How things were / by Christina Rosalie

I wrote this about a month after Bean was born. I can hardly recall that feeling of newness and fragility. Now we are so absorbed in the immediacy and robustness of this little person who smiles, and rolls, and just today for the first time started babbling. Of course, his first babbling sounds were "da da." No coincidence, I'm sure! After thirty minutes on the ellipse machine in DH's office, bright red blood flowed from my womb, a reminder of the remarkable thing I did four weeks ago. It surprised me. I felt vibrant and alive while moving rhythmically back and forth following the machine's elliptical pattern with my feet and arms, but now later my body feels fragile again, like I want to curl, cocoon like, in upon myself, or be held.

Each day looks more and more like spring. The light falls differently, and the sun, like a disc of lemon, hangs above the horizon longer in the evening, making the quaking aspen bark outside my window paler on the westward side, and bright.

Last night DH and I had one of those difficult couple conversations about roles. Thankfully we are able to have such conversations, thankfully we don't just give up, run off, implement plan b, self destruct. We sat in the nursery eating mochi, maple syrup and butter with our fingers while Bean slept on the slope of my folded knees. We're both caught off guard by this role switching. Both of us need time, need space, need to feel like individuals.

I find myself carrying a strange dual standard. I feel, for the first time in my life to be deeply maternal, and yet, I also do not want to be limited by that. I do not want DH to suddenly see me as "mommy" rather than as the woman, the girlfriend, the lover, the partner he has always seen me has. I've watched too many relationships diminish because of that--- the gradual taking for granted of simple things, the shift in roles, towards only family, away from partnership and independence.

It felt good to talk, to try to organize our feelings so that we could be productive. DH is trying today. I love that about him: how he has always, since we first met, been able to start showing with actions that he has internalized what we talk about. His biggest frustration about me comes from a lack of understanding for how I can get so little done in a day. Mine about him is that he has not yet reached the point where he is voluntarily interested in Bean's in his little noises, development, snuggly moments, half smiles.

This is the fundamental gap all couples I think experience as they move from being a couple into being parents and caregivers. Suddenly everything shifts, and there are little eruptions everywhere, after quakes until the earth settles in around them again, defining the new territory of family. I am not sure if it is knowable for a man to understand all that takes place in a day of caring for a baby. It's not practical, logical or conceivable to a man that so much time could be spent simply staring at the tiny person you are holding. How can it be described, the mesmerizing effect of scent and little gestures, like some fairy tale spell. And thus whole hours pass, as the sunlight shifts from the east facing windows to the west.

Yet this is not a wasted time. All the moments of gazing and holding and doing little more, amount to the writing of a primordial code: this is bonding at its best. It is these moments of inhaling the sweet scent at the back of Bean's neck, nuzzling his silky hair, listening to his seal pup grunts, these are moments of imprinting--the beginning of a lifetime of love as vast and fragile as the body's capillary network: pulsing, alive, bringing vital energy to the relationship.

DH doesn't know this yet, because he hasn't shared these moments with Bean. Like many men, his approach is much more practical: how can the crying be stopped, the diaper changed, the needs be met, he wonders. Becoming a father has less to do with the intimate and the intuitive. It is more of an abstract process that grows over time, once the reciprocation of affection is more obvious, once there is a reason, in the logical sense, to stare, he will. Until then the two of us have to try our best to tightrope walk out over the gap of differing experience that's widening between us. And we try. We both listen. We have learned how to start a dialogue, how to attempt, though it's often awkward, to describe what we feel.

That's what we did last night, in the flickering light of the large paraffin candle in the nursery, our sun breathing with quick rhythmic breaths on my knees, and our dog licking his paws at our feet.