A new face in the family
There’s something very relaxing about having a baby fall asleep on your chest.
Last weekend I got to see my new niece, Kenzie, for the first time.
Born on a Wednesday morning, she was 4 days old when I finally got to spend some time with her. She weighed less than my cats but fell asleep just as easily, her tiny and delicate little body rising and falling with each breath.
When my sister and I sat down for a lobster dinner, we propped her up on my lap, draped a lobster bib across her body and took her photograph next to the boiled crustacean.
This activity failed to rouse her, but she began stirring in her Moses basket when we sat down to eat, as if sensing that something exciting and meaningful was taking place without her. There was some speculation about what she wanted — was she hungry? Did she need to be changed? — but as soon as my brother-in-law, Tom, picked her up, her cries ceased. All she wanted was to be held.
After months of waiting, I was really excited to meet Kenzie. I’ll spare you my clichéd thoughts about the miracle of birth, but the arrival of a new person on this planet really is pretty amazing. All of a sudden, the baby we’d been talking about for so long had a name and a face, and certain traits. For instance, so far Kenzie appears to be a quiet baby. And she likes to wave her arms.
“Do you want to hold her?” my sister Rebecca asked, shortly after I arrived at her home in central New Hampshire.
I’m not averse to holding babies, but I’m not one of those people who clamors to do so. Why disturb a happy baby? I’ve seen babies get passed from person to person at social gatherings, and it’s hard for me to believe that babies enjoy being tossed around like hot potatoes by overeager adults.
“Do you think she wants me to hold her?” I asked. “Or do you think she’s comfortable where she is?”
“She’s comfortable anywhere!” Rebecca said. “She’s a newborn baby!”
It’s true: Kenzie is too young to really care who holds her, unless she’s hungry, in which case Rebecca takes her and lets her breast-feed. She spent several hours sleeping in my arms and on my chest, and for a while I simply enjoyed her company. Eventually I started reading a magazine, which didn’t bother her at all.
Kenzie lives in a pretty enriching environment, and I often found myself wondering about the type of person she will become.
Her father built a bookcase shortly before she was born and stocked it with his Dr. Seuss collection and numerous other children’s books, and I was certain Kenzie would become a reader. When I listened to her father play the mandolin, I imagined that she would become a musician, and when her father showed me the video games he was designing, I imagined that she would become a computer programmer.
When we brought her down to the nearby river, I suggested my sister sign her up for swimming lessons as soon as possible. I imagined what a good swimmer she would be and how she would join us for body surfing in the ocean as soon as she was old enough to do so.
The possibilities for Kenzie seem endless, and perhaps this potential is what makes babies exciting. And yet she’s far from a blank slate. Her future might be a mystery, but she’s already a very specific person, with a personality, temperament and likes and dislikes that will become more defined over time.
“Tom thinks she’s the most developmentally advanced baby in the world,” Rebecca observed.
I’m sure all parents think this, but Kenzie did seem pretty alert, during her brief periods of wakefulness.
She was so active when my mom held her — turning her head, waving her arms, making funny noises — that my mother described her as “busy.” This seemed like a funny description for a baby who can barely move, but the more I thought about it, the more appropriate it seemed. Because Kenzie was busy — busy getting her bearings, soaking up the world and learning. It seemed like just a matter of time before she was trying to figure out how to escape from her Moses basket.
Of course, I liked to describe Kenzie as lazy.
“What a lazy baby,” I said. “All she does is sleep.”
I spent just 24 hours with Kenzie, but my sisters and mother have sent me numerous photographs, and I keep pulling up my email to look at them. The lobster photograph I find particularly hilarious, but I also like the photo where she’s making faces at me while we lie on the floor. There are also some nice photos with her beaming parents and beaming grandparents.
In addition to being busy (and lazy), Kenzie is quite charming.
I look forward to many more visits with her, and some adventures, too.
Aunt Sara’s Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at email@example.com.