I know this sounds prosaic, but I can hardly believe you are already a month old–that an entire month has passed since I first saw your face, just inches from mine, looking into my eyes for the first time. You’ve given me the once over many more times since then, and as best I can tell you’re happy to be here with me. I’m certainly glad to have you.
It’s been an eventful first month for you, relatively speaking. You have visited the library, the hospital where Nonna works, Jay’s Deli, Moe’s, Starbucks, the grocery store, and, on several occasions, Target. You slept through most of these trips. If I could figure out how to get you to sleep that way in the house, say, during the wee small hours of the morning, I wouldn’t have this dazed expression on my face all the time. Lots of people have visited you as well–Cheryl, Caroline, Nancy, Janet, Erika, Joy. You slept through most of those, too. Again, if I could only get you to sleep that well for me….
Actually, I’m not giving you enough credit on the sleeping thing. Lately you’ve slept like a champ at night, drifting off between 10 and 11, waking to eat at 1 or 2 and again at 6, and then sleeping until 9 or 10. Napping during the day for longer than 20 minutes is another story entirely, but your new night hours more than make up for the short naps, as well as those nights two weeks ago when you didn’t go to sleep until 1 or 2–or 6. I am still recovering from that night, and I can’t promise you I won’t remind you of it when you are older and wanting a favor from me.
I certainly can’t complain about the times when you’re awake. You’re starting to smile a little now, and make sweet little sounds that seem to surprise you when they escape your mouth, and you would win a staring contest hands down–when your eyes settle on something interesting you stare at it for a long time, like you’re memorizing it, making a copy of it in your mind for later, because at the moment it’s the most fantastic thing you’ve ever seen and you don’t ever want to forget it. I hope someday you’ll stare at the ocean that way, and the flowers in our yard, and the sunset, and the mountains on the way to Papa Mo’s, and colors, and the faces of all the people you love most.
You’ve already got a head start on the colors. One of your favorite places to be right now is on the changing table, because right above the changing table are nine small blue, red, and yellow-colored canvasses that to me are an unfinished art project, but to you are some kind of baby LSD. You become positively transfixed when you realize you are within sight of those things, like you are communicating with the colors on some other plane that only babies and people who snort cocaine can reach. It’s amusing to watch, but also kind of freaky, because I can’t even focus on something for that long, and I have been practicing for 32 years.
You may be my ticket to transcendence, though, because I could gaze at your sweet face for eternity. You are so, so beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because I’m your mother. It’s true, and here’s how I know: in my experience, when someone sees a baby he or she will look at it and then say to its mother, “Oh, she’s just beautiful,” or “He is so adorable.” It is, after all, the polite thing to do. That doesn’t happen when you meet new people. When people see you for the first time, they do go on about how beautiful you are, but not to me, not for my benefit. They tell you, and they tell each other, and they email or call other people, who then email or call me and say things like, “So-and-so said you had the most beautiful child she’s ever seen,” and I have to think they are not just being polite. I believe they are seriously mesmerized by you–your big eyes and your long lashes and your hair.
Your hair. When the ultrasound tech told me back at Thanksgiving that you had a head full of hair, I imagined typical fuzzy baby hair that sticks straight up and falls out after a month. I was not prepared for your hair–dark and thick and fine, like mine, and full, not like a baby’s hair, but like a person’s hair. And the curls–just a little water and you look like one of the Jackson 5, and then it dries in soft waves and peaks all over your head. People keep telling me it will probably fall out, but I don’t believe them. I am more inclined to think that soon I will have to take you to the salon and have my stylist shape up your sideburns and trim your mullet, lest I wake up in the middle of the night to find you partying it up with a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and that Billy Ray Cyrus CD I can’t seem to sell at the used record store.
You do love your music. You love mine, too–Emmylou and Joan Baez, Josh Ritter and The Weepies–but already you recognize the music from your mobile and the Baby Einstein CDs we bought you, and you don’t know how happy it makes me that you are so soothed by music. You fit right in here, and how much easier will it be to take you places in the car knowing I can pop in a CD and you will listen right along with me. I’ve read that babies who like music are smart babies who turn into bright children who turn into intelligent adults. This does not surprise me at all–just look around you: everyone in your life loves music, and we are all brilliant, brilliant people. Just yesterday I tried to open the garage door with my phone. See what you have to look forward to?
You are already smart–I can see it in the way you study your surroundings–and also very talented. You can both spit and fling the pacifier great distances for someone so small. You can lift your head for long periods of time. You can hold your bowels and bladder until I have put a perfectly clean diaper on you, and then fill it up before a full minute has passed. You can even tell when the diaper is off and your tiny butt is resting on a clean surface–my hand, for instance, holding you against me because you’ve just made a puddle on the changing table–and then poop prolifically on that surface. You’re also the best farter in the house, better than the dog, even, because you are loud and proud about your farting, and the dog always tries to pretend she has no idea what just happened, jumping and looking curiously behind her to see where that sound came from.
But I was completely unprepared to deal with your greatest talents: your ability to make me rethink everything I’ve ever believed to be true about the world, about life, about myself, the way you can change my entire state of being with a look or a sound, how you can take years off of my life in a matter of seconds. When you were two days old and I was dressing you for the first time, preparing to take you home from the hospital, the pediatrician on duty stopped by to visit, and he told me to brace myself, that the first 6 weeks of your life would be the worst 6 weeks of mine. He called you a “neurologically incomplete organism” and assured me that after 6 weeks, when you started acting like a little human with a personality, I would not be able to imagine my life without you. I have thought about his words many times during your brief fits of inconsolable screaming. But then last week Nonna and I were bathing you, pouring water over your head and in your face like always, because you seem to enjoy it, and just as the water ran over your nose you inhaled. Your eyes flew open and your face froze and you wouldn’t inhale or exhale or cough or cry, and you started to turn red. I grabbed you up out of the water and held you in the air and shook you a little–and then I handed you to Nonna, because in that moment I glimpsed my life without you, and the mere thought of that life reduced me to helplessness. In a split second you cried out–apparently you’d just been holding your breath–and I took you in my arms and held you close and felt my world right itself, and I remembered what the pediatrician had told me, how it would be three more weeks before I could no longer imagine life without you, and I want you to know how wrong he was, Baby, how very, very wrong. I want you to know that in that first moment when you strained to lift your head and look into my eyes a month ago, you became my life.