I had visualized my baby in yoga class.
“Imagine your fetus with every characteristic you wish it to have,” Swami Satchishankara coached nine women with basketball bellies, all lying in sabasana. I had picked intelligence, happiness, and humor—and pictured a dazzling, photogenic grin.
But Kassandra did not have Aegean eyes and sun-streaked hair as I had imagined. Instead, forty-eight hours after her delivery at Lenox Hill, she bore an alarming resemblance to my mother-in-law. Surely babies change, I worried. She couldn’t have inherited all of her genes from that side of the family.
I stared at the eight-pound mammal feeding from what should officially be renamed the umbilical cord to my soul. This is what breasts are for, I realized, though yesterday my sudden C-cups had been noncompliant. Kassandra had not been able to latch on. It was like trying to French-kiss a missile.
Then this morning, the miracle of letdown happened after I frantically dialed La Leche League’s hotline and was instructed to take a hot shower. Kassandra’s eyes locked on mine as she guzzled. They occupied a huge percentage of her face, and the look inside them was sage and deep. She appeared watchful, serious. She might be a financial analyst, a psychiatrist. Her irises were typical slate, but the rims were emerging turquoise, heading toward blue, it seemed, though everyone warned, “Eye color can change, even after six months.”
Don’t change, I pleaded. I have found you in blue pools; you’ll be some other person in brown or hazel. Don’t leave me now, Kassandra. The name sounded big. I felt like an impostor saying it. Had we chosen the wrong one?
After getting her fill, the tiny mammal drifted off to sleep, brow easy, lips parted to release my nipple and remaining wide with wonder. We were lying in bed, a position that had the distinct advantage of not being excruciating to my bottom. “Your hemorrhoids will take longer to heal than the episiotomy,” Dr. Roth had casually mentioned. The rubber “donut” purchased with high hopes from the drugstore did nothing to dispel the sensation that I was sitting on shards of glass. I was in pain, and nursing left me as parched as if I had swallowed sand. I licked my lips, eyeballing the glass of water perched on the nightstand. Yikes! What was that? A shadow darted over the rim of the glass.
I lifted my head and gasped. A cockroach stared back, twitching its evil antennae. My hands flew to Kassandra’s face. There hadn’t been a cockroach in this apartment since John and I moved in four years ago, but now one had decided to appear six inches from my shiny new germ-free daughter.
I could hear the grandparents clucking in the living room, behind the flimsy sheetrock. John tiptoed into the bedroom.
“Did you sleep?” he asked nervously, the way he asked everything these days.
“Look!” I pointed to the glass.
“Get it out!”
“Okay, okay.” He fumbled. “Let me get a bag.”
From OH, BABY! True Stories About Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love.
To read the rest of this piece, purchase the book.
Anastasia Rubis’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, the New York Observer, North American Review, [... read more