I cry more than the babies in “Babies”

I just watched Babies. Finally! And I cried a lot. Did anyone else have that reaction?

Must be because I had severe anxiety from the moment Stella was born. Seeing sweet, simple moments from the four babies’ early months made me wish I’d been less insane and better able to enjoy Stella’s. Even in the more stimulating environments of Tokyo and San Francisco, I sensed more calm than I remember from those days. I loved her with fiery intensity immediately, but there wasn’t much time to be joyful. I was hyper-vigilant, exhausted after being awake for two days during her birth, and worried about everything even before her feeding problems began. I remember looking out the hospital window right before being sent home and all I saw was grayness, trash and hard corners. I distinctly remember thinking, “The city is so harsh. I don’t want to take Stella out there.” Sometimes I wonder if my stress played a role in creating the medical issues that damaged Stella’s intestinal tract while kicking my anxiety into the stratosphere.

As I devoured every moment of Babies, I felt a sense of longing and even a touch of grief. I just watched it, during Stella’s long afternoon nap, with a cup of chai green tea and a cozy, thick, fleece blanket on this chilly, rainy late summer day in Seattle. The exact same weather marked Stella’s first day on earth. I remember that Cody admitted to me that he found the rain sad, wishing for sunshine on her birthday. But later that day he broke the big news to his best friend, who pointed out to Cody that rain was perfect. It makes new life possible and helps it grow. I now realize Cody was struggling right along with me, though his friend’s words did wonders in that particular instance.

On THIS rainy late summer day two years later, I was able to just relax and watch a movie. Stella and I met up with a friend for lunch today, after a leisurely morning at home, during which she and I ate lamb and pita and I held a real conversation with another adult while she played. We’ll probably just take a walk in the rain when she wakes up. When Cody comes home, we’ll have dinner together. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve got a bit of that elusive peacefulness now. In between tantrums, of course.

Return trip

It’s not an emergency. Nothing is really “wrong.” But we’re about to head back to our old stomping ground: Seattle Children’s Hospital. We’re going there to see Robin, Stella’s occupational therapist. Stella isn’t warming up to solids the way all the charts and books say she “should” by now, at the ripe old age of nine months, so we’re looking for some reassurance and perhaps a few tips on how and when to best offer food to Stella–without getting pushy. As we learned with the bottle, pushing only makes her want to eat less.

This morning, a vision from the past won’t leave my brain. I’m not sure why. It brings me back to our first appointment with Robin, before Stella got her tube and back when my entire day was consumed with the struggle to feed Stella. That morning, Robin filled me with hope. She watched Stella scream at the prospect of eating, she watched us spend a half an hour battling with Stella to get her to take three ounces. And then she said, “I’m going to see you through this,” and I suddenly felt a lot less helpless. But that’s not the moment that’s been on my mind.

I remember departing the room where we’d met with Robin, and walking down the hall toward the waiting room with Robin at our side.  Coming toward us at a brisk pace was Robin’s next appointment, a new mother accompanied by her own mother and arduously lugging her baby, left hand gripping the handle of the car seat. She walked with her entire body at an angle, as a counterbalance to the weight of the baby and her seat. She swung the seat forward a bit with each step, lurching along. The baby was peaceful but alert, with an NG tube taped to her right cheek. That terrified me at the time–I didn’t want Stella to wind up with a tube. But it was the mom who got me. There was such determination in her face and in her stride.  She was clearly focused on the task at hand, eager to learn more about how to help her baby. Eyes locked on her destination. Moving awkwardly, but forward. I’ll never forget that mom.

We’re off. I’ll let you know what happens.