It’s Baby Week, ya’ll.
Elysia was born on March 20. This week, I’ll be sharing different pieces of that experience, a day at a time. All of the posts about Ely’s birth are here.
If you’re confused about all of this, check out the posts under the surrogacy category, you’ll catch up.
Back when this whole surrogacy was still in the early planning phases, I remember thinking that it would be easier for me if the baby was a boy. My experiences with my own pregnancies were that I bonded so immediately with my girl, but with my boy, it took longer. Not because he was a boy, but just because he was a tough baby and he didn’t ever make eye contact with me. Somehow, I thought, if I had less of an echo of that immediate bond with Petra, it would be easier. I also remember thinking that I was glad that the baby wouldn’t look anything like my babies, since we’re not related. Logan is my stepbrother, so we’re no more genetically related than any two random white people.
As it turned out, of course, I have a niece instead of a nephew. She doesn’t look anything like Petra and Silas, but I don’t think either of those factors made any of it easier or harder.
From where I stand now, I can hardly believe that I thought these tiny distancing markers would help me. Everyone was so concerned that I would bond with the baby and that this would make it harder for me. They tried to offer me advice about how to keep from bonding with her. A number of people were very concerned that I planned to nurse her for a couple of days. That was all nonsense. I treasure every tiny bit of that bond, and most especially the tiny ways that she is like my babies. They don’t make it harder, they make it easier, knowing that we’re connected.
I think I had a hunch about this, even before she was born. One of my nesting projects was to make her a blanket that shared fabric with the blankets I made for Petra and Silas. I wanted her to have something from here, something that tied her to them, a little.
One funny way Ely is like Silas was that one night, she was fussing and we couldn’t figure out why. She had just eaten, her diaper was dry, maybe she was gassy, but we couldn’t seem to loosen up whatever was bothering her tummy, if that was what it was. We tried adding and removing layers of her blankets. We held her in different positions. We took turns bouncing her. Finally, I said, “This is going to sound crazy, but here’s my last resort.” And I turned on some Bob Marley. Immediately, she calmed way down. Natalie said, “How did you know to do that?”
Bob Marley was about the only thing that would settle Silas when he was being an unreasonable baby maniac. I listened to Legend all night, every night, for a year.
The next night, we tried it again, and it worked. Since they left, I’ve been pumping, and when I am having a hard time triggering a let down, I just start up “Three Little Birds,” and I’m there. I love that I have birthed two reggae babies.
I’ve been setting an alarm to get up and pump every three hours, but I’ve been waking up every two because I get uncomfortable. On Thursday, in the early morning, I actually slept until just a few minutes before my alarm–three straight hours for the first time since I don’t even know when! While I was pumping, Natalie texted me, to tell me that Ely had just woken up from her first three-hour stretch. I hadn’t nursed her in two weeks, but were we still connected? How is that possible? I’m choosing to believe in it, and I love it.
The whole thing is so unbelievable that it feels nearly unreal. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that I gave birth less than three weeks ago. Without a baby to remind me constantly of what my body has just done, I keep getting frustrated with myself for “still” not feeling back to my usual levels of energy and/or my usual jeans. These little tidbits that tie Ely to my intensely, overwhelmingly present children and to my inescapable body help me believe in her.
Natalie sends me frequent baby pictures, and I love them, but they always make me cry. I don’t feel sad. I just have All The Feelings. Mostly happiness and wonder (I still can’t quite comprehend any of it), probably mixed with a dash of hormones, and some other feeling I can’t quite name or describe. It’s a feeling that is completely unique and just for Ely, but also in the same feeling genre as the feelings I have around certain formative experiences in my life: the choir I was in as a child, and where I met my husband; my sojourns to Northwoods for hiking, contemplation, and paper birches; the night of my baptism; certain plays that were and are so powerful to work on that I hardly speak of them because I always cry. All acts of creation. All turning points in my life and spiritual growth. All times of connecting and expanding community.
I’m already thinking about when I’ll see Ely and her parents again; Arizona is far away and travel with children and babies is complicated. It will probably be at least a year. While I am very happy she’s not my baby to raise, I do wish she lived closer so I could be in her life more, get to know her as she grows. One-year-olds are so different from newborns. She’ll probably be triple her current size. She’ll be able to act upon the world with volition, not just waving lost arms. She might have a few words, might be able to walk. She won’t remember me, of course.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll have a connection anyway.
She will grow up knowing your name and face. You will never be forgotten.