A letter to my newborn, while I’m still a damn near perfect mom

by renegademama

Dear Arlo,

I was looking at you today and thinking about how right now, today, the day you turn 3 weeks old, I’m a damn near perfect mother to you. I think this is why I love, crave, the newborn stage. Maybe it’s just biology, evolution. But for me, I think it’s more, because for me, it’s the only time I truly feel like a 100% capable mama. Like I’ve got this shit IN THE BAG. I’m a knock-it-out-of-the-damn-park newborn mama.

My job is defined. My role, clear. I nurse, clothe, bathe and hold you. I give you the breast to comfort you, whenever you want. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to wonder. I don’t believe it can be done “too much.” In fact I think that’s the biggest crock ever. I wrap you up and carry you against my chest. For hours. Sometimes I lay you on your back so you can kick and look around and I can watch you and coo at you and smell your head. This is what we do, round and round, I know it and love it and own it completely (because you’re my 4th!). I’m tired, oh, so tired, but I know how to mother you now.

I know just what you need. I know what to try.

And this, I know, will fade.

You cry. I change your diaper, clean your little umbilical wound, wipe each little roll of your legs and pick you back up. Kiss, kiss, kiss. 

Your brother Rocket is 8 years old. The other day at camp another boy made fun of him because his toenails were painted. The boy taunted him then ran around telling the other boys how “Rocket has painted nails like a girl.” They all laughed. When I asked him what he did in response he said “I just walked away.” I wanted to die for a minute, because I can’t fix that. I see my son and his dropped eyes and the feeling of rejection and horror as all the other kids laugh. And I’ve got no moves. No arsenal. No sound or breast or wrap to pull that pain to me and make it go.

Your crying almost always subsides when I hold you close and kiss your temple.

But in that moment with Rocket I feel only a rage that’s useless, the desire to pummel some stranger assholes raising asshole kids. I’ve got nothing to offer my boy. The clichés don’t work. I want to beg him to stay true to himself no matter what the other kids think or say, but is that real and true and valid? At what point do we fit in because it’s easier, or, and this is the saddest part, SAFER?

When you stir, I pat you, rock you, nurse you again. Again. I check you when you’re sleeping, feel your nose and toes to be sure you aren’t too hot or cold. I keep you at my bedside or on my arm, against me. I know you should be right here. Now. Nowhere else. I do not question.

Your sister Ava will be 13 in November. Sometimes she looks at me and I almost can’t find my child anymore. She’s changing so fast and sure I’m left in the dust, where I should be, and I can’t stop biology. Soon the teenage years will come then she’ll be gone. I yell at her sometimes (man she enrages me!) because my God she’s just like me and I simply can’t stand it, the thought of her inheriting the ways I suck. I lie down at night and think of the ways I’m failing her, how I could be better. How soon, soon…

I do not fail you, newborn. Not yet. I’m your perfect mother.

You cry, I hold. 

Feed. Change. Rock. Bathe.

Two days ago Georgia had to have dental surgery because her 2-year molars came in with virtually no enamel and they all needed root canals. One was extracted. I saw her in that surgery gown holding her Tigger and I had not one single move to keep her near me, to fix it. I had to let her go, down the hall, to be put under anesthesia, endure pain. They said it wasn’t anything I did. Or maybe it was medication I took while pregnant or breastfeeding. Doesn’t matter, does it? I cannot save her from that which is coming her way. I have nothing up my sleeve. I watch and love and hide my tears so she won’t see I’m terrified.

When you take a bath I put a warm washcloth across your belly and chest and legs to keep you warm, tell you I’m here. You cry anyway when I wash behind your ears. You’re so dramatic with your wailing. But in the hooded towel you find your tiny fist and I say “It’s okay, little buddy” and it’s enough.

It is enough. 

 

So hey, newborn, Arlo, I think I just want to thank you, for these few weeks of damn-near-perfect motherhood, while you’re just barely detached from me and my job is so clear.

Thank you for this time of meeting all your needs, pretty much all the time, or at least knowing how, more or less, to do so, without my personality flaws getting in the way. Your personality doesn’t clash with mine. Your whining doesn’t drive me around the bend. You don’t irritate me. I don’t irritate you.

Not yet.

You haven’t gotten sick yet. You aren’t defiantly yelling “no” for no apparent reason. You aren’t losing your shit because I gave you the blue cup instead of the red. Your hormones aren’t raging. My temper hasn’t screwed up our day. My impatience hasn’t snapped at you when you ask me the same question fifteen times. You don’t want to play board games I can’t muster the energy for. You don’t need camps I can’t afford. You aren’t worried about the bullies in junior high. Or the bullies anywhere. Nobody cares that you can’t read yet. Other people’s douchebag kids aren’t near you. Nobody makes fun of your baby acne.

You are only you. And I, I am only me. We’re just these two physical beings – still kind of primal and raw and distilled – so now, just for now, I’ve got everything you need.

Tomorrow will begin the series of letting go, and I’ll be ready for that, I think, or actually not at all, but I’ll do it anyway because it will be my job then, but it’s messier and harder and uglier than this.

This is simple. I’ve got this.

One day I’ll see you and I’ll have no move for you, either, no way to fix it, soothe it, clean, calm, or make it alright.

But not today.

So yeah, little one, thank you for these few days of perfect motherhood.

I guess I had forgotten I had it in me.

You’ll forget I had it in me, too.

But for now, we’ve got each other dialed, kid.

You and me.

Love,

Mama

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Once again, thank you Sarah Maren for the photos. Sarah took these portraits on June 8, when Arlo was 4 days old. It was a fucking lovely afternoon of our families hanging out. She’s an artist and a dear human and wonderful friend.

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rmothering

  • Becki

    Crap, tears.

  • Wendy

    Love this post – gorgeous pics of a gorgeous bub and mumma 🙂

  • Jacquelyn

    Thank so much for sharing your thoughts with us in blog land. You so often put thoughts and feelings I have had into words where I wasn’t able to. You really do have a gift. And I for one feel blessed by it!! : )

  • Kristen

    I found your blog last year and after laughing hysterically over your Calliou post with my 11 year old son (whose 6 yr old brother used to love that infuriating show) I have since read every single post. I have to say this is one of your most beautiful, I started tearing up within minutes. You’re an amazing writer and I only hope you keep this blog going, I’m so excited when I see you in my inbox. I think your family is exceptional, thank you for writing.

  • Rachel @ Reality Chick

    Arlo IS SO AMAZINGLY CUTE AND SQUIDGY.

    Congrats… been meaning to swing by and say that but am ensconced in the hell that is renovating.

    Funnily enough I wrote a letter too this week, only mine is to my unborn bubba. Reading yours made me definitely feel a bit calmer about what is to come and what my role will be. Bit scared as he’ll be my first! Argh!!!

    Enjoy your precious wee boy, he’s such a beauty! XX

  • Catherine

    This is so, so beautiful. It brought me back to when my daughter was that tiny. But I was wracked with uncertainty, not knowing if I was doing anything right, shoulders hunched in doubt and pain when breastfeeding was so, so hard, wondering how anyone in their right mind sent me home with a newborn. I wonder if that will change with a second baby, once I’m a veteran mom.

    At any rate, thank you for these beautiful, tender, raw words.

  • Krisztina

    My second one is 2 months old and you put my exact feelings into words just perfectly.
    Thank you!

    • Krisztina k w

      hey Krisztina,
      I’m Krisztina too. are you also Hungarian?

  • Lauren

    Good God he is perfect

  • Kim

    You’re amazing. This is amazing. This is one the best things I’ve ever read. Thank you.

  • Laira

    Beautiful words and beautiful photos. This piece really resonated with me, as does most of your work. My third perfect baby is 7 months now, and I often feel guilty about how much I want to hide away with her and pretend I am perfect, too. My 6 and 4 year olds remind me constantly how mean and nasty I can be. Thanks for being there, too. I feel less alone in all this craziness.

  • Meredith @badsandy.com

    I don’t love the newborn stage, but i do love this post. And why do you look like you’re in a magazine seven seconds after birthing a human?

    I bet you’re perfect even after they’re newborn.
    xo

  • JJ

    Stop making me cry, damn it!

  • Sara Howard

    Love

  • anne

    Great article. Teared up.

  • anne

    Great article. Nailed every mom’s fear and pridr.

  • Shan

    Ahh, yes, I remember this. And I remember having an argument with my almost 15 year old son, looking down at my belly swollen with Madelyn and thinking, “I can’t believe I’ll ever be this annoyed with you!” (So far I haven’t, but she is six and so much like me with her hard stares and her eyebrows not quite raising in total defiance… but so close.)

  • Karyn

    Just beautiful, thank you for your rawness. I recognise that intense connection, although I never got to experience it with my daughter as a newborn, anxiety got in the way. For us it took months for that trust and oneness to develop, but now it’s there I totally know how incredible it is. Better late than never. Thank you again for reminding me of how special that feeling is.

  • jess

    Thank you for letting me get my newborn fix through your page. Baby A is beautiful!

    I don’t know how you have time to write with three kiddos and a newborn… You’re blowing my mind. Keep it up. Its good stuff.

  • Maggie

    I have three kids and, although I’m happy to stop there, there is a part of me that will always want more. I didn’t understand this division of feelings until I read your post. Pregnancy, birthing, newborns, yep. I got that stuff down. I’m actually pretty good at it. This kid business leaves me questioning the lessons I teach my kids on a daily basis. Oh but to soothe a wee babe and make his whole world right…I wish I could do the same for my 3, 5 and 7 year olds.

    • Rosa Fang

      Believe me, a grandmother for the first time, you do soothe your children daily, just in a different form. That form actually includes yelling, punishing and anger, so children can stop quickly when engaging in undesirable behavior. Do not feel guilt, it’s a wasted energy. Trust that your love for them increases with their age, 3, 5 and 7.

  • Roxanna Smith

    beautiful, thank you. I love that your newborn makes you feel like a perfect mama and you can get in touch with that. I have 2 teen girls now and a 12 year old boy and every day I am struggling with how little I can actually do to make it “better” for them. It’s humbling. I don’t want another baby but perhaps I need a puppy…motherhood is kicking my a** right now.

  • Amber

    Wow. I got chills and tears from reading this. I can so relate to these feelings. I have two kid (8 yrs. girl, 12 wks boy) and as my girl has grown I’ve felt less and less competent at being her mother. I carry this burden of nameless guilt around all of the time and don’t even know if I actually have anything to feel guilty about. With my 12 week old, I feel that I can handle anything thrown my way. You, lady, are an amazing writer and I thank you for sharing this with us. Your little Arlo is so cute, too!

    • Rosa Fang

      Do not waste your energy feeling guilty towards your daughter. It is natural when another human came between your duel, after all it’s been only 12 weeks. Your daughter is better off to learn from your example, to love another without reservation.

  • Kerry

    Yep, you got it. Roll with it, enjoy. I totally get this. You realise that hopefully it will all
    come back around when your kids are older and they’ll be stoked to hang with their great
    Mama and there will be less whining (again, hopefully!)

    Meanwhile, enjoy these precious days! X

  • Jessica

    Damn, Janelle. How do you even find time to make us cry right now? Every word here is just so exact. My oldest-of-four turns eight today, my youngest is 10.5 months. So I don’t have a nearly teenager yet myself, but everything you say I feel too. Thanks for your writing. And what delicious pictures!

  • Shannon

    Yep. Hit the nail on the head. Perhaps that is why I am craving a 3rd. I have a 4 and and 8 year old and I am turing 38…….and man I would love to live those first days/weeks/months/years again…..

  • Feruza

    I’ve been reading you since your “I became a mother. And died to live” piece, which I had to print out. Because some perfect lines need to be preserved, re-read, re-thought.
    I also had a baby a month ago. I have an older child too. What you wrote has me in tears. So true, so true…so perfectly true. Thank you for that. For putting this feeling into words. For naming this stage-“the prefect mother” stage. You are right, I may be a crappy mother to my 7 year old , but I try, oh how I try, how I hate myself for failing, but I will try again tomorrow.
    But I am a perfect mother to my 1 month old tiny son. Thank you for making me realize that. And patience to you and all the other mamas, those who are perfect for now, and those who are trying.

  • Nicole

    Here’s the deal. I had 4 kids in 5 yrs. My oldest is about to be a freshman in high school, my baby is nearly 9,stubborn,defiant and beautifully -mine-. I’m in school full-time (32-40hrs a week, plus about another 15-20 working at it) and though I have a pretty damned good husband of 14yrs, I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing to or with my kids these days. This post really hit me, because it’s so freaking -true-.

    • Rosa Fang

      Good for you ! I believe you know exactly what you’re doing. Your children, with your example, learn the value of your trying to fortify yourself by pursuing an education. They will look up to you for your independence, diligence and strength. Don’t doubt yourself.

  • Laura

    I wish you’d have had him a couple months ago and written this earlier si I’d have read it before my first was born. In hindsight, this is the perfect mentality for those first few weeks. Suck them up and just don’t concern yourself with much other than that new little one.

  • Terri S. Vanech

    Bittersweet, reading this as our daughter is off at college orientation. great post.

  • Shenoa

    Chills. Tears. Deep Understanding. I love all that you write.

  • Jess

    You’ve written a lot of wonderful posts, but this post, by far, is the most beautifully written. It broke my heart. It put my heart back to together.

  • Ashley bell

    Thank you oh so much for saying what I’m thinking. It’s refreshing to hear another sober mom share the real, the hard, the blessings.

  • SummerLily

    Beautifully written. What a eautiful little baby boy! You made me cry (again!) 🙂

  • jade

    You just gave me breath. I am a mom of three….desperately dying for a fourth. It has taken me over. I didn’t know why. Until this. This is so beautiful. So poignantly accurate. All the feelings that surface with each new stage of growth are surprising and new. You’ve allowed me to breathe again today. And I no longer question that number four would be just what I need.

  • Donna

    Amazingly you described my life……without the newborn. My 13 year old know it all daughter, who makes me wonder how I can even tie my shoes because I’m that stupid, lol. My 10 year old daughter that plays the middle child like nobodies business and then my youngest 7 year old son that still on many days, can see my hurt and disgust with being the stupid mom who clearly knows nothing and actually stops and takes time to tell me it’s ok and he loves me and I’m the best mom ever.

    I will tell you the almost teen girl of yours will “Get It” one day. I promise. My daughter just “KNEW” she would be happier living with her Dad, so with as much devastation as a Tsunami can cause I let her go…..

    And then after 3 months, she wants who????? Her Mom…why….because her Dad loves her and she knows this….but he’s not and will never be Mommy.

    That’s what we do as Mothers, we clean up puke, fix wounds, get pissed off at the world around us being full of assholes and want to pull out the grizzly bear when someone hurts in any way shape or form one of our young.

    So keep blogging, keep the faith and know that even on your worst day of adult tantrums and feeling like you can’t fix them or help them, YOU DO!!! In every sentence and every breath they are listening and it may take a while for them to get dialed back into you, but they will.

    Why…..???? Because you’re Mom!!!!!

    Great Blog my Friend!!!!

  • Sherry

    Yeah, you nailed it. As usual. And I am likely to recall certain parts of this and burst into tears at odd points during the rest of the day. Week. Year. I miss babies! And the simplicity of their relentless, easy-to-meet needs.

    I wish Rocket could come hang out with my girls. They are so not assholes. And they’d love him.

    Enjoy that gorgeous new baby.

  • Megan

    So perfect. Every word, perfect.

  • ftgrl

    allofthis. beautiful boy. beautiful words. wow. raging uterus.

  • Lisa Seymour

    He is just beautiful Janelle. So much hair! Thank you for your words.

  • Lisa Seymour

    He is just beautiful Janelle. So much hair! Thank you for your words.

  • Martin Conterez

    Such a beautiful baby. I longingly remember those days I could just plop the pawns on my chest and fall asleep with the TV on.

  • Elizabeth

    Beautifully written. My thoughts in your words. Rock on, Mama.

  • Renee

    Wow – what you wrote about your new son is beautiful. What you wrote about the other three kids is the truth. We all wish that we can keep them safe and protected from the bad things in the world. That is the way it is when you are a mother. We get to take the good with the bad and just grit our teeth and bear it. It sucks but it is what it is. However, it is worth every minute of the bumpy ride!

  • Meghan

    Thanks for sharing. Your truths moved me to tears. I have a 13 year old girl and a 2 year old boy and am hoping for more. All mommas need to know how much we have in common, regardless of how we do what we do. Much love.

  • Phoebe

    A LITTLE TOOTH
    Thomas Lux

    Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
    and four, and five, then she wants some meat
    directly from the bone. It’s all

    over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall
    in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
    talker on his way to jail. And you,

    your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
    nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
    are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.

  • adelfa

    This was so absolutely right. And I thought it was so hard. Even on baby 3. I only realize now how easy it really was. Good thoughts to you today!

  • Jennifer S

    Holding my almost eight month old (baby #4) & already missing those dates. I love the pictures!

  • Sim

    Tears flowing down my face as you have reminded me that once I was the whole world to my babies and now their worlds are very big indeed. But just as then, my mothering was enough (despite my doubts, fears and mistakes), it is also enough now (despite my doubts, fears and mistakes). Thank you for your beautifully expressed words, as always.

  • Jessie

    Thank you for the gentle reminder that I am good at something right now. As I write this my sweet 3 month old is sleeping in her swing (unbuckled!!) and I am trying to destract myself from the car that needs fixing, the 13 year old who is crazy and my two boys who won’t stop fighting. Four kids rock, but as they get older, I feel less and less capable. I miss comforting with boob and hugs and I love yous! Why can’t they keep working? Great piece, keep ’em coming!! Your sweet boy is amazing!!

  • Aria Alpert Adjani

    I too have a newborn. she is 8wks and today I wrote about how big my ass is.
    http://saltyspicybitterandsweet.com/big-booty-and-a-muffin-top/

    beyond thrilled I found your blog. you’re writing is fucking brilliant. so inspiring. i wanna be friends wit you yo!

  • Tracy

    I was already crying and then the pictures and it’s a waterfall. This kind of feeling you’re describing…how it tugs at those deep places of our hearts.

  • Tabitha

    Wow. My fifth is soon to be 4 months and the growing has already taken over. Your writing says it all.

  • Vivienne

    What a wonderful, insightful and TRUE piece. Well said, sister.

  • Samantha

    I’m a new reader of your blog and am hooked on the way you write how so many feel. I am a mother of 5, 14 down to 5 months and am right where you are with my little one still. Perfect mama that nurses, comforts, bathes, changes and repeats. Mothering is nuts at times and naturally we all fall short eventually. This evening as we are cleaning up after dinner my 11 yo says, ” hey mom remember my friend Charlotte, her parents were so fun that time I went over.” I’m like oh yeah I do and she reminds me how they played hide and seek and ran in the rain with them and played with them in puddles at the park. So I say yeah they are in the rare group of annoyingly perfect parents that do everything with their kids and she just laughs and says,” really mom!” I then say hey why don’t you see if they’ll adopt u ( teasingly and she knows it) I then say hey those are the kind of kids that will never be happy playing alone so see, I’m doing you a favor by not being all awesome, you’ll learn to be independent! She just cracked up. I suck sometimes and sometimes wish I could go back to when I was all they needed,and sometimes wish I had it in me to homeschool them to keep them away from all the craziness and hurt of the world, so I feel ya, most of the world does, except for the annoyingly perfect parents that actually really don’t exist, or fall short where we don’t or just are faking it (soule crushing mama anyone?)Anyway,congrats ,Enjoy being perfect for the short time we all get!

  • kim

    Amen and amen. Thank you, Janelle.

  • Cat

    Nobody cares that you can’t read yet. Other people’s douchebag kids aren’t near you. Nobody makes fun of your baby acne.

    This is perfect. I remember spending so much – too much – time when my kids were babies thinking it would be easier when they were older, when they would sleep for longer than two or three hours at a time, when they could feed themselves, etc. But, oh, it’s harder when you can never know if you’re doing it right – are you doing the right things, too much or not enough, and all that.

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • Leslie

    Your baby is beautiful. I could have written this myself, only it’s worse, because my baby is nine and I’ve got some really big kids (19, 20, 23). I know all there is to know about newborns. I could do it in my sleep. But teenagers/young adults? I have no clue. I won’t know if I did the right things until they are maybe 30. And I’m not even sure how much anything parents do or say even matters with teenagers, you know? I didn’t know all this yet the last time I had a newborn. I wish I had–I would have enjoyed her even more.

  • Joelle

    Somehow you captured exactly why I enjoy the newborn stage. I miss that stage now that my kids are 5, 3 & 1.5; maybe that’s why I’m considering #4. So help me God, I must be crazy. But thank you for bringing back all those memories.

  • LaToya

    This post made me tear up. I appreciate moms who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable by being honest.

    Gosh, that’ a beautiful baby!

  • pregnant with 3rd

    Bawling!

  • Liesa Gonzalez

    I remember the first time I yelled at my next to last kid. She was the baby of the family for almost six years. I damn near killed me. That was the beginning of the great break. Now, I look at her baby sister and wonder how long will it last….

  • Brittany

    Love this!

  • Michelle

    Great post

  • Nicole

    If you keep writing posts that make me want to have more babies, I’m going to have to stop reading.

  • Megan

    Simply beautiful. That is all.

  • Tracey

    Beautiful post. I enjoy them all. Honesty is a good thing when parenting. I can’t be very honest with my friends. Hate to air the dirty laundry. My very soon to be 18yo hates me. Seriously. He can’t stand me. He makes sure I know it. Hope my other ones don’t come to hate me. Funny in a way when we have given him so much. But, I imagine this is the problem. I am exhausted.

  • Jendra

    I don’t want more than one, so my newborn days are hopefully behind me forever, and yet reading something like this is almost enough to make me reconsider.

  • lisa

    This was pretty damn perfect. Thank you. I’m forwarding it to my 24, 22 and 19 year olds right now. To remind them, that once, we had it dialed in and it was sweet.

  • Kerry

    Mine is 4 and a half months, my second, and boy can i relate. We got this part, right? Man oh man thank you. This shit is hard but we are doing our best and it sure is nice to get it totally right for at least a little while. Love your blog mama.

  • Denae

    Thank you. Seriously thank you for this post. It was just what I’ve been feeling & needed to hear.

  • Karla

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a three year old, a 20 month old, and one on the way. I had one of those days today, a day I wish I could do over. I was impatient, mean, and I yelled. This post reminds me of the little bundle of joy coming my way, however fleeting “little” may be. Some days are so hard, others full of joy. Riding the roller coaster of motherhood is the most wild ride of all! Congratulations on your beautiful new baby boy!

  • itzybellababy

    Such a nice little slice of life there. I had forgotten about those days.. before the toddler started SPITTING. blech.
    SO beautiful. Thanks.

    http://www.myitzy.com

  • Rachel

    I was first introduced to your blog when you announced your fourth pregnancy. I was preparing to announce my fourth as well and I anticipated a few judgmental reactions. Your blog helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. Today I read this letter to Arlo and I couldn’t have found more perfect words to describe this newborn stage. It’s a brief moment of redemption, a reprieve from less than peaceful bedtimes and fights over meals. And, for us at least, the newborn stage is a time for our other children to show only love and tenderness towards their newest sibling. They don’t argue or compete with him. They are just gentle, kind, and caring with their new brother. We are all madly in love, like a brand new romance, and it’s beautiful.

  • Em

    I love all the pictures in ‘The Letter’ post, my absolute favourite has to be the black and white shot of Mama and Arlo, you are clearly inhaling everything he is and the look in your eyes…..is Fierce, in that picture you are Fierce with Love and for me it sums up motherhood perfectly, tender and fearsome. A beautiful, beautiful photo. Thank you for sharing those precious moments with us. Be kind to yourself xx

  • Kelli Prieur

    You are just incredible- I can not thank your enough for your raw honesty – I’ve just read two of your posts and am now going to devour every single other piece you’ve written! Thank you for reminding me that not I’m not alone. So happy I came across you!! Xx

  • Ambika

    I dont know how to select a letter for my baby she is born on 9th oct 7:43 AM Pls help me guys

  • Siri

    I had to come back to this post after reading it 14 months ago and having it stick out in my “eh, should we really have another one?” brain. Turns out, that descision was made pretty easy by a lost iud! Ha! My 3rd born is 3 weeks old and this is the letter he deserves. It’s like all the stress and uncertainties of early motherhood with his 2 older brothers are forgotten and no questions need to be asked when the baby cries. Boob, burp, cuddle, repeat. Thanks for writing blog posts that are worth going back to.

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