Monday, May 4, 2009

Can two be easier than one? And how could that be?

What was it like to have Rachael after Eve?

Before Eve, I knew nothing about babies--what they looked and acted like, what their behavior was apt to be like in any given situation, what you did with them. I knew only what my own mother had done with me from a certain age on, but I couldn't remember back to when I was a baby! There were just two of us, my brother Robert and myself, in my family, and on the circle in Charlottesville where I grew up, there were many, many small children, but none which I really spent any time with. I hung out with my own gang, who were all my own age naturally. Babies were a total unknown, except for the one and only time I saw one breast-feeding at South Apartments.

These apartments were old World War II army barracks at the University of Maine in Orono, complete with ice chests, where summer students with families lived. It was where we lived every summer while my mother was going to summer school. In those days children wandered all over the place freely, and one day I wandered into the open door of a nearby apartment and saw a woman sitting there nursing her baby! She let me stand there and watch, fascinated, without much of an exchange of words until I had had enough and went back outside to play. I was probably eight or nine. I told my mother about it and she told me how the first time she saw a baby breast-feeding she had run and told her mother "Mother! The baby is eating Mrs. B--"--and we laughed so much. Then she told me when she was a small child riding the trolleys in Trenton when she lived on Model Ave., women often nursed their babies right there in front of everyone, nobody minded. My mother always shared her own experiences with me like this when I would share mine with her, and in this way over time I learned that all the babies in our family had always been nursed (not given "those terrible formulas" ), and that my mother always had wanted to have "at least" six children herself; and that Grandma Ruggli had had twelve children, and my grandmother (who lived with us) was one of them; and so on. But of course hearsay is not knowledge.

So naturally when it had come time to have Evie, I was not at all worried really about the birth itself. I was sure I could do it. I was very muscular and very confidant about my ability to do anything physical because I had always succeeded in anything I had ever tried that was athletic--and I was very, very strong. But I was terrified of not being able to change diapers!! That is how inexperienced I was.

I did not have time for postpartem blues or anything like that--I was concentrating on the diapers! (Real anxiety!!)...I was only nineteen after all--but, amazingly I rose to the challenge. Somehow I mastered the diaper-pin. Then I discovered it (being a mother) had nothing to do with diaper-pins and things like that. It's what you did with the baby that counted! Evie made being a new mother easy--she was the brightest, happiest little baby! And I spent every minute with her--every single minute. We walked and talked and learned names of flowers and discussed things (I didn't know how to talk to babies, so I talked to her the way I talked to other people and she naturally just talked right back). We went berry-picking, and swimming, and looked at trees in the woods and birds and insects. We drew pictures together, and watched tv together and discussed what we saw. She made up a song for a puppet on a puppet show on tv we always watched, and I sent it in and the puppet sang it, and she loved it! We went out in the sun every day and watched the rain together when it rained--we read books! "Ten little animals" was her favorite book. (This was all by the time she was two). She got sick with the flu once and it scared me to death but she recovered so I recovered.

Then I got pregnant again! I was twenty-one by now. I was no longer worried about the diapers, but I simply could NOT IMAGINE how I could possibly fit another baby into my day!!!! How could there possibly be room????

It seemed like a miracle. Somehow there was room for one more! Somehow, this new little baby, who looked at the world so calmly and yet alertly with her big brown eyes, looking and looking and tracking it all with her left hand leading, joined in it all effortlessly. She too talked and walked, and drew pictures, and sang songs, and made jokes, and ate berries and laughed at the world and noticed everything. It was not harder, it was not! It was somehow..... easier. And why was this? I did not really know, because it was just a feeling. Maybe it was that I was not so fiercely focused on the one, but instead was forced by love, and love's faithful attendants--curiosity, interest, and fascination--to focus on them both. I found, strangely enough, neither one of them seemed to be suffering for lack of the single focus; they seemed to thrive on the sharing of attention and discovered, finally, how entertaining each could be to the other. Fun! Even without me! Maybe I was learning, without realizing it just what good attention to a baby should be--not too little, not too much. Just right!

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