I gave birth to a baby girl four weeks ago.
This is where the statistics go, the measurements and time of birth, precise - to the gram, to the minute.
What I really want to tell, though, are those other details. That my semi-retired doctor came up from a day at his cabin digging a garden for raspberry canes, for his last delivery. The warm blankets piled on me postpartum, white flannel with pink and blue stripes, the softness gone after hundreds of launderings - how they reminded me so strongly of both nights on call in the same hospital and my previous deliveries. The nevi simplex on my newborn daughter's eyelids, symmetrical flames, perfect.
Raspberry canes? Those are just the hormones talking, said my girlfriend flatly. So maybe it is. What does it matter what gives that magnification to the incidental facts around her birth? I'm still sifting through the experience, letting the details settle. I don't have any perspective yet, and I'm hardly coherent. And that's why, although I expected to post about her within days, I haven't.
Here's what I can tell you:
Her name is Ilia Tove. Yes, I realize the name has all sorts of possibilities for medical bastardization.* I proposed the name Imogen but that struck my software husband as sounding like a photo app. Ilia is the female variant of Elijah, and means 'My God is the Lord.'
Several times the entire family has spontaneously migrated to her room, forming an admiring semi-circle around her crib. Her siblings adore her. "Hey Ilia!" said my six-year-old the first time he met her, waving his hands gently in her face. "Dynamite!" and his fingers burst apart in a soft explosion. The four-year-old imitates her Moro reflex perfectly. And my nine-year-old has been poring over my baby books: "Mom! Did you know that in a few months you can mash up a banana and feed it to her?"
Her first week she attended three show-and-tells. "She breastfeeds," my son told his Grade 1 class. "She breastfeeds breast milk. From my mom's breasts." He patted my right breast for good measure. "All her life, my mom's body has been saving all the milk she ever drank to feed this baby," he went on knowledgeably. "It even saved all the milk my mom drank as a little girl."
And me? I feel rich. Three daughters and a son. I don't take it for granted for a moment.
Before I left the hospital the public health liaison took a history from me and asked after my occupation. "I'm a family doctor at a refugee clinic," I said, and I was almost startled to hear myself say it, as if I'd suddenly remembered it. I turned away as tears came. Hormones and lack of sleep, yes; and a sudden brief nostalgia for a life that seemed to have very rapidly receded. Most of all, though, the grateful realization, as I sat cross-legged in the hospital bed with my infant daughter in my lap, considering my work, that I have this - and I have that, too.
*cilia, milia, ill, iliac, ileum, ileus . . .