Letter to Baobao,
On your 100th day
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
My darling Baobao,
It will, of course, be quite a few years before you are able to read this letter and, probably, quite a few more than that before you are able to appreciate it. It will even be five or six years before you are able to simply read these words at all.
Nevertheless, I write them, for you and also for your mother and I.
Today marks the one hundredth day since you came into this world, since I saw you emerge from between your mother’s akimbo thighs, all damp and slimy and gelled with blood and mucus, howling outrage at the shock and indignity of being pushed from the comfort of the womb, the only home you’d known for the nine long months of your brief life.
You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and it was all I could do not to begrudge your mother the joy of holding you against her bare chest — skin to skin, they call it, a far cry from the old days of my childhood, when babies were immediately taken from their mothers, weighed and measured before being taken out to show to their waiting fathers, then placed in a plastic basinette for more examinations before, finally, being introduced to their mothers — before, nearly two hours later, I had my own chance to hold you close to myself.
How can I express to you just how tiny, how helpless, how absolutely precious you were during those first, exhausting anxiety-riddled days? How can I explain that you have, with each passing day, become that much more precious to me, and to your mother, even as you have taken up more space, grown stronger, more (dare I say it?) human?
Well, it’s true. When you first emerged, you were a tiny, squalling thing — during those rare moments when you were awake and (of course) eating.
To a large extent, that is still a pretty good description of what you are and what you do. You sleep, you wake up to eat, you pee and you poo. But as time goes on, you spend a little more time awake, a little more time noticing the world around you.
I would like to say that I’ll never forget the first time I saw you smile, but the truth is, I’m not entirely sure when that was. As with so much else, there is a slow transition to your actions. “Is that a smile?” we would ask each other, “or just gas?”
By the time we were certain that you were smiling at us, you had probably been doing it for a while.
And so it is, and so I think you will find it in your own life: those moments of certain phase changes, when one thing becomes another, will be few and far between, and sometimes you won’t even notice when they do occur.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, you are even now only 100 days old, and if you smile when I make a funny face, if it seems you appreciate when I rock you in my arms and sing you to your surprisingly dream-filled sleep, you are still a creature that spends most of her time in that sleep, still mostly helpless (if ever so much stronger!), still an eating and peeing and pooing machine …
Yet here it is. I don’t think I can begin to tell you just how much joy you have brought to my life.
It doesn’t hurt that you have been an easy baby (so far! *Daddy Zesser crosses his fingers and knocks the proverbial wood*). You seldom cry but when you are hungry. You sleep when we travel (except — of course! — when you get hungry again!) and you are not bothered when meeting new people, your cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Not to mention how brave you were when you received those first two, shocking, needles in your tiny thighs; it was almost as if you understood we were having you vaccinated “for your own good”, as parents have been excusing their cruelties since time immemorial.
But that cruelty was for your benefit, and though it pained me to pain you, I have no regrets, nor will I when we do it again in less than a month’s time.
But I digress.
I am at work as I type this, Baobao, time away from you of which I begrudge every minute of every hour.
But even if you cried more than you do, if you fought your diaper changes instead of cooperating, if you struggled in the bath instead of smiling and letting us wash you up and down, even if you made everything harder than you do, I have no doubt that I would still love you more than I had ever thought possible.
The ancient Greeks had the right idea when they decided that more than one word was needed where English has but one, love.
The love of a parent for a child — of your father, for you, is a reality on an animal level. I fell in love with you the moment you came into the world. (Do I repeat myself? Well, I repeat myself; I am full up, I overflow.)
That love has only grown with the passage of these 100 days I am celebrating now.
That decade of days has been the richest I can recall, and quietly every bit as intense as the halcyon days of my teenage years, when I believed I was metamorphosing from boy to man. (Little did I know that maturation is a project that lasts — at least it did for me; perhaps it will be different for you — many years beyond adolescence! At 54, I don’t know that I am even now done growing up.)
And I look forward with awe (and a little dread, too, but that is a tale for another letter, or maybe, many letters, to come) to watching you grow and learn and blossom. I yearn to be there for your first tentative foot-steps, your first words, even your first No!
But all that is the future.
Happy 100th day, my darling girl! I hope (and believe) that your mother and I have done a pretty good job in making your first three months and a bit just about as happy and healthy as possible. If your smile doesn’t lie, you think so, too. Or at least, you have no complaints.
I love you desperately, daughter mine. May you live to enjoy one thousand times one hundred days, and may I see you through at least a tithe of those!