6 months, 2 days

Your First Two Weeks (continued)

You seem to like it when

There’s no “seem” about it. You like it when we hold you, as every newborn does. You like it when there is a light to stare at. And (here we go) you seem to like it when Grandma sings to you, the same lullaby she sang to me, to your brother–Brahms’ “Good Evening, Good Night.”

Fifth and Sixth Months

You’re changing

you’re well into your Thumper stage now. Your sleep has consolidated. You cry less often. You smile more. Sometimes you even grace us with a laugh, your low chuckle.

And now you can

roll over, but, unconventionally, from back to belly first (and still not the other way around). Swallow solid food, which seems to intrigue you. Suck your feet with concentration and gusto. Sometimes chain nap cycles. Sleep through the night! Hooray and thank you!

You like

being kissed, being talked to. Sucking your fingers and toes, my fingers, your lower lip, your pink bunny, any piece of fabric you can reach. Gripping objects with your surprisingly strong little fist. Watching Beanie. Going to new places, which entrance you so much you refuse to sleep or eat. Taking long afternoon naps in our arms. Talking to us in your private, vowel-ly language, looking so intelligent that you’re almost intelligible.

And I’ll never forget

bringing you cherry-picking. I had some fantasy that we would recreate one of the photographs we took with Beanie where he had fallen asleep in the carrier, and Dad had piled cherries on his neck. But you never fell asleep (granted, we never put you in the carrier). It was a stiflingly hot day, but you didn’t complain, just swiveled your head around looking and looking and looking.

5 months, 28 days

Your first day home was

It’s six months later, and I no longer remember. There are pictures of you looking impossibly delicate, a blinky creature who doesn’t seem used to air yet. We set the whole house roaring with heat for you. Grandma came. Someone must have picked her up, probably Dad. Huckleberry stood aloof, watching, withholding. That night we must have put you in the Rock n Play. Or did we take turns holding you?

Your First Two Weeks

A day with you is

You sleep well. You sleep all the time. If we hold you, it seems there might be no end to your sleep. You suck heartily, too, until you drop off to sleep. You are stubborn in your sleep, unresponsive to foot-tickling or ear-rubbing. But at night, when we put you down, you don’t like to sleep but cry cry cry until we pick you up.

You wake up

when you sense that you are no longer being held. Even in the Rock n Play, you will only last 15 minutes before it hits you that something is, undeniably, up.

You’re very active when

it gets dark. The late evening hours, in particular. You are a night owl, a party girl.

5 months, 15 days

“The Story of Your Birth Day”

Oh I love telling this story, the story of an adventure, though it seems unimportant to everyone else but me. I slept downstairs at the time because the pubic symphysis pain that started during pregnancy made it painful to climb the stairs. Dad slept upstairs to be near enough to listen to Huckleberry. There had been many false alarms the prior few weeks, so when contractions woke me in the early morning, I waited a while before phoning Dad. When I did, he wanted to leave right away for San Francisco. What? And wake his mother? And charge about in the middle of the night getting everything ready while I was supposed to relax and get back to sleep? I told him no, not yet, and prescribed myself a bath (Aunt Kali was in Greece), which Dad irritatedly opposed at first for fear the sound would wake Huckleberry and then, giving in, proceeded to double-down on the noise-making and vacuum the upstairs in preparation for Ami’s stay. All the while the loudness was making me anxious, and I had to remind myself to relax into the lukewarm bath until I thought sleep was possible again. Sleep I did, but not late into the morning as I did with Huckleberry. We asked Ami to come, but Dad neglected to tell her why, and for some reason Huckleberry decided to sleep in until 10:30 that morning, which he almost never does. Perhaps the sounds at night did wake him up after all. The contractions steadily grew more intense as Dad raced around the house cleaning and preparing until I finally demanded to be taken to San Francisco, already in considerable pain. Ooo, let me eat something first, he murmured, and then I decided I would eat something, too, and it was significantly longer before we got to the Berry condo where I was supposed to have undergone most of my labor. The car ride was excruciating–the constraint of the seatbelt, the awkward position, the curves, bumps, stops, all the while timing my own contractions and thinking, I’ve still a long way to go, I’ve still a long way to go. Then I could barely get up to the condo. When I did, I was so weary I wanted to rest, and nothing seemed as lovely as being on my back, though I knew it was a position that would slow your arrival. Our doula, Erica, gave the go-ahead by text. For half an hour, I slept the sleep of the exhausted. Then back to work. The pain in my back worsened. I feared through the last few weeks of my pregnancy that, though head down, you were faced the wrong way, and the back pain seemed to confirm this. Dad suggested that Erica might come now. I demanded the shower, remembering how last time it was the only thing that provided relief. I made it hot hot hot, which concerned Dad a little, and then after a while I got dizzy and demanded to be out. Deep inside my animal brain now, I was communicating solely in tense, one-word commands; when questioned or asked for clarification, all I could do was repeat the word at increasingly desperate pitches. Dad laughed, and the part of myself that could detach and still reason laughed with him, for I sounded exactly like Huckleberry. Around then, Erica came. I labored hunched over a chair while Erica tried various squeezes and insisted that I give out low-pitched groans. When my groans became screams, she reminded me again, low, low, low. It was Erica who wondered out loud when we should go to the hospital, Dad who asked me, and me who became flustered wondering why someone wouldn’t just tell me what to do. Eventually, I decided yes, yes, let’s go, because the thought of enduring the car ride in even more pain filled me with dread. At the elevator, we encountered a young woman with a dog who stared wide-eyed at me. Can I get out first? she asked, frightened. Yes, yes, I nodded impatiently. I suspected I looked like a fat banshee. The short car ride was too long. Then the hospital. A man came to me with a wheelchair. I waved it away but then decided I wanted it but then got up again because it was unendurable. Dad laughingly apologized. Up another elevator. The nurses at the front desk asked what we wanted. Wasn’t it obvious? Well, don’t do it out here, one joked. Later, she apologized. They took me to triage, where the resident made me get on the bed for a cervical exam. 7 cm, she announced. I think you should stay. Gentle laughter in the room. She would like to push on hands and knees, Erica told someone. I couldn’t hear what they said. Oh yes, of course, Erica responded. The contractions came, wave after wave. I hunched over a bed. Someone asked if I would like to sit. No no no. They needed to move me. Though the hospital seemed silent, apparently all the labor and delivery rooms were full. I was to go to a different triage room for my labor. Why not the triage room I was in? I couldn’t ask because I couldn’t speak. They shunted me off to another place where they pondered, IV? No! I shouted. O-kay. Chuckles. Before long, one of the nurses asked me if I was feeling pushy. Yes, that’s what it was. I thought again that I had to defecate, but it was probably that, like last time, you were coming. Cervical exam again. Too soon, I thought. Miracle of miracles: You can push! they told me. Some discussion of breaking my waters. I looked to Erica. Is that okay? Is that natural? Yes, yes, everything was yes, yes. But then they broke on their own anyway. I made myself flip over onto my hands and knees. Perhaps my arms and legs were shaking. Someone offered me something, but I declined. Panic flickered at the thought of moving or changing anything. I grunted, I groaned. Low, low, low. In my head an image of myself as a horse, foaling. There was something undignified about it all, but I couldn’t care less. Where was Dad in all this? I barely remember. Part of the crowd. There seemed to be so many people. My body racked with pushes. I braced myself for a long struggle. But then a slip, another slip, and out you tumbled, tiny and alive.

5 months, 14 days

“Seeing you for the first time was…”

Incredible. Ten little fingers and ten little toes and all that, but just the very fact of you, no longer a nebulous floaty thing but something physical, your very own being. You had hair. Eyes. Fur. Not only agency but urgency. Hunger. That we all start like that, a hundred and seven billion human souls since the beginning of time, cannot dampen the miracle.

5 months, 8 days

Today she sucked her toes for the first time. It had been weeks of the happy baby yoga pose and then, suddenly, pop! Into the mouth they went.

She was tuckered out. Beanie is stretching his will, particularly at nap and bedtimes. What should take five minutes ends up taking fifteen. Thomas this and Gordon that and James, too, and no no no Knuffle Bunny! I don’t want to go to sleep! He sounds like such a professional speaking in complete, grammatically correct sentences that I almost feel guilty forcing him. But then Teenie was waiting, ever so patiently, for her meal and nap. Alas, I’m afraid that’s her lot.

5 months, 5 days

“Seeing you for the first time was…”

A trip. You were so small you didn’t look as though you could possibly exist. You had hair on your head, which was some kind of miracle. Your eyes were scrunched closed, and now I can’t remember if you were screaming or not, but there must have been screaming at some point. You were skinny, but you had fur. We were all anxious for you to start sucking on me. Were you getting anything? Yes, but it never seemed like enough. You slept and slept and slept. Until we tried to sleep. Then you woke up with your little protest cries, and I would say, “It’s okay, Teenie, it’s okay. Mama’s here,” and you would quiet down for a moment. I did this in my sleep over the span of what could have been minutes or hours.

The food at the hospital gave hospital food its bad name. Dad would never say it was bad. In my head I thought it was bad but didn’t want to claim it out loud for fear of being branded as negative, or for fear that the negative would start to bleed out and taint other things, even you.

I’ve hit a wall. I don’t remember anything else. There’s a scene in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland where Alice is walking down a path in the darkness, and as she walks a dog or a broom or a dog-broom is sweeping up the path behind her. It then sidesteps her and sweeps the path in front, and Alice is left standing on a loan square in the darkness with no path in front and no path behind. That’s how I feel sometimes with my memory. The path behind me has all been erased or shrouded, and the path in front is unknowable.

5 months, 4 days

And so the days go. I have a headache. Reading V.S. Naipaul is making me cynical. There are too many sides to me, and none of them are real, especially sitting here like a perpetual armchair, brain fuzzy with inanities and fevered by a low-grade anxiety. I am so tired that everything has begun to seem the same. Malaise? Malaise.