Thursday, August 13, 2009
Last night, your dad mentioned how shocking it will be for you when you are in the world, breathing air, righted from your six-plus-week stint of being lodged head-over-toe inside another human. There will be so much to learn. So much to understand, beginning with the simple chemistry of oxygen in, carbon dioxide out.
No definitive guide could ever successfully be penned. Certainly not by me. But I offer you here a few guidelines that might lessen the pain of unknowing as you transition into autonomy. As I understand our first months together will be ripe with hindrances such as learning to use your eyes, awkward diaper changes and sleep deprivation (hardly a fitting state of mind for a proper welcome), I'm writing to you now...before things get ugly!
Let's begin with what you already know. Life in the womb.
Pregnancy with you has been fantastic. I have been a lucky new mom to have had such a healthy and easy pregnancy. The first few months were rather tiring and nauseous - you and I slept a lot and ate a lot of bananas and crackers. I'm sure the smell of our couch will be a familiar one, once you're on the outside.
But once we crossed the threshold of Trimester Two, we hit the ground running.
In the last seven and a half months, we have traveled together to Boston, Minnesota, Nashville, Majorca, Copenhagen, Maastricht and Istanbul. You were with me when I performed in New York, Berlin and Amsterdam. In fact, the first movements I felt from you were during the premiere performance of a piece I wrote called "The Bully." You also showed off a whole new range of movements when I was on the bench in Berlin. Brahms will never be the same for me.
I've read and been inspired by many books during pregnancy. My favorites being "Music and Imagination" by Aaron Copland and "Findings" by Leonard Bernstein.
You've been with us to see U2 and Pearl Jam in concert.
You've been around for the 258 hands of gin your dad and I have played in the last seven and a half months. (He has been in the lead for eleven months solid, but I am plotting a handy take-over, as we speak!)
Our days have begun with Number Five jumping gracefully onto our bed, often resting his chin on your cocoon-bubble, waiting patiently for us to get up for a morning walk. In these moments, you turn a little. Clearly, the morning wakes us both up. After a rather particular series of routine events, the three of us head out for our morning walk.
While on our hour-long hike together, you seem to sleep. That, or you enjoy just bouncing around a bit. Not certain which. Regardless, this ritual is a crucial one for all three of our happiness each day. By my calculation, we have already walked over 700 kilometers together.
(It's important to treat animals kindly, Sadie. We share the planet with all sorts of amazing creatures and it is indeed a gift to know one as closely as you will get to know Number Five. I promise he will make you giggle everyday and be your pal if you treat him with respect.)
After the morning walk, the day progresses and you usually don't seem to mind the rest until right after dinner. After doing dishes, I sit down, put my feet up, and enjoy your numerous attempts at becoming a world-class gymnast. From what I can tell, you've got cartwheels, somersaults and arabesques nailed. Perhaps there's even a downward dog in there somewhere.
Speaking of which, we took a few pregnancy yoga classes. I learned how to move and stretch in ways that have been helpful and relaxing. Admittedly, I stopped going to these classes when the discussion went from stretching to birthing. I hope you and I have a good experience when that day comes, but until then, I'm happier to leave the thinking and imagining out of the picture.
More pertinent information for you:
We live in Holland. That, you should know. Many have asked what I think about giving birth to a Dutch baby, and I'm not quite sure what to make of that. It wasn't long ago that throngs of immigrants moved to America solely for their children to be born of the privilege of being first-generation American. So, I guess by definition, this does indeed make you Dutch in some form. But I must admit, I think of you as an American child who just happened to touch down in Europe for a while. I'm proud to be American and often miss what America and Americans are about. I'm not sure how long we will live here, and therefore, I have no idea how much of the life here will rub off on you. You may learn some Dutch. You may not. But your dad and I are American and so will you be.
Living away from the country in which I grew up has afforded me much space to think and re-think and understand better where I've come from. For the most part, your dad and I have been welcomed in Holland and have made good friends here. We have also been challenged by many about what has happened and is happening in our homeland. As a matter of background...
Barack Obama was elected president only months ago. As you will learn in your history classes, he is the first black president of the United States.
We are at war with Iraq after attempting to occupy this country and help transition it toward a healthier state. As with any war, there is much sadness and anger from many sides. I'm hoping you will learn of a good outcome in those history classes.
There is much discussion over oil, global warming, the economy, and the state of human health in the face of a shrinking natural agriculture.
Oh Sadie, what to say about all this? Much gloom and doom to be unveiled under each of these topics, should one choose to look at it that way. But I'm not sure the weight is any heavier than what the world has faced throughout time. Your generation will be picking up pieces, undoubtedly. I hope we do well enough to make it a manageable load for you and your peers.
On the upside of modern life, technology affords incredible opportunities. The internet, email, video chatting, on-line social networks, mobile phones...you will never know a life before these things. But your dad and I do. Things happen very quickly now and I presume will only speed up in coming decades.
But if I may, I will suggest that you also take time to value people in a personal way. Learn to sit down with them eye-to-eye for a cup of coffee and ask them how they are. In person. Learn how to write letters and postcards. No matter how busy you can be, quality time spent with people you care about is the best thing you can do for your heart and theirs. I can only imagine that, as communication technology gets easier and easier, these things will be harder to remember. But do your best.
I can't wait for you to meet your father!
It's hard for me to know where to begin describing him, and you will like him so much from the very beginning that he probably needs no introduction. But I want to share a few things with you that I have learned about him over the last six years.
First of all, everyone loves your dad. He is one of those rare people on the planet who can make you feel you've been dear friends your whole life when you've only just met him minutes before. I've never seen him do this in the interest of gaining anything. He's just that way. He is the glue in every social setting, making everyone feel at home. He makes people laugh with his humor and willingness to go the extra mile in pursuit of fun.
Oh boy, will you two have fun together!!!
Secondly, your dad is a man of balance. On our first date, he told me that his basic tenet in life is to work and play in equal amounts, and with similar energy. He is incredibly driven, succinct, intentional, organized and passionate in both his career life and his social life. This might not make much difference to you for a few years, but when the time comes for you to launch your own direction, you will be so grateful for this influence. I promise.
He is a great teacher. Whether toddler, tot, teen, or grown-up, he is effective and inspiring to those around him. Be sure to take advantage of every last bit of knowledge he has about everything. Like I did, he also grew up with parents who taught him much and valued education and life experience at every turn. You will inevitably benefit from this.
I'm trying to avoid pigeon-holing you into a pre-destined course, but I must admit it is hard to picture you not knowing how to surf, how to golf, how to take great pictures, how to manage your household technology, how to successfully pursue a career, how to operate power tools, how to draw and paint...
...all while also knowing how to throw a perfect spiral.
(Forgive the expectations, Sadie. But when you get to know your father, you will understand how I came to them.)
More than any of these wonderful traits (and believe me, they are indeed wonderful), I hope that, should you choose someday to make a commitment to spend your life with someone, you will have learned from your father just how wonderful a partner can be. I hope that what you experience growing up in our house will inspire you to shoot for the moon in matters of love. Your father has been my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader, my inspiration and my safety zone since the first days I knew him.
I couldn't wish for anything better for you, daughter, than to know love like this.
Oh my, Sadie...wait until you get to know your grandparents!
All four of your grandparents are rich with personality. Truly. They all have a great sense of humor, love to laugh and love to have fun. They are all intelligent, well-spoken, talented and wise people with so much to share with you. As your dad once said to me, "If I couldn't have been raised by my own parents, I would've wanted to be raised by yours." And I feel the exact same way.
You need to know that it is very difficult for all four grandparents that you will be living so far away for the early years of your life. They want to know and love you and enjoy your company, and are already making plans as to how they will connect with you from across the ocean. If luck is with us, there will be many many years ahead for you to get to know them and spend good time together.
You have three aunts, three uncles and six cousins. You have great aunts and uncles. Second cousins (probably some of them removed...?) (I never really remember how that works). All sorts of blood relatives. And like the grandparents, they are all anxious to know you.
You also have an amazing extension of surrogate aunts and uncles whom your dad and I have gotten to know across the globe throughout our lives. Blood relatives are certainly one-of-a-kind, but I want you to know that the world is FULL of amazing people, and that your dad and I wouldn't be who we are today without the love and influence of the friends, mentors, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances we have encountered, invested in and been touched by in our lifetimes.
Always remain open to that new person in your life who may just be right around the corner. And be that someone for others. I believe the world needs people who are unafraid to step over boundaries in order to love and influence, to be loved and to be influenced. I wish that courage and openness for you.
I really do find it hard to believe that I will be your mom - truly, your mom - not just an incubator - in only a few weeks. Even at 35 years old, I find myself wondering if I'm really grown-up enough to be responsible for molding another human life. I myself am still shaping my own...waking up each morning, hoping for new sources of inspiration, open to new directions, seeking mentors and good influences.
I certainly don't have all the answers for you, kiddo. I have an idea what is a good starting point for you - such as some things my parents taught me ("Lesson #1: No whining. Lesson #2: No lying. Lesson #3: Review lessons number 1 and 2.").
But at the end of it all, my greatest wish for you is that I can give you the tools to become a strong, independent, thoughtful and loving human being who will have much to offer the world. Because the world needs people who see beauty in human potential. People who care. People who touch. People who lead. People who work hard. People who create. People who think big. People who show up. People who make opportunities for themselves and others. People who take responsibility for the mistakes they've made.
And whether you are an extrovert, an introvert, good at school, not good at school, creative, not creative, religious, not religious, athletic, not athletic, popular, or doing your own thing... Sadie, you can be someone who makes a positive impact on others.
And I hope that you yourself will hope for that...to make the world a more beautiful place.
As I said, I have no definitive answers about details. But I do believe that those who seek to give openly and honestly of themselves, who work hard to become skilled at whatever they do best so that they can contribute to the world...they are the happiest.
And that's what I want for you.
Well, Sadie...I can't wait to meet you, you squiggly and strange alien being who has been poaching my nutrients and energy in recent months. If you can, please be kind to me on your way out. Try not to punish me for those late-night goodies or the occasional cup of coffee I subjected you to.
Let the journey begin, daughter...