Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ode to Babies

Lately I've been living and breathing and thinking about babies constantly for the first time ever.
I am the seventh of seven and so my experience with newborn babies has been limited to snippets of eyes peeking over mothers' shoulders or chubby little hands waving spasmodically from car seats. I have always liked babies, appreciated their diminutive toes and chubby cheeks in a timid way. I have never loved them- truly adored how amazing they are- until I had my own.

I love babies. All babies. Light, dark, bald, (Asian!), short and squishy, long and lean-- I love them all. The first baby I felt a real connection to was my nephew, Silas. He was a familiar soul to me-- a long lost friend who re-introduced himself as a seven pound ball of bouncing joy wearing colorful hats. After he was born I would stare at newborn pictures of him on Facebook and find myself wishing I could kiss his face and, incredibly and inexplicably, his feet and tongue, the two most disgusting parts of the human body. For the first time, I understood the terrifying words of a crazy aunt, "You're so cute I could just eat you up!! Nom nom nom!" I began to realize that babies, like kittens and small woodland creatures, are adorable. They are innocents; unashamed, completely helpless, totally trusting. I was looking into the astounding depths of a perfectly pure soul. I become breathless at the impossible beauty of it.

While watching Beasts of the Southern Wild there is a four-second scene that shows the most astoundingly gorgeous baby. I watched that scene several times. It transported me to the moment when I met Flynn for the first time, half asleep and under a heavy dose of pain killers and anesthesia. I saw his chin quiver as he cried, feeling cold for the first time. His hands were still blue. He had so much hair. He was so impossibly chubby and he smelled, ah, so familiar, so sweet and so human, like the smell of breathing. He was a part of me, he had come from my body and my brain and every physical part of me knew it. Perhaps it was the drugs but I felt I was floating away, forgetting to breathe and feeling the delicacy of mortality. As I struggled to maintain thought and consciousness I heard Flynn cry, and I felt my soul cry back and I was grounded once again. He was so delicate, so soft and so new. I remembered a dream I had had during pregnancy in which I could remove and replace the baby in my womb at will, and I felt that desire, that wish to protect him from the pricks and sting of life here. At the time it was a frightening and foggy moment, but today it is precious. Because even in that vulnerable state I felt a tenderness toward him that I have never felt toward another human being. A mother knows her child.  To be needed so desperately is a beautiful thing. To love so purely is illuminating.
As an adult I have long ago  forgotten the magical world of my babyhood. Until now I have been engrossed with trivial things and my mind has pruned away shortcuts for joy and wonder. Besides the adorable squishiness, this is what I love most about babies. They allow us to experience these things again. And the world looks wonderful through a fresh pair of eyes.