Ursa Minor called me “mama” for the first time on Friday. It was a sweet moment. A wonderful moment. A moment that i plan on savoring forever. “Mama” is his first word. “Daddy” came on Saturday. He’s 11 months old.
And this is a bittersweet moment for me, because I think that it has taken 11 months for us to really integrate Ursa Minor into our family, fully. We’ve spent the last three weeks giving him a lot of extra love and attention, and I think that I’ve actually noticed him more, as a little human being, not just the “baby”–that thing who is in need of something, but who isn’t doing anything interesting like his brother.
Ursa Minor was actually pronounced “Failure to Thrive” a few weeks ago. He just hasn’t been growing. Ursa Major has always consistently been in the 90th percentile for height. Well, Ursa Minor has been consistently in the 30th percentile–for height and for weight. My pediatrician, who I love and trust, wasn’t worried until the 9-month check up, where he kinda fell off the chart. I insisted that I’m feeding my child: I was nursing him every 2 hours during the day, plus three meals a day. I had been making my own babyfood in order to save a little bit of money (Or, as I say, to stay off the “Gerber plantation’), and as he started to get into finger foods, we were giving him plenty of fruits and veggies. So she said she’d give it another month of monitoring. Well, when we went in 2 weeks ago for that check-in, he had only grown .08 oz in a month, and grown only a 1/2 inch.
My wonderful pediatrician asked me to run down his entire day’s menu. And I went through, hour by hour, his schedule. She listened, typed, clarified. Listened, typed, clarified.
And finally, we got to the end. I said, “you know, I’m so worried that you are going to tell me that he has juvenile diabetes or something. Just give it to me straight.”
She put her hands to her cheeks, looking at the screen. “I’m going to be real with you. I mean, you just aren’t feeding him enough.”
What? I couldn’t believe it.
“I mean, you are going through the motions, but there isn’t enough fat or protein in here…He isn’t getting enough or the right nutrition.”
And from there was a cascade of suggestions, which I heard and didn’t hear. I was worried about how far behind he had fallen, if he could recover in his development…and the answers to those questions were ambiguous and not necessarily reassuring.
“I have seen this before. I mean, you have two kids, you are dividing your attention…”
I have been nutritionally starving me son. My second son. The son that I have just been trying to “fit in” to the family, rather than tailoring the family him and my eldest son, both. This child, who has been clinging to me, has been begging me for food and I didn’t freaking notice, because I’ve been too busy trying to be the mom who can do it all, rather than the mom who is nurturing to both of her children. We have been so focused on how to stay two steps ahead of Ursa Major’s needs (applications for a preschool, scouting out the perfect town and school districts for kindergarten and continued schooling. Looking for playgroups and supplements…) that we’ve neglected Ursa Minor’s fundamental, basic and immediate needs. It has been a hard thing to come to grips with.
I have been thinking a lot about the implications. About even the lack of photos of Ursa Minor (in comparison to Ursa Major’s first year…I feel like I took 20 pictures a day of him. I have taken quite a few pictures of Ursa Minor, but not at the same volume and not for the same reasons.), and his major events. But then again, major events don’t have the same weight with the second baby as they did with the first: They are so expected…and so quaint in relation to whatever new wonder the first one is doing. Ursa Major is kicking balls and making friends and dancing and having temper tantrums. Ursa Minor is crawling, and spitting up. It absolutely doesn’t help that they are so close together in age. I feel like I don’t get to savor any accomplishments anymore, because there are so many happening at one time.
My husband and I are both first-borns, and have all of the attributes: A-type, over-achieving, highly competitive and driven, detail oriented, organized, and just a little high-maintenance. We’re perfect for each other because we are a perfect ying and yang…there are things that we are great at, things that we suck at, but get us both together and it’s magic. So we see Ursa Major as a perfect reflection of ourselves–he’s bright, brilliant, and beautiful. We get to show him off. He likes to be shown off. He already has some leadership qualities popping out. Preschools love him. We look good, he looks good, we all look good together. and Ursa Minor has been there for the ride…. benefiting….or so I thought. Because neither of us have any experience of having someone ahead of us, we’ve got no way of gauging how he is feeling. I don’t know where to begin…I don’t know how to mentor/shepherd/mother him from this particular viewpoint. I feel like everything I do for him will be good, but would it be great if one of us had been a younger sibling? How can we empathize and help him negotiate when we have no idea?
Ursa Major didn’t call me “mama” until he was 18 months old. Ursa Minor called me “mama” four times today. It is almost like he’s really saying “do you hear me now? How about now?” and each time he says my name, my heart melts…but my guilt hardens in my stomach. I love this child, I’ve loved him from the double line, the first kick and the so on and so forth. He, like his brother, is beautiful, bright and brilliant. He’s one brave step away from walking. He’s talking. He smiles and laughs freely and joyful. He is curious and industrious, like his brother. He’s a precious gift that I have neglected, and it’s because I haven’t tuned into him. He acts like all is forgiven…but if he achieve everything he wants in life, will I always blame it on myself?
and while all of this is swirling, we’re still waiting on the bank to tell us if our offer is accepted (the seller has accepted, but this is a short sale, so we need the bank too). We’ve been patting our selves on the back for our proactiveness and foresight. It just goes to show that we aren’t really as smart as we think.