Wednesday, April 17

Little Consolation

I always want to express my feelings about my babies in words.  You know how sometimes your feelings are so big you need to get them out on paper?  Or sometimes you worry you'll forget, so you have to write it down while you still remember? I've found solace in writing about everything... except my babies.

Maybe I could have done it before I became a mother. Described what babies are like.  But my babies defy all metaphors and similes-- there truly is nothing like them... including themselves from one week to the next.  Which is the most tragic and the most wonderful thing about them.

It's hard not to feel twinges of grief while I'm kissing what I know are going to be the last of the baby toes Zach and I will ever create. But it's easy to feel joyful enough to laugh while I'm kissing them.  He's almost five months old now, this last baby.  The last "firsts" are starting.  Any day now he'll be able to sit up without me holding him.  He can grab things and pull them to his mouth.  In a few weeks he'll be eating food that I didn't make with my own body.

I find myself doing two kinds of tripping during night feedings.  One caused by whatever toys Kael left on my floor the day before, and the other caused by that unique hallucinogenic combination of exhaustion and darkness.  Before motherhood, I never knew hearing your baby grunt in the middle of the night could have the same effect as taking acid- (so I've heard.)  Once I remember where I put the baby last, I head toward the bassinet and it seems to be growing.  Or I head toward the little swing and it seems to shift places.  Once, when Zach was trying to get a full night's sleep in the guest room, and the baby was still little enough to lay in his dad's place in bed, I accidentally bonked him in the face when I reached for him and thought he was a blanket.  Luckily, the drugged feeling only lasts as long as it takes me to get to my water cup and get my blood pressure back to normal. Then I feel safe enough to pick him up and make my way to the nursing chair.

 I can't help but grin almost every time I feed him- remembering what a struggle it was for me to feed the girls.  I sit there appreciating how much easier it is to just pop a baby onto my breast than worrying about latching correctly to sore nipples while stifling a gasp as my toes curl.  How much easier to put the baby down and go back to sleep instead of handing him to his dad to supplement with a bottle while I pump for fifteen or twenty more minutes. No bottles to wash or pack in the diaper bag.  No expensive trips to the baby aisle for formula. If only I could go back in time and tell that thoughtless nurse to give me some lanolin instead of a bottle when I mentioned the pain that first night.

But I don't think about that long.  I spend the rest of the time watching the crazy-long eyelashes he inherited from his dad, fluttering and brushing against his chubby cheeks.  I rub his little coconut head and marvel at all the hair that none of my other babies came with.  Chuckle at how different feeding a baby is from getting fed myself: a let down is good, and food coming up is bad.  I sigh when I realize I only have two hours left to sleep the remaining four hours I need, and chastise myself for wanting to sleep through any of these last few hours.

I know I'll forget.  I forgot three times before. I've already forgotten exactly how it feels to be kicked from the inside.  I mourned the loss of that memory a few times before I was even done being reminded of it every hour.  I've almost forgotten the actual feel of a wobbly newborn lump in my hands.  I know I'll forget what it's like to look at my baby's cheeks while they're suckling, and feel his little hand smacking me on the chest and on my chin.  I'll rely on pictures, vague images I've tried to engrave on my brain, and holding other people's babies.

It's okay.  Soon I'll be distracted by learning how to raise adolescents.  I need to just enjoy this baby before he's gone- replaced by someone just as loveable- but gone, nonetheless.   Be grateful for the babies I have.  Be grateful for the babies I had. It's alright.

It's okay.