Light filters softly through our bamboo blinds as I slowly became aware of myself enveloped in grey flannel sheets, curled on my side, warm in the embrace of a thick down comforter. My eyes flutter open, and I look down to see, nuzzled in the hollow of my body, a perfect nearly bald head pressed against my chest, delicate hands and arms loosely grasping my shirt contentedly in sleep. I stare for a moment — at times the adjustment to this reality takes a second — and then I listen for the soft gurgle of his breath. There it is. There he is. This little, delicate human, snuggled into the hollow of my chest and belly, next to my heart – a spot he’s already called home for many months.
Our mornings look like this. Rick leaves us early in the dark, often as I feed the baby. We say sad parting words, for it really is a tragedy that Rick must leave us each day to be with other children. We finish our feed, and snuggle into a short morning sleep for a few more hours. Addie curls in the crook of my bent knees, Cody curls in the crook of my body. Soon we fall into a rhythm of slowed breathing and drift to sleep for a few more blessed hours, joining legions of other women through the ages who, exhausted and in love, collapse into a sweet delicate sleep curled around their babies. Now, as I type, he inhabits the same space in a different form. Tied snugly to my chest in a wrap, he sleeps peacefully. Looking down I am struck, as always, by the perfection of his skin – a pink and ivory expanse, criss-crossed with pale blue veins on his skull. I know his future will be filled with sun-soaked days and that this perfect ivory skin will soon be populated with hundreds of freckles. Now, it is a doll’s face I look at – utter symmetry, wide cheeks, a button nose, beautifully curled rose lips. The palest of blond eyebrows, and slightly darker lashes, growing longer by the day. In sleep, his perfection absolutely stuns me. I wonder often, how two normal-looking people could create what lies here before me. Awake – his perfection morphs into something more like wonder. I stare at his bright blue eyes. Since the day he was born, they have tracked on people and objects displaying an alertness that I think both his parents lack. He wrinkles his nose, or raises his eyebrows over and over as he breastfeeds with each gulp. He smiles when you scratch under his chin or make a silly face. He cries when he is hungry or needs a diaper change, but rarely for any other reason. In fact, I’ve noticed he seems mainly to cry when he is left alone – almost out of boredom or loneliness. And I’m both proud and touched that these seem to be the main reasons he needs me – entertainment and the simple act of loving and touching him, holding him to my body where our breathing and heartbeats are closer together as they were before he was born.
I’m not sure that motherhood changes people. I think motherhood brings out what has always been there, by putting a face and name on something that probably has long been latent in many of us. For me, it is a softness that I don’t always show. It is a sweet, protective, caring side that only those close to me ever really see. I have always been an older sister, a caretaker and teacher to my siblings. I have always deeply loved animals. The logical leap required to know I’d take to motherhood is small. But yet, I am amazed by the whole thing. Amazed at the naturalness of it – the instinctiveness that comes from within, and also the memories that come back to me of my childhood and helping my mom with my two younger sisters. I’m amazed at the joy I take in staring at Cody as he sleeps. I’m amazed that Rick leaves in the morning and comes back in the evening and my day has disappeared between diaper changes, feeds, and snuggling with my snoring baby. Nothing gets done, and though it bothers me, I don’t want to put him down to do something else. (Thus, the hiatus in my blogging.)
I sing him all the lullabies I know. I have revisited every camp song I’ve ever sung. On my trip back from Telluride with him, he cried for the last hour, despite multiple stops to feed him and change his diaper. He was bored and sick of driving, so I sang to him. It was all that would quiet him down. And soon I ran out of songs. So, I sang the Star Spangled Banner over, and over, and over again until I nearly lost my voice. Each time I stopped, he would slowly begin to fuss again. And so I sang on. And this is motherhood. It is truly giving up yourself in so many ways, but I hope to do it with grace. At times I struggle to accept all the changes – I have had a hard go of it, physically: 47 hour labor, a C-section, 4 days in the hospital to recover, then a blocked duct, mastitis, and abscess, breastfeeding pains, my C-section incision got infected and re-opened. I have had to go on two courses of antibiotics. My teeth are suffering, and I may have broken a bone in my foot while walking. Pregnancy is no joke. It is HARD on your body. Bringing someone new into the world is, I suppose, a responsibility not to be taken lightly or underestimated.
When I first saw Cody, held above me on an operating table – a slimy, wriggling little thing – I didn’t immediately fall in love. But when I looked into his eyes as Rick held him near me while they stitched me up, and saw this little guy just trying to make it, he touched my heart. Each day as we have built our relationship together, I fall more in love with the little man he is turning out to be. A bright, alert, smiling child who wants to be held and loved and snuggled. He makes me happy to come home, and gives me drive and renewed purpose. He is sweetness embodied. When I hold him, he holds me back and I know he needs me. I am his mom. It is the most special, exultant thing I could hope for.