Despite all of the hilarious and challenging things that happen in your home when it houses a newborn baby, I haven’t found the right way to articulate any of them for you.
Last Sunday night as our midwife drew our baby out of the womb she was purple. My father and mother both warned me – “The baby will be weird colors. It will be alarming.” It wasn’t. She was lovely and purple fading to pink like a violet, wailing all the way with a wide mouth and a broad nose. In her face I saw my father’s mother smiling at me for the first time in twelve years.
There was no card in the camera. All these things they tell you to remember – remember the onesie and remember the paper you want the footprints on – and not one list said “remember to put the card in the camera.” So there are no purple pictures. E didn’t see it, either. It’s one of those memories, those crystalline moments, that resides only in my own mind.
Minutes later I was sitting in a rocking chair with this tiny creature wrapped in my arms, singing her the song I had been singing to her in the womb, a song about grandmothers and taking things for granted that I wrote while crying.
She did not cry. Not then, but afterwards. The entire way to the nursery for her first checkup and all throughout as I sat with my head resting against the other side of the glass, fighting off sleep. Eventually I was satisfied that she would not stop crying anytime soon and I returned to E’s side to wait to hold her a second time.
The next day I did not want to put her down. How could I put her down and miss her face for an instant? I am writing that here for posterity, as since then I’ve found plenty of reasons to put her down, but the recovery room is a honeymoon and I had never seen a newborn before in person. I didn’t want to miss anything.
The first night at home was hard. I told E I would take the night shift, only waking her to breastfeed – after all, she had done all of the hard work in the past day. But I kept falling asleep in the rocking chair, coming to as my head dipped forward on my neck, afraid I would drop her. I would set her down in the crib, knowing full well she would wake up as soon as she noticed my arms were gone, and sleep fitfully on the floor for three or five minutes at a time until I heard her cries and quickly scooped her back up. I have stayed awake through blogathons, benefit concerts, and music festivals, but never was every minute so hard as that night.
I wish I had written every day last week, but what would I have said? That swaddling was easy when we were in the hospital, but impossible once we returned home. That I quickly learned how to change a diaper and don’t gag at it the way I do whenever I’m tasked with cleaning a toilet. That I am spouting constant puns at her, an endless stream, narrating her every move with pith. That after our most frustrating night so far I played Amanda Palmer singing Carole King and Maurice Sendak’s “Pierre” and cried softly as I sang along. That I decided Curious George was too facile and with bad grammar, so I am reading her The Tempest instead.
My daughter is eleven days old and she now looks like my mother’s mother. It’s uncanny, actually, to peer down at a new human being and see an old one that you can’t have back even while knowing this this moment, too, will pass and never return.