Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quality Time

In the days before Christmas, with days off from work, I've been able to have some real quality time with my son.

I wake up when  he cries in the morning and take him downstairs, so Michelle, who has fed him overnight, can sleep in. I change him and feed him a bottle of breast milk that Michelle had pumped the day or night before.

Michelle has told me this is the best time of day with Nathaniel, when he has gotten a good night's sleep. It's a brief window of contentment before real hunger and other issues set in, and his mood changes as if a storm had come through. 

And she is right. Baby N. wiggles as I change his diaper, his eyes wide open and inquisitive, glancing about, taking in a new day, a day that holds all sorts of surprises for his agile, developing mind. He coos. He drools. His lips part into little smiles. He lies with little care as I remove a diaper scarred with poo, clean him, dry him, apply lotion and outfit him with a new diaper and a change of clothes – the one that'll last for maybe an hour or so before he pees on it, vomits on it or something else. No worries there. That is what babies do.

I feed him the first bottle, about two ounces of breast milk. He sucks it down, and as soon as I remove the bottle, he registers his discontent. I prepare the next, dunking the bottle into a glass of warm water to warm it up and bouncing baby N. as I try to buy time. I feed him the next bottle, this one 2-3 ounces. He finishes, and usually, he wants more, which he gestures by opening his mouth repeatedly in an elongated "O" and thrusting a fist into his mouth. (that is, when he can get it there; he still hasn't mastered motor control.) This morning, I had to resort to 2 ounces of formula for bottle #3. He slurped that down, but tellingly, slowed as he neared the end. Victory! The little bugger was finally getting full. All that warm, liquidy goodness was taking effect. His eyelids were getting heavy. Hocus, pocus, no more focus, little one. Fall asleep.

He struggles as his eyes close, open briefly, close again, open again, close again. I cross my leg on to the other and lay him in the "A" frame that's been created. He sighs, and snoozes. I take my first sip of coffee. Delightful. And I gaze at him.

Nathaniel no longer looks like a newborn. His features are not rugged, nor doe she have blemishes, such as cuts or bruises, but that initial, shiny newness, the super delicate, nearly translucent aspects of his face have vanished. They are replaced by features that I deem will be more permanent, while certainly changing as he grows. Right now, his head looks enormous. Not grossly disproportionate to his body, but big nonetheless. You can really see why so much energy is devoted to growing the human brain and its housing. You can really see how central it is to what we as humans are, when you look at the size of a baby's head.

Nathaniel's eyes seem big – again, not disproportionate to his face, in my view, but large, yet evenly spaced. They're wider than mine, at least I think, and are slate-colored. The whites of his eyes still have that bluish tinge. His nose is wide, a bunched button at the bottom, with a flattened septum. His mouth is small and thin, like his mother's. His hair is light, maybe with a hint of reddishness, but that's debatable and may depend on the light. His eyebrows are also quite light, as to be nearly visible. I see traces of copper in them, which drives Michelle batty, because she, as a red head, thinks I'm trying to will him into the same coloring. I swear I'm not; I'm just observing. It really doesn't matter to me what color his eyes, his hair, his eyebrows become. I'm just curious how it'll play out.

One thing is for sure: He's getting longer. In another day or two, he will outgrow the first batch of clothes we had bought for him, clothes that hung off him like some bad drapes when he first donned them. My, how he has grown!

So, while I have visions of NBA stardom for my son dancing in my head, baby N. sleeps fitfully in my lap. This is quality time. Holiday time. 

A perfect time of year, with a perfect little child.

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