Hello, Sweet Baby

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He has hair where?

mother holding baby

By Sarah Jio

Six years ago, I gave birth to my first son, Carson. I had envisioned this moment in my mind, I don't know, 403 million times. I'd labor bravely, and when my baby arrived, there'd be no eye drops or shots right away. I wanted the two of us to bond properly. It was all in the four-page birth plan I'd presented to my ob-gyn weeks prior, naturally.

However, things didn't go exactly as planned. Thirty-six hours after my first contraction, I asked -- begged -- for an epidural. After a fourth-degree tear (TMI, sorry), out came my baby boy. I remember my husband's smile, nurses bustling around me, and the tense, determined look on my doctor's face as she began the somewhat gruesome process of repairing my nether regions.

And then someone handed me Carson, loosely swaddled in a blanket. I surveyed his round face and dark eyes and...hairy back? I rubbed my eyes, looked closer, and confirmed that, indeed, my son's upper back was all but covered in a fine, dark layer of, well, fur.

I looked up at my husband. Had he noticed? And the nurses? Were they snickering in the corner? "Manscaping?" I imagined them whispering. "The child's going to need babyscaping!"

Plagued with anxiety, I pulled the blanket a bit higher around Carson's shoulders, while scolding myself for being superficial. So what if he's hairy? He's healthy! And yet, I was mortified. Sensing my concern, a nurse whispered, "Don't worry, honey, many newborns are born with extra hair. It'll fall out in a day or two." I wanted to hug her.

I grin when I think back to those first few moments. The nurse was right -- the hair all fell out. But Carson's nickname will always be "Monkey."

Sarah Jio, from Seattle, is a novelist and mother of three. Her latest book is The Last Camellia.

The bone-weariest sigh

By Lynn Messina

My first son, Emmett, was so perfect at birth that even his hair was parted neatly, making him look as if all he needed was a briefcase for his first day at the office. (Barely ten minutes old and already late for work!) Curious, he lay on my chest and stared up at me with calm blue eyes.

My second, Luka, was gross -- slimy, gloppy, gunky with with goo that glowed eerily in the harsh glare of the delivery room and gleamed off the top of his pointy head, still elongated from birth. His eyes were squeezed tight, as if shutting out the world.

I wasn't ready for Luka. He came three weeks early, while I was still trying to convince myself that I could love another child. We had no name for him and no plan of what to do with Emmett while I was in labor. My water broke at 7 a.m., and my doctor gave me twelve hours before she induced. We had all day to prepare, but once we finally found a friend to come stay with Emmett, it was time to deliver.

Luka cried immediately. I lifted him and placed him on my chest, against my heart, which always calmed Emmett. It had no effect. I raised him higher, to my shoulder. That did nothing. I bounced. Nope. The wails continued, and I felt the hot flush of embarrassment as I failed to comfort him. I worried what the doctor thought. This is her second time around, I imagined her thinking. She should know this by now.

Desperate to soothe him, I started to softly sing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen, another standby from Emmett's infanthood. It didn't work either. Nor did rocking, shushing, pleading.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he sighed. His eyes still shut, he let out the deepest, saddest, bone-weariest sigh and it stretched from his soul to mine.

Two years later, Luka still sighs that like after a hard cry, and every time I hear it I recall all the absurd things I worried about. As if I possibly could not love him or be ready for him. In that moment, even under the harsh glare of the delivery room light, everything settled gently into its place.

Still, though, someone could have warned me about all that goo.

Lynn Messina, from New York City, is a novelist and mother of two. Her new book, Henry and the Smart Human, is for young readers.

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