For anyone who follows this blog, you probably noticed that I took a little hiatus in 2014. I had never intended to take two years off from writing; even after Piper was born I still had hopes of writing about our new life together. But an unexpected thing happened as the weeks passed by after her birth. I got an overwhelming feeling that no matter how much time I spent perfecting every word, I would never be able to adequately capture our experience with her. So out of fear that I would do her first year a disservice – coupled with my newfound lack of free time – I stayed silent. I have enjoyed meticulously documenting Piper’s milestones in her baby book, but what she won’t find when she looks through it someday is the emotion. And so I’m sitting down in an attempt to do some sliver of justice to the joy she has brought us in her early years. Not every sentence will be as poetic or witty as I once would have had time to perfect. Not every anecdote will connect to the next. Only 1% of what we’ve gone through is captured here. But even if she’s able to someday glean a small bit of what we’ve experienced, it will be worth it.
At 8:49am on May 30, 2014, our first born entered the world. I was so excited to meet her that, as they were handing her to me, I froze for a split second. I wanted to see her so badly that my first instinct was to have someone else hold her so that I could get a good look! It was in that exact instant – the doctor’s arms extending towards me with a screaming baby coming my way – that it hit me I had become a mom. There was no one else they were handing that baby to. She was my responsibility now, and I can honestly say that I haven’t frozen since.
We named her Piper Elaine Nauman. We chose Piper because it’s unique and a little bit spunky. We chose Elaine because it’s a family name...my mother, my niece, my daughter and I all share this dainty middle moniker. I don’t know if it’s because of her born-in nature or the way that we’ve nurtured her, but she completely lives up to her name. She is spunky and sweet all rolled into one.
It’s funny how polarizing a cry can be. We have spent hundreds of hours over the past two years trying to get her to stop crying. Yet in those first newborn seconds, all we wanted to hear was her cry so that we knew she was alright. What we were begging for one moment is something that we almost immediately began dreading the next.
The two days we spent in the hospital were a complete blur. I still have very vivid memories from that time, but I can remember thinking that there was absolutely no distinction between day and night anymore. It was now just one continuous day.
If you’ve met Piper then you know that she looks exactly like Steve. From Day 1 I knew that she didn’t look anything like me, and I was completely at peace with that because I thought she was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. But even still, there was a fear. What if she got lost in a sea of babies? Would I be able to find her or would she be stuck with the other babies whose moms couldn't recognize them? As silly as it sounds, I actually voiced this concern to Steve and our nurse in the hospital. They reassured me that I would be able to find her.
A month or so after the delivery, one of our friends asked me if it was taboo to ask about my labor. Taboo?!? Why should it be? Labor is one of – if not the most – physically demanding feats a woman will ever accomplish. Why should it be taboo to ask her about it? All of that hard work should be celebrated! If you ever want to ask me about my labor, I will skip over the unpleasant details, but I’ll be sure to tell you about how hard I tried, how vulnerable I felt, and how empowering it was.
I was so incredibly lucky to have spent 16 weeks at home with Piper before going back to work. We spent that long, hot summer learning about each other, figuring out the intense relationship called breastfeeding, and napping together through every World Cup match.
I never knew my husband’s head would look so gigantic after staring at a tiny baby’s head all day long. I never knew that the monotonous metronome of a baby swing would not bother me at all...sounds that would have previously driven me over the edge are suddenly no big deal if they have anything to do with her. Babies truly do have magical, life-altering powers.
There’s nothing quite like watching your baby’s shear amazement at the bears swinging overhead on her mobile. I’m talking jaw-dropping, mouth-gaping amazement. It was like someone bottled up innocence and just poured it out in front of me.
I felt an immense amount of pride that she was brought into this world by no choice of her own and went from a completely helpless newborn to a curious, active, smart and strong infant in just 4 months. Every night she would go into her crib, get a little bigger, a little smarter and a little more capable.
It all happens so gradually, and then one day in sheer amazement you see how grown up she looks.
She figured out more about this big world every day and I can easily say that I’ve never seen something so cool unfold before my eyes.
I've seen her cry so hard that salt crystals have formed on the end of her eyelashes. Every time it broke my heart. But with each traumatic episode, she learned a little more about how to conquer this thing called life, and I learned about how to be a better mommy.
Then a funny thing happened after a while. Her crying didn’t even sound like crying anymore; it just sounded like communication. Without any words, we were started to speak each other’s language.
Every night that I’ve laid Piper down to sleep, the second to last thing I tell her is, "I love you". The very last thing she hears before she closes her eyes is, "I'm so proud of you". She has completely rewritten my definition of pride.
I’ve seen her gaze into my eyes, flash me a big smile, and then slowly shut her eyelids and drift off to sleep. I was the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes and it made her happy. That makes me endlessly happy.
It has also been sheer joy to experience life through her eyes. A cardboard box is now an untapped masterpiece. A school bus on the highway makes me jump. There is no doubt that she has forever changed me.
I think when you hold your own baby they never feel light. Because while you may only be holding 7 pounds in your arms, you're feeling the weight of the responsibility on your shoulders. I hear a lot of people say that their kids have grown up too fast. Maybe I will feel that way later in life, but right now I can honestly say that I don’t. Steve and I have made a conscious decision to pour ourselves into her every single day of her life, and I don’t look back with a single regret about how I’ve spent my days with her.
My life used to be defined by big moments that were almost always captured on camera – college graduation, engagement, wedding, half Ironman, new house. I find that now my life is defined by the small quiet moments that nobody else gets to see except Piper and I (and sometimes Steve). The most poignant example of this was her first day of school.
As we were walking down the hallway to her classroom, it was just the two of us. I looked down while we walked hand-in-hand, and she was literally bouncing with every step. I knew in that moment that I had raised a smart, adventurous, capable and confident little girl who was not only ready but excited to start her next chapter. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. My point is that there is no one with a camera to capture all of the funny, incredibly sweet and happy moments. There is just us – enjoying each other and being present in the moment. It’s exactly how it should be.
It’s amazing to think that after everything we’ve poured into her these past two years – all of the memories we’ve made together – she won’t remember any of it. Will it have shaped her? Absolutely. I have no doubt about that. But still, she won’t remember. And so as she turns two years old today, I write this to document that we had a lot of fun together and loved each other very, very much.
Piper Elaine Nauman – she makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me worry and makes me smile. But more than anything, she makes me so very proud to be her mama.