Thu 18 May 2006
today was supposed to be Oscar’s birthday…but the early bird is almost four weeks old.
and he’s becoming more and more a little person every day. he’s awake more, and he peers about blearily, taking in the world. he’s a content, watchful little creature, round, downy-fuzz head on a sausage roll of swaddling. when he breaks free from his blankets, he flaps his arms like a wild thing, but always seems surprised when the appendages whack him in the face. he peeps when he first wakes up, and he snorts a little when he feeds. he weighs almost seven-and-a-half pounds, and has the beginnings of little baby fat rolls – already i can see his newborn face disappearing, giving way to the round babyface visage he’ll have in the coming months. i grieve and delight in this growth, this changing Oscar. i keep meaning to footprint him now, before his tiny baby feet outgrow the preemie-sized sleepers that get smaller every day. now, i understand all those people who said “it goes by so fast.”
in Antoine St. Exupery’s “The Little Prince,” a fox entreats the little prince to tame him. he instructs him to come at the same time each afternoon, and sit a little closer every day. “to me you are just a little boy, like all other little boys,” says the fox. “but if you tame me, you will be unique in all the world.” my boy has been taming me for four weeks now, batting his little blond eyelashes, distinguishing himself from all the other babies he might have been – teaching me to love him for who he is and is becoming.
but there are other, less Hallmark-worthy revelations in this wonder of new parenthood. the baby’s growing fast and charming me with his small self, but the 3am vigils still seem to last like timeless torture some nights, as i slump in the chair by the bed, struggling to keep the gnawing little mouth latched properly on an aching nipple and the small squirmy body balanced on the breastfeeding pillow. i look at my child, in these moments, and i don’t always see the individual Oscar, but just a baby, a needy baby like a thousand other babies. and i wonder at the survival of the human race.
in the middle of the night, it becomes blatantly, overwhelmingly apparent that this squalling hungry infant is entirely dependent on the adult who happens to be awake with him…which is usually me, though his father is a star at middle-of-the-night diaper changes. but we could ignore him, if we chose. i could sleep (maybe with earplugs). i could leave him lying in his own waste. i could scream at him to shut up already. or, at the end of a rope i hope i never run out of, i could do worse. and he, small mewling thing, could do nothing at all. he is totally, entirely vulnerable to the whims of the adults he’s been entrusted to. this realization – that we are those adults for Oscar – is bald and frightening, and amazing. i have never, ever had such power. or such responsibility.
“The Little Prince” closes the chapter on the fox and the prince with the caution, “you are responsible forever, for what you have tamed.” as a parent, i think the reverse is also true. you are responsible, forever, for the little life that tames you. and sometimes, that responsibility is immense, and exhausting. but Oscar, he of the pointy chin and grasping hands, has become unique to me in all the world. and that – only that – will keep me semi-conscious at 3 in the morning, feeding my little prince.
it has been an amazing four weeks.