Even more than before, the shower is a refuge. The bathroom is a break room. I stood there tonight, and I could hear Julian’s cries in the living room turning to screams. And so, confident that Dave was with him, I started humming—to block out the sound and concentrate on the privacy of the moment and the pleasure of the water reddening my back. It was my time, my space, my body. When I finally came out, I found Dave sitting on the floor in his bathrobe, bouncing the baby face down in the crook of his arm. It’s the favorite hold, one that almost always quiets him, but not tonight. “Nothing working?” More a statement than a question. Dave gave me his best dead-eye look. “Nothing I can do works. I can’t comfort him. He’s like… an insane person.”
I know the desperation. But I have more tricks than Dave. So I took Julian to feed, even though the previous feeding had only been 30 minutes prior. As always, he quieted, focused on the nipple, and launched in like the little animal he is, grunting and sighing as he ate, eyes fixed up on my face. He cries and trusts, furious then forgetful as his stomach fills. Julian’s needs–food, warmth, connection–come almost entirely from the feelings in his body. I’m the best one to give him these things because, right now, he is literally me. His body is mine, composed entirely of things I’ve eaten and drunk. His water, his waste, his cells, they all came through me. Of course this will change, but now it’s the truth, which is simple, amazing, and exhausting. Those are the words people always say: “Those first few months: amazing, exhausting.” I’m already nostalgic for a smaller version of him, three and a half pounds ago, closer to the time when he was actually inside me. But I’m also eager for more of the shower–more of the time when my body can just be mine again.
In the early mornings, I pull Julian into bed for the last stretch, stare at his face, the grimaces and sleep smiles. I cradle his tiny torso with its barrel belly and run my hand down his miniature spine. The top of his head smells like warm cream. He can’t turn his own body, so I turn it for him, place his head in the crook of my arm, and fold my body over his. I’m careful to leave a pocket for breathing.
When he wakes up, he cries to let me know. He always eventually cries. And he always eventually stops. I prop him up against my legs and we look at each other. His coos echo mine. Ah—Ah— Mine. His. We sit together like a pair of mirrors. Me, him. My body, his body. Mine with its stretch marks and sun damage, migraines, breasts that leak onto the mattress; the muscles that carry us both up the 45 stairs to the apartment. His with its bowed calves, delicate skull covered in swirls of fuzz. The sweet, milky breath and powerful lungs. I can pick up a crumb from the floor and type these letters. He isn’t even aware of his hands, balled into fists, with dirt somehow beneath each tiny fingernail. My body and his. My baby, his mother. Mine, his. Like a heartbeat–that symbol we can’t seem to get away from. Mine, his. Mine, his. Mine, his.