Iris was born wriggling. I could feel her swim out of me like some marine creature, and, as if to participate intentionally in that metaphor, as soon as A had cut the cord the doctor lobbed her up my way—she must have lost her grip—and she landed in the curve of my body, landed like a slippery fish on deck.
Iris was born crying and cried until she was good and ready to stop—a good 20 minutes, first curled up next to me and then in A’s arms. A mad cry, but not out of control. A cry that seemed to say Give me a few minutes to get used to this.
She was born sucking. Between cries, big, slurping sucks on the back of her hand, on whichever fingers got caught up in it. On her own lips. I remembered the ultrasound at 20 weeks where we saw her making sucking and swallowing motions inside me. She’d been practicing, and she was good at it.
She seems, in some ways, so self-sufficient, my little wiggling crying Iris. Surprisingly often, she calms herself down from crying. She chokes when the milk comes too fast, but recovers without spitting up, without much fuss. She startles when there are loud noises, but it doesn’t usually send her into a fit; she just fusses herself back down. She seems to have a calm center. She has those big, dark eyes. She wakes up and looks at things and looks and looks before she grunts and squawks and, maybe, eventually, cries.
I’ve made myself write this without comparisons, without saying, She’s so different from Ingrid. Ingrid stopped crying as soon as I held her. From day one she was a fountain of spitup and would accept no substitute for the breast. She seemed fragile, gentle, disorganized, in need of a shell.
It seems more natural to put it that way, but I’m leery of comparisons. Who wants to always be compared to her sister? I bet that, especially with same-gender kids, especially with sisters, this is going to be an important part of my job for a long time, to keep from seeing one in terms of the other.
On the other hand, without the contrast, I might not even see these things about Iris. When Ingrid was tiny, I remember being surprised at how easily other moms seemed to be able to describe their infants’ personalities. He’s very persistent, someone would say. What’s Ingrid like? And I’d be like, She, um? Likes milk?
So it’s a gift of being child number two, I bet. To be seen just a little more clearly, through somewhat less bewildered eyes.