dear eliot | your birth story

dearest eliot,

i can’t begin to tell you the story of your birth without first telling you a little bit about how you came to be. it’s too soon to go into the birds and the bees with you. so, don’t worry, i’m not gonna go there. what i want you to know is this – you were so wanted skinny legs. so wanted and so loved from the very beginning. here is a little note i wrote to you on the day i discovered i was pregnant. (and, yes, i called you eliot even then. i was convinced you would be named eliot regardless of your gender).

“dear eliot.

today, i found out that you existed. i peed on a stick. the “pregnant” line appeared immediately. i am still in a state of disbelief. your sister’s reaction to the positive pregnancy test was, “good job mommy.” i don’t want you to be offended, but her response was probably directed to my having gone pee in the toilet rather than on the floor or in my big girl panties. she appreciates the little things in life.

i can’t believe that you exist. i really can’t. it will take me some time to process this news. for now, let me say that i love you already in a very vague and indeterminate sort of way. but, i know that i will love you with my whole heart soon enough. it will be an all-consuming love. a love so big that my heart will barely contain it. i can’t wait.

best of luck to you little zygote.

mommy”

here is something else you should know – mommy is usually right. i do love you with my whole heart. the minute i saw your face i was overcome with emotion. with love. with hope. with humility. but, i am getting ahead of myself.

at some point during my pregnancy, i knew that you would be born via cesarian section. i tried for a “natural, un-medicated, birth” with your sister. but, that didn’t work out so well for me. when the doctors (multiple doctors) suggested a c-section, i was right there with them. call me a member of the uneducated, uncaring, unnatural masses if you want, but i am not in any way troubled by that decision. it was a good one for me. and for you. and for our family. that’s what matters. the end. moving on.

you were born on april 5, 2012.

that morning, i woke up, showered and dressed. i made pancake mix for grammie. (grammie stayed with us and helped with lillian – one day you should ask her about why i had to make pancake mix. it’s a funny story.) i made sure that i had everything i needed for the hospital. i didn’t eat or drink (it wasn’t allowed), but i did think a lot about that forbidden breakfast and coffee. i texted a few people, including sally brewer, my friend and fellow photographer, who had agreed to photograph your birth. i gave grammie many instructions on caring for lillian (none of which she needed. but, i was nervous). then, daddy and i were on our way to the hospital.

at 10:00am, i checked in. i changed into a gown and socks (totally stylin) and answered a lot of crazy questions. i was hooked up to various devices and readied for your birth. i was nervous. what would the surgery be like? would i be one of the unfortunates who had a difficult recovery? would you be okay? would i love you right away or would it take some time?

you see, baby eliot, i was most worried about that very last question. i read that sometimes mothers who have c-sections have a difficult time bonding with their baby initially because of the medication that is necessary to preform the surgery. your emotions are stunted (because you are high as a kite). and, i’ve heard from some of the crunchy crowd (those i like to call “birth nazis”) that mothers who have c-sections can’t have the same emotional experience as those who push their baby out of their bodies. i beg to differ. because, my little friend, the moment i saw you i loved you. i knew that you were coming. i felt a slight tugging. i heard you start to cry and knew that you were out. when they held you over that sheet, and i saw your tiny face, i fell in love. you had arrived. and, i loved you. my heart felt so big and so full. and, in that moment, i felt complete.

i didn’t get to see them weigh you. but, your daddy did. he went with you over to the warmer and watched them take care of you. i wanted to see everything, but i couldn’t. i suffered a crazy side-effect that made my shoulder cramp and couldn’t look to the side that they had you on. but, that was okay. you were here. and, before i knew it, your daddy held you close to me. i could see your tiny profile. your dark hair. your puffy cheeks. you were so red! you looked so healthy. i felt so blessed that you were mine.

in recovery i was able to finally hold you. i put your skin against my skin and closed my eyes and breathed you in. because, eliot, your mommy has come to realize something. each day, each minute, is precious, especially those minutes spent with your children. you won’t be my baby for long. and, i know that. i plan to try and savor every minute of your little baby life. those first few days (and even now), i couldn’t get enough of you. i marveled at your little hands and feet (with their long fingers and toes). i stroked your soft skin. i admired your beautiful dark hair. eliot – the baby of the world! (ask your sister about that some time).

your sister and grammie came to meet you the afternoon you were born. i was still in recovery, but, as luck would have it, the doc came to check on me and let them back as well (i was only supposed to have one guest at a time with me in the recovery room – but, i had four!). the look on your sister’s face when she saw the two of us was absolutely priceless. i will never forget it. sally photographed your meeting, and i will treasure those images always. the love in the room was overwhelming.

sweet eliot. you are darling. your birth brought you into a family that adores you (and adores each other). i can’t put into words the emotion i felt when you were born other than to say that i have never felt closer to God, to my family, to myself. you complete me. you complete our family. i can’t wait to watch you grow but am enjoying every minute of your newness.

i love you skinny legs.

mommy

what follows is a birth video made by me from photographs taken by sally brewer of sally brewer photography. when we decided to have another baby, i decided that this birth would be photographed by a professional photographer. (as many of you know, i photographed my friend’s birth many months ago and fell in love with birth photography. hopefully, one day, birth photography will be a bigger part of my business.) i am so grateful to have these images. hospital policy would not allow sally to come into the operating room with us, so we had to improvise in there (bradford and the nurses took photos for us). but, the images of lillian meeting eliot were worth it all. they are now among my most prized possessions. enjoy.

to see a larger version or an ipad ready version, click here: eliot pearl | birth (photos by sally brewer. music by the dixie chicks. turn up your sound!)

life with eliot pearl | our baby is here!

four weeks! eliot pearl was delivered four weeks ago today. the time is flying by, which is sad.

with lillian, i remember being so ready for the next stage – whatever that was. when i was pregnant, i was ready for her to be born. when she was a newborn, i was ready for her to grow up a little. to sleep more. to breastfeed better. to start doing tummy time. to sit up. to crawl. to stand up. to talk. to walk. only recently did i stop and really think to myself – holy crow. she is growing up too fast. my baby is now my little girl. that hurts.

i don’t want lillian to grow up. of course, i am excited that she is growing and learning and thriving and coming into her own. but, i miss having her as my little one. my constant companion.

i guess that’s why i grew a new one 😉

eliot pearl is the best thing since sliced bread. she is ridiculously adorable. her hair is dark and wild. her eyes are wide and curious. her arms are long and skinny, as are her legs (earning her the nickname “skinny legs”). her fingers and toes are also long and skinny (no surprise there). she craves contact. she wants to be held and loved. even at night. especially at night. (yes, she sleeps with me. whatever. she loves it and i do too and we all sleep. yay for sleep).

lillian is a wonderful big sister. i worried about how she would respond. but, as usual, she has exceeded my expectations. she enjoys having baby eliot around. she likes to do things to help us take care of the baby – especially picking out which diaper baby eliot will wear next (baby eliot’s favorites are the ones with the birds according to lillian) and bringing her her pacifier. she also enjoys talking to baby eliot (baby eliot’s voice is very high-pitched fyi). seeing lillian adapt to her role as a big sister (and make the role her own) has been one of the highlights of having eliot join our family.

we are all very much in love with this baby. and, knowing how fast they grow up, i plan to do my very best to savor every moment of her little life.

life with two kids is crazy. and hectic. but good. so very good. we are very blessed.

littles at the hospital after putting on the socks they so kindly required me to wear during recovery:

an egg hunt | happy easter!

our new baby is coming tomorrow – yes, that’s right – tomorrow! (can you believe it? because, i can’t). i promise to try and keep everyone updated (try being the operative word).

it goes without saying that i won’t be a big participant in easter weekend. so, we have been celebrating easter for the last few weeks instead. liz and allen hosted an easter egg hunt and brunch for the girls a few weekends ago, which was a blast. the girls are growing up. it couldn’t be funnier watching them interact these days. they actually play together and carry on conversations with each other, which is a spectacle to say the least. they are truly b.f.f.s

some pictures –

friday | one week

dear littles,

okay okay . . . i should have posted this yesterday, but i didn’t. sorry! i would ask you to cut me some slack, but in this department at least i don’t think you care that i am late posting again.

we have come to the end of my photo a day for a week project. i am glad i did it. posting every day was a bit difficult (as evidenced by a lack thereof), but the camera has been out almost every day since i started (even once i had all of my one week photos). this is good. as you know, i am often too hard on myself – especially when it comes to photography. i know the value of capturing the every day, but i also recognize faults in my images. and, i have been letting the latter keep me from reaping the benefits of the former. (does that make sense?) but, not anymore. i resolve to point my camera at more every day moments without concern for the technical correctness of the end product. these photos are for us, after all – not anybody else.

let me just move on to friday’s photo.

friday, march 16 | lockdown

kenneling up with the dogs is not something you do every day. but this sort of thing – it’s totally you. you are always putting yourself in interesting (and sometimes perilous) situations. you keep us on our toes and make us laugh – constantly.

i don’t know what petri thought about having you in the kennel with her. she didn’t seem to mind, which is odd. as you know, petri is a total curmudgeon. i would blame it on her age, but she has always been that way. i worried when we brought you home that petri would pull her butterfly knife on you (that’s a joke/story for a different time), but, over time, she has come to love you. you constantly give the dogs food, which helps. in fact, the other day, i found you filling their water bowl with cheerios. when i asked you what you were doing, you said, “just given the dogs some breakfast.” makes total sense. (have i mentioned that you are very generous?).

a few other interesting (and hilarious) things to note about your relationship with the dogs:

lately, you have been extremely interested in the fact that they do their “business” outside. why? i don’t know. but, whenever i let them out, you always ask, “are they going to poop?” when we take walks with fabiola and have to stop for her you ask, “does fabby need to go pee pee (or poop)?” and then you follow-up with “she does it in the grass.” and, even better, the other day you followed that with “i think i need to poop in the grass too.” oh my.

you are constantly telling the dogs to “quit that barking,” “hush up,” and “be quiet.” wonder where you got that from? they are loud barky mcbarkersons. annoying.

you tell the dogs to “kennel up” when you are tired of them. and, you always let them out of their kennel when i purposefully put them there because i am tired of them (or because we are trying to leave the house). frustrating.

overall, you are very kind to the dogs and treat them as friends. you love animals – just like me – and that makes me very happy indeed.

thursday | one week

dear littles,

yes, i know. it’s friday. i didn’t post yesterday. total fail.

you know what i/we did instead?

we started the day by making cinnamon roll muffins, which turned out to be quite tasty. you called them “snails” and loved helping to make them (but not as much as you loved helping to eat them).

we had your b.f.f. ruby over for a play date in the a.m. (and, she brought her baby sister june and her mom too). having them over was delightful. because ruby goes to school on tuesday and thursday and you go to school on monday, wednesday and friday, you guys rarely get to play together during the week anymore. sadface. you were excited to play together yesterday. the two of you have finally started to play together. you have your own conversations and your own thing going on. yesterday, you took turns being sick and being doctors to one another. very cute. you read books to one another. you introduced ruby to your fish (siloh) and your snail (mobo). you took turns on the potty. (we even found you trying to take turns shaving your faces with daddy’s razor (parenting fail)).

after they left, we had lunch. the day then took a turn for the worse. we have finally started bathroom demolition/remodel. i am as thankful for this as i possibly could be. the upstairs bathroom was in bad need of a face lift. unfortunately, bathroom demolition/remodel is not a quiet thing. and, the bathroom of which i write is next to your room. so . . . no nap yesterday. i tried my best to get you to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bedroom, but that did not go over well with you yesterday. i finally gave up on the nap. needless to say, we were both tired, grumpy, and a little bit fed up with one another by the time your daddy came home (early – thank god).

i had plans to go out last night with liz and pam – something i very much needed at the end of a somewhat trying afternoon. so, i left you with daddy and went on my merry way. and, i didn’t come back for a long long time. by the time i got home, i didn’t feel like blogging. so, there. sometimes, mommy’s need a break.

pretend today is thursday. scratch that. you should never pretend a friday – one of the best of all days – is a day other than friday. i should just say forgive me for posting thursday a day late.

thursday, march 15 | just hanging out 

this is you in a nutshell geezer. you run around the house without appropriate amounts of clothing on most of the time. you always have. here you are in your thomas “big boy” panties. they are on backwards – no surprise there. your crack is always showing. daddy says you get that from me. whatev.

we got you your balance bike for christmas. you show no fear on the bike (completely in character). you love to ride it around the house, which i let you do even though i probably shouldn’t. you are getting very very good on the bike.

yesterday, we took a long walk to meet daddy on his walk home from the metro. you rode your bike. you can go so fast now! and, you have learned to stay on the sidewalk, to watch for cars, and to give others the right of way. when we saw your daddy coming towards us on the sidewalk, you squealed so loudly – such excitement and love! you were eager to show him your biking skills. on the way home, he commented that we needed to raise your seat up a bit. this means you have grown since christmas. you are getting tall.

that’s it for now littles. i plan on posting friday’s pic today also (which would be appropriate – seeing as how it’s friday) – so, more to come!

wednesday | one week

“If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.” – henry david thoreau

dear littles,

last week, i moved your art easel out to the back porch so that you could paint while we both enjoyed the sunshine. i instructed, “keep it on the paper,” because you are notorious for painting everything but the paper. it took less than two minutes for you to cover your hands in paint.

i found myself upset with you for totally disregarding my instructions. and, then i found myself upset with myself for giving you the instructions in the first place.

you prefer to paint the other – your hands, your face, the caps to markers, loose cheerios discovered here and there. you aren’t doing it to be defiant. you are doing it because it feels right. because it suits you. i like that about you.

wednesday, march 11 | keep it on the paper 

forgive me for the times i try to correct your march dear littles. sometimes it is necessary. and, as your mother, i must do it. but, many times, it is not. it is just my way of trying to order my own world (and to feel like i have some amount of control – as if).

some other examples of your uniqueness:

you still insist on putting any stickers (or tape) you get all over your face, including your eyes. you’ve been doing this since you knew what stickers were. strange, but cute.

you wear boy’s underwear – backwards. this makes sense to you. why would they put the big pictures of thomas and percy on the back? that wouldn’t make any sense.

as noted yesterday, you sleep on top of doggy dd and monster rubber ducky more often then not. you find this comfortable. how? i have no idea.

you put your toy trains in people’s pockets. just this week, we had someone come and remove a radiator from the upstairs bathroom. you didn’t know him from adam, but you felt like he needed a train. so, you put one in his pocket. wonderful.

you make sweeping negative generalizations about things regularly. they go something like this: “i’ll never see my daddy again.” “my doggy dd is lost forever.” “i don’t have any friends.” i can’t even begin to describe the pathetic voice you use when saying this stuff. such negativity! and, from such a happy girl.

(worry not, dear reader. she snaps out of this negativity so fast you wonder if it actually happened in the first place.)

you tell us, “my poopy is sleeping,” after failed nighttime potty attempts.

at the moment, the highest compliment you can give someone is “you are a good marcher!” “you’re stinky” is also a phrase of endearment you bestow on people (thanks aunt val!).

of course, this isn’t everything. there is no possible way that i could memorialize all of your quirks. but, trust me when i say that i love each and every one. they make me so proud.

you march to the beat of your own drum. you always have. it is my hope that you always will.

tuesday | one week

dear littles,

your sleep as of late has been a source of stress for me and your daddy.

for a while, you had us scared that you had given up your afternoon naps. you used to sleep about four hours in the afternoon – sheer bliss for me. it’s not that i don’t like having you around. it’s just that i need time to work and decompress and, if i’m being honest, to take my own nap. so, when you stopped napping, it was upsetting.

but, alas, you have started napping again. this is good.

what is not good? putting you to bed at night can be a two-hour ordeal – complete with tears, and threats, and shouts, and stress for all of us. why? why must you do this? why can you not read quietly and then fall into a peaceful slumber? why do you have to stand at the gate and scream for a drink? why do you have to tell us you have to “potty” three or four times never meaning it once? why do you insist on chucking your doggy dd over the gate and then cry like a stuck pig? why????????

i know that we conditioned you a little bit to put up a bedtime fight. we love you so. and, because of this, we (meaning me) has a difficult time listening to you wail. i always have. (there is a reason you didn’t sleep through the night until you were one). when we first moved, i blamed these nighttime theatrics on the transition to the new place. then, you got sick. and, i had something else to blame. then, we moved you into your big girl room (something else . . .). you get the idea.

but, now, lillian, we are all moved in. no one is sick. your new room is a comfortable place that you know and love. you just don’t want to go to sleep at night. and, that is annoying to put it mildly. (recently, aunt ashley and uncle ryan gave us a book called “go the f*** to sleep,” it is genius and speaks to me on a level that nothing else can – but, i digress). so, now i am working to train myself to do better at night. i will not cater to your every whim anymore, my dear sweet lillian. trust me, this is for the best.

on a more positive note, you are so very cute when you sleep. you still sleep with doggy dd. he is necessary. you sometimes sleep with monster rubber ducky (which is weird, but you love him). sometimes, you put doggy dd on top of monster rubber ducky (in a very particular fashion that i haven’t quite figured out) and lie down on top of both. funny stuff. very quirky. looks very uncomfortable.

you still sleep with your bum up in the air most of the time. your feet are often crossed. sometimes, you put both hands under your cheek, which melts my heart.

when you wake up in the morning, you go to your gate and call out, “daddy. the sun is awake,” or “daddy. come get me. i am awake,” or “guys. can you hear me? the sun is awake!” we have a monitor in our room so that we can hear you. but, it is really unnecessary seeing as how you belt these statements out in the loudest possible way.

sometimes you have bad dreams. most often, these involve a “scary man” (which is a little disconcerting – i have no idea where it came from), but the other night you told us there were worms in your bed. your sleeping mind is creative. we always come comfort you in the night if you need us.

because this is turning into a long post, let me just get to the photo of the day (that’s what people want to see after all).

tuesday, march 13 | this is how i found you

i never know what i will find when i come to get you from your nap. sometimes, you have undressed and redressed yourself in really crazy attire (most recently, a pair of pajamas sized 6-12 months – skin tight! – and, on another occasion, enough clothes to survive a night in the frozen tundra – which left you sweating and unable to sleep – imagine that).

on this afternoon, i found you curled up with doggy dd on the floor of your big girl room (which looked like a hurricane had hit it). this was one of our rougher nap days.

monday | one week

dear littles,

today is monday, march 19, 2012. today i turned 30 years old. 30! trust me when i say this – time flies. this is, of course, the natural way of things. but, it is also sad. and scary. life can be so rich and so full and so beautiful- it can take your breath away. i think most people think about how much they have less than they should because it can be frightening and overwhelming. when you realize how much you have, your instinct is to cling on to it for dear life – to not only taste every sweetness your life offers but to relish in it. moments pass by so quickly. and, they are all unique and tender and fleeting. i did not truly realize how much individual memories meant until the day you were born. on that day, i suddenly wanted to remember everything! – every tiny detail of your life and our life together. and, it saddens me to think that i can’t (and won’t). because, i love you so very much my sweet girl. you will never know how much. it is the happiest love and the richest love i could know. and, it’s all in the details.

last week, i decided to take one photo of you a day for one week. this photo would not only record a memory, but would provide a launching point for me to record in writing even more small memories of our every day lives. i wish that i could keep this up forever. but, i know i can’t (and won’t). this week though – this week i will focus on the details.

 monday, march 12 | the ride home

i pick you up from preschool three days a week around noon. a few months ago, i would come to pick you up, and, although you would be happy to see me, you wouldn’t want to leave your class. so, one of those times, i told you i had a “surprise” for you in the car. i don’t remember what that first “prize” (as you came to call them) was, but, ever since and more often that not, you ask, “do you have a prize for me” when i come into your class. i always try to have something for you. a “squirt,” a “cow’s milk,” a small candy, a cookie, or – your favorite – a chocolate.

(the prize is also sometimes a visitor – like grammie or juju – which you enjoy almost as much as the chocolate).

when we exit the preschool, you always want to walk on the small patch of grass beside the door. i let you – unless its wet. and, you always want to check for bees in the “bee tree.” i have no idea what kind of tree this is or why it attracts so many bees, but you don’t care.

on the way to the car, you try to guess what the prize is. “is it a chocolate?” “is it a squirt?” “is it daddy?” sometimes, you hold my hand on the way to the car. sometimes (rarely), you let me carry you. most times, you walk on your own beside me – you are so independent. if you get too far away, i say “car’s coming lillian.” then, you usually say something about the cars ability to squash you like a bug.

you are always so happy to make it to the car to get your prize. and, it makes me so happy to make you happy. it doesn’t matter that this ritual started as a bribe to get you happily out of the classroom and into the car. nope. it also doesn’t matter that some might call this indulgent parenting. what matters now is that we have this tradition we call “the prize.” i love it.

on the drive home, i ask you about your day. sometimes i get a little bit of information, sometimes i get a lot. all the while, you are enjoying your prize. we usually call daddy and tell him about your day too.

(recently, we have been checking out books on cd from the library. we keep them in the car. you are completely and 100% addicted. so, instead of wanting to tell me about your day or to call daddy, you demand (yes – demand) that i turn on “the cow song” or “the book about the witch” or etc etc immediately. i try to stall for a bit but it rarely works).

you might not be able to tell, but in the photo above you have chocolate kiss all over your face. this is one of your favorite prizes. it was a good drive home.

guest stars | the past few weeks

over the past few weeks, we have entertained several visitors (yay!).

ashley and ryan came to visit shortly after lillian and i recovered from our respective illnesses. (lucky for us, ryan frequently works out of arlington (and ashley’s job provides the flexibility of working remotely). even luckier still, his digs while he stays in arlington are literally two blocks away. two blocks!! hooray for our new home!)

anyway, we had a large time with the two of them. (i haven’t laughed so much in quite a long time.) seriously, their visit couldn’t have come at a better time. (my extended sickness had really gotten me down in the dumps.)

lillian almost exploded with excitement several times during their visit. it helps that she might have one (or both) of them wrapped around her finger.

(watching lillian command a “march” around the house with ashley and ryan following obediently behind – seriously a sight.)

thanks to ashley and ryan for visiting and for tolerating our sometimes rather mundane life with a two year old crazy person. your visit meant so much to us. come back soon!

(or, even better, move here . . . )

julie (aka “juju”) also came to visit. lillian couldn’t have been happier to see her. (below image serves as exhibit a: she almost climbed out the window to get to her when the cab pulled up!)

during julie’s visit, we headed to glen echo park to see a puppet show, which turned out to be amazing. the show – peter and the wolf – featured marionettes, and a sole puppeteer narrated and handled all of the puppets. lillian couldn’t get enough. we plan to go back soon for showings of rapunzel and pinnocchio. (if you live in the area, you should seriously consider attending a show. fun was had by all.)

needless to say, we enjoyed having julie visit (her first visit to our new home!). it is always good to see family (and friends) and to have them in our home.

more family visits are scheduled for april (when baby number 2 arrives). to all of you who haven’t officially rsvp’d to the “come to the hardin family home in april and meet our newest offspring” party, you are still welcome. come. visit us. seriously…

until next time. xo.

recovering | the sick house

this sums up the goings-ons at our house for the past two weeks.

poor lillian got so sick during our move – the sickest i’ve seen her. and, just as she made her recovery, bradford and i got caught the bug. coughing – check. sneezing – check. drainage – check. yuck.

thankfully, we have all pretty much recovered (knock on wood). so, expect more posts. they are a coming.