Having a baby is a little bit like having a lemon of a car- you take your malfunctioning car to the mechanic and nothing happens.
Imagine, if you will, being sleep-deprived for two months.
Imagine the relief and the collapse of your body deep into dreamland once you can sleep again.
Seven straight hours of sleep felt so good.
Mariel started sleeping through the night last week while we were on a trip to Boston. We were thrilled beyond words. Then, two days into this routine, she stops sleeping and we notice she has suddenly become a drool factory.
“She’s teething,” Francisco said.
“Are you kidding me? She’s two months old!”
This morning, I finally looked up the symptoms of teething.
So much for sleep.
We’re not really superstitious. Really.
Mariel’s due date was September 25th. On the 19th, Francisco drew a picture of pregnant me on our calendar. We’d been joking that it would be neat if Mariel was born on the 23rd.
A few years ago, we christened 23 as our lucky number because lots of important events have occurred on the 23rd.
Francisco was born on December 23rd. He came to the US on May 23rd. We started dating on November 23rd.
So on the 19th we said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if she was born on the 23rd?” and we laughed as Francisco drew the pregnant me and then drew another picture with the words “Mariel nace
aqui?” on the block for the 23rd.
On the night of the 23rd, she was born. A few days later, I went back and wrote “SI!” underneath the picture.
I write this at the risk of my mother being even more eager to see Mariel than she already is (it’s only 18 more days, Mom), but she changes every day.
We’re with her all the time, but I’m still thrown every time I notice something different, something new.
“Mira sus cejas y pestanas,” Francisco told me last night. Her eyebrows and eyelashes, the latter already longer than my own. This time last week, she only had hints of eyebrows. This week, they’re light charcoal arcs sitting like upended parentheses over her big brown eyes.
And those eyes… they produce tears! During her first week of life, Mariel’s left eye closed up, her tear duct not yet fully operational. Now, I occasionally notice a tear escaping from her eyes if she’s hungry or tired and just can’t take it anymore. I mean, I’d rather have tears than a goopy eye, but still. A child’s tears can kill a mom, I’m telling you.
When she was born, her fingernails were tissue paper thin. Sounds gross, maybe, but I chewed their tips off because she was scratching her face. They were too delicate for clippers or a file. Now they’re like your nails or mine- tinier, of course, but more durable.
She makes sounds, her skin is still soft but not the buttery texture of her newborn self, and she can hold one of her rattles… kinda.
One thing hasn’t changed: she’s the sweetest, absolutely perfect bebita and every single time I look at her–which is about 20 hours out of every day–I am just blown away by how much of a miracle life is.
The best part of the day–the very, very best–is when all three of us are in bed, two tablespoons laid up against the tiny teaspoon. Maybe we’re asleep or maybe we’re in that stage between dreaming and waking that I love. Maybe we’re wide awake and talking about how beautiful she is, how perfect, how many dreams we have for her. No matter what state we’re in, Francisco probably has twisted the top sheet and the comforter into a tight little tube that looks like fusilli, and I’m probably trying to unwind it so I can wrap myself in the heat he’s trapped inside.
I can’t imagine life without holding and being held.
It’s so delicious, this love sandwich, which keeps me in bed for hours, even when I know I need to get up and walk Penelope, or pay bills, or check email. I’ve missed and canceled appointments. because of it. Spent the whole day in pajamas without brushing my hair because of it. There’s never a point where it feels like enough. And the thought that it will ever end is really enough to make me crazy… which only keeps me in bed longer.
And some other thoughts on holding and being held…
Lots of new moms don’t want anyone to hold their babies. I do. I want Mariel to feel the love and warmth and kind energy of Nancy. To experience the joy Sharyn feels when she holds Mariel. To be passed from the arms of my mom to those of my brother, and then to Maggie, to Mama Sue and Mama D, to Maura and to Ami, to my godmother, and to Kelley and Bob, and to people I’m forgetting and to people we won’t see for a long time, like C.K. and my grandmother–even years, like Yi Jing–but to put her in their imaginary, distant arms. I want them to feel, like Nancy said, her “old soul.” And I want her to remember, someday, in that vague, hazy, primitive way of the earliest memory, how each of these friends and family members looked upon her with love and wonder and hope.
How could that not be anything but sublime for everyone?
Dear Parent to Be:
Soon, holidays–all of them–will take on new meaning for you.
But let me warn you: Halloween may take you by surprise.
At Thanksgiving, your biggest worry is to make sure your kid doesn’t upend the gravy boat, scalding Aunt Edna.
But at Halloween… your parenting skills are laid bare before all your child’s peers.
If you’re a crafty person, and one who plans ahead of time, you’ll come to consider Halloween one of your favorite holidays. Your child will be gazed upon with envy because you’ve come up with an idea and costume that are original.
If, on the other hand, you’re like me (ie: not crafty and prone to cobbling things together at the last minute), then you should just go ahead and brace yourself for enduring ridicule and shame now. Either that, or start getting handy with the needle and thread.
Do not-I repeat, do not- think that it’s okay to toss a white sheet over your kid’s head and write “BOO” on the chest. Not cool. First of all: ghosts, witches, pumpkins, and princesses: they are all done. And don’t put your kid in a party store costume you bought an hour before trick or treating–the only ones left on the rack will be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they were “in” when my brother was a kid. That was about 18 years ago.
I’m warning you: Halloween can make or break your cool factor as a parent. Start planning now. Don’t blow it.