I suppose it is a testament to the beauty of my life that I struggle to choose this. Should I relive my wedding day – the tummy butterflies, the chaos, the oodles of beloved people all gathered together? How about my son’s birth? Whoa, that’s a no – one labor experience per kid is all I signed up for. Hmm, maybe dancing to Glenn Miller tunes with my sisters when we were little, twirling in our pjs? The first weekend I met my husband? Closing night of my most favorite acting experience of all time? Getting engaged? Eating a fantastic seafood dinner with friends and family gathered around? Christmas – any year?
Since I have to choose, and then treat you all to a lovely description, I’m going to follow my hormones and pick this pearl on my double string of Beautiful Life Moments – the night after my son was born. It’s easier than resisting the metric ton of estrogen guiding my every move, thought, and bodily function, and besides it’s a nice story.
So, Frog Baby was born in the morning, nearly 12 hours to the minute after I determined that I was, for sure, having contractions for really real ohmygod thisisit. At 8:10 am on a gorgeous spring Friday morning, he slipped out of my body and breathed, and I looked at his splotchy, slightly bruised, very grumpy face and thought – huh? Really? You don’t look anything like what I imagined. Could there be a mistake?
As the day progressed, and visitors came in and out and oohed and aahed, and nurses checked vital signs and phlebotomists took blood for tests and somebody helped me clear his throat when he choked on some serious baby mucus, I still felt like he was somebody else’s baby. I don’t think I kissed him, not much. I wanted to ask permission to hold him before picking him up, and didn’t feel like I should unless a nurse was there to tell me I was allowed. I never remembered to feed him – nurses had to remind me – “Mrs. G Love, when was the last time our Baby Boy tried to eat?” I was very much looking to other folks to be in charge of me during those first few hours postpartum, and regarded my baby as a delightful wee dolly in the rolling bassinette cart thing that I was allowed to play with once in a while.
So, the day whizzed by, and the evening came, and my darling husband (not benefiting from the hormone rush that kept me wired for days on end) crashed out on his fold-out chair/bed and snored the rest of the night. The midwife on duty came in at dusk and saw that I was holding Frog, his head on my chest and butt in the air, legs tucked up, openmouthed and breathing heavily. He wore only a diaper, and I held him skin to skin with a hospital baby blanket draped over him – in this way does the mother’s body “teach” the baby’s body how to regulate its own temperature. The smiling midwife asked a few questions, and then said – that’ll be his favorite position, next to you, so he can hear your heart like he did in the womb. Then she left, and it was me, a sacked out Darlin’, and my snoring son in my arms.
Aside from Darlin’s rhythmic deep breathing, all was at last quiet, and the baby and I were alone. I didn’t sleep at all, not for one second that whole night, even though I’d labored through the entire night before and was thoroughly, utterly, deeply tired. I barely blinked, feasting my hungry mother’s eyes on the unfamiliar little body, making it familiar, making him mine. I ran my fingertips over his skin. I whispered to him. I kissed his cheeks, eyelids, fingers, tugged gently at his tiny pink mouth. Cupped his wee feet in my hands. Traced the line of his dimpled knees, bent his arms at the elbow to see them move, so perfectly, look what I made, look how well it works, look how small it is! I palmed his belly, measured his forearm against my hand, stroked his dark hair, rubbed his back. Punctuated occasionally by vitals checks from the nurses, thus the night ticked by, and something strong and consuming and mutually nourishing grew between my baby and me – a ghost of the umbilical cord, the psychology text’s “bonding,” the morphing of the old me into the me that was somebody’s mother. I poured my love and wonder and fascination over him as he slept, heavy on my chest, and then a new day dawned, and he was 24 hours old, and I too felt brand new and ready for this, this motherhood, this rest of my life. No longer a strange sight, from then on our baby’s face has been dancing at the back of my eyes, everywhere I look.
Yeah. I could handle reliving that, over and over.