When she came out for real-for real, I couldn’t believe my eyes. She had a face. A face! Not a squinchy sorta-face, but a face-face with a nose and lips. She had a bluish cast and was balled up tight, but there wasn’t a sac around her or so much blood I couldn’t discern anything; I could discern everything, and it shocked me. (I can see every person who grew up on a dairy farm shaking their heads in wonder, doubting, even, that I took high school biology.) That she was so ready to go, so on her way to learning to read and write was revelatory.
Once she was totally free and could be given to Heather for those first, all-important, long moments with Mom, Julia was whisked to the salamander. I tiptoed over after Sam had had time over there and I took a look. Oh, my, I thought. That’s a really new person.
When I put the back of my index finger against her head for the smallest, gentlest stroke, I marveled at how soft she was: soft hair, soft skin, soft head. (I didn’t poke at her to find out that last part, by the way; I just happen to know that babies’ heads are soft when they first come out. They have to be to get out of, you know.) Julia weighed in at seven pounds, eight ounces. She has all her fingers and toes. She didn’t cry a lot but I can confirm she has a good set of pipes. The baby has lots of hair, too; it looked dark at first but as it dried we could see that she has gorgeous, natural highlights…in red. Total heartbreaker.
After Heather was all stitched up and she and Sam were enjoying that internal endorphin cocktail that nature orders up in such situations, I took my leave. If I was concerned about being in the way before or during the birth, I was on high alert afterward; I seemed to remember something about bonding pheromones and attachment-forming neuron pathways being forged in the first moments of life and I wasn’t going to get in the way of any of those, that’s for sure. I hugged and kissed Sam and Heather and gave Baby Julia another touch on the head and slipped out.
When I went out the doors of the hospital, I was thrust, Julia-like, into the bright, bright world outside. I walked south on Michigan Avenue toward home. What I haven’t mentioned is that I was terrifically hungover that morning. All my pain went away when the call came from Sam and over the hours I had been with them I hadn’t felt a thing. But now, with the sun out and the summer crowds crowding the sidewalk, I remembered how badly I needed water and sleep. Julia is now four days old and she needs milk and sleep. We have a lot in common, baby.