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In the last three weeks, our lives have been taken over by the presence of a tiny new creature in our household — she.
“Is she fed? Dry? Crying? Safe? Sleeping?”
Our daughter is now nineteen days old, which seems both like an impossibly short and long time. Starting with the moment that I went to the hospital to be induced, I’ve been wandering around in a surreal time lapse, which is only interrupted by doctor appointments and house visits from friends. These scheduled moments give me something to differentiate one day from the next, to interrupt the daily routine of feeding, eating, dressing, sleeping, soothing and scrubbing and remind me that there is a world outside of the perimeter of my house. If it weren’t for these moments, I could so easily forget.
As the days have flowed into each other, my memories of labor have been receding into a series of images. IV drips in both hands that tied me to an uncomfortable bed for twenty-four hours. Green jello and lukewarm vegetable broth, the cold feel of the epidural, the sound of my water gushing out for impossibly long moments. The eternal minute when the baby’s heart rate dropped and my midwife called the operating room to arrange for an emergency c-section. The stiff feel of the oxygen mask on my face, then the moment of sudden relief — as palpable as a breeze — as the machine monitoring the fetal heartbeat returned to making the right rhythm. The unbelievably hard work of pushing out a baby, as ice cubes are put in your mouth and the pain in your abdomen takes over your brain. Then, at last, the remarkable sight of my long and slimy daughter taking her first cry, while the thick yellow tube of the umbilical cord still connected her to my undelivered placenta. The sound of my husband being talked into cutting the line that tied us together for so long — and the feel of her warm skin on my bare chest as I carefully prodded her skull in disbelief that this was the creature that had lived so long in my body.
No labor is easy– and mine was certainly gruelling. By the time I was allowed to leave the hospital two days later, I was desperate to go home for an uninterrupted night’s sleep in a room without a light shining in my face. Once I got home, I spent much of the next week on the couch, healing, crying through the pain of learning to breastfeed and being taken very good care of by family that swept in from overseas to make certain that all I would have to worry about was taking care of she.
She is a “good baby” — she sleeps for long periods and doesn’t cry much at all, though we are still mystified about what to do when she does. I was worried about my skills as a mother, but aside from breastfeeding, it’s come more naturally than I ever would have imagined. For the first week, I just stared and stared at her face and tiny body, marvelling at the impossibility that we created this small being. Sometimes I still catch myself doing it, as she feeds from my body or finds sleep and solace in my arms. I stare at tiny ears and little blue veins and think about the choices in my life that have led to this moment — and can do nothing but let the love for this creature and gratitude for my life flow in and overwhelm me.