Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You Forget

My new grandson, Paul, is asleep on his back.  Every now and then, he startles, his arms flying up, fingers splayed, legs jerking in close to his body.  His tiny brow furrows and his lips purse.  When our dog, Kody, twitched in her sleep, we’d say, “She’s chasing rabbits.”  Absent bunnies or the ability to chase, what images flash through a baby’s mind? 

No wandering stuffed animals lie within Paul’s reach; no blankets threaten to suffocate him.  Statistics on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) have banned such comforts, but he snoozes on the floor, serene on his jungle mat, under curling felt palm fronds and the gaze of a smiling giraffe.  Lisa, Paul’s mom, is taking a much-needed nap, and I’m stretched out on the brown velvet couch, keeping watch along with the giraffe.

As a young mother, was I as anxious as I am now about this baby’s safety when he is in my care?  I don’t remember worrying about catching a heel and pitching forward while holding the baby, or thinking I might injure his hand while struggling to inch his arm through a tight sleeve.  When he squalls, I’m saddened by his anguish, yet when he’s asleep, I stare fixedly at his chest for its reassuring rise and fall. 

I guess you forget.  You forget the jolt in the stomach in the middle of the night at hearing a squawk soon after transferring the sleeping – so-asleep, definitely asleep – baby into the cradle.  This, after an hour’s feeding and a half hour of pacing and cooing, having gently eased the baby down, swaying and rocking as you lower him, tricking him really, into thinking he’s still being held, even as you’re settling him into a crib no longer filled with friendly stuffed animals, buffered by cozy bumpers, and festooned with intriguing mobiles due to those SIDS statistics.  Who wouldn’t wake up and wail?

You forget the awkward flurry of trying to get a fresh diaper maneuvered into place before the baby poops on the changing table, soiling another pad.  You forget the dodge and weave when you neglect to cover the baby’s penis and a jet of urine barely misses you, soaking the brandy new outfit you’d laid out for the child, and landing a droplet on the baby’s cheek.  You forget the knot in your back and your tired arms.  How can eight pounds be so heavy?

More easily, you remember the child once cereal’s been added to the menu, and that squawk is no longer a nightly occurrence.  You remember a baby that has discovered his or her hands, extraordinary appendages that swivel, wave, and whack toys, with fingers that soothe better than a pacifier, thank God. And you remember a baby who knows you, and rewards your goofiness with a smile.
Having a grandson blows memory’s veils aside some, and while climbing lichened rocks splotched with emerald green mosses during a recent hike, Dave, our friend Joanie, and I chuckled in recalling mishaps decades ago with our newborns:

Joanie gingerly tiptoeing across the hall, her arms curved in rock-a-bye mode, to re-place the baby into her crib after nursing, only to discover her arms empty and Tracy already there.

Me, awakening, panicked because Tucker was not in my arms.  Desperately patting the bed around me, whipping back the sheets, searching for the baby.  Finally shaking Dave awake to ask, “Where’s Tucker?!  He’s not here!”  And his doting father’s answer, “Who’s Tucker?” 

FYI: the baby was not under the pillows or on the floor, but, like Tracy, asleep in his cradle.

Last week, I commented to Tucker, now 35, something about the delightful ease of breastfeeding.  There was a silence on the phone.  A noticeable silence.  An audible deep breath was drawn before he said, “Are you sure you’re remembering right Mom?  These two weeks have been hard.”

Maybe I have forgotten.  Certainly I remember the first abysmal night home from the hospital.  Dave had cooked up a welcoming feast of steak, potatoes, and asparagus.  After eagerly consuming dinner, I nursed the baby, and Dave settled in for an all-nighter with his graduate school studies. I’d not yet made the connection between my diet and the baby’s, and apparently asparagus was too acidic. Tucker cried through the night, his mother along with him.  Dave tried to comfort us, and I have a misty image of the three of us sobbing, but maybe, over the years, that’s been added for spice. It’s a funny story, but at the time, it was miserable.  In that way memory is kind, blurring over rough spots and throwing a halo around holy ones.   

For I remember the scent of my freshly bathed babies, their hair fluffy and soft as dandelion fuzz.  I remember downy cheeks and serene little faces, lips working, and lifting into fleeting smiles.  And when I remember the miracle of my little ones, they are surrounded by an aura of light and love that I had never known before.  I look at Paul, peacefully sleeping, and I remember… and feel it anew.

 Posed! Taken later! Adorable stegosaurus in the jungle!


Eliza said...

Oh I remember so well. When Andrus was born (my first) it was August in NYC and hot as blazes. She got terrible diaper rash and I felt terrible and like a bad mother. My father answered my teary phone call, listened to my tale of woe, and launched into his rendition of "Where are the simple joys of motherhood....." John and I left the city and went to stay with my parents at the shore in RI for a while, and my blessed mother dumped out my father's shirt drawer and made Andrus a little bed, and kept her with her, bringing her to me to nurse in the middle of the night, then taking her back upstairs (to walk her around, change her, etc) and let me sleep. Bliss. I do have to say, my next door neighbor here asked me to hold her 3 month old while she scarfed her lunch, and that baby got heavy...FAST! We do forget- but just the smell of them brings it all back. Lucky you!!! Enjoy every moment!!!!!

Joanie said...

Oh, Lea, I absolutely think we forget! I remember (in snippets) Tracy not sleeping unless she was rocked or moving (in the car). Luckily, for all of us in those fledgling days, we had each other for support. We had the joy of connection, meeting on a daily basis with babies in Snuglies or strollers as we lapped the EHS campus. Fussy mealtimes in the dining hall were met with at least one adult (usually Dave), who would scoop up the teary lil' one, allowing the exhausted Mom to enjoy a warm meal (that someone else had prepared and we didn't need to clean up!) No, it was not easy, but looking back, not sure that I would have changed a thing! Thanks, as always, for sharing all that you feel.

Anonymous said...

Oh, he's a beauty! That hair! Any time I eat blue cheese, I remember Molly's reaction from those sweet nursing days - her baby face screwed up. She likes it now though! xxxx

Katherine said...

Yes we do forget.. especially those few weeks///months/// of how HARD having a baby (well I had two!) is on your mind and body .. I remember it was hard to enjoy any of it as I was sooo exhausted and overwhelmed... So yes all those things you wrote about were my feelings too.. esp. the anxiety over doing something wrong or hurting them by accident! Wonderfully written Lea.... I could have written line per line exactly what you did. only you have the extraordinary talent to DO IT! Thanks for sharing.. Katherine

Gerry said...

I just remember the joy you and Dave radiated with both of your kids. I am sure that there was weariness in those eyes as well, but that was second to the pride in your little ones.

Christine said...

Loved this blog Lea. Emily was here with Georgia - one week older than Paul - as I was reading and I read it aloud to her. We do forget I think but I have the baby books (my department) and the daily calendar (John's entries) from the first year of both girls lives. So whenever I say something like "by this point you were....... it is pointed out to me that isn't quite the case! LOL!

It is fun being a grand parent I agree although I do wonder just why the girls think I am anxious to change a poopy diaper, (I'm learning to say nappy), when they say "does Granny want to change her?" Ummm.... actually no! ;-).

Congratulations and I look forward to more blogs as Paul grows.

PS - I do so agree with Joan, we were SO lucky to have the support system we did at EHS. It was wonderful to have Wendy and Annie with babies the same age and you and Joan just a year ahead. xxx

ann kates@gmail.com said...

Lea, a great blog about Paul and about being parents and grand parents! I, like friends above, remember well the times of challenge with our little ones and the times of joy! They are all precious memories! And how lucky we all are to be able to be Grandparents and to shower our love on our grandchildren. We are all indeed blessed! Thank you for sharing and hope your time with Tucker, Lisa, and Paul last week was good!!! xoxo

Unknown said...

Lovely messages! I'm looking forward to a grandbaby in April and have already been flashing back to those days with my new borns.

Lea said...

Whew - glad to hear we are all together in our anxieties and our memories of joy! Christine, YOU gave us Tucker's Paddington baby book, and it is filled with first words, funny stories, and pictures... For the EH clan, my kids now say they were raised in a commune. Dave and I initially protested, but now realize, yeah, they were, in the best of ways. How lucky for all of us to have had each other's company, help, and support. XXOO

Judy Schalick said...

Veils of memory......perfect phrase. What warmed me so was your acceptance of....memories forgotten and reframed. So much forgotten in the miracle of day to day life and recaptured with grandchildren. As ever, Lea, your sensitive, evocative spirit illuminates. Thank you once more!

Laurie Stone said...

Oh Lea. So lovely. Yes, we have to be young to be mothers. Parenthood is demanding -- physically, emotionally, mentally, every which way. Grandmothers have earned the right to have the snuggles without as much work, although there will always be worry. A beautiful post and all my congratulations

Lea said...

Lynn!!! Sooo good to hear from you! I'm excited for YOU with a grand-baby on the way! Hugs to you, Rick, and the kids! XO

Lynn Piola said...

Congratulations on becoming grandparents, Lea and Davey! Nothing better. We are expecting our 4th grandbaby in August. What a beautiful baby Paul is! Enjoy the love. And welcome to your new little bundle of boy! Love & hugs, Lynn and Bobby

Lea said...

Thank you! He's smiling now, and I am content to spend the hours cooing and singing to win those smiles! XO

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