Bram has been with us for four whole weeks. Right now he’s breathing loudly (he’s a little congested) on my chest in my sling carrier while J sleeps a little more upstairs. This has become our new morning routine, and I could sit here and listen to him all day: his sweet sighs, his quick intakes of air. We spend a lot of time this way (me wearing him in the carrier) because B loves to be worn. He always calms within minutes, and I can tell how awake he is by the feel of his fingers playing against my chest. I know he won’t always be small enough to carry this way, so I try to savor this time now. It is immeasurably sweet.
In fact, the fleeting nature of this time has had a pretty profound influence on me overall. It’s worked better than anything else I’ve ever tried at getting me into the moment and out of my head. What I want now is born of the present: the hours of getting to know him, what he needs, what it means to be his mother. And this makes sense, I think, because babies are prefect at just being. They exist in that state of mindfulness that the rest of us (older folks) have to work to cultivate. I love this about B; he’s a great model of present-living. I also love his uncensored willingness to ask for what he needs. He feels no shame (the only learned human emotion). No guilt. No sense that his needs are in any way a burden on those who love him. I hope this lasts well into childhood. I hope no one tries to introduce my son to shame or guilt, especially shame, which serves us in no way I can see. I adore his clarity.
I also love his love of music. He digs classical music or quiet jazz in the mornings: easy time with whatever NPR gives us, or with one of the two delightful mixes Madeline made for him. We also sing a lot because if I’m not wearing him, and J isn’t nursing, it’s one of the only sure-fire ways to calm him down quickly. I’m not much of a singer, but this boy does not care. He’ll stop fussing the second I start a song and start fussing again the moment I finish. Song after song after song. This has led me to scour the recesses of my memory for any and every song I’ve ever memorized, and has led to some strange resurfacings. We sing a LOT of Tori Amos. We sing Cowboy Junkies’s “Mining for Gold” and “Misguided Angel.” We sing Leonard Cohen and Ani DiFranco. We sing Dar’s “After All,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” and John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” We sing Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” and Elton John’s “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer” (the last of these because this boy’s moves continue to be rhythmic and dancer-like). Aunt Nancy, we sing lots of Melanie: mostly the sweet stuff like “The Good Book” and “Beautiful People,” but when I get desperate I find I remember all of the lyrics to that song about Psychotherapy too. We sing songs my parents sang when I was little. We sing “Brown-Eyed Girl.” We sing Wyclef Jean’s “The Stripper Song,” for Pete’s Sake. Anything will do; the boy is just not picky and he doesn’t mind my proclivity towards melancholic tunes. He also likes lullabies in the early evening: especially his new favorite – Laura Veirs’s Tumble Bee – which the awesome mommy and mama over at Love Invents Us just sent him (along with glow-in-the-dark baby legs, SmartWool booties, and some sweet, sweet reading materials). The boy likes a song.
So I guess this post is just to say that things are good. Though this newborn time hasn’t been easy, I think we were well prepared for its challenges, in no small part because of all the insights this community has shared with us. And by the way: thanks for that. Though we’re dealing with some digestive problems, overactive let-down, and possible dairy allergies, Bram is a pretty laid back soul. He seems like he’s in pain sometimes after eating, and he’s spitting up a lot, but he’s usually consolable with lots of upright movement, white noise, pinkie-sucking, and snugging. He rarely sleeps more than one 3- or 4-hour stretch followed by two 2-hour stretches at night, but that feels surprisingly sufficient most days. He sleeps at night in his crib (the portacrib in our room), but he’ll only sleep there when he’s swaddled, and we don’t swaddle him at all during the day, so he takes all of his naps on our chests. I know we’ll be more productive once he starts day-napping in his crib, but for now I’m happy with all this connection. And he’s growing so much! By three weeks he was up to 9 pounds, 4 ounces (the 52nd percentile) and 22 inches (the 82nd percentile). His fingers are going to be long and lean, but right now they’ve chubbed right up: fat and adorable. He has HUGE thumbs and big toes (just the big toes). Sissy Hankshaw thumbs, for you Tom Robbins fans. His legs are still skinny, his knees still knobby, his ears still big. For weeks J was worried about his hearing (they forgot to give him the hearing test at the hospital, so he still hasn’t had one), but he startles every time I blow my nose, so I think we’re in the clear on that one. (J will tell you that my nose-blowing is louder than a train whistle, which is rude, but probably true.) Maybe this is too much detail, but this blog is where I keep track of things, and I don’t want to forget these little details. I know they’ll go by too quickly.
This four-week mark also finds me settling in with more confidence to my equal role as a mom. Because this boy needs me every bit as much as he needs J, and that is clear in the way he settles into my arms, in the way he looks at me, in the countless mama-son hours we spend. I loved him immediately, and I was confident right away that I knew (more or less) how to parent him, but it’s taken me awhile to stop worrying about the fact that others consider me secondary. At first, I needed a lot of reassurance that I would be respected as an equal in all of this. And I needed it from people who are acculturated (hello: American media) to see biology as primary in the parent-child relationship. What I’ve started to realize is that it doesn’t matter what they think. What matters is how we live, our day.to.day reality, the unrivaled bond I already share with this creature. Because unlike so many, Bram won’t grow up to think that biology defines family. And, since any other kids we’re blessed with will likely come to us through adoption, B will probably only share a biological connection with one of his family members, so it will take on even less importance as time goes on. Anyway, what I mean is this: I’m all done needing others to validate my status as a mother. This child is my son in every way. I know we’ll face all manner of unequal treatment, but none of that can undermine this bond. We are an us, our little family of three. And it is sweet.