|Truth to tell, these pictures are already a little old, Pippa is quite a bit bigger and chubbier!|
When I talk to people who are about to have their first baby, there is something I always like to tell them. It's not uncommon knowledge--but it's a phenomenon I was woefully unaware of during the first weeks with Maria. I'll write it here for good measure:
Dear First Time Parent,
It is normal to feel like you've fallen down a rabbit hole during the first months with a new baby. You may discover, as I did, that your offspring finds life to be a "stern, solemn" thing. She cries a lot! Is it gas? Is it colic? Is it deep disappointment at not being been born into a hunter gatherer Eden? Whatever it is, the baby wants to be nursed and carried day and night, and nothing in your education will have quite prepared you for the physical and mental challenge of it. Take comfort, first-time parent! Know that you just have to muddle through for a while. Around three months, things will somehow--almost inexplicably--become easier.
Recent weeks have found me clinging to my own words, looking for signs that the muddling stage will give way to a new order. We may be less bewildered than were were during Maria's early infancy--we've learned a few valuable tricks, and I've been toughened by four years of nursing--but the chaos has scaled to fill a four bedroom house and the lives of two additional little people. Our home is a whirl of laundry, play food, and pieces of wood debris (we rely on daily wood fires keep the house comfortable). Many's the time that Donnie or I have raised our hands to the heavens and exclaimed "Squalor! Squalor!" in lament of the piteous state of housekeeping.
That I'm writing this now is a sign that a new order may be emerging. Pippa is asleep downstairs, having been put to bed awake. Yes, she seems to be learning the trick of falling asleep on her own. What a mercy that is, after two babies who only learned the trick after many nights of ninety minute scream sessions! And now, in this blessed, scream-free calm, I'll write of the incredible sweetness of having a little baby in the house again.
It is lovely how older girls have taken to their new sister. From the start, Maria has cast herself in the roll of teacher, seeking an intellectual connection with her youngest sibling:
"Pippa, I'm Maria. You're Pippa. That's Mommy. This Place you're in is called a house. Everything outside the house is called the World. The World is on a Planet called Earth. One, day, you'll come to my school and I will show it to you---but it won't be the real thing, it will be a Globe."
She ties string to popsicle sticks to make "magic wands" for the baby to grasp and decorates the baby in felt jewelry. When Pippa is upset, she says, "Pippa, Mommy is here! Sister is here!" And when that fails, she waltzes away and occupies herself elsewhere, seemingly unconcerned by the crying.
Loulou, true to style and age, takes a more physical approach. When we introduced Pippa to a pacifier, Louisa, decided that it was her job to put the binkie back into the Baby's mouth when the baby let go of it. Loulou became the guardian of the binkie, , running across the room to replace the pacifier and shrieking in protest when anyone else performed the function. (Over the last weeks, we've managed to misplace the pacifiers, and haven't gotten around replacing them, so this isn't so much of a thing now). Loulou is more apt to join in the chorus when the baby cries. Her overtures to Pippa take the form of nearly crushing hugs, which the baby seems to mind only a little. Pippa isn't in the room, Loulou will ask where she is.
There are outbreaks of jealousy and lap wars. There are plenty of screamy moments and sighs of relief when all littles are in bed, but they don't overshadow the convivial side of life with three little girls.
Of course there is the sweetness of the baby herself: those plummy, soft cheeks and the perfect curve of eyelashes closed in sleep; the way she seems to be longer and plumper after each nap; the kaleidoscopic expressions of concentration and those elusive, incandescent smiles. Pippa an excellent nurser (gained three pounds last month). Temperment-wise, she seems to resemble Maria more than Louisa (though I have a hard time articulating why--and life may well prove me wrong). She is the first of the girls to have blue eyes (M and L both had slate gray eyes that looked from the get go like they were heading for brown). We have genes for blue, hazel, and brown eyes floating in the family gene pool, and it will be exciting to see which color emerges. But those light eyes seem to project a question mark. What will this baby become? A newborn's potential is a terrible in the old sense of the word, as is her dependency. When I think on this, I grow a little wobbly in the knees. But mostly, we just enjoy this funny, cuddly, and sometime difficult nine-week old. She already has a collection of nicknames--Pipsqueak, Cutie-kins, Snort-buckets--but my favorite is a souvenir from a wedding we went to in St. Louis--it's Billikin.