Aaaaah, the fourth trimester.
Semantically, the minute Craig gazed into the face of my OB and breathed, he turned from a fetus into a baby – but actually, aside from the breathing and the eating, he is still pretty much a fetus. The switch from fetus to baby is a much slower, more organic process than the vocabulary allows for. I see him do certain things – stretch, hiccup, startle – and I remember how those movements felt when he was still in utero, just a few weeks ago. Then there are other things that he’s only now starting to do – gaze at faces, gaze at the ceiling fan, gaze at toys with stark patterns on them (there’s a lot of gazing) – that mark the transition from Fetus to Actual Baby. He is slowly turning from a very cute, very tiny sleeping blob into a much cuter, much larger interactive and sweet human being.
I am the refuge, the common denominator, the bridge between those two states. The separation of (birth) mother and fetus/baby is pretty abrupt. My baby compensates for that tragic, total division from the warmth and safety of the womb by attaching himself as firmly and inextricably to the outside of me as he recently was to the inside of me. He is a spider monkey, and I am his tree. Right now as I type, he is cradled in the crook of my left elbow. He is as uncomfortably curled up as he was in the womb – another funny thing about babies, how long it takes them to stretch themselves out, to realize they have ample room now – and he breathes heavily, squeaking and snoring now and then, one tiny arm curled around my back and the other clutching the neck of my shirt. He is slowly learning to be separate from me – enjoying the embrace of his father, sleeping nights in the swing, agreeably hanging out in the bouncy chair while I take a shower or eat meals – but only for a few moments, before he starts to fuss and demand that I hold him. I will admit that I have not been encouraging the separation as much as I did with the last two. My last baby . . . I am much more patient with being weighed down by his needs than I was with his brothers. A newborn is never going to need me again, after this. How true it is that each child of ours is growing up with a different set of parents.
I shared with you before that I wanted a girl – both the Professor and I did – and I am pleased to say that whenever I look at this little boy in my arms, what I think is I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU. Loud, all caps, a wall of love that shouts me down and makes me infinitely patient with this needy, clingy little creature. My (fading) sorrow over being daughter-less is completely separate from my total and utter adoration of the boy-children I do have. Saying “I wouldn’t trade them for a girl” doesn’t quite express it – I suppose it is most accurate to say that the tiny amount of grief I have for the lack of a daughter is bowled totally over by the joy of having three perfect sons. When Craig looks up at me with that classic, quizzical newborn gaze, pursing his mouth into a tiny O, making an effort to engage with me (though he cannot quite coo yet) – I kiss every inch of his face, and laugh, and marvel.
I began work yesterday, which mars our bliss a little. But I have a series of discrete tasks, and if I can get three seconds to sort through it all and also to pump some spare milk, I can think of a way to maybe sacrifice two full days of this leave to work and push it all out, rather than try to muddle through four interrupted hours a day over the course of several weeks. I’ve just got to get this monkey eating slightly less often – and also I REALLY could use a bit more sleep than one lousy hour at a time at night. I tried to do some work yesterday and discovered that thinking is a bit out of my league at the moment.
Though he was born into sleet and snow just a few weeks ago, spring has already arrived on the Gulf Coast. We spend most days with the back door open, on the couch (nursing, always nursing, still every 2 hours round the clock) but with outside air breezing through, keeping me from feeling like too much of a shut-in. Mardi Gras parades have started. We will go to one this Saturday, staying in the back of the crowd, ready to retreat if it’s too much – but I think the five of us are ready to begin engaging with the world again. It was foggy this morning, but the fog has burned off – in the front hall, the tulips that I bought for Valentine’s Day are opening themselves to the sun that streams through our glass-paned front door.