Yesterday we drove up to Atlanta for our second post-placement visit. I could't help remembering how- was it two years earlier? How can that be?- we had driven up there for our very first meeting. It was the first really significant step on the journey and we were anxious and unsure and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
We met at a bagel shop and our home study agent said cheerfully that we' d be meeting her there again soon, only with a baby in a car seat. I was caught by that statement and wondered and wondered if that would happen and how would that be.
I thought of that on the way up there yesterday. It didn't feel like I imagined, because I could never have imagined a little person so specific as little Meri is- I could only imagine a generic baby, a bundle of blankets in pastels, smelling of baby lotion.
Instead, and wonderfully so, we were returning to Atlanta with this intense, adorable little person, with definite likes and dislikes and habits and a powerfully effective voice. I feel like I could never love another baby, only this little person.
She sat on my lap and gave the home study agent a shy smile. She fell asleep on my chest, which is the only way she falls asleep. All my shirts have gummy marks on the shoulder at the end of the day, from where Meri gnaws on it.
She is a passionate baby. If something is wrong, it is very wrong indeed and must be fixed, pronto or it might be the end of the world as we know it. On the way down, something was wrong- we did not know what, only that we had to get off the highway and Meri out of the car seat immediately.
It turned out that she was hungry. She ate two ounces, was burped, and then everything could proceed as planned. I'm so glad that neither Keith nor I are into baby training or feeding schedules. I can't imagine leaving her screaming in her car seat because it wasn't the right time for her to eat. It would be unendurable.
I feel like I know her and all her ways. It's as if I'm a walking repository on all things Meri. What she ate, when she slept, how she likes to be held, it's all in my head and I'm always weighing it before doing the next thing. It's a funny thing about being a mother- this huge repository of vital-to-me but uninteresting and pointless information for anyone else.
If she hears my voice, she smiles even before she wakes. If she is awake, she starts looking for me. She gazes at me so steadily, so openly, it's almost unnerving. She is adorable, with her wobbly head up and her dark eyes searching the world around her. Whatever is going on, she is interested.
I like best in the evening or night, with the pale evening light of autumn shining on the yellow pines through the window. The lamp is sometimes on, glowing on the ceiling and white windowsills. All is quiet upstairs and Meri smells deliciously of baby shampoo, her damp head against my cheek.
We sit and rock amid the cluttered bedroom, strewn with baby clothes, burp clothes, flannel blankets, unfolded laundry and unread books in a pile on my side table. I sat there one evening, rocking her, and looked around me, and thought, my god, I have a baby- the evidence is everywhere.
I think that is when it finally sunk into me- this transformation of our lives, our family. I was finally on the inside of the experience, at the heart of it, where the baby sleeps and grows and Keith snores away in the bed late at night and Meri refuses to sleep and instead keeps bobbing up for one more look into the hazy horizon, all lamp lit and promising a wider world.