Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baby Days: Adios, Lobito

On January 4, when the baby was four days old, I wrote in my journal that he had already changed so much, and I already missed how he used to be. I remember, that day, saying the same thing to my husband and crying hormonal, postpartum tears over my now-disappeared brand-brand-brand-new newborn. Three weeks later I wrote, “The baby is growing so fast that I can’t quite remember how he used to be, which I guess will always be the case.”

Loving an infant is an amazingly rewarding experience, because every single day, he is so different and so much more. But it’s also heartbreaking, because the little one that you cherished yesterday is only partially there today, and the little one that you cherished last month is gone forever.

Newborns have a non-human, animal-like quality to them, and over the past four and a half months, I have watched my baby become less humanoid animal and more human, less space alien and more kid. His head, which used to smell of vanilla and yeast and heaven, now smells more boyish – still beautiful and intoxicating, but more like baby and less like angel. While his eyes used to be a little cloudy and his gaze a little fitful, his pupils are now distinctly black, and he looks out at the world with energetic attention.

These days, the only remnant of the mysterious, animal/alien newborn has been his ears. In the moments after he was born, we noticed immediately that the inner rims of his ears were pointy, and the edges of his ears sprouted black hair. “Like an elf!” we laughed, “Or a wolf!” His hairy pointy wolf ears remained even after his head hair thinned, after his vision improved, after his hands got big and coordinated enough to hold mine. The day before yesterday, though, when I got home from work, my husband said, “Look, pokey, he doesn’t have ear hair anymore.” I looked at his ears, and sure enough, they are no longer hairy and the inner rims are no longer pointy. His elf ears disappeared without us even noticing when they went, to be replaced by perfect little boy ears. I took a picture to commemorate his new ears, and it came out blurry, because he kept turning and looking into the camera, then grabbing it and putting it in his mouth with dexterity unimaginable even two weeks ago.

My eyes burn and my breath catches when I realize that I will never again see the cloudy blue-brown corneas, the small, startled, randomly fluttering hands, or now the little wolf ears, save in my own memory. To love an infant is to be continuously bereaved, to suffer the loss of a loved one every minute and every day. It is the hardest and bravest thing I have ever done in my life.

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