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.