It’s been one week since you looked at me…

9:30 am, Wednesday April 18, 2001

What a week. I’m just waiting for 10:11 today to give B a happy one week birthday kiss. He’s sitting on my lap right now, replete with milk and kicking idly about. He has is own distinctive personal smell, like nuts and roasted grain, which drifts up at me from time to time.

A week ago now, I was being prepped for surgery. I was very nervous – they were going to cut into me! – but the anaesthetists, theatre assistants, and midwife in the pre-surgery preparation were so matter of fact, so humourous, and so calm that by the time I was numb enough to be taken in to theatre I was no longer frightened at all. This despite the fact that I needed 2 doses of spinal anaesthetic to go numb, had a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and could still wiggle my toes when it was time for the C-section. (The anaesthetist, an Glaswegian Indian named Bob, was agog at this last. The spinal was supposed to give me complete numbness and immobility from mid-chest downward. He sat around theorising about physiological differences and wishing he had an excuse to do an MRI scan.)

The birth…how can one describe the birth? So strange to see the source of all those prenatal kicks, to meet the heart of all our hopes and the goal of all our efforts for nearly two years. It was too much to assimilate. I went into the emotional version of shock, I think, and am only now coming out of it.

I am astonished to discover how quickly one recovers from abdominal surgery. By Thursday, I was on my feet and able to go for a shower. By Saturday, I was ready to leave the hospital. My stitches got taken out Monday. I am still weak, and in occasional pain, but over the counter painkillers are adequate to control it.

B is being breastfed, which is apparently a slightly wild and crazy idea here. Only half of Scottish mothers choose to breastfeed at the start, and many give up on it within the first few weeks. This is alien to me, coming from the Californian culture, where bottle feeding is rare. The NHS is desperate to improve breastfeeding rates, for all kinds of health reasons. I’m fully in favour of this, but I found the midwives a bit…overbearing on the issue. B turns out to be a strong feeder, with really good instincts. No tuition was required. Still, the midwives all insist on giving me the same lecture on how to get him to “latch on”, even seizing breast and baby to show me the “orthodox” position if I am foolish enough to nurse in front of them. I just ignore them – we’re doing fine, and it’s good practice for them, so that they have their lines down pat for mothers that need help.

It is impossible to describe the impact B has had on our lives. It’s not just the late nights (for Martin) and early mornings (for me), nor the actual work involved in keeping him going (soothing, diaper changes, endless laundry, and – for me – a round the clock feeding schedule). There’s the same vertigo, the same exhaustion, the same lack of confidence that we’ll cope that accompanies every dramatic stage in personal growth.

And B? Well, he is the ultimately selfish creature – he literally has no idea of the existence of other people. On the other hand, he isn’t that clear on his own existence either. He’s got the hang of “I need”, but is very far from any concept of “I want.” When he gets difficult (crying in the middle of the night, for instance), it’s hard not to think it’s deliberate. But ascribing volition to a kid that small is a serious mistake, one we have avoided making. Irrationally enough, however, we tend to give him credit for his seriously cute and charming moments.

And the name? Alexander, from his great-grandfather in the paternal line. Still not sure which variation of the name we’ll use – Alex, Alec, Xander, Sandy, Lex, Leck…His aunt and uncle Sutherland have tended to use Alex. Beowulf from the great epic poem, which we have read in the Heaney translation. Based on this, my mother refers to him as the Monster Slayer.

We still call him B.