In between family snuggle time and heart-melting brother cuddles, there are tears. From all of us.
There is blood. There are tantrums. There are lost tempers.
There is a long scar that I don’t like to look at, not because it looks bad, but because it reminds me of how scared I was right before they cut you out of me, and how the last thing I remember before I went under was crying out that it burned. You have a faint, matching line beside your right eye where the scalpel nicked you, too. I take comfort in the idea that in some way, we did that part together. There is trauma.
Daddy draws a diagram of the hospital rooms for me; where I was, where he was, where they brought you to me. We combine our separate memories to try to stitch together the story of your birth. My body was there, but he heard your first cry. Neither of us saw you, but that cry meant you made it to us, whole and breathing and everything that they told Daddy not to expect.
When I woke up, they brought you to me and you were perfect and I asked over and over if you were ours: I wasn’t there, so I needed them to be sure. As soon as we got back to our room I saw you looked just like your brother and then I knew for certain.
We fiddled with the car seat for half an hour before we got you out of the hospital. There was no ceremony, no wheelchair, no escort, just a slow shuffle through the long, empty corridors to get to the car. On the way home we listened to the music I thought we’d play during your birth, and Daddy and I held each other’s hands and cried.
I was scared to take you home because I felt so vulnerable; partly from being bruised and bloody, and partly from realizing how close we are at any moment to losing any one of us.
Once we were home with your brother, it felt better. When we are all together, I can count our four fragile bodies. I can gather my family into one bed and feel your skin and measure your heartbeats. I can breathe you all in and smell breastmilk, grass and dirt, sweat and laundry detergent. I can try to work out what and where is safe.
In between caressing your soft, duckling-fuzz hair and arguing with Daddy over what colour that hair will be, there is grief. In between teaching you what a kiss is and your brother reading you books he has memorized, there is gratitude. There is relief.
Love came easy with you, little Ben, and with it came the deep, dark fear of knowing that we almost lost you. We are tender and bruised. We are worried and joyful and sometimes sad. But we’re going to try to let love be the story.
photos by Sharalee Prang