then finally when I’d had enough I idiotically took that sleeping pill, and BOOM! Less than three hours later you popped out, and everyone in the room gasped at your size. That whole thing was in there?! And then they laid you on my chest and the first thing I remember thinking was, AWESOME! NO MORE PAIN! And then, wait a minute. I don’t have dimples, and neither does Jon! I gave birth to the wrong baby!

Turns out your father’s sisters do, so we decided to keep you.

You were never a crier, didn’t ever shed a single tear until you became mobile. And now, oh my, the tears. The deadly silence before the wailing. Because you hit your head again, or you’re stuck, or we won’t let you chew on the dog’s tail. And boy, do you play it up. Like every incident is the end of the world. And when I pick you up to comfort you, you snuggle in, rest your head on my shoulder and heave a sigh so heavy as if to say, “Guys, I know that what just happened was a tragedy for all of us, but I’ve decided I can move on.”

Marlo, there could not have been a more perfect addition to our family, and with you we are complete. Yes, it was a circus before, but now the music is louder and the tricks are even more death-defying. You are pure joy, a bundle of electrifying awesomeness that just keeps getting better. Like, just last week I discovered that you like bananas, and every morning when I cut one up to put in my cereal, I leave several bites for you. And while I eat my breakfast, I feed you tiny bites of banana, and you smile like a total goofball each time you see a piece coming. Like, I’m a momma monkey feeding her wacky baby monkey. I looked up at Jon while you were humming on a piece and said, “I never knew this, but this right here is everything I wanted in life.”

He rolled his eyes appropriately.

To celebrate your first year your father and I have set up a little slide show of photos set to the song “Elevator Love Letter” by a group called Stars. It has nothing to do with babies or children or even family in general, but it was the song your father and I were listening to on the way to the hospital when I was about to give birth to your sister. For months after she came into our lives and changed it forever I couldn’t listen to this song without crying, because life had become so complicated and confusing. And this song reminded me of what life was like before then. What life was like when I wasn’t a mother.

It’s been six and a half years since then, and now I’ve got two beautiful girls. And instead of feeling confused, I feel at home. So blessed. So complete. So right where I’m supposed to be. This song now reminds me of the journey I took to get here.

Happy birthday, Lil Donette Butternut!

Love,
Mama

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more

SaveSave