Two days ago, it was my daughter's biological one year birthday. She
is so big now but she's still my baby doll. When I carry her around,
it reminds me of when I used to carry baby dolls around under my arm.
She doesn't really like for me to dress her anymore so every diaper
change etc is one big wrestling match. Sometimes, I lose it and snap
at her and then I have to remember that these are the days, etc. and I
remember myself.

Things are better. I'm feeling more confident about the driving test.
I take online and practice exams every day and more often than not I
do pass them. That's giving me more confidence. I don't know Italian
at all but I know the language of the drivers exam with razor-sharp
clarity. I have to learn it somehow. Giovanni and his family are
chomping at the bit to get me into drivers school. I'm getting
lukewarm to it--or I'm warming up. I was very afraid before because I
didn't understand the language and I wasn't doing very well on the
practice exams; now I'm doing better on the practice exams and the
book makes a lot more sense. I'm also getting wise to the trick

Yesterday, Aunt Verena came to visit. The baby had a late nap so it
was almost four o'clock when she and I went down. Everyone was already
waiting for us at the kitchen table. I was surprised! Aunt Verena
offered to take me somewhere, so I suggested Largo Grande in
Avigliana. In retrospect, I don't think that's what she meant. Maybe
she meant I was supposed to choose the Auchan if I needed a carton of
milk. Whatever. She drove me to Largo Grande and we walked around. She
speaks very clearly and I understand her mostly. I like her but it's
easy to like someone you don't live with. We walked around the lake
with all the other Sunday tourists. It was beautiful but it got cold
as soon as the sun set.

Giovanni left for Brindisi yesterday. I don't know what it is, however, the baby
ALWAYS gives me grief when it's just her and me alone. She hasn't
woken in the night in a long time and she woke up in the night last
night. I was able to stave off full-on disaster, though. Now that I'm
weaning Anna, I can drink caffeine in the afternoon. I had a cup of
tea yesterday and regretted it when I was staring at the ceiling for
over three hours in the night.

I was up in bed listening to Thicht Naht Hahn giving a speech on
"letting go." It was difficult to understand his thick accent. Funny,
yesterday, Verena had a difficult time understanding me when I said
something in a way that I thought was clear, loud, and slow. I'm
understanding a lot more than I used to. Instead of things taking 15
seconds to make sense, it now takes more like 5 seconds. It's by no
means instantaneous, however. I don't know if that will ever happen.  It's like a switch.
I do have to turn it on and off. If I turn it on, I can understand.
But if the switch is off, it's just noise. Same with reading. I have
to parse everything out.

I need to work on my grammar. Right now, I'm working on basic
memorization. I need to learn the tricks and ways of the language in
order to process novel words and phrases.

I spent the morning studying drivers ed and then went downstairs to
collect Anna after two hours. She was out in the garden and now
they're feeding her so I'm going to go get her in 20 minutes.

A Letter to My Daughter on Her First Birthday

January 29, 2015

Dear Anna,

On January 28th, 2014, I had an early morning doctors appointment before going to work at Intermix. It was a cold day and I wore my black parka and my purple scarf; I had a big breakfast of oatmeal. I got to the obstetrician's office in Union Square, New York, and waited my turn. First, they made me step on the scale and at that point in my pregnancy I no longer looked at the numbers. Then, they checked my blood pressure. The nurse was very startled by the number and checked it again to make sure. She made a note on my chart.

I met with a doctor I'd never met with before; she very pleasantly told me she was sending me over to Labor and Delivery (on another campus) to run some more tests. She assured me that everything was fine but she just wanted to make sure (etc.). On the walk over to the First Avenue hospital, I called your Grammy in alarm and she told me it was probably nothing. I also texted my manager, Luis, at Intermix to tell him I'd be late. I did not text or call your father because I didn't want to alarm him at work unnecessarily.

I found Labor & Delivery and filled out some paperwork; they sent me to wait and I waited and waited and waited at least 45 minutes to an hour before I had to remind them again that I was there. They'd forgotten about me but then they put me in a room, told me to get into a hospital gown and pee in a cup, and then they stuck an iv in my hand. I figured I wasn't going anywhere soon. I texted my manager and told him that I wasn't coming in that day.

The tests didn't go so well so they decided to induce. I called your father on his cell at work but he wasn't answering. I texted him CALL ME and then called your Grammy in Portland (where she was vacationing) to google his workplace to get the workplace number. She didn't have wifi in the Portland condo, so she called her sister to google it. I finally got through to your father at the same time your grammy did on the landline. She called the reception at Avio and said that it was an emergency and she needed to speak with Giovanni right away and it was his mother-in-law!

I told your father not to hurry and that it was going to be a long while before the baby came. We learned that from the prenatal classes. I didn't have a bag packed. I told him to bring some clothes for me and definitely all the chargers for all the electronics and the list of baby names! We still hadn't picked a name!

It wasn't a pleasant time for me. I was glad that I'd had the huge bowl of oatmeal because that was the last food I saw for days; they hooked me up to every sort of drip and machine. Yadda yadda yadda I'll spare you. Hot and cold running doctors and nurses; never seemed to see the same one twice. Finally, your dad showed but there wasn't much for him to do. I wasn't going to give birth anytime soon.

He came and went; he went to starbucks and the dunkin donuts and walked around the neighborhood. The nurses and doctors kept me plenty company. They were all very nice and friendly. Then, it was night and your father had to sit by my bedside in a hard-backed chair because there was nothing else for him. I wasn't very comfortable in my bed because I was hooked up to so many machines. If I rolled over, I'd unhook something and the nurses would come running in to cluck their tongues.

Close to dawn, they upped the pitocin and my contractions (which I hadn't felt up to this point) began in earnest. Still, the doctor said it was going to be a long time, so I told Giovanni he could go home and take a shower if he needed, etc. After the first big contraction, I told a nurse I wanted an epidural. Your father left but then came back because there was a big snowstorm outside. He was afraid that if he left the island of Manhattan, they'd close the George Washington Bridge and he wouldn't be able to get back in.

Soon, no more than an hour or two, many doctors and nurses came in and said that the baby was in distress and that they wanted to do an emergency C-Section--what your father and I feared the most! But I said okay because it needed to be done. They wheeled me into surgery and started to work on me (it seemed) before the epidural started. I could still feel some sensation and I was worried about that but not for long. They knocked me out. When I awoke, I was angry that I'd "slept" through the whole thing! I was angry at myself! Of course, I didn't know that they'd knocked me out deliberately. The nurse came over and asked me if I wanted to see my baby. "Of course!" She held you sideways because I was lying down. You looked like a baby to me, but I was so glad that there was nothing wrong with you! You were swaddled and had a little hat on. Then, I probably fell asleep.

They wheeled me into a Recovery room on another floor where for 24 hours I was watched over. I had the bed next to the window so I could look out. The nurses were so nice to me; I was hooked up to a magnesium drip and blood pressure machines that took my blood pressure every half hour (more or less). I couldn't eat anything but I wasn't hungry. Your father came to visit me a little bit, but, once again, there was little he could do. They wheeled you in a couple times to try to nurse, but I was out of it and unable to take care of you. I pumped regularly but I also let them give you formula. I drifted in and out of sleep and chewed the same gum.

You were taken to the nursery and put under the light because you had jaundice. You were a tiny little thing. Later, I would go visit you. You had a tiny little sunshade over your eyes. You were so tiny I had the nurse put the little visor back on you.

The next day, I was put in my own room--even though I didn't pay more for a private room. It was huge but cold! For some reason, the heat didn't work properly. It was fine for me, but it was a little chilly for the baby. For four or five days, I stayed in that room. Every three hours, I'd shuffle to the nursery to sit and try to nurse you. I tried to sleep but the nurses kept waking me up to take my blood pressure. Every morning, I parked you at the nurses station and then went to go get my own breakfast at the breakfast buffet. Loved that!

I watched the 24 hour baby channel and looked on Facebook. Cindy Cravenho came to visit and soon Grammy showed up; she came immediately and stayed with her friend Wendy in Manhattan.

I had to stay an extra day because my blood pressure was still really high: it stayed high for more than a few weeks until one day it just returned to normal.

We still debated the name for you; our original name for you was "Anna" but your father thought we agreed on that name too quickly. He thought we should take more time naming you--even though we both liked "Anna." Finally, after much machinations, we chose "Kate" and even filled out the paperwork with "Kate." But then thought some more and decided on Anna after all. So we scratched out "Kate" on the paperwork and wrote "Anna." I thought of you as Kate for a good long while, though, after you were born. The road not traveled!

Your dad went to the Babies R'Us in Union Square and bought a little fleece outfit that you came home from the hospital in. Grammy, you, me and dad all drove to Englewood NJ where we lived at the Towne Center--a luxury apartment building. It was still very cold and snowy and those two first weeks that Grammy stayed with us were some of the best of my life. At night, we'd watch the winter Olympics in Socchi. In the morning, Grammy, you and I would watch The Daily Show.

Today, your first birthday, you and I got up around 8:00 am and I fed you and put some clothes on you. These days, I then put you in your highchair where you play with your toys or I put you in the l'ingresso where you can play with your toys and not be watched so much. The ingresso is baby proofed!

You are my delight and my joy. It's true that children open up new rooms in your heart. The first time you smiled at me, it was like the sun shining from behind clouds and the Angel Gabriel blowing his horn! And now, you're just starting to use words. Of course, the only two words you really know are "Mama" and "caca." But you use them all the time. The first time you used the word "Mama" around me, I teared up. I can't believe you're mine!

Right now, you tend to spend a lot of the mornings with your Nonni if I'm studying or if I have to go to school. Then, I bring you upstairs where I nurse you to sleep. You tend to nap for at least two hours. Afterwards, I diaper you and try to feed you (some protein and some pureed minestrone soup) and then put you back on the floor with your toys or  in your walker. You like the walker and tool around the apartment--going from room to room. You like to go into your room and pull all the books off the shelf; then, when you're not looking, I go in there and put them all back. You'd love to be in the kitchen more but I've put the baby gate up because there's just too much in there I don't want  you into yet.

You are a very healthy, normal baby. You've got four teeth (and sometimes use them on me!) and can stand by yourself assisted by a couch or chair. You can crawl very fast and are very curious about everything.

In the late afternoon, you go back downstairs for a couple hours while I do studying. Then, I retrieve you, give you some dinner in your highchair, give you a little bath in the tub, and then nurse you to sleep--if I'm lucky! Seems like you never want to go to bed anymore. Oh well, this, too, shall pass!

While I love you being my little (BIG) baby, I do want you to grow. I want to read stories with you and talk with you. I want to explore things with you. You and I will be good friends in the upcoming year. I know it.

I love you very much. I don't know what I'd do without you.