Hi, everybody. Are you still out there?
Oh, good. Thanks for sticking with me. As those of you who’ve emailed me in the last, oh, two months, know, I’ve sort of disappeared from social interaction of the virtual kind. Any spare seconds I’ve had (and the not-so-spare seconds, you know–the ones where I was supposed to be doing the laundry/vacuuming the dog’s bed/remembering how to take shower) have been spent on the computer, but instead of corresponding with actual, real humans, I’ve been revising the imaginary ones in my manuscript. But guess what?! I sent the revisions to Katie last week (Woot! Woot! WHEE!). I am free and clear and gnawing at my fingertips while I wait for her to read ’em and decide that either a) I did a pretty decent job and we’re almost ready for submission, b) it needs more work and I have to pretend I have no family or friends for another month or two, or c) my revisions were so off-base she chucked the whole damn thing out the window of the train on her way home from work. I’m hoping for a, but you know my confidence is getting stress wrinkles over c. And it’s not like I’m going to go get a facial.
Cian is four months old this week. Four months. I was all ready to sit down and whip out a post that was sarcastic and venty and hopefully kind of funny, because lately I’ve been writing mopey, wet mascara-laden, soppy goop. I mean, it’s all heartfelt, of course–if this blog is my “baby book,” I’m certainly not going to put on a show–but still. I’ve been on bit of a melancholy bent. So here I was, waiting for something lighthearted to trickle into my still sleep-deprived brain, and then tonight happened. I mean, nothing in particular happened, just, well, tonight.
I fed Cian.
I held Cian.
I placed Cian in his crib.
That’s it. But for some reason tonight was different. I’d gotten into the habit of checking my blasted phone while I did the bedtime feedings, despite my determined railing against my smartphone use just a few weeks ago. And then I realized that I would look back on this year of breastfeeding and wonder why I wasted all that one-on-one time with my face in Facebook. Once again, the realization: I don’t really care about wine memes. (Twitter’s a little harder to take a break from, so one thing at a time…)
Tonight I was sitting in the glider in Cian’s room–the room that used to be Quinn’s. I had a book in my hand (Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, because I was looking for a read with a spiritual bent, but seriously. The book I read before that was an Ann Patchett. To say I haven’t been going for the heavy stuff is like saying I like ice cream. Well, of course), because somehow a book is more wholesome and less invasive during a nighttime nursing session than an US Weekly app, as much as I consider updates on the state of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy important news. I could hear David talking with the girls in their bath across the hall, the water splashing and their little giggles bouncing under the two doors to meet my ears. The nursery was warm, the humidifier humming just softly enough. A single light was on, and we were curled up together in the glider, just Cian and me. His hand was wrapped around my fingers.
Then he barfed all over my clean nursing tank. But that’s not part of this story.
The part I’m trying to remember, really, is after all of that. It’s when I stood up to place him in his crib, and caught sight of him in the mirror that hangs on his wall. His body was completely relaxed against me, his head propped against my shoulder. And he was staring at my reflection in the mirror. Just looking at me–his eyes didn’t leave mine, didn’t blink, but they were wide and alert. I kept kissing the top of his little head, and all I could do was just sense–his little blond fuzz of hair brushing my skin, the smell of freshly washed footie pajamas, even the stale smell of that spit-up, all mixed in with baby shampoo and lotion. And I just stood there, holding him, watching him watching me in the mirror, in the warmth and the hum and the still quiet and the peace. I smiled, and he grinned, too. I’m never as happy or content as when I’ve got one of my babies in my arms. People talk about finding grace: they go to church, retreats, Elizabeth Gilbert-style quests around the globe. I felt it in a little room on the top floor of a brick split-level that sits in a Pennsylvania river valley. That’s what babies will do to you.
It’s going by so quickly. The wait of pregnancy always seems interminable, and the first few weeks after birth happen in that awful vacuum of newbornness–when it seems that they’ll never sleep at night, that you’ll never shave your legs again, that you’ll never know what it’s like to operate on a normal daily routine–all of it seems to slow time down while you drag it along behind you as you shuffle to the changing table for the thirtieth time in a row, and then all of a sudden, your baby is four months old and about to start solid food and growing out of his size 9-month clothes and you want time to just pause for a stinking moment because right now he’s curled up in your arms and so soft and little and happy and please can you remember this forever.
I’m a baby person, in case you can’t hear me blubbering over my pictures of teeny tiny fingernails. I love them, love them, love them. Love their little toes and how they look like old men who somehow got shrunken in a time machine, their gummy little smiles and simple needs: food. warmth. love. And I’m sure it’s because Cian’s my last baby (you know, doctor’s orders), but goodness. Just make it slow down, somebody? I’m not even complaining about waking up at night anymore (well, usually). Because somehow it’s almost nice to sit in the glider with your warm infant while the birds start singing outside the window in the pre-dawn light. It’s okay to be tired and know I’ll be exhausted tomorrow because I can feel his tiny little hand on my back and his little baby legs are crossed at the ankles like a guy watching football from the couch. He’s my last baby. I’m a third of the way through his first year. I was so ready to wean Quinn at the end of her first year I did it too quickly (do you remember my cabbage-in-the-bra post? Because I certainly do, all too well). But oh my goodness. I only have a few more months of spoiled-breastmilk-smelling baby vomit left. I could CRY.
I think babies are the only creatures who truly understand how much they’re loved. They fuss, and we comfort them. We anticipate their hunger before they do. They get to be held, and carried, and cooed over. There’s no reprimanding, no discipline, no nagging involved with babies. Yes, your confidence is lacking, and a maxi dress is your best fashion friend, and some days you feel like you are always running two hours behind where you need to be, but look at the reason why. Look at that baby break into a smile when he hears your voice. Watch him sigh with what seems like happiness when you lean down to meet his eyes. Food. Warmth. Love. We give it to them, and they trust us. Those simple things, and they know they’re secure. Maybe that’s why I want to slow this part down. Because this part is easy. This part is simple.
They’re so smart, these babies. They don’t care about Kate Middleton’s baby bump. They don’t know that in two years their sister getting the bigger piece of cookie will be cause for the end of the world as we know it. They can’t read the news, on a smartphone or otherwise.
Food. Warmth. Love. It’s all any of us need, but they’re the only ones who know it. No wonder I’m not ready for it to be over.
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