I had a three-inch tall bamboo plant that I kept alive for almost a year. It survived moving twice, the spectrum of extreme hot and cold in my thirty-year-old apartment, and long weekends without my attention. I even revived it from the onset of yellowing leaves two or three times. It could not, however, survive a baby. This tiny plant that sat on my desk all these months was not built to thrive under such neglect I’ve given it since Amalia’s birthday.
Having an infant is something that engulfs every inch of a parent’s personhood, at least so far that’s the case. This morning as I sat nursing my three and a half week old daughter, my nose caught a pungent stench and I asked her, “Is that you…or me?” Contact with bodily fluids and all things nasty have become the norm, but it’s somehow delightful. In the first days of her life, Maximos jokingly wondered how we are going to be able to see her as a real person with dignity after caring for her basic needs in such a humiliating way. It is an interesting thought, but we were all once this helpless. I think of my mom sustaining the lives of six children, how many clean diapers we soiled before she was even finished fastening them, how many hours she sat rocking and singing in the dark, how many cries she soothed, and I’m amazed. No wonder she’s crazy. I apologize on behalf of all my siblings and myself, Mom. She told me this is the easy part of parenting, just keeping the kid alive. Since that’s the case, I’m sure I’ll be crazy soon too. Amalia will soon turn into a real person with feelings beyond “I’m uncomfortable because I’m sitting in poop.” or “I don’t care that it’s 3am, feed me before I scream.” She will feel loneliness and disappointment, excitement and happiness one day. My hope is to be there for each of the new feelings she experiences, to help her become an empowered, empathetic, and joyful person. It’s been less than a month since her life outside of me began and I already feel the nostalgia for her birth, her first days, her first week, and earlier this morning when she seemed so much smaller and newer than she is now.
Fortunately, staring at my sleeping baby has turned out to be much more fulfilling than watching a three-inch bamboo plant siting in a pot. Also I’m glad that my ability to care for bamboo is not reflected in my parenting (so far).