your heart is shattered into a million pieces and explodes out in every direction, reaching the furthest corner of the universe. bright, sharp shards. your mind, too, as a complete thought seems to be unattainable. getting up out of the bed for the first time, there is an incredible empty, downward pulling sensation in your body. you have the urge to hug yourself to hold everything together. your lungs can fill too easily and, counter-intuitively, you feel like you can’t breathe, can’t catch your breath. a fish without water.
just existing feels too full and something as simple as the color of the leaves on the trees can take your breath away, bring you to tears. coming back home again, everything seems altered somehow. it is the same yard and house i paced just days earlier with a full belly, how can everything look and feel so different? many animals go through a metamorphosis in their life cycle. people don’t. having a baby might be the closest thing to feeling what that moth feels the first time it shakes out its wet new wings, entering a world the same, yet different, than the one he left when he tucked himself away in that chrysalis.
cards fill the mail box, the mantle, people call, come over, bring arabic desserts and baby clothes. every song you try to sing to your new son brings you to tears. so instead you hold him and say nothing, memorize his perfect tiny hands, the wrinkles on his arms, the feel of his tiny body in your arms. i look at ruth, her eyes so intelligent, her body so robust and i wonder how she was ever so small, yet it also feels like yesterday that i held her the same, struggled to teach her and myself to breastfeed the same way, wondered who she would be, feeling like she would be that little forever. how fast it all went.
i marvel at his size. though he is so small, i wonder that something so big was inside of my belly just a few days ago. i can’t imagine where he fit out.
the hell i was trapped in waiting for his arrival seems so small and distant now, dwarfed by the magnitude of his birth and his presence. i appreciate now, where i didn’t before, that the waiting is part of it. without the waiting, the wondering, the transformation wouldn’t be as dramatic. and although i am disappointed that i was unable to stay ahead of the pain, that i was still a victim to it, what i really got out of joel’s birth story is what i never felt like i had with ruth: an authentic birth story. not one chosen out of an aisle at costco, but something…magical. something completely out of anyone’s control, something that happened totally on it’s own time. i never believed in horoscopes much, though i always blame ruth’s for her personality (although, c’mon. we all know she gets her crazy from me), but with joel, i can understand the magic of the exact date and time someone is born. like the first day the robins sing, or when the first spring crocus breaks through the soil, something ancient and controlled by forces unseen. with ruth, because of the pitocin, i always wondered when she would have been born if my labor hadn’t been augmented.
the days pass quickly, are too full, though nothing much occurs. the nights are hell. his most active, alert time, when he decides he’s starving every half an hour is right as you would normally go to bed. the tired feeling when you are dragged from sleep is the kind that makes your eyeballs ache, makes your stomach sick, makes you feel like your brain is going to explode out of your forehead onto the floor where it will be just another thing to trip over as you pace back and forth from the bedroom to the changing table, along with everything that ruth dropped earlier and you were too tired or distracted to pick up then. the sound of him crying, snorting, fussing infuses all of your dreams, what few you manage to have as your sleep is so disturbed. in the morning, you are almost glad to be awake for good, glad to put the night behind you, though you are exhausted to your core.
you hold him, hold him, hold him. smell him. try to memorize him. wonder that he will one day be a man. a man who came from you. your family. your son.