When I pump a lot of milk, when I wipe you myself and affix the perfectly folded diaper. It’s a good day when you stop crying because of my heartbeat, or my voice, or what I perceive to be your favorite song. When a glimpse of your personality emerges, even if it means you fuss with your hands or root around only after being fed. It’s a good day when they tell me you’re thriving, when you latch on, when they let me take you out of your isolette all by myself. When you gain weight, when you grow longer. When they tell us in a few days you’ll be moving out of your isolette and co-bedding with your sibling. It’s a good day when I can see that you resemble someone, even if it’s my grandfather’s ears. When I’m able to make you burp. When I can tell the difference between a burp and a grunt. When I can tell you want to burp. It’s a good day when I know what you’re trying to tell me, when I understand your communication skills. When I know the grunt is because you’re working on a poop. “His mother knows these things,” I say, certain of myself, but I’m not. I try to make the uncertain days where my milk supply seems to be dwindling and my heart wants to explode and I want to throw something across the room into a good day for you, so you won’t feel it or taste it in my milk or hear the ache in my heartbeat.
It’s not just about the status of your health that makes it a good day. It’s also about my feeling like a good mother. So if you spit up all your food and the doctor is worried that your tummy looks bloated, it’s not the end of the world if I at least did something right that day. And sometimes it’s hard to feel I’m doing that, so I continue to visit and sing and read and pump. And I nuzzle up against you and promise to be positive even when all I want to do is cry. And then you latch on and I smile so damn big, it’s gross. I inhale your head, the sweet musty smell mixed with Dreft. Your thin silken hair against my lips, my finger gently pressing into your hand, against your cheek. I can’t believe I made you.
And my hair is frizzy and none of my clothes fit, not even Phil’s clothes, but I don’t care. Yes, I do care, but it’s just a day, and you’re a life.
I had a dream just now that you stopped breathing. I was eating cheesecake, setting the heavy slices down on the insides of your clear isolette walls. It was pecan cheesecake, apparently, because when I took a look at your swollen face and peeked inside your mouth, I found a pecan half lodged under your gums. I woke up, frightened and decided I better get up and pump. A part of me wondered if the dream came because we’re in synch somehow, and maybe there was something wrong at the NICU. Maybe I should call, but it’s too dark out to call. If I call, I’ll be awake. Instead I’ll pump and type in the dark. But then I turn on the light, waking your father, insisting we call. He juts upright and agrees. And a cheerful nurse reassures us you’re both thriving. You’re moving, in fact, to the continued care room, for healthier, more stable babies. All the closer to coming home. All the same, maybe we should get you tested for pecan allergies.