Mornings With My Daughter

Soft grunting noises and the crinkle of a firm cradle mattress rouse me from my light slumber. When you become a mother, you no longer actually sleep. You are in a permanent state of dozing – listening for breathing, for wheezing.. Just listening.

I roll over and lay on my left side, peering down into the cradle that is wedged between my side of the bed and my dresser. I can no longer open four of the drawers of that dresser – making my pajamas, pants, sweaters, and shirts impossible to get to. It doesn’t matter though, because her cradle used to be about 8 feet away from me. Too far for comfort.

I see my baby daughter, wrapped up tight in her light green swaddler. She looks like an angry caterpillar. She kicks her legs out and up, thrashing her head from side to side as her grunts turn into cries of protest. She’s awake, and she’s hungry. With a smile I pull myself from my cozy bed and bend to pick up my squirming bundle of rage. I lay her against my chest and speak to her softly. “It’s okay, baby girl,” I say. “Mommy’s here.” She quiets a bit as she relaxes against me but is still fussing. We go together into her nursery and I lay her on the changing table. I undo the velcro of the swaddle wrap and it comes apart with a soft tearing noise. As I release my daughter from her tight little cocoon, she does the most adorable thing – she throws both her arms above her head, purses her lips and squints her eyes and stretches as hard as she can. I smile as I watch her, taking in every second and storing it into my memory so I can pull it out and visit it when she’s older. With a smile I get to work. As I stand above her, her blue eyes find me and she gives me the tiniest of smiles. She’s too young to be really smiling yet at just 5 weeks old but on occasion we will be graced with a hint of a gummy grin.

After she is clean and dry, I dress her (sans swaddle) and carry her into our living room. I set her down in her vibrating chair, turn on the music and am greeted with the tinny, twinkling bars of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” followed by “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”. She sits, patiently waiting for me to fix her a bottle. After I’ve put her breakfast together I walk to the chair and look down at this tiny child. She looks up at me and this time, gives me an actual smile. Holding back a scream of excitement I hastily set down the bottle, seat myself heavily on the ottoman next to her chair and stare at her intently. She gazes back at me almost expectantly.
“Nellie,” I coo. She just watches me. I make silly faces. I begin singing the words to the music floating from her bouncer. Her blue eyes regard me calmly and then finally, gloriously, there’s the smile again. It starts slowly; forming at the corner of one side of her mouth and then breaks into a full-blown grin that could ignite the sun with its’ brilliance. I break out into my own ecstatic grin and try and refrain from jumping up and leaping about the room. Instead I praise her and turn off her chair. I pull her out of it and to my chest, hugging her tightly. She begins to fuss again so we get down to business. I begin to feed my daughter. We don’t breastfeed, but I still make sure to look into her eyes as she eats.

Halfway through her breakfast I pull her from the bottle. She looks up at me skeptically and I smile, knowing what’s coming. I lift her from her semi-reclining position to one laying against my chest. She opens her mouth, screws up her face and lets out one high-pitched squeal in protest. I laugh softly and begin patting her on the back. Moments later she rewards me with a belch that would put a grown man to shame.
“There’s that burp!” I exclaim and I assure her that she may resume her dining.

Toward the end of her bottle, her eyelids begin to drift down heavily. She’s getting sleepy again. I set what’s left of her morning meal aside and pull her up to burp again. This time she is too full and too tired to balk. I pat her gently, rocking her at the same time and whispering to her. I hold her chest close to mine and cover her cheeks with kisses. I press my nose into her black hair and breathe in her sweet baby scent. She had a bath the evening before and hints of lavender mingle with the natural fragrance she has. I stroke back that soft, dark hair and rub my hand up and down her back trying to coax out more gas. I close my eyes and try and soak in every detail of this moment. She finally belches but doesn’t stir. I continue to pat her back softly and lean my head back a little bit to look at her sleeping face. She’s not quite all the way asleep; her eyes flutter open occasionally. Her mouth drops and she begins to breath more rhythmically. I am still so surprised at what noisy breathers newborns are. I look down at my daughter, who just 6 weeks ago was still nestled snugly inside of my womb. My eyes pore over her tiny features; her little nose, her long dark eyelashes.. Her eyes. Those beautiful, big eyes. I struggle to drink her in, to remember every tiny curve of her face. Every soft hair on her head is precious and even her baby acne is endearing. Her eyelids flutter open one more time before sleep takes her, and she meets my gaze with her own. As my daughter – tiny, helpless, reliant solely on myself in this moment to take care of her – stares at me, my own brown eyes fill with tears. She gives me one of those sweet, crooked little half-smiles again and drifts off. I continue to look down at this tiny little being who is half me and half her father and miraculously, someone entirely her own.
“You are safe, Nellie Rose,” I whisper to her as I stroke her back. “I’m never going to let anything happen to you. Never going to leave you.”

And I mean it. How could I let harm come to this tiny creature? She is my heart, after all, and you cannot survive without your heart.

Comments

  1. devilneedle says:

    I had to laugh at your "permanent state of dozing" comment. That just hit the nail on the head! My husband is constantly asking me WHY I look so tired and WHY I never sleep any more, even when I've actually got the chance. I tell him it's "a mom-thing". You become so tuned in to your child and their every action/sound that you never sleep deeply again, in fear that you might miss something. Most women think that after 9 months of restless pregnancy and perhaps another 6 months of wakeful nights with a restless infant that you'll start to sleep again…. ha ha, NO!!! My oldest is going on 6 years old and there are two other kiddos in the household and I STILL never sleep, always listening out for my "babies". :)

  2. you are an awesome writer… and mommy

  3. Makes me miss the newborn stage so much. Beautiful writing. Stopping by from SITS.

  4. Sandra Annedore says:

    i have to agree with Julia, awesome writer and awesome mommy.

  5. Emily @ Baby Dickey says:

    I just got all caught up on your blog!! CONGRATS!! sorry I've been MIA :) lil ones will keep ya busy, right?!I left some blog awards for you: http://babydickey.com/2010/02/26/blog-awards/ :)

  6. Awwwwww! I love this post! Goosbumps and tears, I tellya! :)

    AMEN to the permanent state of dozing vs. actual sleep – your brain is always on 'high alert'. :)
    Stacy Uncorked recently posted..Cat Fishing – Wordless-Wordful Wednesday

  7. My girls are now 14 & 20 and I still don't sleep soundly. I guess after so long of being in a "state of permanent dozing", you forget how to sleep. And I remember (even after all these years) how mine would just stretch & stretch when their legs were let out of their little cacoon's.
    Laura recently posted..TATTOOS &amp PIERCINGS- MY DEEP- DARK SECRET

  8. This is beautiful, jsut beautiful. My kiddo came to us at 1.5 years, but I did similar things, making sure to drink it all in and I have those memories tightly stored in my brain now, 6 years later. Just a beautiful read, it made me tear up! :)
    Ginger recently posted..Dream FAIL

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