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Eva 2 months old

I remember…

…settling into the sofa, knowing I wouldn’t get up again for the next eight hours at least. Mike leaving for class or work, my chest tightening, deep breath, we’ll be okay. Stockpiling the end table with liters of water, pistachios, roasted almonds, dried cranberries, dates, dried apricots and dried cherries, a cup of coffee hot and creamy, an extra pair of breast shields, a nail file to file down sharp newborn nails, my phone, and all the TV remotes. Comfy clothes and lots of pillows and just me and Eva for hours and hours while she nursed, napped, nursed, napped, nursed throughout the day. I would tuck her, naked except her diaper, inside my loose shirt to keep her skin-to-skin. Leaving the sofa only to change her diaper or use the bathroom. Michelle or my mother would come around lunch time to fix me a sandwich and hold her while I ate. If they had a little extra time I’d hop in the shower while they cuddled her. I watched two seasons of “Call the Midwife” and season 6 of “Mad Men” this way…

…how terrified I was of dropping her, or of someone else dropping her…

…touching my face in the shower, my still half-paralyzed face, a face I’d spent years analyzing for flaws, hating and picking and feeling ashamed of. Touching this face with my fingers and feeling not my face, but my daughter’s face instead, and suddenly being overwhelmed with self-love, something I had not ever experienced in my entire life. Touching my belly, still big and round, now soft and squishy. Loving this big soft belly that housed my daughter, wanting to show it off and proclaim to anyone who would listen: THIS belly made this baby! This belly was her home! This gorgeous, big, round, squishy belly! How Eva kneaded my belly with her toes and how I was so happy and glad that my body was soft and big like a pillow for her tiny body to curl into…

…how proud and delighted I was when, at her three-day check-up, I learned she had gained six ounces since her birth, instead of losing weight like most babies do. My milk was making her nice and fat and I was amazed and thrilled when the doctor told me how she was thriving…

…the dark downy fur across the backs of her shoulders and her lower back, down into her bottom. My little monkey baby…

…how her fingers reminded me of an old lady’s fingers, how they were somehow familiar, like I’d seen those old lady fingers before, on my Aunt Sue maybe?…

…how she snuggled her face into my bosom after nursing, as if it was the world’s most comfortable, coziest pillow…

Mama, Papa, Baby and dogs

Little Bits

 

Newborn baby, mother, and dog

I remember…

…the morning light filtering through the tree outside our bedroom window and Mike coming in with a smile on his face and a hot cup of coffee for me. My heart so full it might burst, our tiny, perfect child tucked into my arm, the two of us in a comfortable nest of pillows, her little hands massaging for more milk, suckling, suckling, suckling. I remember being so amazed that I was able to breastfeed, that I was making milk and that it was making her bigger every day. I have a thousand fuzzy cell phone photos of her little head on my breast, nursing, then milk-drunk and fast asleep…

…feeling afraid each evening as the sun went down, scared because the day was ending and no, I wasn’t ready for that, please don’t let the day end yet. Tomorrow she’ll be bigger and we’ll be one day closer to real life, going back to work, commitments and responsibilities. I wanted this time, this perfect peaceful time of rest and bonding to last forever…

…being afraid to turn off the lights and say goodnight because what if, when I woke up in the morning, she was gone? I worried about SIDS until my chest closed and I couldn’t breathe. I remember talking about my fears in our Newborn Parenting Support class, tears streaming down my face, what if what if what if? I read everything I could about it, knowing the information would either make my fears worse or ease them. It eased them. I did everything they say to do to protect her but even now I still worry…

…my father calling every day on his lunch hour, to check in, offer to bring me lunch, ask to hold the baby even just for a few minutes. Of course, Papa. I would say. Come! Hold your granddaughter… and then I could slip away and take a hot shower knowing Eva was in arms and listening to a beating heart that loved her…

Sweetly Sleeping Infant

…waking up in the middle of the night with her, so tired, so tired. Little cries. Is this really my life? This exhausted magic? Change a diaper, tip toe through the little dark apartment, her breath on my neck, little hands to her tiny mouth, small sucking sounds and chirps. My heart fluttering and my eyes bleary, the red light from the snake tank our only light. Shapes in the shadows, shhhhh, its okay, we’re okay, nothing can harm us, we’re safe…

…my mother bought us these incredible steaks and Mike fixed them with vegetables for a fantastic dinner, which we ate in bed against a pile of pillows, the baby on my knees, so small, so sweet. Awake, alert, watching us with her newborn eyes…

…my father, who’s never done a load of laundry in his entire seventy-five years of life, folding my sheets and pajamas and Mike’s underpants while I nursed a hungry baby…

Breastfeeding a newborn

…watching my beloved husband fall deeper and deeper in love with his daughter every day…

Father and Newborn Baby

 

Eva’s Birth – An Epilogue

three day old infant and mother

Mike snapped this shot of Eva and me on his cell phone when she was 3 days old.

(I started this post months ago, but the days have a funny way of slipping by too quickly. So here it is, now, nearly nine months after the fact. )

That first night, as they wheeled us from Labor & Delivery to Postpartum, I was in shock, almost. Utter disbelief. We did it. Mike and me. We made a baby and here she was, living and breathing in my arms. I birthed a baby, with no drugs, just pushed her out and bam. I’d been dreaming of this moment my entire life and here it was, all of a sudden, as real as anything.

I barely slept. Not because the baby kept me awake but because my feelings kept me awake. My happiness. My body felt wrecked – like I’d been through battle – but my heart was so full I didn’t care. I couldn’t bear to put my tiny baby in a bassinet so she slept the night in my arms, waking every hour or so to nurse and I was only too happy to feed her.

Looking back, it still seems surreal. And I still can’t really find adequate words to describe the completeness and fullness of my happiness. I remember we kept the lights on in our hospital room and I never took my glasses off because I wanted to look at her, gaze at her nonstop. She was real. Tiny, perfect, alive, breathing, in my arms. Unbelievable.

This was all I ever wanted, in my whole life, since I was a little girl. A baby. I never had any real career ambition – I really tried to because its what you’re supposed to do, right? Be ambitious about a career? But my heart was never in it. I just wanted to be a mama. And now, finally, after all these years, I was. Am. Consider my mind officially blown.

The next day was still surreal. I think it was my unending joy, or the hormones, or both that kept me wide awake despite the fact that I hadn’t slept more than an hour in two days. Family came from all over Los Angeles to meet our sweet babe and we were delighted to show her off. We checked out of the hospital late Saturday night and went home. Michelle had stocked our fridge with food and the dogs were thrilled to see us, much more interested in the cheese Mike was feeding them than the baby in my arms. Mike snuggled Eva while I had my first (wonderful) shower since Friday morning. Then he showered while I nursed Eva on the sofa, a pamphlet about breastfeeding open in my lap. My nipples were starting to get sore and I wanted to work on our latch.

I don’t remember when we finally went to bed but it was late, after 11 probably, and I couldn’t bear to put her in our bassinet. I couldn’t bear to put her down, period. I’d waited my whole life for her, she’d spent nine months inside my body, how on EARTH could I be expected to put her down? I was too scared to try sleeping with her in our bed, worried I’d roll over on her or she’d smother, so I spent the night wandering in circles around our living room, whispering, praying, nursing, changing diapers. The dogs howled every time she cried and I winced, worried that this was our new life, dogs howling all night, the neighbors cursing us as they tried to sleep. I was so tired, so very tired, at some point I realized it wasn’t safe for me to wander with her in my arms – I nearly tripped once and another time almost bonked her head on a corner. At 4:30 a.m. I woke Mike up, asked him to take over so I could sleep. He was happy to – held her in his arms and walked with her, cooing and whispering and cuddling while I got four delicious hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The second night home we decided to sleep with her in our bed. I left all the lights on and slept with my glasses on because I needed to be able to open my eyes and see her there, safe and sound, still breathing. We slept on our bed bare of sheets, blankets, or pillows, the heater cranked up to keep us warm on that cool January night. I curled my body around Eva and Mike curled his body around me. I understand that bed-sharing is incredibly controversial, and we did not make the decision lightly. It was, in our opinion, the safest and most natural option. And it allowed me to tend to her every need immediately. She never cried at night but only peeped and I was able to nurse her immediately. We slept well together and Mike and I experienced no sleep-deprivation (until recently – ha!).

It took a few nights, but eventually I felt safe turning the lights off to sleep, taking my glasses off. I remember it was a few weeks before I could nurse her without turning all the lights back on and getting into a comfortable position. Eventually I figured out how to nurse her while lying on my side and then the benefits of bed-sharing really became clear.

You think, at the time, that you’ll never forget these incredible moments, the extraordinary ordinary minutes of every day. But they tend to slip away, fading out, until they’re gone. I don’t remember now what the first day home was like, not really. I remember pieces: The home nurse coming to visit, weighing Eva, examining me, helping with breastfeeding. I remember family coming to visit. I remember Mike cleaned the whole house top to bottom, did all the laundry, fed me whenever I was hungry, kept visitors out of the bedroom while Eva and I napped.  I remember reading to her, curled up in our bed. I remember dancing with her in the living room, singing “At Last” and crying because I was so, so, so happy. Once, Mike found me sobbing over the baby. Terrified, he rushed over to find her sleeping peacefully at my breast. “What happened??” I looked up at him, and said between sobs, “I’m just so happy! So, so, so happy…”

That’s what I remember most about those early days of new parenthood. Being overwhelmingly, absolutely, so, so, so happy. Like every wish I’d ever wished and every dream I’d ever dreamed had come true. My parents ran errands for us, helped fold laundry, brought groceries. Michelle brought hot meals. Mike kept the house, cooked, changed every single diaper for a week straight. We never put Eva down, not once for several weeks. If I needed to use the bathroom or shower, Mike held her, or my mom or dad held her, or Michelle held her. But she was in arms always, listening to a beating heart, bathed in love and adoration.