On the 15th of May, I met my baby boy.
My doctor lifted him out of my womb and held him up over the curtain, crying, for me to see. He was immediately different to his sister, who’d taken her sweet time in exhaling her first breath. “Hold his hand,” my doctor said, and I hesitated because he was still covered in that white waxy stuff, and bits of blood. But then I did, and said “Hello!” and he stopped crying and looked like he was listening. “Hi. Hi there, little guy,” I said. “He recognises your voice,” my doctor said, “That’s why he’s stopped.” Then they took him to be weighed, with his father in tow. He cried some more. The anaesthetist wiped the goo off my fingers.
At my daughter’s birth, I saw her scrunched up little firsts next to her scrunched up little face, and there was instant recognition. “Yes, that’s her. That’s my baby,” went my mind. With him, there was just awe. It’s like I hadn’t believed he’d been growing inside me, not really, and so when I beheld the living fact of him, I was flattened. Astonished.
He was supposed to be a small baby. He was almost taken out a week early because it looked like he’d stopped growing. We were expecting him to be around two-and-a-half kilos – almost a kilogram smaller than his sister had been. But he wasn’t. He weighed more than she did and was longer that she was. After two months of worry, it felt like a miracle.
We gave him a name. We changed it 24 hours later. Now he’s got three of them – the first one means “little fire”, fitting, since we were evacuated in the middle of the night on a Tuesday when I was seven months pregnant, with runaway blazes sweeping over the mountain towards our home. The second name was my great-grandfather’s, and the third was my maiden name. He’s the last child that’s going to come of out of my womb, so he’s got to carry a lot of family names with him through his life.
He’s unendingly sweet. After his first hour of life, he’s barely cried at all. He has fed reliably greedily since day one, which is probably why he’s now as long as the average 6-month-old, with chubby cheeks and thigh rolls to die for. He feeds and sleeps like clockwork. He loves his bath. He laughs at his sister, and it’s her voice he listens for when she’s in another room. (She adores him, when she remembers he’s there – and even though she whispers to him “I love you” and calls him “Aidan Bear” and says he’s her little buddy, his arrival put her back in nappies for a month or two. She was disturbed by the change, but didn’t even know it.)
Now that he’s four months old, and I’m going to work in an office for the next few months (as a freelancer on contract), he’s going to start having his feeds supplemented with formula. I’ve loved feeding him so much that this feels a lot like failure. I want to keep him on me and with me for longer, I’m not ready for him to be taking little steps into independence. But I know that no matter how long I waited, I wouldn’t ever be ready. I couldn’t wait to get his sister onto the bottle, and I celebrated everything she did that would make her less reliant on me, but this one – this one, I want to keep close.
I had read, long before I had children, that there is something very special about having your first baby; but that there’s something special, too, about having your last – a different something. He’s my last baby, and he’s like a treat. He’s like my prize. He’s like a treasure I’ve earned.
(I haven’t been ready to write about him until now because it’s only in the last few days that I’ve started feeling normal again after his birth. Like myself. Even though I’m still feeding him, things are more routine now. I feel like I am coping, finally. The first few months with two children – not. a. joke.)