A Sip of Water, A Sip of Milk
Sunday, January 6th was Santiago’s one month birthday. Just a few days earlier my mother returned to Chicago, after sharing his entry into this world with me for 29 straight days. My best friend from college arrived as my mother left and will serve as co-madre with me this week. I realize I have won the lottery in terms of the generous support of friends and family who love me and easily love Mr. Santiago Lovejoy. I let the gratitude wash over me, run through my veins, and well up into a smile.
Right now, at 4:00 AM after a feeding that leaves me feeling calm and awake, I stretch deeply. My back arches, my eyes look toward the ceiling, I almost want to whine. I am moving the exact same way Santi does. This is the posture he reaches into with a wiggle when he unlatches, wakes up, or feels generally uncomfortable. Are our movements already synchronizing? Have I ever seen my mother arch, stretch, and squeal in this way?
When I first got home from the hospital, I lay in bed swaddled tightly in blankets with my wool cap falling into my eyes and thought: neither Santi nor I like having our hat in our eyes. A few days later when I got a massage, I placed my head almost completely face down in the pillow and tested if I could breathe, like Santi when his face is buried in my breast. I lifted one nostril, like he does, and experienced life through a single airway. It felt good to know he could still get oxygen.
Later, when I woke from a nap, soaking wet from a leaking udder and noticed how much I don’t like sleeping in wet cloth, my mind immediately went to sweet Santi’s behind which doesn’t like to laze around in a wet cloth either. During our first week home, he would lie motionless in the co-sleeper unable to roll onto his side, chirping out of discomfort until he was rescued. I lay beside him, also unable to roll due to c-section tenderness, both of us squawking for help like two baby birds.
While my mom was here, our home was a baby ashram, a fountain of love and presence. We had no agenda other than making sure all of us ate, slept, and were held. But there was a hierarchy. Santi received my love, and both Santi and I received Grandma’s love. The nanny played a behind-the-scenes role, keeping the laundry humming, fresh meals on the table, and taking the 5:30 AM shift of Santicare so both Mom and I could get some sleep.
A few days into this routine I nonetheless found myself dead tired. I crawled into the single bed in the guest room, still moving my body in a careful, ginger way. This room has become our devoted sleeping cave. My mom tip-toed in to put me to bed. More than anything, she wants me to get a good night’s sleep. She has always wanted this. In high school, when she used to let me skip the first few periods of high school to sleep in, her mantra was, “Kids need their sleep.” Before calling the principal’s office she would ask aloud, ”What could be more important?”
When I look back on our month together, as a 39-year-old new mother, I see not much has changed. She would fold the sheet over the comforter and tuck the white blanket around my neck, under my chin, and along my shoulders. Next, she would bring me a glass of water with a straw. Whenever I would feed Santi lying down, in the dark, quiet, sleeping room, she would hold a tall glass of water and bring the straw to my lips. I would take gulp after gulp and ask her not to squeeze the straw where she held it as it limited the amount of water that slipped through. Breastfeeding, I am constantly dehydrated. She would kiss my cheek, tell me how much she loved me, what a great mom I was becoming and would retreat to my bedroom where later, she would do the first night shift with Santiago.
While my mom nurtured me, I felt more and more like Santiago. After feeding, Santi gets wrapped tight in an organic swaddle, arms down by his side in what Karin calls the straight jacket. Santi too gets a drink, pure gold, brought right to his lips to hydrate him before bed, and his tiny hat adjusted to keep him warm at night. I hope he feels nurtured, seen, loved, heard, cared for, and held, as I do.
On the last night before Mom left we sat on the couch to watch Moonrise Kingdom and have dinner. While I fed Santiago, my mom cut my chicken breast into bite size pieces so I could eat it one-handed along with chunks of yellow and green zucchini. After a little while she picked up my fork and fed me, placing each bite in my mouth, freeing my hands to focus on keeping Santiago chest-to-chest. I let this moment in, the fullness of mothering while being mothered, grateful, in love, loved.