Nine years ago this time of year, I was spending nights on the living room floor with my new baby. The wildflowers were out all over the backyard slope that leads to the arroyo. The nights started out very warm so all the windows were open, but by the middle of the night, it got cool enough for a quilt.
We were in the living room because I wasn’t making enough milk for her, and she was showing the first, early signs of dehydration. To keep her breastfeeding, we were alternating nursing with feeding her formula by dropper every two hours instead of giving her a bottle. I’d nudge the dropper to her lips, she’d turn her sweet dark eyes toward me and open her mouth like a calm fledgling. About one in ten times, I’d fill her too fast and with just as calm an expression as before, she’d projectile vomit into my face. Start again.
I’d lie there exhausted in the dark, freaked out with worry that I couldn’t produce feed my baby, amazed at the new being in my life, and hyper-alert to everything. I remember watching the night clouds and swatting the late-summer flies before the night cooled off enough to slow them down. I remember feeling sticky, achy and raw, not caring who saw me or what I looked like, and feeling very, very alone. I was failing my first test as a mother. Just as intensely, I was also feeling passionate and astounded.
I hadn’t had a strong connection to L in the womb, and I’d been very upset about it. The year before her birth had been turbulent with a long and difficult move, the death of my mother, 9/11, and the adoption of B. When I discovered I was pregnant, I was amazed – I’d had no inkling of it, or rather I’d fully repressed every possible inkling. But after 40 hours of labor, when L finally came out all squished and, as her father said, with a head like a Klingon, then I knew her, like she’d just walked in from another room. “Oh, there you are,” I sighed.
So she and I spent many hours lying on floors as I cajoled and fed her, as she nestled like a tiny rock washed into the shore of my body. I could have spent the rest of my life like that with her.
I never ended up making enough milk, but was able to breastfeed her something for about four months. She thrived just beautifully, and still is. And this is one of my most favorite times of year – every summer’s end I enjoy the warm afternoons and evenings, thrill to wildflowers that are making their final show, and happily pull up the quilts late at night. Fall is coming and my baby is growing.
How were the days after your baby’s arrival? Can you remember them at all? 😉