Six Months

Ten days ago my beautiful boys turned six months old. Didn’t Sophie only recently turn six months old? I want my children to grow up—it’s my job to make sure they do. But still, I wish I could drag my heels, slow it all down, treat my time with them the same way Sophie treats the time between bath and bed—forever lengthening it with clever little stall tactics. Because no matter how hard I sigh and wish she would just more quickly get in bed so I can more quickly get downstairs and have a moment to myself, I know I’ll someday tire of those moments by myself and give anything to chase around a manically laughing toddler who refuses to put her pjs on—while her brothers smile and laugh at and with her.

Yes. Owen and James smile now. And laugh now. And act and react—oh, how they’ve grown. I want to let them know how much they’ve grown. Otherwise, I fear I’ll forget. And I know, because life doesn’t allow you to remember your baby moments, they’ll never remember. So here goes.


Dear Owen,

I had faith in you from the beginning. You were small, yes, but bigger than your brother. I pushed and pushed and pushed, for almost an hour, and you came out! All on your own. Still, you were small, compared to most babies, and therefore you were whisked away from me—before I could hold you or touch you or even see you. But I didn’t worry about you. I knew—I knew—you would be OK.

And you were. You never gave us a scare in the NICU. You simply needed to grow. You ate with gusto, just like you do now. Your pediatrician told your dad and I that he wanted to see you plump—and that you are. You’re already on the growth charts. You have big, healthy arms and legs, and round cheeks and a thick torso that hides your ribs. And your hair, so present in the beginning, is present once again—I expect a thick, full head of hair come spring.

You’re strong. Surprisingly strong, if you think about your gestational age. You’ve long loved tummy time and you hold your head up high and proud. You stand, with our help, but still, you stand, your legs holding you with hardly any wobble. You thrust your hips and contort your torso and roll and use your feet to push yourself up and back and forward and away so well that I dare not leave you on the couch or window seat or bed without supervision for fear you’ll push yourself off.

You’re impatient. But I am, too, and I know this trait is my doing (for which I’m sorry). If you wake up hungry, you wake up screaming. If you suddenly decide you’re hungry, you yell. Not a soft whimper or a reasonable I’m-a-little-hungry cry but an all-out, jolt-everyone-in-the-house awake declaration of the fact that your stomach is empty and you wish it to be full. Sometimes, you become so upset we can barely calm you down to eat. But often, it’s simply a matter of inserting a nipple into your mouth. You’re instantly quiet. Instantly calm. And you suck my milk and give me a slight, small, you-have-to-be-watching-closely-to-catch-it smile. And I always just shake my head at you. And your actions. And reactions. And impatience.

You rattle rattles now and grab toys. And hair. And place mats and cloth napkins and earrings and necklaces and anything within your reach. Your eyes get so wide when you’re surprised and you’re constantly aware of your surroundings. You look for me, when with someone else, and I love that. When terribly upset I pick you up and hold you, your left cheek against my right, your tiny, strong, little arm wrapped around my right shoulder, and you calm, you calm, you calm. And I calm, too. Thank you for that, my little Oboe. Thank you.

Your torticollis worries me. And your dad. We worry about the position of your ears and the shape of your head and that you’re always looking to the right. We’ve had you in physical therapy for months now, and still, it’s not better. Look to the left, my love. There’s a lot of life worth looking at over on that side, too. Help us help you reshape your beautiful, beautiful head.

Finally, you laugh now. Every day. Mostly as a result of your sister. One night we spent a good half hour at the dinner table, Sophie fake coughing and you laughing your brilliant, contagious, perfect laugh every single time in response. Sophie’s favorite thing to say to you now is “busy bee!” and you laugh, every time, in response. You’re ticklish and easy to please. I hope this is a sign of years of laughter. You deserve that. Everyone does, but because you’re my son, I believe you, especially, do.

Happy six-month birthday, my love. Here’s to 200 more. I’m so happy, and grateful, to have you, know you, have given birth to you. Thank you.



Dear James,

I worry about you all the time. I worried about you before you were even born. You were small—too small. So small that after your brother came out they simply reached in and took you, rescuing you from a cord around your neck, whisking you off before I could see you, touch you, hold you, promise you that it was going to be OK.

The first time I changed your diaper I was afraid I was going to break you. You were so small. Skin over bones. You reminded me of Benjamin Button. Your color concerned me (more gray than pink). Your numbers concerned me. We had to be so careful with you. When feeding you, we had to make sure you stopped to pause and take a breath. While most moms of newborns are concerned about matching onesies with socks, I was concerned with whether or not I could feel your impossibly tiny lungs inflate and deflate while you drank another woman’s milk.

But they did. Deflate. And inflate. Although you scared us a few times you always, in the last second, breathed. And you breathed and breathed and breathed, and you ate and you ate and you ate. And you fought, my dear James, you fought. You surprised everyone—the nurses, the doctors, us—with your vigor and strength. You ate and ate and ate and gained weight more quickly than anyone thought possible and you were home, with us, sooner than we ever believed possible. You were so small when we took you home that technically, you weren’t big enough for your car seat. But the doctors had that much faith in you—it was almost as if you knew your family was home, and you weren’t. And so you did all that you could to be here, with us. Thank you for that, my dear Jam Jam. Thank you.

You’ve since gained much weight and while you’re no longer scrawny, you’re also not plump. You’re perfect. You have the sweetest face. And your skin is no longer gray. And your hair’s coming in, so soft it’s what I imagine the downy feathers of a baby bird to feel like—I love to nuzzle my whole face into the soft down of your head. You scared us two weeks ago, with a hard lump in your chest. But after two trips to Children’s Hospital, an x-ray and an ultrasound, we believe it to be your rib cage protruding more than one would expect—every time I think about it I think about the Grinch (even though you’re not at all Grinch-like) and the cartoon-image of his heart growing too big near the end. That part, I know you’re very much like—a very small body with a heart that’s much too big.

You rolled, tummy to back, so quickly. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. For weeks you hated tummy time and it’s just like you to do whatever it takes to get out of a situation you don’t like. And so now, whenever you no longer wish to be on your tummy, you simply roll to your back. When over, you lock eyes with me and smile your huge, open-mouth smile. I’m in trouble when you’re older. You’ve already got me wrapped around your little finger. Rarely do I put you back.

You often get fussy in the evenings. Sometimes I try everything—walking, rocking, swaying, singing—and nothing works. I wish you would let me know what’s wrong. I wish I knew how to help. You love a side-to-side rock, normally. You love Sophie, the Giraffe, and you love thick lotion applied to your skin. You love “You Are My Sunshine”. You love to hold onto my finger.

Sometimes you go somewhere inside yourself. Your eyes lose focus and I wait. James, I think. James, come back to me. And you do. You always do. And when you do you offer up your big, open-mouthed smile. Often, it’s my favorite part of the day.

You’re patient. So patient. You let us know when you’re hungry. Or when your diaper’s wet. Or when you want held. And while sometimes you cry despite yourself, you cry and you cannot stop, often, you simply wait. You fidget, here and there, but you quietly, calmly wait.

I worry about you. I worry about the lump in your chest. And how small you were. How small you are. The fact that one night, your body temperature dropped, to 96.4—and you always run warm. I called the doctor on call. I slept on the couch that night and set my alarm. Every hour I woke up and retook your temperature to make sure your blood was still running warm. I worry about your dry skin and the strange grunting noise you make over and over and over and the fact that I don’t have a crystal ball for you—I don’t know if everything’s going to be alright. But I shouldn’t worry. You are James Orion Uhl. A warrior. You’ve come so far. I remember when I was afraid to touch you and just today we danced and danced and danced around the living room. You clutched at my shirt, looked me in the eye and smiled. That big, open-mouthed smile. And laughed. It was a state of happiness I hope you find yourself in daily. For all your years to come.

Happy six-month birthday, my love. Here’s to 200 more. I’m so happy, and grateful, to have you, know you, have given birth to you. Thank you.



“Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.” —Pearl S. Buck