I’ve had my baby for a few days now, and it strikes me that these are the days of my life that will stand out in my memory for the rest of my life. When Mark and I were young, and happy in our marriage. When we lived in a quaint townhouse with a stripped cat and ate out any night and went to bed together and made each other laugh. When I got pregnant and all of our other problems seemed to disappear and we were starting a family. Days when I was tired and sick from being pregnant, and he would rub my feet and cook dinner and we went for walks down to the store because it was a nice evening and he bought me an ice cream. When we dressed up for comic conventions and he would make beautiful things in his workshop. When I had a job that I enjoyed and he had two jobs and still decided to go to graduate school because the company was paying for it, but we still had weekends off together. We’d get brunch at 11 and talk about politics and current events and things we read or heard or saw online. And we’d let the cat walk around the back yard and sit outside in the summer evenings and enjoyed the fading light. And even when my legs were swollen and I’d gotten a big belly, Mark still told me I was beautiful.
Then my water broke in the middle of the night, and I woke up scared but Mark was there, calm and ready, and drove us to the hospital. I was in pain and it was growing every hour until they gave me the epidural and the nurse told me to be tough and I told her I appreciated her tough love style but I really just needed to be allowed to cry. Later my mom came to the hospital and she rubbed my back and held my hand. I rested through the contractions for a few hours until it was time for me to start pushing. I pushed for all I was worth, and Mark was by my side and held my hand, and then he held my leg and I pushed as hard as I could, but the baby was stuck. He was sunny side up, facing the sky instead of the ground and my tiny person pelvis was not built for such demands. There were moments when I passed out from the pain, and woke from more pain, and tried to push into the pain like they told me, but I was wishing for any way out, begging for help, for relief, offering bribes to anyone who could make it stop. And even with a room full of people yelling directions and commands and encouragement, the only one I looked to was Mark, who was calm faced, trying to smile encouragement at me even though I knew it was hard for him to watch me struggle in pain. I knew then why women died in childbirth, drowning in a rip tide of pain, beyond the reach of bystanders, willing to give up entirely if it would make the agony stop for just a little while. But there was no way for me to escape the pain except to push that damn baby out, so I looked at Mark’s face and pushed until I thought I had torn myself apart.
And then he was here, my baby, and there was still pain but it was somewhere else, distant and separate from me. And they put him up on my chest, wet and slimy, and I looked at Mark to see his face break its calm and he looked amazed and a little dazed. They cleaned the baby off and weighed him and stitched my broken bits back together, and they put the clean baby in Mark’s arms and he looked excited and a little scared. Then they put the baby on my chest and I really got to see him, the tiny person we had made, a whole human being who hadn’t been in the world before. And later in the evening Mama came with my step dad and brought me a milkshake and brushed the knots out of my hair and they looked at the baby and said how amazing he was. And the next day Mark told me how tough it was to watch and that he was so proud of me, and that, even when I was in tremendous pain, I was still seeing the humor and making people laugh. And Mama said that even when I was in the most pain, I never said an unkind thing to Mark, but how could I? I couldn’t have done it without him. He’s my rock, my home.
And we brought the baby home and Mark stepped up to take care of the baby most of the first night, so I could get some sleep. When I went in the nursery to check on them at 4am, the two of them were snuggled up in the chair, because the baby fussed whenever he put him down, and I about died from the adorableness of it. Mark figured out how to change diapers quick and he can change the baby’s clothes in half the time it takes me, and he’s already mastered the swaddling methods and he’s such a natural at parenting that it makes me so impressed and maybe a little jealous. I’m still trying to figure out how to pump breast milk, and I’m still healing from the stitches, but I’m getting my strength back little by little.
And his mother came up to see the baby and she’s been over to help out but mostly she just wants to hold the baby and talk about when her children were babies. And she keeps repeating the baby’s name, Alexander, over and over and it sounds strange because for so long Mark and I have only ever called him the baby, or just Baby, and even now I think of him as my baby like he’s still inside me, and a part of me, and I forget that he’s a separate person now, with a name of his own.
Alexander. When he came out his head was cone shaped from the vacuum and he had a bruise on his face from getting banged into my pelvis for a couple hours, but he had soft fuzzy brown hair and eyes as deeply dark blue as the ocean at night. And he makes adorable noises, little chirps and trills, and he has tiny little hiccups like a drunk mouse, and when he sleeps he makes faces and gurgles and kicks out his feet. He’s a little ball of potential energy, and I hold him against my heart and stroke his baby head and feel his tiny little breaths.
And I know now, with a kind of clarity that is striking in its ferocity, that these are the days I’ll remember when I’m an old woman, after Mark is gone and my kids are grown, reminiscing about my life. When Mark and I were young and in love, and we brought our little baby home from the hospital and our family was happy and new. And each day of his babyhood, no matter how frustrated or tiring, it’s a day I won’t be able to get back, and the older he gets, the more I’ll romanticize that these days were perfect. I suddenly get why all those strangers felt compelled to talk to me when I was pregnant, so they could bask in the warm glow of their own memories of when their kids were babies and their families were new.
And it makes this moment of supreme happiness a little bit sad too, knowing the cruel nature of time and aging, knowing that I have the genes to live for a very long time, and that in my final years I’ll be alone and sad, and wishing with all my heart that I could come back here and live this day over again.