To my good baby

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Dear Rose,

The question came fairly frequently in the months after you were born.

“Is she a good baby?”

I knew what they meant by that. They wanted to know: were you a good sleeper? Did you eat well? Did you have a serene disposition? Did you take predictable naps, and did you let me have at least ten minutes a day when you weren’t attached to me like velcro?

The answer is no. No, you were not a good sleeper – you woke up every 45 minutes in the first month and every 90 minutes in the first nine months. No, you didn’t eat well – you were fussy in that as you were in everything else, latching on and pulling off with a frenzied fickleness that drove me to tears, made me feel like a failure in this most basic and essential task of feeding my child. No, you did not have a serene disposition – everything upset you, from the moment you awoke to the moment you drifted into a fitful sleep, and the only way we could get your roars to dim to soft whines was if you were constantly touching my body (and, usually, bouncing on a yoga ball).

But I still answered them: yes. She’s a good baby. She’s the best.

I know those first few months were harder for you than they were for me. You were confused and scared; your whole safe, warm world inside me had been stripped away, and here you were thrust out into the cold, loud brightness where nothing made sense and everything was strange. Some babies take it all in stride – some babies are delighted by their new surroundings. You are not some babies. You are my Rose. You didn’t like it at all. You only wanted to be with me, and even then I could sense anxiety in you, an uncertainty – what else is going to change, and how drastically, and for how long?

I know you were scared, Rose, and I’m so proud of you. You did so well, even while no one seemed to understand – even while strangers in the grocery looked at your frantic tears with raised eyebrows.

You’ve grown into the toddler I expected – willful, audacious, and stubborn, but also gentle, smart, and fun-loving. If someone were to ask me now: is she a good child? I would probably know what they mean. Do you take naps? (No.) Are you obedient? (Not…entirely. We’re working on it.) Are you calm? (You’re…usually the opposite.)

But I would still answer, without hesitation: Yes. She’s a good child. She’s the best.

I don’t just say this because you’re mine and my love for you can excuse any fault. I say this because I know you carry a powerful empathy inside of you, a holdover from those difficult early days. You have a five-week-old brother now. He’s not like you; he’s very calm, but when he yields to the tears that all infants sometimes do, you run to his side. You kiss his face. You rub his head and search for his pacifier. And you put your hand on his arm and you say: “It ok, baby brother. I here.” Because you remember.

Always and forever, my sweet girl, I believe it – no matter the fear you have, no matter your reaction to it – you are good. You are so good.

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