In Search of a Smile

Sage’s birth announcements have finally arrived, two months to the day after the actual birth that the cards are designed to announce. You know, since they are called birth announcements.
and all.

Now who in our circle hasn’t yet heard about my youngest daughter, I don’t know, but here I am in any case, applying ugly 41 cent Liberty Bell stamps (it was that or Star Wars) to the top right corner of a hundred envelopes. Etiquette dictates that This is What You Do and who am I to argue with etiquette. Besides, I need one for the page of the baby book that says “attach announcement here.”

Never mind that I don’t have a baby book. Minor detail.

Of course the timeline of this announcement business is quite different than it was the first time around. With Thalia, I heralded the news of her abandonment of my womb mere days after the actual event. By this time roughly two years ago, the cards were already delivered, torn open, and tossed into junk drawers across America. All I had left to do was manage the returned envelopes marked addressee unknown from Nate’s family members who move with the frequency that most people change their underwear.

I wish I could say that the delay in Sage’s cards had something to do with fatigue or juggling a toddler or even announcement apathy, that underrated affliction that runs rampant among second-time moms.

The truth is, I just couldn’t find the perfect photo.

There was something very specific I had in mind, and I believed I’d know it when I saw this one brilliant snapshot (out of the roughly 42 billion) I had taken of Sage. Within its borders, the baby would be looking directly at camera. Of course she’d be smiling, piercing the lens with a joyous intensity that proclaimed to the world just how happy she was to be cooing and gurgling and passing exceedingly loud gas among us. It might even have a sort of otherworldly glow around it, if not a flashing neon sign proclaiming THIS IS THE ONE.

But nope, no such photo to be found.

Sage’s smiles were never big enough. Her gaze was not direct. She just sort of lay there looking serious. Sometimes severe. Occasionally sweet. And when she did smile, which was not too often, she mostly seemed to be smiling for herself. So I kept snapping. Dozens more every day.

I’d diligently upload the set onto my computer and lean into the screen to scrutinize the entire lot until my lower back started aching, before rejecting each one for falling somewhere short of magical.

With every day that I failed to take the perfect photo, Sage grew (as babies tend to do). By six weeks she looked less like a squished, fresh newborn and more like a child. My time was up.

That’s when I realized: The picture I had in mind was nothing I’d ever have taken.

Not if I snapped a hundred more photos, not if I snapped a hundred million more photos. Because it wasn’t a description of Sage.

It was a description of Thalia.

It pained me to become aware of having already fallen into the one trap I swore I would not with child #2.

Sage is not her sister. She wasn’t born smiling. Sage’s earliest toothless grins were slower to come, her gaze less demanding of your attention, her expressions somehow newer. Quieter. Softer.

Now that she finally does smile, she will not be compared to the Gerber baby. Her eyes nearly squint to closing. Her tongue hangs out over her bottom lip and her cheeks puff out to her ears. It’s the smile so honest that it can’t be held back or even contained within the perimeter of her face. It’s awkward and goofy and utterly enchanting.

Sage may not become the child who stands up in the center of the circle at music class and dances by herself. She may not become the child who’s speaking in full sentences at two and knows the names of birds and fish that even I can’t identify. She will have her own quirks and her own accomplishments and her own funny traits for me to write about so I can embarrass her in years to come. I thought I knew these things from the start. But I didn’t. Not really. Not until I spent six weeks looking for a representation of Sage that didn’t exist.

I went back to my photo library with a clear mind and no expectations. Wouldn’t you know it, there were dozens of beautiful pictures of my littlest girl. Too many to count. To many to even send to her grandparents to fawn all over.

The one I chose, it’s perfect. Because it’s her.


find many beautiful comments on this post here. I still haven’t figured out how to import them.


46 thoughts on “In Search of a Smile”

  1. No, no, he’t not spam at all! Don’t think that!! lol.I think about this all the time – how will my next baby be different that my first? How can I nurture different personality traits when I’ve just grown to know my first? How can I ever love anyone else as much as her? Because I will and I can.Thanks for reminding me.

  2. See, I would have embraced the comedic opportunity of using the Star Wars stamps on birth announcements.And that’s probably why I’m not in charge of decision making around here.

  3. Heck, we used tacky pens as our birth announcements — you know, the ones you “click” and get four different rotating messages (“Boobaby – Born 2/3/2006 – 9lbs 6oz – And All You Get Is This Lousy Pen”). So I think any normal printed announcement with a photo is pretty good.I expect this is just the first of many “my kids are different” moments — enjoy them!

  4. It’s nice of Sage to teach you such an important mommy-lesson at such a young age. She is smart as well as beautiful!The flip-side of this, though, is that she MAY be like Thalia in many, many ways. I have to really watch myself b/c I will think to myself that my first is the ‘social, smart one’; my second is the ‘goofy/jokester’ and the last is the ‘quiet, affectionate’ one. I think that it is because I like to have things wrapped neatly up, but children are messy and resist such labels; it’s something I have to learn.

  5. I love this.You know so much about Sage now. In such a short time. It’s amazing how that happens, but each and every time, it does.

  6. I spent so much time reading that first comment that I forgot what I was going to say.

  7. Okay, just remembered. I am very impressed with you and all other parents who choose to do birth announcements with photos. We did not. For all anyone knows who received one, we may not even have children. Maybe it was all just a ploy to have a good excuse to buy a minivan (and of course put spinners on it :-)?!?!

  8. Birth announcements…. yeah…. Did it once. Bought them for the second, never mailed. Didn’t even bother with them for my third and just called everyone or gave them pictures when I saw them. That, or I held her up and said “Here she is!”

  9. You’re going to post the photo, right? You’re just waiting until everybody gets their snail-mail version first. Right?

  10. Hell, if it only takes two months for me to figure that out about Soon-to-Bee, than I’ll have done good. At least you sent the announcements. I can barely manage thank-you cards, etiquette be damned.

  11. We didn’t do announcements this time, mostly out of laziness. It was easier to call or e-mail everyone. And like kgirl, we can barely manage thank you notes, so preparing more mailings might just push me over the edge.So when do we get to see this picture?

  12. Beautiful post but where’s the picture? I was doing really well not scrolling down to look 🙂< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Organising Queen blog<> and < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Take Charge blog<>

  13. Yeah. My 2nd was your first. We’re still trying to figure out how that happened — but embracing their differences as best we can.We love them both. It’s amazing.

  14. B&P said it – you’re just waiting for folks to get their snail mail copies before you post the picture, right?Lovely post.

  15. This is a great post. And I was so looking forward to seeing the picture.. hope you post it soon!

  16. I still struggle with not comparing my two children. I have to keep reminding myself that just because The Princess acted a certain way or did certain things (OH…things like listening and following directions) DOES NOT mean that Junior Mayhem will. Congratulations on your newest family member! 🙂

  17. We didn’t even do birth announcemenets, so you’re already one up on me. LOL It is hard not to compare the second to the first. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out there comes this new one that doesn’t fit any of the rules you thought you knew.

  18. Can’t wait to see the beautiful picture of Sage!I loved this post, it so reminded me of the days when my boys were “babies” together (18 months apart, but still, babies)! For the record, they couldn’t be more different either.Carrie

  19. Beautidul post. Now this, this could be printed and put in a baby book….you know if you decide to get one. It’s real and true and honest. All the things she’ll probably someday want to hear about.

  20. I still need to send out my daughter’s birth announcements and enter her birth details into her baby book. She’s 16. That’s years old.

  21. What a lovely post. And now I’m freaking out because we haven’t EVEN STARTED working on an announcement for Phoebe. Dang. With Lucas, we had already sent out beautiful embossed cards with photos that Jamie attached BY HAND. Each one. She’s 2 months old already! Jamie and I are both second children with sporadic baby photos and incomplete baby books, and swore I wouldn’t do this to #2. We suck.

  22. Yep, no birth announcements with baby #2 either. Eeek! Course, she’s 13 now…probably a little late?

  23. I am so impressed with you for even doing birth announcements. I pulled off photo Christmas cards (though not with Santa, those were horrible, or in their cute dress up Christmas clothes, which were even more horrible, but in their Chiefs sweatshirts) last year and I was so proud of myself. I just pasted other pictures over the baby announcements pages in their albums. They’ll never know, will they?

  24. You did birth announcements for your SECOND child? Wow. I guess that’s how we decided to distinguish number 2. He’s the neglected and uncelebrated one. I’m sure that will help him grow up to be his own strong and unique person.

  25. Our oldest was born searching and wise. She seemed to understand and accept the world she lived in so easily. Our second was born with a scowl on her face and demanding that we change all of our routines to suit her. Now, I realize, they were created so different so that I could appreciate each for her own self. I can’t wait to see how #3 turns out!

  26. You know, I had exactly the same issue. But my second child in the end became a bigger smiler than my first!

  27. I totally get what you’re saying — I did the same thing with Rosie’s announcement. But what an eloquent way to explain.Sage is truly beautiful.

  28. Oh my God! You HAVE birth announcements for your second child? 🙂 Jackson (Baby #2) was announced when I sent out my Christmas letter. (Who cares if he was born in July???) Congrats to your family. Love your blog…it’s one of my favorites!

  29. It is perfect.You know, I actually had a relative mention to my mom that they had not sent a present because they had not been invited to the shower.Now, I don’t think ANYONE is obligated to give a present, but a note, even an e-mail note, would have been nice.Oh, and my announcements were a little late because we had just found out my baby had a major heart defect and my husband was deployed at the time to Iraq FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. So, in between the cardiology appointments I had to drag the colicky baby to all by myself, I was slowly preparing the announcements.Anyway…beautiful picture!!! Receiving that mug in the mail would certainly make me smile.

  30. breath-taking how you can birth two different little souls, isn’t it?gorgeous.sage is perfect, perfect.

  31. It’s hard not to see the comparisons before the differences but then their personalities shine through. It makes me just step back and smile. Sage is a beauty.

  32. I did the same thing when our second girl came along. She suffered from comparison so much longer since it took me so much longer to figure out what I was doing..

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