Oscar is an old man of nearly 6 months now. Tonight I was nursing him after work, on the couch, where the setting sun shines into our living room, and I noticed that his hair is growing over his ears. Unlike his sister Dora, he never went completely bald, and now has a full head of whispy, strawberry blond, baby hair. In the back, like a Japanese chonmage, he has a little three inch ponytail of darker brown infant hair, the hair he was born with. It's like his little status symbol, his little warrior marking from our birth journey.
He is surely a mammal, with the little white hairs I notice on his tiny, plump hands. But he is no longer an infant. Gone is the downy fur that covered his back and shoulders, over which I would run my finger when we nursed in the heat of summer, curled up on the bed in the back of the house in the air conditioning, whiling away my maternity leave and our early days together in a blur of nursing and sleep and diapers. Gone is the rest of his dark baby hair, slowly falling out or washing out or floating away mysteriously, disappearing into thin air like those early days. He is growing so fast, so immediately becoming more little boy than infant, I feel like his infancy is running through my fingers like sand, trailing away like water that can't be held.
I promised myself that I'd enjoy this time around more, that I'd let the early newborn days be what they are - fleeting - without the fear that comes when you are a brand new parent, crying at dinner at the thought of never having another meal that doesn't involve a fussy baby. I promised to soak it in, to be truly present, to slow time down at all costs. And while I'm certainly enjoying it, I'm failing miserably at the slowing time down part. If anything, it is flowing by more quickly than ever.
After Dora was born, as I slowly began to realize how immensely powerful my love for her would be, I longed to return to her birth somehow, to experience again those first moments of her life with the knowledge of what she would become to me. That being impossible, I had hoped to deepen my experience of the birth of my second child with that same knowledge. Oscar's birth ended up being so different from Dora's, so fast and so incredibly intense, that although it was quite beautiful and truly amazing, I still couldn't get that perspective I'd hoped for. Now, 6 months later, I'm still amazed at how much I love him, still as unprepared for how completely he has taken up residence in my heart, filled up my life and soul with a total dedication to meeting his every need, holding him close, loving him forever.
When I was pregnant, we did not find out the gender with an ultrasound, yet I knew I was having a boy. Though I was excited about having another baby, I wasn't sure I would love having a boy. I was so happy with having a girl, so focused on what that experience has been, I was afraid I wouldn't bond with a boy in the same way, or wouldn't feel as close to him, or just wouldn't know what to do with him. Now I have said over and over again, "how could I have ever been unsure about having a boy?" He is so absolutely perfect in every way - it is absolutely the way that it is supposed to be for us.
Oscar's infancy has flown by, and meanwhile Dora is growing taller and more intelligent and more challenging every single day, and yet when she's asleep next to me at night, I can still see her as an infant, too. Both of them seem to be moving forward at the speed of light, while I am desperately wishing that things would just slow down a little, wishing I could hold on to these days a little tighter. Perhaps it is this experience of great love that awakens in us a hunger, a desire that was never there before (or at least not so strongly) to cherish our time. Maybe it's that the love is so powerful, so all consuming, that it feels like something we need to have more time to fathom.
I heard a Radiolab episode once about how time seems to slow down when we're experiencing something really terrifying - the way a car accident feels like it's happening in slow motion. I don't remember all the details but I think the basic premise was that our brains are taking in many more details than usual when we're under the stress of a potentially life-threatening incident so that, if it ever happens again, we know what to do to survive. The result is that we feel that time has slowed, even though it hasn't. In other words, there is some inherent drive to slow time down, to capture all the details, as part of our survival mechanism. Love for our children is as intense in some ways as a life-threatening experience - it takes over our minds and our bodies with the same ferocity anyway.
So maybe its only natural that we want to slow time down, want to record all these details - the downy fuzz on the shoulder, the chubby hands, the chonmage ponytail. It is part of our very survival to take it all in and use it to fuel the fire of love within us, to make sure we love our babies so much we'll do absolutely anything to ensure that they survive and thrive. It's the monkey inside of me trying to slow time down, then - the same monkey who I let out, who I tapped into, to bring these babies into this world. I love that I can find her within - I love that she is a part of me, and a part of all of us, waiting to come out when we need the animal mind to take over. I just wish she were more successful at slowing time down, because I'd give anything to make these days last just a little bit longer.