My niece was born a little over a week ago, while I was away on the business portion of my trip to California, early Sunday morning, after a long but relatively uncomplicated labor. I was, understandably, disappointed and distraught at being absent; obviously, upon my return to this side of the country late last Friday evening, my first plan of action was to head to Brooklyn, help out with some necessary housework, and meet my beautiful baby niece. My brother-in-law stayed home from work for the week, and my mother had been up to provide moral and pet-sitting support; nevertheless, obviously, both new parents were deliriously elated and exhausted upon my arrival. Luckily, I brought with me rich fortifications: French baguette sandwiches, laden, replete, sated, with soft brie cheese, cured meats, mayonnaise, butter. For dessert, chocolate eclair, freshly prepared, and a large chocolate chip cookie.
Dropping my packages of food and treats in the kitchen, then washing my hands, suddenly my arms are filled with a body even tinier and softer than I could imagine. Rationally, practically, I understood what seven pounds means; I have spent years studying science, learning what proportions and precise measurements mean. I did not truly understand the meaning of seven pounds of new flesh, of a new pulsing heart, a heart barely covered with freshly made tissues and labyrinths of arteries. Her size was simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Her body still seemed to be a malleable thing, pliant, ready to shift, to be shifted and to be shaped with the slightest movement of my arms and hands. Thankfully, she proved to be not so delicate, though certainly infinitely precious. I could hardly breathe while holding her.
In addition to the large array of rich and buttery foods, I had brought with me a ridiculously soft and plush stuffed animal friend for my baby niece: a tiny platypus from Gund. He, or perhaps she, both sex and gender being fairly ambiguous in this case, and probably most appropriately delegated to be determined by the recipient, my niece, traveled all the way across the golden fields of the central states with me, sitting on my lap quietly for the duration of the flight. I found the present in Berkeley, hidden amongst other stuffed goods at a small local toy shop; originally, I had hesitantly decided upon a traditional teddy bear. After one more perusal through the pile of cotton menagerie, I excavated the platypus. The choice was, indeed, obvious; hopefully, once she becomes cognizant of her limbs and her general motor skills, my beautiful little niece can enjoy his company.
(image taken from Delves Wood Bears)