It doesn’t matter that over 4 years has passed since this moment. It still invigorates me when I read anything about this heightened time in my life. In spirit of doing things I haven’t done before, I’m going to paste some journal entries from when Layla was born:
Saturday, November 21st, 2009- 5:14 am
When we first brought Layla home, I was greeted by both my mother who I am very close with and my aunt who flew in for 8 days hoping that she’d be present for both the last days of my pregnancy and the first days of my parenthood. On the fourth day of her visit, she got just that. Already insecure that the baby looked like a rag doll with a floppy neck in the car seat, and angry that my husband thought that he put her in perfectly and didn’t take my warning seriously (hence why I held her neck up with my hand for 45 minutes on the way home), and that I was a bad mother for not knowing how to fix her or trust that my instinct was right, I was greeted by two good-willing women who had 4 kids between them and a lot of well-meaning advice.
My aunt was in the doorway with “esfand,” Iranian incense that Persians burn to ward off the evil eye, and I start waving at her and asking not to burn it. Trying to mask her migraine and her exhaustion from cleaning the house and cooking several meals for us, she nervously went back in the house.
My mother, who had just pulled up at the house at the same time we did, doted on the baby as we walked in the house. As soon as Khaldoon put the baby’s car seat on the bench for us to unload her, my mom told me that Layla’s neck was resting poorly on the seat. Then when we took her out, they told me that I had dressed her too lightly. Yes, Layla was drowning in her newborn outfit even though she weighed an average 7 lbs 4 oz when we left the hospital, and yes I only put her in a hat, a long-sleeve full-length onesie with mittens and socks, but that is what all the books said to put her in. Dress her like you’d like to be dressed is what they said. And on this 75 degree sunny day, I thought I picked the right thing.
They touched her feet and hands and said oh, poor thing, she is so cold. I’d find out later that this is normal for newborns and that their circulation doesn’t work so well in those places just yet, and that it’s normal for their hands and feet to feel cold to the touch. I immediately broke down into tears. Between my exhaustion and insecurity, I was faced with criticism, well-meaning at that, from the most influential women in my life. Two minutes earlier, my husband conceded that I was right and that her neck looked wrong. I was mad that my maternal instinct kicked in before my confidence had a chance.
So between the last words, my exhaustion, and my medicated-induced delirium, I broke down. Boldly but brokenly, I told them to just leave me alone for a minute and not criticize. I tried to ignore the confused and hurt look on their faces, and they tried to remember how nerve-wracking it was to be a new mom. As I was getting myself together, they quickly and quietly changed the baby’s outfit and swaddled her in one of the thickest blankets I had received at one of my baby showers. They put her in the sunniest part of her room and let her soak my mistake away.
I’m remembering this as I wake up at 5 am to feed Layla. Khaldoon assumed the milk-warming and feeding today, and I took to the breast pump. Whereas 7 weeks ago I could hardly coordinate getting Layla on my breast for feeding—-two pillows behind me, a pillow on each side, a pillow on my lap with a baby on top, a boob in her mouth, and an insecure mother with an insecure milk supply-—I find myself much more coordinated now.
I’m sitting cross-legged in Layla’s room with two carefully positioned breast pumps on the fleshy part of my thighs, pumping liquid gold into narrow bottles and typing out a memory. It occurred to me last night to start documenting some of my experiences even if it’s just for doing something out of the ordinary during the new but ordinary routine. I can now pour a glass of water while holding the baby in the other arm. I can pick her up with confidence and not worry that I’m breaking her. I can make the decision regarding what she wants by hearing her cries, and I know that she has gas every morning at 4 am when her farts wake me up before her hunger cries do. I still have plenty of insecurities, but I think a small package of confidence that lagged behind my blooming maternal instinct has finally been left at my doorstep.