When Quinn was born, two things happened. First, my OB had to put my uterus back inside my body.
No, wait, I’m kidding. I mean, that is what happened, because I remember lying there on the table, watching my precious baby girl in someone else’s arms (the nurse’s? David’s?), thinking that a c-section that’s scheduled is no more fun than the emergency kind, while my doctor calmly said, “Okay, I’m going to put your uterus back in now.” I didn’t even know it’d come out.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I mean to say is that when our Quinn was born, two things happened, quickly: a) everyone exclaimed, “Oh, she’s a redhead! Look at that strawberry blond hair!,” and b) she started screaming. Not crying, not that muted mewling like I’ve heard some babies do, but from-the-diaphragm-like-my-choir-teacher-taught-me, full-lung, full-body screaming. “I am HERE!!!” the scream shouted. “And why the hell did you take me out of there already?! I WAS HAVING A GOOD TIME!!”
David and I looked at each other. I’m pretty sure one of us said, “Uh-oh.”
The next few months were hard. Now, don’t get me wrong: this newborn was more in tune with her family than I could have expected from such a small creature. She watched us. She made eye contact. She listened. She had to be around us, would only take naps if she was lying down with one of us. She wanted to be in the family, not just a part of it, if that makes sense. We all fell in love with her just as hard as we did with her big sis.
But holy cow, that scream. For weeks, we didn’t know what was wrong. She cried all night long. She threw up after every single feeding. She would breastfeed for two seconds at at time, then wrench herself away from me, as if repulsed (feel free to insert a post-baby body joke here at my expense, ’cause you know I’m not going to). Finally–after enough of a time to make me feel horribly guilty–we realized that she was allergic to the dairy in my breastmilk. I gave it up (among plenty of wailing and gnashing and teeth. You don’t take yogurt and ice cream and cheese away from a person struggling to hold on to her vegetarianism without some sort of temper tantrum), and she got better. She ate. She slept. We ate. We slept. But by that time she’d already been stamped. Pigeonholed. Branded by the glorious color of her curls and capacity of her lungs.
She was a spitfire.
Or so we said.
And all I can say, is that that’ll teach us for judging too quickly. Because, my golly, the Quinn you meet in the grocery store–the one who waves at everyone who passes: “byyyyeeee!”, the one who wants to shake hands with the kids behind us during the Sign of Peace at mass, the one who just wants to be held, cuddled, sat down with on the couch with a good book–is not the child we met in that operating room two years ago. She has turned into a fearless, happy, active, affectionate creature that has taken us all by surprise.
Now, again, there’s a caveat. She’s also still as strong-headed as she was that first day. Just ask the kid at the National Aquarium in Baltimore Monday–the boy who was bigger and wider than she, I mean. He was standing in her way, so Quinn sized him up, looking him over from his shoes to the top of his head, then took two hands and shoved him onto his butt. I’m not saying I was proud. The boy’s dad certainly wasn’t very happy with her. But there is a certain sense of secret smugness in knowing that my loving girl may not take gruff so easily in her life. And I’m okay with that.
But I also know Quinn as the girl who jumps into a freezing cold pool during her birthday party and giggles “Wheee! Wheee!” as her mother spins her around the water. I know the girl who walks up to her big sister, wraps her arms around her, and says, “I yuv you, Sheer-sha.” I know the girl who wants to curl up in my lap after her nap, and who wakes up in the morning wanting to know where every member of the family is at that exact moment. She is loving, and strong, and I sort of like that combination.
Yesterday at lunch Saoirse was going over the pronunciation of words with Quinn–you know, the “Can you say?” game we’ve all done with little ones. I remember doing this with SK when she was Quinn’s age, and Saoirse would always look in the direction of the word I’d asked her to repeat. But Quinn didn’t take her eyes off of her sister’s the entire time. She sat there, at the table, a wide grin across her dimpled cheeks, dutifully repeating each word, watching Saoirse’s face the entire time.
She’s just so neat. It’s the only word I can think to describe her. She turned two on Monday, you know. Two. Green eyes and red curls, she’s tall and thin, with those little defined bicep and calf muscles that always make me laugh to see them on someone so little. She loves cars, and trains, and baby dolls, and the color pink (so help me.), and “Crifford” and “Melmo” and can dribble a soccer ball like someone with 10 years on her (not kidding. The kid shocked me when I saw her do it). And she’s smart. She’s so, so smart, and if you combine that with her people skills I’m feeling pretty confident right now that this kid may just be okay. She might be on her way to carving a pretty distinctive path. Hey, with those lungs, she’s at least going to be an incredible opera singer.
She’s two. And I love her more than I could ever have wrapped my brain around. That is all.