It was the longest, darkest night of my life, but dawn finally crept across the brick courtyard, and when it burst through the window, the little bean was born. Everything was wonderful for a while, then it was not, but that is a story for another time. After a week of hushed voices, kind nurses, beeping machines, and more tubes and cords than we could count, we got to take our sweet little man home. I cried a lot during the drive, but when we reached the cool quiet of our house, the only sound the wind in the trees and the voices of birds, I think I was the happiest I've ever been.
We named him Wesley Jude. Wesley means the 'west lea,' -- a western meadow or grove of trees. We have just such a lea of elms to the west of our house. He is named for the wind and the trees and the birds in that lea, and the dappled sunlight that passes through the branches, and they were all there to greet us upon our arrival. I don't know when I've felt more thankful. Our son was home and healthy.
So far everything they told me about parenthood is true: it is both infinitely harder, and infinitely more rewarding, than anything I've done before. First diaper changes, first big sobs (both mine and the baby's), first fears that I am doing everything wrong…yep, check, check, check. A friend who had three boys in three years, starting with a set of twins, calls and I tell her, "It is just as you described. My God, how did you do this with two of them?" I have never been so tired, or so hungry. Since our homecoming I have not finished a meal in one sitting, and most meals have been consumed one-handed, trying not to drop food on the baby while he nurses.
After nursing he usually takes a long nap, and though I should be sleeping too -- goodness knows I am not getting to at night -- I spend the whole time watching his face, and the way moods wash across it like clouds across the summer sky.
That's what I am doing now, in fact. His tiny feet are still curved inward, and his tiny fist is pressed snug beside his smooth cheek, just as he slept before he was born. Outside the day has grown still and hot, but the shades are drawn, so our room is dim and holds just a hint of last night's cool breeze. Above our heads one pesky fly buzzes, bouncing periodically off the window screens, but never lands. The ceiling fan putters and the baby sighs, then cries out. He does this sometimes. It is a sharp sound, full of terror, and I think about the week where I didn't get to watch him while he slept. He cries a little more, his eyes pinched shut. I lean over to kiss the soft fuzz of his small head, and whisper, "It's okay, Mama is here."
I stroke the arch of his back, and he stops crying.
That was the thing they didn't tell me -- or anyway, I didn't understand -- I am not the same me I was before he was born, and I never will be again. I am a Mama now. It is still hard to believe, but it is true.
He falls back asleep, but his lips move. He is dreaming of milk. Over our heads the ceiling fan putters, the fly buzzes, the baby sighs, and all is well with the world.