Hi, beloved and so.so.so.missed community. So.so.missed.
We’ve been gone for four weeks, which is exactly how long (less one day) that we had Saul with us.
This story’s going to take awhile to tell, so here’s what I’m thinking. I’ll try to write (or J will) everyday, and to post a photos when we can. Hopefully we’ll have everyone caught up in a week or two.
So where to start. Gods I’ve missed this space. This month of all months. I would never have been silent here of my own volition; our agency asked us not to blog until the TPR hearing, so we complied. I’m glad we did now because otherwise I might have wondered if we’d caused this to happen. The TPR hearing was supposed to be last Monday. It wasn’t.
But the beginning. The hospital was so hard. L was clearly processing a great deal (so much about her ex, Saul’s birth father), and she only slept for two hours those first two days. We took turns with her there, and she never turned off the lights or got quiet. I wanted to give Sauly the dark, quiet warmth I knew he needed, but I felt like she needed us to be there mostly for her, so I tried to devote myself wholly to whatever she wanted: company on trips outside to smoke, reassurances, advocacy. Most of all I tried to be a good listener. My gods, did I listen to her (and I know that’s all J did during her shifts too). The baby felt very secondary, which made me deeply sad, but it felt like what she needed. We took him to the nursery or the nurses whenever she wanted to smoke. It was hard to leave him so much. He got antibiotics unnecessarily, and fourteen hours of formula, which made me sad. He never got skin-to-skin in the hospital. I told her that if she changed her mind, I would help her come up with a plan for how she could keep him. I meant it. I held the baby, but not like he was mine. I ceded to her entirely. I believed she was in agony over the decision to place him, but that she thought it was best for him: that she was generous and loving despite the chaos. All of this seems foolish now.
When she was discharged, L went through with the placement, and we all came home a happy (if shocked and overwhelmed) family of four. I remember being discharged from the hospital and heading back across town to pack up our hotel room. It was our first experience alone with two, and it was intense. One month into parenting two, and I can’t imagine why it seemed so hard, but in that moment, without our support system, and with no sleep, learning how to do this – let alone do it well – felt impossible. The drive home, on the other hand, was one of the sweetest times of my life. It started to snow: the first snowfall of the year. I had wiggled my way into the backseat between the two car seats, and I had sung to both boys (Sauly for the first time), and somehow, miraculously, both of our sons fell asleep. I could hear Bram’s breathing, and I kept my hand on Sauly’s so.so.tiny chest, so I could feel his soft inhalations. We were quiet and amazed and falling in love.
J started maternity leave, I took two week off of writing, and we hired our dear friend as a postpartum doula to help us spin up VERY quickly for the exhausting art of parenting two under one. We took turns downstairs with him at night, sitting in the quiet darkness learning the smell of his skin, his sweet little squeaks, the complex color of his wide-open and watchful eyes. B wanted to nurse a lot more at first – I think he was threatened by having to share his milk. There were nights where he woke up eight times, and each time either boy needed to nurse, we had to switch. Saul loved to nurse, so between his demands and Bram’s, J spent most of her time with at least one (and during the day, often two) sons attached to her breast. There were nights when we got two hours of sleep total. There were tears. J often felt empty, afraid she wasn’t making enough to feed them both. As it turns out, she was. By Sauly’s one week check, he’d gained a half a pound! As our dear friend Christina says, my wife makes seal milk.
Saul also took to skin-to-skin like nobody’s business, so I spent nearly every night until 3:30am, and often again early, with his bare chest against mine, heartbeat against my heartbeat, breath against my breath. By the last week he was with us, I brought him to bed with me between 5 and 6am, and carefully settled him on my chest, where he got his longest stretch of the night. For those hours, we were together in bed, a peaceful family of four. Those were some of the happiest hours of my life.
Bram immediately learned the word “brother” and would delight in hurling himself across the room each time he was asked: “do you want to smooch brother?” He knew not to kiss him on the mouth, and not to touch him with his hands, so he would wait until Saul’s sweet baby head was lowered so he could plant his (not remotely closed) lips firmly on the top of Sauly’s head. He delighted in the new person in our family. Friends got us a swing (attachment parenting or not: you can’t parent two under one without at least one baby containment device), and when Saul was sleeping in it, B would watch and swing his hands along with him. He looked for him first thing in the morning. He was a little jealous when I wore Saul, and when J nursed, but mostly: he was a wonderful big brother, and he was clearly falling in love.
As for Saul, he has the most intense eyes – they just stare at you with an unreal amount of comprehension for a newborn – and the sweetest, fastest flash of a smile, which seems to come out of nowhere and explode on his face. He has strawberry blonde hair that only looks truly red when set against white or cream, pale skin that looks nearly translucent in photos, and a seriousness about him that is unmistakable. He is so, so different from Bram. For such a new being, he feels introspective. Though he has quite a set of lungs on him, he is largely quiet. He is an odd and magnificent baby, and falling in love with him was easy.
That’s all I have time (or emotional energy) for tonight. As is no doubt evident, L took Saul back. We drove him to our social worker yesterday, one day shy of four weeks after his birth. We had nearly a month with him as our son. There’s plenty more to write.