Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baby Life: Mother and Daughter

No matter how you think you remember, you don't. How the newborn baby accumulates the entire constellation of your world, your family around herself, how she becomes the blinking, cooing, squalling, screaming, nursing centre of the world, how that kind of quiet that only enormous amounts of space can hold envelopes you, envelopes the space between you and everything else. Everyone else. Far away there is the voice of my son telling me, eyes wide, about one of the worst nights he's ever had, involving a friend who is being hit by her father, the police and a car crash, and I'm listening, I'm fixing my gaze toward his drawn, young face, and Ever is against my breasts rooting, fussing, and I'm listening to her breath ( is she breathing too fast? does her nose need saline and sucking? is her chest retracting? ) and glancing at her chest and my son is floating farther away. He sits next to me and I try clumsily to put my arm around him, I can see he wants me to snuggle him against me, but Ever resists the change in equilibrium and fusses irritably, her small hands scratching at the sides of her head, so that I have to pull back my arms and give them both to her.
Hyper-vigilance, The pediatrician told us, checking Ever's miniature abdomen, that's what you will notice when you get home. You'll notice everything she does in the context of her health, you'll worry more. Mr. Curry glanced at me. I knew he was thinking Shit, my wife can't worry more. Any more worrying and she'll drive herself crazy. Me crazy.
Late at night, once, I got Ever to sleep and managed to uncurl my warm, sweaty body from hers and scrunch up her blanket as my replacement, slide next to Mr. Curry, be glad the lights were off. My breasts leaked, white milk slid down in steady drippings and soaked the sheet beneath me. I inhaled Mr. Curry's neck, his armpits, and strained to hear Ever's breath noise, the sound always reminding me of the baby book Bunny's Noisy Book : " He wiggled his nose and sniffed the little quick noise of a sniff. " Although my woman's heart belongs to my husband, my body and my life belong to my children while they are growing up, and especially, most of all, while they are very young.
The world exhales and inhales in it's sharp gasping bursts of energy, the entire modernized, civilized world exhaling and inhaling like this now, with our connections like over-excitable neurons, firing off wildly at every new tragedy, startling piece of information, assumption. To withdraw from this into the tiny face of my daughter is a relief. To find myself floating out beyond my family, beyond my poetry and my novel is scary. I watch these parts of myself hibernating and wonder as I have each time Will they return? The untamed and utterly joyful, transcendent sex life my husband and I have always shared, one of our strongest bonds? The rare moments of calm connection and support with my teenage boys? The long stretches of art making and giggling with Lola? The hours of dreamy contemplation followed by strutting poems and paragraphs in my book? The intellectual pursuits of complex novels, the NYT, non-fiction reading and learning? Of course it will all return. Will it be the same?
Long stretches of hours go by with Ever and I simply glued to one another. The children at school, Mr. Curry at work, the dogs lolling, Ever on my chest. Hours I try to read, blog, check Facebook, distract myself from the central line and gravity force of Ever's breathing. In, out, in, out, counting the breaths, listening for a slight wheeze, glancing at the ring round her mouth, assuring it is pink and healthy. Attaching the nebulizer tube, holding the steam near her face, waiting for the shaking of her fat arms and legs that signals the Albuterol is doing it's fine work, opening and softening the lungs, helping my baby to breathe. Because allergies and eczema run on both sides of her family, Ever most likely inherited the 'asthma gene', which could have been triggered On by the RSV virus. Because she responds so well to the Albuterol, it is likely. Two weeks out from the hospital, she is congested again, snorting and snuffling. On Friday her oxygen was at a wonderful 99%. As the nurse announced Ever's oxygen, I couldn't stop the tears from welling and falling. Such relief. She's retracting a little, her pediatrician said, but that's most likely from the congestion, being a nose breather- her lungs are clear. Just keep doing what you're doing. She's OK. The child in me wanted to say And tomorrow? Tomorrow she'll be OK too? The doctor left and inside the white white room with the sterile white table and long white oxygen read, I listened to the silence between Ever's breaths and it was like the slow sympathetic smile of God collected in all that white silence: Nothing in life, no one in life, will ever be able to answer or promise tomorrow.
Before the hospital and the endless needles and poking and I.V. and deep nose suction and sticky tape replaced four times a day, Ever was easy. Easy in this world. And now she desires her mother and her tootsies to comfort her, and little else will often do. Mr. Curry holds her, walks her, loves her, and she responds with delight for short, very short ticks on the clock, until the staccato bursts of her complaints reach me and I take her back again. We revolve around one another, my infant daughter and I, and the world truly is in her eyes.
clearness said...

Wow. Really Maggie....Wow! This, should be in a book. Very well written.

Lots of prayers for Ever and strong lungs.

Lots of prayers for your sons friend. And your son.s

SJ said...

You astound me, always.

Ms. Moon said...

You may not think this, but honey, you are back, at least in words that you write here.
Such beauty, those words, so perfect and descriptive. Every mother would recognize them, know your love, your worry, your obsession, your anxieties, your need to keep your baby safe and calm at all times.
Above all else.
I love you, Maggie. You are astonishing. You are magnificent.

Angella Lister said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Petit fleur said...

Love this post. It's all so true and resonant.

Yay for Ever's clean bill of health. You are doing fine work, all of you.

xoxo pf

Kim Hosey said...

This is beautiful in so many ways. Honest, raw, lovely, caring ... just what it should be. Wow.

I've written things like this before (or tried to) and I'm always torn between readers identifying, validating my maternal devotion, or "getting" my narrative. Holy cow -- you excel so hard at all three.

Angella Lister said...

maggie may, you are doing exactly what you should be doing for ever. that's what i really want to say. and to send love to you all.

Steph(anie) said...

If you have already mentioned this, I apologize... but do you have a cool mist humidifier? It has made a world of difference for Austin.

anymommy said...

Gorgeous. I love this - and you will be back, you are back, in some ways though I know it doesn't seem like it to you because infants are so consuming, you never left.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Such beautiful, honest writing. Thank you.

Josey said...

I long to be a mother, and I long to worry like you. All the same, my heart hurts for your worry and worry for Ever's lungs. Your beautiful words... they make me pray for Ever, and yet feel joy for your love, all at the same time. Thinking of you and your children...

Still Life With Coffee said...

my.... you are so wonderful. love this

A Serenade for Solitude said...

I can relate with a LOT of this, having two children of my own, and watching the life that I thought I'd prepared for myself be changed into something drastically different when my first one unexpectedly came to us. I felt crazy, lost for a while after the birth, unsure of my next steps, or the ones that I thought were set in concrete...it all changes with a babe.

You shown your current state with trasparancy and ease...really, you seem to be handling these times wonderfully. I think in writing, as the author, what is meant to be written will be, and it will be according to our life whereabouts in those moments, and they'll make the most perfect sense.

Cheers to you and yours, and embracing this newness, again.

xo, cbm

Elizabeth said...

I am thinking, knowing, actually, that you ARE back. These words are gorgeous, perfect -- I know them, deeply, from my own mothering. I recognize them and am grateful that you have written them.

Mwa said...

YES. You say it perfectly. YES.

kelly louise said...

I had convulsions of shivers all the way through this post. It is so beautiful.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

this moved me to tears...you are your own voice but i think your words often speak for all of us.
sending you love, maggie may

Marion said...

Great, honest post, Maggie. I'm reminded of reading the magnificent book, "Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son's First Year" by Anne Lamott. I hope Ever stays healthy and strong and that you keep your sanity. :-)

Blessings,
Marion

Meghan Elaine said...

So beautiful. So true.

Miss Tricky said...

Beautiful.

Miss Tricky said...

Just lovely!

deb said...

oh. my.

speechless

Shelley E said...

I love to read your writing.... :)

My son's asthma was triggered "on" by his RSV too(we have eczema & allergies in our family too). Good news is, my son eventually "grew out" of it. So hopefully Ever will too...I keep the nebulizer "just in case" and haven't had to use it in years! :)

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
Like everyone has said, this post is beautifully, honestly, and professionally written. That you are a writer, always shines though every one of your posts, and what I love about your writing is that it is so unique to you, and that in your natural ability to express your inner thoughts and choose images that will make it all real for the reader, we can identify with you, and feel with you. Maggie, the writer, has never gone away, and neither has Maggie the wife and mother. But right now, like you say, the world is in Ever's eyes.

Middle Child said...

I agree with clearness - its amazing to read your writing. I am much older than you - you'd be the age of my two daughters - but I remember thinking and feeling like this when my youngest spent 6 months around 2 suffering recurring bouts of Pneumonia and local GP almost killed her with his ignorance - I would watch her face for ever and hope and pray - we almost lost her more than once - she's now 33 - I still worry about my kids the same way - sorry it just gets stronger - but wouldn't have it any other way

previous next