You are almost seven weeks old. It’s been longest blink of an eye I’ve ever known. Days and nights are short, but I feel like I’ve known you forever. Already I can’t imagine not knowing you. If a picture says a thousand words, then a thousand words must paint a picture. Here’s what I see…
You are endlessly fascinating to me. You spend lots of time in my arms and I spend lots of time taking in your features as you gulp milk at my breast. I use this time to catch up on emails / social media, but I am careful to balance getting things done with experiencing the joy of nursing you. Everyone is amazed by how my body has been able to feed you. The nurse who runs the weekly lactation support group remembered the story of your birth and asked, Do you realise how incredible it is that you have all this milk after all the blood you lost? I replied, Not really! I have nothing to compare it to, but I’m told it’s a miracle. I’m just incredibly thankful.
Thankful is a good word to describe how I feel. Even in my most frustrated moments (usually at 4 a.m., when you’ve passed out but wake up less than ten minutes after I’ve fallen asleep again) I am so very thankful. You are strong and healthy, swiftly gaining weight (4lbs since birth!) and slowly unfurling from a newborn into a young baby who grows more interactive by the day.
I see an entire theatrical act of expressions flit across your face in 30 seconds. Most of your smiles are fleeting, as you drift off in postprandial bliss. When you are content, you sometimes sigh Ah-oo! and it’s the sweetest little sound I’ve ever heard. You’ve started grasping objects you reach for, which makes me so proud. Best of all is when you reach out to touch my face and smile, and then my heart goes Zing! and I laugh and coo back at you exaggeratedly, but not insincerely!
Your skin doesn’t have the blueish translucence of a lot of fair-haired newborns. Like mine, it’s a creamy pale olive — a nod to our common Irish ancestry. And except for the milia dotted around your eyes like scattered Braille, your skin is as soft as the silky surface tension of still water.
Your full head of wavy red hair ranges from strawberry blonde in the sun, to copper indoors, to auburn in shadow. Although our day nurse, Emilie, washed your hair when you were two days old, that night another nurse secretly washed it again because she “didn’t believe it was your real hair colour” — something Daddy and I still chuckle about. It’s a glorious shade of rose gold and you have so much of it! Every day in hospital your little mop would elicit a cry of Look at her hair! from the many doctors and nurses who entered our room. Emilie explained that most fair-haired babies are born bald — usually only dark-haired babies are born with a full head of hair — and, like your mama, you were born with more hair than most.
When I rub a tiny lock between my fingers, it’s as soft and silky as the smallest goose feather. I giggle that you have the same haircut as your dad — long on the top and with a receding hairline. You both have the same parting on either side of your head. I run my fingers through it, creating a messy mohawk. It’s textured when dry, showing the first glimpse of waves. Wet, it springs into curls, and I joke that you’re auditioning for the lead role in Annie.
You are mesmerised by the ceiling fan and the open-backed stairs in our apartment. Your cornflower blue eyes are almond-shaped, bright and curious, and lighter than they were on the day you were born. I think they will stay blue, like your dad — not turn to our donor’s green — to complement your red hair. A double recessive gene! commented the paediatric nurse practitioner.
Ah, your genes. Half are unknown to us. Your little features are so dissimilar to my own. Not recognising my family in your face is unimportant, but, I’ll be honest, it is strange. Your ethnicity may span Europe, but it’s your Eastern European heritage that stares back at me. You look very ethnic to me, with your wide face, and your dad’s soft brow and round head. But unlike your dad’s side of the family, you have high cheekbones — much like the ones I’d expect you to have, had you come from my own DNA.
There is an ebbing pang when others comment on how much you look like your dad — my inference being how unlike me you look. And yet your paediatrician asked if red hair runs in my family (nope!) and I love that she and others forget how you were conceived because it means they haven’t labelled you as a “donor egg baby.” It’s part of your story but it doesn’t define you.
These are all gentle reminders of the journey it took to make you and that I can now only be grateful to be on because Without the pain, this terrific baby simply would not exist…
And yet, there are physical similarities between you and me — features which can only come from “Nellie.” I see you have high cheekbones and long fingers with long nailbeds. We both have a small mouth with full lips, pale olive skin, and a mane of fine, wavy hair. And we are both determined — I love the way you push away my hand when you want to latch on to my nipple all by yourself. A determined little redhead with olive skin and blue eyes. It’s all I know so far of the person you will become.
Whoever you are, I hope I can raise you to be true to yourself and kind to others.
I love you so much.