first fortnight

volcano was born on october 14, two weeks overdue, perfect except for her unwillingness to be birthed. at first, with both of us swollen and dazed from the ordeal, she just looked like a generic baby to me — an adorable and adored baby, with a charming cleft chin and invisibly blonde eyebrows — but on the morning of the second day when I picked her up from her bassinet, I was startled to find my own infant self in my arms. it wasn’t just that volcano had my nose or my lips, it was that she suddenly resembled my baby pictures so exactly that I may as well have woken up 32 years and 70 days in the past. it would have been a shift almost entirely in time: volcano and I were born in the same hospital, and from our postpartum room we could see the front door of my childhood apartment building, the rooftop where my mother strung up clotheslines of my diapers to dry in the sun, the same hudson river I remember watching from our sixth-floor windows.

the first days of parenthood are surely overwhelming no matter what, but caring for my doppelgänger made my sense of immense responsibility all the more surreal and extreme. I held my sleeping self in the corner of my arm, tilting my head away from the tapes and tubes of the hep lock. I fed my hungry, gawping self, pulling my rosebud baby lips into the right shape. I watched my husband read myself a board book. I watched the nurses take my tiny six-and-a-half-pound self away to be given a hepatitis B vaccine, and returned with a bandaid that wrapped around my entire thigh. it was as if I had accidentally stumbled into a time loop, and the only way out unscathed was to take perfect care of this child who would grow up to become me. if I didn’t, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would cease to exist in adulthood.

two weeks later, volcano still looks a lot like me, but I’ve gotten used to thinking of her as my daughter, not myself. it helps that the variations in her hairline are clearer now, and that sometimes she lifts the inside edges of her eyebrows in the exact same way that her father does.

what is there to say about becoming a mother that hasn’t been said before? it is almost embarrassingly easy: hold the baby; feed the baby; kiss the baby; instinct makes all the decisions for you. it is almost devastatingly difficult: a walk around the block is a staggering accomplishment; you will continue caring this much about another human’s wellbeing for the rest of your life. it is simultaneously obvious and impossible. the truth is I don’t feel particularly different. I have no sense of being truly changed by the birth of my child. she arrived into a space in my identity that had existed for years, and having it finally filled feels, so far, more inevitable than transformative. and yet, and yet… everything is different now forever.

Posted October 29th, 2013 in volcano.

3 comments:

  1. Andrea:

    Congratulations, Rabi and family! Wishing you lots of happiness for all three of you.

  2. Lisa:

    Congratulations!

  3. Mom:

    Wow! The tears in my eyes are blurring my speech. I feel so moved by the sureal and evokative in your story. Going through a time warp and coming out whole. I love the line “you will continue caring this much about another person’s well-being for the rest of your life.” I understand and feel understood. Yup. Care this much forever. xoxo