a different kind of neverending
The obstetrician turns the blood-streaked baby to face you, a presentation
of sorts, his gloved hold almost mechanical. Beyond the tiny red contorted face--a son--the doctor smiles, his
thick lips pressing against the surgical mask. You mumble, "my baby, my poor baby, poor, poor baby,"
and stretch to finger a slippery heel, minute toes. Youíll remember later, much later, how peculiar that moment
was, those words were. My poor baby. Of all the things to say, youíll think, but youíll shake it out of your head--a
Your smiling, balding husband leans against the delivery bed, rubbing your hair away from your forehead until
it becomes irritating. You glance at him and smile. Heís won his nine-month standing bet that it was a boy. The
nurses take the baby to the far side of the room. Youíre not worried. They are taking care of him. The doctor tends
to you, the afterbirth, the stitches. In his charming South African accent he tells you that he was paged from
midnight mass--that he knew he had to hurry because youíd been slowly dilating for two weeks. Heís pleasant and
his hands move warm, quick. Many babies, he tells you, never once was he tardy. He draws the green sheet over your
legs, pats your foot, and leaves you and your husband alone in the delivery room. The nurses had slipped out with
the baby--when did they do that? you wonder.
"Why donít you rest?" your husband says and even though heís always been a gentle man, youíve never
seen his eyes that soft. "Theyíll probably bring the baby back in a minute. Theyíre cleaning him up. Iíll
wake you," he says. You close your eyes against the chrome and lights of the room, just for a minute, you
You hear a different voice beside the bed. The pediatrician that youíd chosen stands beside you, wearing a gray
Duke sweatshirt, no makeup, making polite conversation with your husband, but even in your daze, you know itís
strange that sheís been called to the hospital at three something in the morning. It has to be three something.
She sees youíve opened your eyes and begins her explanation--why sheís there. Something a little odd with the baby,
so they called her. The nurses panicked, she says. Nothing very serious, it could have waited until morning rounds.
But the nurses, they were jumpy. So then she goes into the marrow of the story. The baby has a small opening in
the roof of his mouth, a cleft palate, but not a very serious one. Didnít affect the lip or gum at all. Simple
surgery to repair it, nothing to worry about. Sheís more concerned, she tells you, with the jaw--itís very undeveloped,
doesnít give the baby much room for breathing unless he is lying on his stomach. The name for the anomaly, she
says, is Pierre Robin Syndrome.
"Didnít you notice the jaw?" she asks. "Havenít you seen the baby?"
You sputter, "For a second--I thought he looked fine, but I only saw him for a second."
Your husband withdraws from stroking your hair and sinks his elbows into the edge of the bed, his head turned
toward your feet, and you canít make out his expression.
"Iím sorry, I thought youíd probably noticed and would be concerned. Iíll have the nurse bring him in,"
she says. "Itís nothing frightful, actually, just a bit odd."
An awkward quiet replaces her when she leaves the room. There isnít one single thing you have to say to your
husband as he stares at the bed, fingering the sheets. Nothing at all that can be said or should be said. You wish
he wasnít there, in fact, you wish heíd go away, before they bring the baby. You donít want him to see it, see
him react to it. You donít want to worry about what he thinks of it, of you--of this, your ultimate screw-up.
Then the baby is in your hands--itís what youíve wanted for months, for years, for almost half your life, to
have your baby in your hands--and you squint, studying his face and you donít see it, the problem, the so-called
oddity. Of course, heís screaming and his face is bunched up in the outburst and maybe thatís the reason, you think,
but when you look at your husband, you know--he sees it. And you blink the tears away and look again, trying to
be totally objective, but you canít see it. The doctor hands you a medical glove and says, "Slip this on.
Youíll be able to feel the narrow cleft in his palate. I want you to feel it. I donít want you thinking that itís
something worse than it is." You prop the baby on your thighs while you slip the glove on your right hand.
Your fingertip seems too large as you slip it into his tiny warm mouth and you feel it, the small, V-shaped opening
in the palate that widens toward the back. You smile because itís not so bad. Not so bad at all and the problem
with the jaw, why, you canít even see it. They can, of course, you know that, but it canít be all that bad if you
You tug the glove off and hold him to your cheek, breathe in his newborn smell and whisper to him, "Yes,
weíre going to fix it. Weíll make it all better. It doesnít matter, no it doesnít," and his crying stops.
In the corner of your eye you see your husband watching and you want to smack him--for the look on his face. You
want to tell him "Go away, then, weíll be fine--you donít have to worry yourself with us." The doctor
is saying, "The jaw will grow, correcting itself, but the cleft will require surgery in about a year."
"A year?" you say. "Why a year? Canít they fix it now--well, I donít mean right now. But a month,
two?" You shift the baby to lie flat in your arms and suddenly heís struggling to breathe and the crying resumes.
And for the first time, you think you can see it, the lack of the lower jaw, a tiny face with an extreme overbite.
The doctor tells you to put the baby on your shoulder, "Mustnít lay him on his back. His jaw settles and disrupts
his air flow."
"Twelve to eighteen months," she says, "thatís the age for this type of surgery. Besides, heís
got the respiratory problem as well, and that could prove dangerous as far as anesthetizing." She has an irritating
habit of carrying her blond hair behind her ears with her fingertips. Your husband has turned his back now, gazing
toward a wall shelved with green sheets and small boxes, one hand in his pocket, his change, his keys, sounding
through the room.
"Youíll learn to care for him, to feed him, how to hold him and position him so that he doesnít experience
too much distress. Tomorrow is soon enough. Weíll let the nurses have him for now and get you in a room."
You kiss the babyís velvet cheek and, even though you want to keep him, pass him to the nurse.
Alone again with your husband, he turns, gives you a dry kiss on the cheek, a brush of his lips, and says, "I
guess Iíll go make the phone calls." Heís tearful and you know when he gets away from you he wonít go make
the calls, not right away. Heíll go sit in the car and cry and beat his fist on the steering wheel. You know this--can
see this happening. Itís what you would do if you were he.
A buxom, gray haired nurse wheels a clear acrylic bassinet into your room, your son on his tummy, legs and arms
tucked beneath him, like a fat, resting frog. Content. A blue card is taped to the foot of the bassinet--Tisdale
Baby. The nurse raises the head of your bed. Sheís a noisy breather. "Did you get any sleep?" she asks,
but doesnít wait for you to answer, and has yet to look at you. "Oh, youíll have to get used to that--not
getting any sleep for a while. This little guy here is going to demand attention at the strangest hours,"
she says, pulling the covers away from the baby. "Yes, youíll be ready to snatch your hair out before heís
done with you," she says chuckling, and you despise her. How dare she make assumptions? How dare she tell
you how difficult it will be? She hasnít even looked at you, for Christís sake, doesnít know the grief of even
your first night. She lifts the baby, "Címon, sleepyhead," and hands him to you. His head is warm in
your hand, his small diapered bottom almost weightless in your other. He arches his back, arms stretching up, fist
balled tight, and then the legs extend and you know these movements, have felt them from within. Instantly, like
a sleeper who feels himself falling, he pulls his hands and feet back in, a horrible frown on his face, red lips
quivering, and you harbor him to your chest, kiss his fuzzy head, explore the contours of his back with your fingertips,
and his crying tapers off into earnest snorts. You lift him higher so that his head rests on your shoulder, his
body molding to yours, and his breath warms your neck. A blue vinyl band circles his wrist matching the one on
yours: Boy Baby #1821. The nurse stands beside the bed, holding a strange looking bottle with a red, unnaturally
"A cleft palate bottle," she says, flippant. She pushes her heavy glasses up along the bridge of her
nose, sniffs, clears her throat, and says, "The bottle is wide and flat, squeezable," and she holds it
in front of you, squeezing, her demonstration better suited for a six-year- old. You kiss your son on the cheek
and run your finger around the curve of his ear.
"The nipple, you see, is also flattened and it has no hole at the tip. Instead, the hole is here,"
she holds it a foot and a half from your face, pointing to a hole on one side of the wide, flat nipple. "Your
baby canít suck, so youíll squeeze the bottle for him off and on while he feeds. Youíll have to learn to regulate
the flow, the rhythm of the squeezes, to accommodate him--how fast heíll swallow, how often heíll pause--that sort
of thing." She looks at you for the first time, pausing, as if sheís asked a question and is waiting for a
response. Annoyed, you nod for her to continue. "You want the hole to rest toward his tongue to prevent the
milk from entering the sinus cavity. Take it slow at first, you donít want to flood his mouth with milk. He will
have to learn this right along with you. You two will figure this thing out between yourselves." She filled
the bottle then with formula from a small glass bottle, the kind the other babies would drink out of, you think.
Holding the bottle toward you, she says, "Make sure you keep him propped up while feeding. And if you put
him down in the bassinet, turn him on his tummy. Canít breathe otherwise." You take the warm bottle and she
asks, "You want me to stay or would you be more comfortable if I left?"
You smile and say, "You can go. Weíll be fine."
When she leaves, you put the bottle between your thighs to keep it from tipping and hold your son out to look
at him. The jaw is visibly anomalous to you now, but the rest of him is so beautifully perfect. His eyes are large
and round and dark and you know that once the jaw grows, those eyes will dominate. "What a handsome baby you
are, do you know that? Do you know how much your mommy loves you, do you know?" Why am I whispering? you wonder.
After all, heís real now. Still, youíre conscious of not having anything significant to say as you sit staring
at him, lifting the edge of his shirt--you want to see every part of him.
"Are you hungry, little man?" you ask, and settle his bottom on your legs, holding the back of his
head, making sure to keep him propped. You pick up the bottle, your hand trembling, but you pretend youíre confident
because this is something you have to do. You have to feed the baby. They will send you home with him and you will
have to feed him. Solo.
You make sure the hole faces the tongue as he takes the nipple in his mouth. You do nothing at first as he mouths
it and then heís bunching his face up to cry so you lightly squeeze the sides of the bottle. Thereís no reaction
of satisfaction from him and the nipple only seems to be muffling a wail. You take it out and look at it and at
his screaming mouth. No sign of milk having been expressed. You take a deep breath and imagine the nurses huddling
outside the door, listening to the baby scream, waiting to charge in. You touch the nipple to his gums and he takes
it and as his lips close around it, you squeeze the bottle again, this time a bit harder. His crying ceases immediately,
but he flails his arms out to the sides, his fingers extended. His head pushes back against your hand, eyes wide,
and heís violently rigid. You pull the bottle away and see milk oozing from his nostrils and he looks like heís
just been dunked under water. "Oh, God," you whisper, and the bottle falls from your hand. You wipe the
milk away with your hospital gown, shaking, and tuck him over your shoulder, patting his back, listening for a
breath, wishing heíd relax, wishing it was easier. Then you hear it--the caught breath--and itís followed by furious
wails as he balls himself toward you. Youíre crying and rocking back and forth on the bed, your stitches feeling
like thorns, and you know you should try again. But you rock and pat, rock and pat, cry, until the moment the pediatrician
walks in and you hate her for just walking in. Sheís smiling and you know you must look like an idiot, rocking
and patting while your baby screams away and the bottle lies leaking on the sheets between your legs.
"Not going so well?" she asks and takes the baby, the bottle, and puts the nipple in his mouth. With
her first squeeze of the bottle, milk comes through the babyís nostrils. She wipes it away, gives him time to catch
his breath, all the while smiling, and tries again. On the second squeeze, the baby swallows, and on the third
and the fourth, yet with every squeeze he pushes his head backwards and his hands grasp the air, as if heís anticipating
being overwhelmed again. After about twelve squeezes, she puts the baby on her shoulder, rubbing his back, and
sits on the side of the bed. "Heíll learn," she says, and now you love her. "I wanted to talk to
you about the cleft--thatís why I came in." She stands again with the baby and reaches to the wall, pulling
a medical glove from its square holder. She hands you the glove and you say, "I felt it, remember?" She
shakes her head, "Itís different now." You slide your hand in the glove as she continues, "The skull
and facial bones are compressed in the birthing process. Now that the bones are resuming their normal shape, the
cleft appears somewhat larger. I wanted you to feel it then, and I think you should feel it now."
Again, you prop the baby against your thighs and slip a gloved finger in his mouth. "Jesus," you say
as you feel the gap between the upper gums, "itís gone. He has no roof in his mouth." You canít imagine
how it could be fixed. There is nothing there to work with. "Can they fix that?" you ask.
The pediatrician smiles, her fingers working her hair around her ear, "Heavens yes, you can build an entire
mouth these days. But his feeding problems will be worse and heíll have trouble with his ears. Sometimes, too,
babies that are born with one defect will have other defects that arenít so readily apparent. Weíll have to watch."
She rubs the babyís cheek with the back of her fingers. "He looks sleepy, mom."
You break off staring at her, your mind working on "defect" and "other defects," and remove
the glove. You lift the baby to your chest and settle back on the pillows. His tiny knees press into you round
and soft. You wonder if heís had enough to eat, but heís sleeping and you wonít wake him. With your hand, you cover
his back and you can barely feel his breathing. The pediatrician says, "Weíll talk more later." You smile
goodbye and watch her pull the door to, look over to the closed blinds at the long window, the sunlight forming
a halo around the edges. A picture hangs on the wall near the window, the soft blur of pastels gone gray without
light. Your baby warm on your chest, you wonder where your husband is.
The nurse comes back and stands over the bed. "How did we do?" she asks.
"Fine," you say and rub the hair around on the babyís head.
"I heard him fussing. Nothing wrong with his lungs, huh?" Sheís breathing as if sheís been jogging.
"They all fuss, donít they? He was fine once he got started," you say.
She smiles, looking at the mostly full bottle on the bed-table, and reaches for the baby. Lifting him from your
chest, she says, "Weíll see if we can get some more in him for you. Not to worry."
The phone rings by your bed, sounding foreign, not at all like the one at home, and you hesitate before answering.
Itís your brother. "Congratulations. You finally did it." Heís coughing sporadically--quick, dry coughs
at the end of every sentence--a nervous tic.
"You know--right?" you ask.
"Yeah," he says and heís quiet.
You sit upright in the bed, your stitches tugging, burning, and say, "I want you to get some books from
the library there at the university. Medical books. Anything you can find on cleft palate and Pierre Robin Syndrome."
"Can do," he says and he sounds almost happy. "Iíll run by the library after my first class and
bring them right out to you. About two hours. That ok?" Then, as an afterthought, he says, "Mom said
tell you that she and Dad would be coming in this afternoon, most likely around two. I donít know where theyíre
planning on staying. Didnít ask. Sisís probably."
"Wonderful," you say and your head pounds. You slip back down against the pillows.
When you hang up, you feel your exhaustion. Your husband made the calls--this you know at least. Maybe he went
to work. You think about calling the house, but you donít want to move. You want to sleep and close your eyes,
but you cry instead. You donít want to, youíre tired of it, itís not a good cleansing cry anymore, just a draining,
an endless grieving that you canít seem to control and it gives you no rest, no peace.
The next nurse that comes in with the baby is young and at least halfway through her own pregnancy. Sheís efficient
and polite, and you wouldnít mind, you think, if she wanted to talk to you, but she doesnít. The feeding works
into a nightmare, milk consistently coming through the babyís nose, and you feel like a torturer. You try to remember
how the pediatrician did it and to imitate her method, but heís fighting you on this. He refuses to swallow. The
nice nurse comes back. "Did he take any for you?" she asks.
"Not enough to do any good, Iím sure," you say. "You might want to tell them in the nursery to
try to get a bit more down him." You watch her handle him and sheís comfortable with him, and careful, the
way she wraps him and lays him in the bassinet. Sheíll be a good mother, you think.
"Well," she says, "Iíll see what they say, but they may tell me to bring him back to you. Theyíre
pretty busy down there. And heís a slow feeder, you know." She looks at her thin watch, writes on a metal-back
tablet, and rolls the baby away.
Your brother comes in, two large books under his arm, sets them on the bed-table and kisses you on top of your
head. You wish youíd combed your hair. Something. You havenít even considered it since you walked into the hospital,
in proud labor. You imagine you must have been beaming then, smug with confidence in your pressed maternity dress.
Youíd taken the time to shower and shave your legs, for Christís sake.
Your brother squeezes your arm, not realizing that it hurts you, that your muscles ache from hours of pulling
at the handles of the delivery bed. You smile when he tells you heís seen the baby.
"Heís a good looking baby. I was afraid to look at him at first. The way your old man talked. And the pictures
in these books--I wasnít sure what Iíd see." His eyes are honest, warm brown, and his cough is gone.
"He is wonderful, isnít he," you say and sit upright, running your hands through your tangles. He
nods and youíre glad to see him.
"So whatís his name? Your old man said he doesnít know yet."
"Doesnít know yet? Of course he knows, thereís never been any question," you laugh nervously. "Heíll
be Dean, Jr.--why the hell would he tell you that? Is that what he said, exactly? He doesnít know yet?" Your
voice is too loud for the cramped hospital room.
"Actually, he didnít say anything. Just shrugged his shoulders," he says and imitates your husband,
and even though your brother is young and physical, not at all like him, you can picture your husband doing this.
"Where is he? Do you know?" you ask. You notice for the first time how flat your tummy has gotten.
With your hand resting there, itís almost as if you were never pregnant.
Your brother pulls the guest chair closer to the bed, sits with his elbows resting on his knees, looking down
at the gray tile floor, and says, "I imagine heís at home. I put him in a cab about seven this morning. His
car was still at my apartment when I left."
"Must be nice," you say, and lean back on the pillows, but they feel flat, stiff. Your brother stands
and walks to the window, opening the blinds and color comes to the picture. You run your hands through your hair
again, feeling as though that incessant crying is going to return. "God, I want a shower," you say.
By the time your parents arrive in the afternoon, youíve showered, put on a stiff green gown from your overnight
case, French braided your hair, and fed the baby again, this time a bit more successfully. You still havenít had
any real sleep and youíre cross, even as you greet them--your kisses stiff and hugs quick. But you hold your fatherís
hand as you sit propped against the pillows, the sheets fresh, tucked and folded precisely by the nurses. The sheets
are rough on your skin--your elbows feel rug-burned. You take the complimentary bottle of lotion from the tray
on the bed-table, start rubbing it on your hands, your elbows. Your father takes the bottle, takes over, rubbing
the greasy pink into your skin.
Your niece, your sisterís child, sits in your motherís lap, her perfect blond curls spread against your motherís
burgundy sweater. The childís hand reaches up and toys with your motherís beads while staring at you. She says,
"Whatís wrong with her eyes?" Your motherís arms squeeze around her, an affectionate gesture, and, not
quite whispering, says, "Sheís been crying. Having a baby hurts and sheís been crying." Then your mother
kisses her on the cheek and looks at you, smiling still, smug in her correctness. The child stares at you again
and you canít imagine why your mother brought her.
"Whereís your mommy?" you ask.
She looks up at your mother who is holding the childís hands between her own now, and your mother looks back
at her, saying, "Tell her sheís at work. Say Ďsheíll come by when she gets off.í"
The child looks down at her hands and says, "At work. Sheíll come by. . ." and her face turns back
to your motherís, questioning. Your mother whispers in her ear and the child finishes, "when sheís off."
Your mother squeezes her again and they look at each other, thereís a quick kiss between them, and then smiles.
You turn your attention to your father. "Have you seen the baby?"
He nods, grinning, screwing the cap back on the lotion, and in a teasing voice, says, "Looks like a baby.
They all look the same to me." You laugh and it feels nice between you. He puts the lotion in the tray of
the bed-table and you notice the smile fade and then his eyes settle on you somberly.
"Has this happened before, Daddy? In our family? Do you know? It seems to me I remember someone telling
me about something like this, years back. . . ."
Your mother laughs, having missed the transition somehow, missed the fact that your father is no longer in a
teasing frame of mind, that itís serious. "Of course not," she says, her cheeks, her fat neck blotching
red now under your fatherís stare, rocking back and forth with her arms around the child.
You ignore her and look back at your father. Heís shaking his head no, "Not that I know of, darling."
And the room is quiet. A baby is crying down the hall. Your father shifts his stance by the bed and says, "This
is something genetic, then? Is that what they say?" You touch the books on the bed beside you. "Thatís
what these say." You havenít had time to look at them much, to read much, but youíd skimmed through them before
your parents arrived, reading here and there, and the pictures were so shocking, the grotesque images presented
were such that you steer your fatherís hand away as he reaches for them, saying, "No, Daddy, you donít want
to." A baby cries down the hall again and you know it isnít yours. "My babyís not that bad. His case
is not that bad." You feel the damn tears skirting your eyelids, hot, and you sit and say, "Daddy, hand
me my robe there. Letís walk down to see the baby." He helps you slip into your matching robe and you wiggle
your feet into the almost matching slippers. When you stand, tying the robe at your waist, pleased that you have
one again so soon, your mother says, "Weíll wait here," and she and the child stare at you. You take
your fatherís arm and walk down the hall toward the nursery.
Your sister puts in an appearance, mannered at best. Thereís nothing between you but years of fighting over
crayons, the front seat of the car, the hair dryer, makeup, attention. Nothing warm or affectionate in your relationship.
You donít like her very much, her ways, her extremely proper behavior and plastic kisses. She, you know, doesnít
approve of you, of your not quite traditional sense of things. So there you are.
When she leaves, you settle back into reading the books. Like a masochist, you soak it up page by page, the
horrid pictures, black gaping holes in infant faces, disfiguring scars, children that would have been beautiful,
the cross sectioned, numbered processes of surgical repair, thick tubes jutting from the mouths of severe cases,
tongues located in throats. You read of the certainty of speech impediments, the likelihood of hearing loss, the
possibility of retardation. And you learn that it usually takes more than one surgery to fix it, a cleft like your
sonís--sometimes three or four. And then later, when puberty comes, and heís outgrown his surgically created mouth,
theyíll have to build him a new one and his tongue will have to learn to use it again, to speak all over again.
But heíll get through that, and you will too. Then heíll pick a beautiful bride from one of the dozens that will
fall in love with his eyes and youíll inflict your final pain--because no one will do it but you. Youíll sit beside
your happy, strong son and show him books like these and heíll turn the pages in horror and youíll tell him, youíll
have to tell him--you have a 50-50 chance of passing this to your child.
You close the book in your lap, the pages falling past your fingers, and swipe angrily at the tears, but they
wonít quit coming. Thereís nothing in you now to stop them.
Your face is still wet when your husband wakes you, lifting one of the books from your lap. He switches on the
lamp beside the bed, settles in the guest chair, and starts flipping through the pages. Heís changed his clothes
from the night before, but his shirt doesnít match his slacks, and you would have told him not to wear those shoes.
In the light of the lamp, you see creases in his face youíve never noticed before and his eyes are shadowed, red-rimmed.
Youíre almost ashamed because you canít find it in yourself to pity him. It feels as though youíve lived an entire
week without him. As he turns the pages of the book, you know he wonít see what you saw. He wonít bother to read
the words. He wonít grasp the thing the way you have. Heíll live it a day at a time, you think.
He looks up at you from a pictured page and says, "We should thank God--it could have been so much worse."
You frown at him and say, "Thank God? Thank him for what? That he saved the worst for that poor child?"
and you point towards the pitiful baby in the picture. He closes the book and leans back in the chair, staring
at you, puzzled.
"And what do you suppose that poor babyís parents had to be thankful for?" Youíre staring him down;
you wonít budge on this.
He leans toward you, almost whispering, "No one knows why these things happen, but--" You hear your
mother in his words.
"Do you know why no one knows? Is it not obvious to you why no one can figure this out?" Youíre almost
shouting now, and your stomach is cramping. "Because it is illogical, absolutely inexcusable!"
Your husband stands and places the book hard on the bed-table. "That--you--that attitude of yours--thatís
probably why." Heís breathing hard, his face reddening, and leaning toward you, his hands firm on the bed,
he says in a whisper, "Nature has a way of preventing this. Itís called miscarriage, and itís what your body
tried to do, if youíll remember, when you were three months pregnant. But your great doctors stepped in and you
popped Brethine for the next six months every time you felt the least contraction."
The gray haired nurse comes through the door, wheeling the baby in front of her. You roll your eyes to the ceiling
and take a deep breath. Your husband turns away, facing the window, wiping his face with his hand.
"Are we ready to try this again?" asks the nurse.
Your husband walks to the door, a slight glance toward the baby.
"Yes," you say. "Why donít you run along to the chapel now, or the bar which seems more likely
and, in the meantime, Iíll stay here and try to figure out a logical way to feed our baby without drowning him."
You donít know if heís heard you, because heís long gone out the door and the nurse, whom you despise, is standing
over you, holding your baby, looking over her glasses at you. You hold your arms out for the baby and after she
hands him to you, she steps back and says softly, "You know, Iíd like to see this little fella go home to
a happy, stable environment. Heís got troubles enough as it is."
You stare up at her. Incredulous, you think, and you say, "Well, you wonít be there, so thatís one
pleasantry we can count on, isnít it." And you canít believe youíve said it, you would never have said it,
but there--itís done.
As you prop the baby into feeding position, you see her out of the corner of your eye. She sets the bottle on
the bed-table and walks out on silent soles, her hosed thighs rubbing. You take the bottle, turn it so the hole
faces the babyís tongue, and as he eagerly takes it in his mouth, you say, "There now. Itís all done now."
You squeeze gently on the bottle and the arms flail out, the head pushes back. You remove the bottle, grab a tissue
from the bed-table, and wipe the milk from his nose. You hold him to you, the warmth of his head against your cheek,
his mouth near your ear, to hear the breath catch. And in that moment, when the tiny gasp sounds, you feel a satisfaction
that youíve never known. You kiss his cheek, his eyes, his nose, his red milky mouth and prop him on your lap again.
You hold the nipple to his mouth and he takes it. Again.