Valerie Esoff has learned to appreciate every moment in the first year of her baby boy’s life.
Two baby gates are stretched across the entrance to the family room, but 11-month-old Keith Parker Esoff finds a small gap and makes his move. He squeezes through and laughs as he crawls across the kitchen floor, his mother close behind.
Keith Parker can stand, and he is close to walking, but he’s discovered that he really can get there faster by crawling. He’s at that age where he will grab the television remote and then look at his parents, knowing the equipment is off limits. And then he grins, and the dimple on his left cheek emerges, the single dimple just like his daddy’s.
“Motherhood is more than anything I could have ever imagined,” said Valerie Esoff, 29, who moved to the Horizon West area of Windermere with her husband, Keith, a year ago. “It has exceeded all my expectations. … It’s one of those things that you didn’t know something was missing in your heart until you became a mom.”
The birth experience was traumatic, Esoff said, but when Keith Parker was born at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies on May 21, 2018, and placed in her arms, “Everything was absolutely worth it. I would go through it a million times just to have the same result, for sure.”
Keith Parker was named for his father and deceased paternal grandfather, who also share the first name Keith.
“When he was born, he was the spitting image of my husband,” Esoff said. “They looked identical. Now … my husband looks at him and says, ‘He looks just like you.’ He’s a good mix.”
Esoff said the best thing about motherhood is experiencing this deep love for her baby and discovering another perspective on life. The former occupational therapist for military veterans in Lake Nona has transitioned to be a stay-at-home mother and knows she is blessed to be able to experience every moment with him.
“One of my favorite moments with him is being there when wakes up from a nap or in the morning and the way he looks at me when I say good morning,” she said. “That’s wonderful. I think my other thing that I really enjoy doing with him is being able to breastfeed him. That’s really good bonding with him.”
Their daily routine is on a simple schedule. They wake up, greet the two dogs, eat breakfast and then go outside before naptime.
“I grew up in the country, and I saw something new every day,” she said, adding that she hopes to pass along that passion for nature to Keith Parker. He has had early exposure to animals and loves the family dogs.
“He has replaced ‘mama’ with ‘dog,’ so now he only says ‘dada’ and ‘dog,’” Esoff said. “I’m hoping that will change by Mother’s Day.”
Naps are what make life go round for Keith Parker.
“I feel like it’s very important for him to get his naps in,” she said. “For him to just overall be a happy, healthy baby. If that means passing up something to go do, that’s just how it is. But it’s OK. I know that he needs his sleep.”
Motherhood and being a stay-at-home mom isn’t very glamourous, she said, but she embraces the opportunities the title of “Mom” brings.
“I feel like I’m a calmer person,” Esoff said. “Not that I was uncalm before, but that everything is how it’s supposed to be. You don’t worry about little things anymore. You worry about your kid, but that’s really it. Everything else just kind of takes a step back in regards to things to worry about.”
Esoff and her husband have embraced the website Kellymom.com. Esoff’s background is in health, so research- and education-based websites are important to her. She is enjoying her time off work but said she would like to return to the workforce part-time to keep up her skills.
“I love what I do and loved working with veterans, and I would definitely like to go back,” she said. “I feel like the best moment will present itself.”
Until that time, Esoff is content being a daily presence in her son’s life so she doesn’t miss a moment.
“Just this week he’s starting mimicking more,” Esoff said. “I’ve been just drilling him, mama mama, mama — and he just smiled at me and said dada.”
This just makes her laugh.
“You appreciate life more because you’re in every single moment and you appreciate every single moment, from when he was crawling to saying mama to just giggling for the first time — you just appreciate everything,” Esoff said.