There’s a baby at home.
As of today, he is just under three weeks old. His voice is clear, loud and has a pitch that could shatter a thin, low quality wine glass. As with most babies, he expresses his voice most fervently when most of the world is asleep. The neighbours may have installed double-glazed windows, but for those living within the walls in which he sleeps, there is no respite.
The first day he came home, I couldn’t go anywhere near him because I had the flu. I am not the father, yet even my underdeveloped paternal instinct cried out for his touch, his smell. An excruciating 48 hours later, I held and cradled him, carefully balancing his neck, nuzzled his head and gave him a kiss.
Over the next couple days, I held him and walked about the apartment. His tiny eyes straining to focus on various things hanging down from the ceiling. He poo’ed many, many times, often into a good shirt. Yellow poo, slightly orangish poo, sometimes tinged with green, sometimes an off black blue. He peed into my nose, my eyes and a few times into my ear. Getting poo in your ears is a feeling that’s very indescribable.
One night, my sister, exasperated, exhausted, sleep deprived and on the verge of tears, gently knocked on my bedroom door and asked if I could watch over him while she gathered herself with a few steps up and down the cool balcony. So, I snuggled up beside him. He smelled of baby, with a waft of musk and curdled milk. He shifted a bit on his side and with his tiny, tiny hand tried to grab hold of my palm. He found the webbing between index and thumb. Satisfied, he let out a small grunt and settled down. I put my hand on his chest, covered in a yellow t-shirt that said “Waddup, bro” and with the dim night lamp casting a small shadow, watched as it heaved up and down a few centimetres. The first few weeks are full of overwhelming, irrational fear that something might go wrong. This despite everything showing up as normal and the doctor’s stern gaze when asked. So it is an oddly comforting and reassuring thing to sit, watch and feel a baby breathe.
A few nights later, my sister wakes me up again. I go to her room and both of us watch a peaceful, sleeping baby. “I am tired. And I want to be held”, she says. So I hold her. The pregnancy and first few weeks of motherhood have taken a toll on her. Her once lustrous, thick hair is a lump. Her once shiny, sparkly eyes are blank and exhausted. Her spirit, seemingly escaping from her by the day. She sleeps soundly for an hour until her son’s wail wakes her again. I go fix coffee for both of us. The sharp acidic hit at 2AM is very welcome and we soon are whispering to each other. About how she isn’t suddenly happy anymore, about how that already she hopes that her son doesn’t inherit her (and her husband’s) inadequacies, about what his dreams are full of, about his sudden, mysterious smiles. About why poop is so many colours, about why for boys the wiping is from back to front and for girls the reverse, about the incessant air guitaring with his arms. About how he is as much an object of near continuous curiosity as anything else.
One evening, with the breeze rattling the wind chime, I tell him stories. About his mother, his father, his aunt, his grandfather, his grandmother who would have absolutely pampered him were she alive. I tell him about the stars, the clouds, the moon, the sky. I tell him about flowers and trees and dogs and cats and other animals. I tell him about steam trains and loud hissing noise they used to make. I tell him about how because of the fickle nature of one chromosome, he became a man thus eliminating a huge chunk of hardship his mother and his cousin sisters have faced, are facing and will face. He listens attentively, eyes blinking furiously, until I pause to catch a breath. If I stop for too long, he contorts his face, threatening to cry.
A few hours later, in bed, I wonder if he’s taken in those stories. Does he realise that he was told something? I wonder about how little he knows. What would it be like to not know things at all, yet be conscious of it? What would it be to grow up learning things again yet knowing that you are re-learning them and that you deliberately chose this path?
Here’s the thing: In the short while he’s been home, he’s healed me. From not wanting to head home for hours after work, I now count the minutes to dart back. To see him, his ridiculous, I am so full of angst face, to smell him, to have him grip my little finger and not let go. He’s not my son. He’ll soon leave. It breaks my heart.
He’s hungry and screaming. I pick him up, look at him and realise that no matter, there is never going to be a moment when I won’t love him.