His first days turn into his first weeks

May 13, 2006

It’s exactly two and a half weeks since my son’s birth. It still sounds crazy to say: my son. My son Talvin Gupta Dhingra. He lost his umbilical cord today. Every such event, like him opening his eyes, or coughing with a sigh, elicits an emotional response. Who is this person. How is he possible. Where the hell did he come from.

            A little over two weeks ago, I was pregnant. I was huge, but it was still just Pawan and me. Mom was here too. We would do adult things. Go to a movie. The mall. Out to dinner. A six week maternity leave seemed like an eternal vacation. I was looking forward more to the maternity leave than anything else. I was looking forward to meeting whoever was inside me, but this was still in the abstract. Giving birth to a child was still a concept. Being pregnant was turning surreal. I was always going to be pregnant, it seemed. An interminable state of affairs. The new me. Sleeping on my right side would never again be possible. Accept that. Feeling crushed when on my back was the way things were.

Now that he’s here, all that seems like a distant dream. I look at him all the time and wonder: Where did you come from? My alien child. My child from outer space. Planet Utero.

The first day/night at home alone with the boy was madness. He was eating so much but not having any dirty diapers. We didn’t know what to make of it. Eating every three hours, every two hours, every hour… every 30 minutes. But nothing was coming out, you know what I mean. Had my milk come in? Was I nursing properly? Was he feeding correctly? Was his digestive system on track? Or was something terribly wrong. Pawan sounded the alarm, and after reading the What to Expect the First Year book (a horrible reference, btw) we were only more confused and scared. The on-call nurse at the pediatrician’s office was no help. She did say: The first night at home with a first newborn is the most terrifying. Truth. So the only recourse was to get through the night, see if anything changed the next morning, and then call the lactation consultant who worked weekends at the hospital.

He cried and cried and cried. Was he still hungry? His diaper was clean – as it had been so many times now and the cause of our worries. Finally, around 2 or 3 a.m., I put him in the bed with me. He fell asleep somehow; but not me. The little sleep I did get was very light and full of fear of rolling over him or smothering him. He is so tiny. A speck on our king-size bed.

As the saying goes: Be careful what you wish for. Now, two weeks later, every diaper is full of poop and pee. We can’t stop the guy. In fact, he is such a strong suckler (according to the doc) that it’s why he’s become so gassy in the last few days. He’ll eat for 30 to 40 minutes, making grunting sounds as he goes. Then after certain feeds, he’ll squirm for about half an hour. It’ll be impossible to put him down on his back in the bassinet. He needs to be held upright while he burps like an old man. And then half an hour later, he’s ready for another feed, and goes at it for another 15 to 20 minutes. They say that at two weeks, newborns go through a growth spurt. Growth spurt alright.

            I can’t help but laugh at the boy. He’s so helpless; so gassy. My nipples sometimes feel like they’re being tugged at. There’s no pain, thank goodness. But the pulling sensation is so strong, that I have to make sure I bend forward or keep his head close or else he’ll fly away with my breast.

            He’s not awake very much during the day. When he is, it’s almost always because he’s still hungry, or getting hungry. So it’s hard to try and play with him, read to him, give him tummy time. But he’ll be awake at all hours soon enough, so no need to rush.

Right now, I sleep when he sleeps. It’s crazy having a life that goes in two hour increments. Feed for one hour, then dash around doing something, or sleeping, for the next hour, until the next feed. Or, hee hee hee, watching endless DVD episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm. (To which I’m now a total convert. I can’t get enough of that show. It’s perfect. 30 minutes. Just long enough for one feeding. I even considered setting it up to watch during nighttime feeds, but I’m usually just too tired and zonked out, just waiting for him to finish, to do much else.)

            In any case, he’s adorable to watch in all his little habits which aren’t even habits as yet but merely reflexes to everything around him. When he finishes eating, he pulls off and his lips pucker out: two thick blue lines that frame his whole face. When his eyes are open, they take center stage. Big brown and black shiny domes that absorb the world into them, and absorb me into them.

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