It was winter when she was born. Just over six pounds and lungs like a four month old. I had never experienced instant emotion before. When the tears sprang from my eyes at the sound of her first cry, I didn’t know the gravity of the subtle changes to come.
Those first five days were a whirlwind of speedy education and searing pain, like a red hot poker being jammed into my abdomen; a consolation prize of the cesarean section that ushered her into the world. I didn’t start to feel the nerves and the worry until day four. How can we go home? What’re we going to do with her? Finally, I felt the worry that her father had been feeling for nine months. Scared shitless, but never letting on to me. He kept me laughing the entire pregnancy; so much so that in the coming months my laughter would comfort the newborn into a sound sleep.
The incision stopped me from being able to care for her adequately. Her daddy was the first to change her and I was the first to recognize that stubbornness of the Chinese ox under which she was born. All attempts to nurse were met with the tiny strength of a day old baby, who could hold up her own head and pull away enough to let us know that breast feeding was not for her. All of the in-utero head butts seemed to have paid off.
And then, we were home. Five days before there were two of us and now there were three. The result of fifteen years of love, pain, struggles and understanding. Now we have embarked on a brand new adventure. Birth is a difficult task and her little body required all of the rest afforded to her. And so did he. Five days in a half-assed recliner is a lot to ask of anyone, but he did it with little complaint for his girls; his family.
In the night, despite the prescription pain medication, sleep was fleeting, like dust in the wind, because of all the sounds. Lying in bed in the pitch darkness, my eyes were wide, snapping my head to the right at the slightest sigh. I could hear her. Sharp and more acutely that anything I’d ever heard, I could hear her. Her quiet breathes; the wisps of her small movements against the cotton fabric of the bassinet. Low whines and whimpers. Even her daddy seemed to shift and breathe in an identical manner.
Over the coming days and weeks, and even for the next year, as I marveled daily at being a mother and at being her mother, I learned her every utterance; from the high pitch hoots of a bowel movement to the rapid exhalations at the joy of awakening. She would smile and laugh sooner than the experts say she should and burp the less than enjoyable fragrance of formula into my face, before resting her head back against my shoulder. She would cry with a very distinctive L in her voice and looked baffled when her dad would startle her out of a tantrum with a simple puff her air to her round face.
Six years later, nothing has changed. Her every shift and sigh gains my attention. The yawn of the six year old is identical to the yawn of the newborn, despite the growth and changes in the years between. She will still lean her head into your hand, if you gently caress her face, while she sleeps. She still laughs when she farts; and I still stand over her and look closely at her body to insure that the involuntary rise and fall of her chest is unimpeded.
In my bedroom at night, I sometimes think I hear her; or when she is off at school, I expect to see her on the futon or think for sure that I heard her sigh; like I would hear her cry when she was a baby, just to inspect her bassinet and find her sound asleep. I listen with a sense beyond simple hearing, seeding concern where there need not be any; stimulating that rational and irrational need to protect at all times, even when she is beyond my reach.
My daughter has brought change, but none greater than the ones that have occurred within me. More than just my senses, I am stronger, sharper and more acute; growing with her, as she grows; becoming the best me I can be, so that I can help make her the best that she can be.