If somebody had said to me that their baby started to grab things or roll over I would have smiled and thought to myself “yeah, whatever”. I grew up being the youngest of my whole family. No babies ever around me. Not even of friends. And when my sister had her children I was already living in London and just experienced them for a handful of days at a time.I don’t even recall having changed any nappies before Camila’s. And now I turned into one of ‘those’ parents, sharing my daughter advancements with the world!!!
“Oh my god, Fintan come, quick! She’s started to blow bubbles!”
Everyday I am in awe at the little achievements Camila is accomplishing, how her features are slightly changing, novel character traces are appearing in her ever morphing facial expressions. Every little thing excites me. The sound of her swallowing milk, or her pre-poop face, and her satisfaction and pride when I lift her to stand on her feet. I bounce with joy at the sight of Camila being able to grab toys, munching on her foot and roll over on the carpet.
A friend who had a baby a year ago, said to me when I asked her how it was all going “it’s great, everyday you can see that they are learning something new“. It was an empty sentence to me then and only now I understand the world of amazingness that that “learning something new” contains and what a commonplace miracle it is. We often say how good Camila is because she eats and sleeps and poops without giving us any real trouble. But when I am staring at her, putting myself in her tiny shoes, I realise how much more she actually does. How every little thing is a new thing for her. What she sees, how she perceives people’s high pitch blabbering, the discovery of the use of her thumb or the strength of her legs, the different sounds she can produce by altering the position of her lips and tongue. There is so much going on in her life, so many first times, that we sometime underestimate.
So it really is true what people said to me:
“it’s different with your own kids”
So true. I was never able to interact with kids. I always felt I couldn’t be myself and had to adjust everything I said to kids’ reach, altering voice tone and content for them. That made me feel awkward, fake, an exhausting practice I never enjoyed and thought never will.
That’s why when debating with myself whether I wanted kids or not I always felt a bit like “and what if I regret it? Do I really want to go through that?” And for the first time in such a big decision my sixth sense wasn’t helping at all. My fine tuned intuition failed me, and just sat there on the freaking fence! I felt like I was gambling with one of life’s most crucial decisions.
Now that this gracious being is with us I understand. This amazing interaction I have with her came from nowhere as if it was always lying there dormant waiting to be awakened by my own child, in the same gentle way the prince awoke the sleeping beauty with a kiss. I always know what to do. Dressing her is never as daunting as it had been when I saw my sister dressing her children (that arm is so going to snap right now). Her crying never created uneasiness nor arose feelings of inadequacy (or the desire to put her in the oven). Caring for her needs which I thought would unleash a surge of claustrophobia is in fact so elementally rewarding.
People have asked me if I have bonded with her. I never know how to answer that. I am stupidly in love with her. At night I must stare into her delightful sleeping face for at least five minutes before I can switch the light off. Waking up at 5am has the sweetest reward of seeing her wanderous happy face and listening to her cheerful giggles and squeals.
I can’t believe how natural it has all been. And I can’t believe I have already forgotten I once was pregnant. She once was inside of me. The feeling of almost dread I had at the beginning of going to town with her for the first time has drifted into oblivion. The attention I would attract. And would people notice I am not holding her correctly? Would my insecurity transpire if she threw a tantrum?
I have now been in town many times, enough for Camila to have already scored a nickname. Some call her Fintanella because the resemblance to her father is unmistakable.
I am surprisingly enjoying the attention that Camila attracts. The locals would cross the road to come and see her and compliment her. They make me feel like Lady Gaga walking down the high street at times, all looking and pointing at me/her, smiling and going ” oy que lindo el bebesito!”
That is one part of Ecuadorian culture I am very fond of: they love children. And Camila in particular because of her white skin and blue eyes. One day Fintan and I were having lunch with a couple of friends in a restaurant in town and were occupying the nicest outdoor seating. Three teenagers and one of their mum kept on staring at us, and seen the place was quite busy we thought they were eyeing up our seating. Then the boy came over and kindly asked me if it was ok for them to have a look at our baby! That is all they wanted. They looked at her and smiled and they said she was the most beautiful baby they ever saw.
A teenager back in Europe would never do this! Especially if male he would be considered a big dumb poof. And here, despite the machismo running rampant amongst Ecuadorian males, it’s just accepted to acknowledge and show love for children. A teenager who gets knocked up by a hit-and-run man, is still celebrated because hey, there’s a baby on the way! Hooray!
I have adopted the Ecuadorian nonchalance in feeding her anywhere I might be, without feeling like I should cover my visible naked boob. And surprisingly, as primal as local men can be when they look at a woman, they don’t seem to acknowledge a breastfeeding boob as a sexual object. They see it for what it is. They might screen my bum with horny eyes and make sounds at me as if they were calling a cat but are very respectful of a naked-milk producing tit.
Now here she is, little Camila, sleeping belly down in a zebra outfit, with her forefinger in her mouth. She looks so peaceful and serene. Sometimes when I look at her fast asleep like she is now, I feel a curious sentiment of nostalgia. I couldn’t understand where it came from at first. A sense of mild sadness as if for some reason something is going to take her away from me. Then it came to me. I am simply preempting missing Camila as a baby.
And that sensation is a polite reminder to savour every little bit of her every day, to treasure our precious present whilst dancing on cloud nine, overwhelmed by the jolly feeling of unconditional love.