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Newly Born Lightness

By Emily Milner

I always forget how to hold newborn babies until I’m presented with one: the small face, old, wise, young, perfect. It’s not just that I forget how to hold them, though. It’s the feelings a newborn baby calls up inside me. I held my newborn nephew Saturday and it made me remember the joy, and also the stark fear of being a new mother. Holding him I had, as I always do with newborns, this sense of grace and awe. And also the irrational dread of accidentally tripping and dropping him. Note to my sister: I’ve never done that before, not with my own kids, or with someone else’s. But newborns, they seem so fragile, so otherworldly, and I feel protective and devoted and clumsy and scared around them, all at once.

My mother loves to hold her grandbabies. I watched her and her tenderness, and she reminded me of the poignant poem, “Holding My Grandson, Come to Land This Morning,” from the Roots and Branches issue of Segullah, by Judith Curtis. Some favorite lines:

I cradle you, my hatchling child, and ponder
what your birth reveals about origins;
how water is our first world, then air, then earth,
and it is left for us to tell how we have tried
to solve the mystery of fiery flesh
that welds us to the ground and
subtle spirit that lures us up to seek
what came before and
what is yet to come.

Go read the whole thing. And tell me about the most recent newborn you have welcomed to this world.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

15 thoughts on “Newly Born Lightness”

  1. What a beautiful post. Reading it brought back to mind the sheer panic and perfect joy I felt when each of my children was born. Holding a newborn reminds me of how much God loves us and trusts us.

  2. I have what I term "infant anxiety." I experienced it with my own children and recently with my sister's daughter. I get very stressed out holding a newborn and I keep picturing me dropping them. I informed my sister I couldn't hold her baby for too long. It usually goes away once the kid has some "meat' on their bones.

  3. My sweet daughter, now 9 months old and as chubby as can be, was a small, wrinkly, and ever precious newborn. She has proved to be one of my greatest challenges, but thank you for reminding me what a miracle she truly is.

  4. The most recent newborns that I've held are going to now be the children moving into our nursery at church. I remember the awe as well. Even though I wasn't related to any of the children by birth (we had 10 born in one year – very cool for a ward that isn't a young ward), I felt close to them – some where children of friends and I was around those babies more. I can pick out their cry in sacrament meeting. One has given me a nickname 🙂

    At the moment my own children aren't at a stage where I'm going to have my own grandchildren. But I'm certainly going to take the opportunity to practice on others!

  5. My baby just turned two, and I sometimes miss that newborn lightness. Remembering his baby days is bittersweet because his birth was an emergency and we didn't get any pictures until the next day and I didn't really even get to hold him much until then either. Now he's so big and so fun, but I do miss the newborn stage when they are so new and sweet.

  6. My daughter was born nearly two years ago. She was so tiny-much smaller than her brothers. Now she is leggy and a bit of a firecracker. But I don't think I'll ever forget the way she looked when she was born–beautiful, perfect, tiny and all mine.

  7. I'm glad to know I am not alone in my fear of dropping newborns. Thank you everyone for sharing your newborn experiences!

  8. I did not want to hold my first son when he was born because of this "newborn anxiety." I held him for brief seconds and then I feigned exhaustion and handed him back to my husband. It didn't take me too long to get used to holding him, but that first day was rough.

  9. Hi Tiffany! I have never told anyone of my newborn-dropping fear before this post. Again, it's good to know I am not alone. 🙂 And also good to know that we got over it.

  10. We have a six-year gap between our older two and our younger two. The look on my son's face when he first held each of his baby sisters (one at age six, one at nearly nine) was an amazing thing… he cradled them up, and just stared, and tears welled up in his eyes each time. I know he was disappointed our last was not a brother for him, but when he got to hold his baby sister, and those tears welled up, he finally managed to say, "It's okay you're not a boy. I'll take care of you." (And then, of course, I bawled.)

    The lightness of newborns is divine. They begin to feel more solid and "here" after a few weeks, but at first, it's as though they're not quite solid matter, as though the spiritual has a greater hold on them than the physical.

  11. Tuesday I held my 10-day-old daughter in the waiting room at Primary Children's Hospital while surgeons reconstructed the heart of her identical twin. I lifted her shirt and traced a walnut-sized circle on her chest–such a small heart. My prayers remembered to thank people who wake up one day and decide to specialize in preemie cardiology.

    After the surgery, I went to see her. I put one hand on her head, and one finger on her left palm. (The nurse had taught me. You want to stroke their skin, but it's too tender. Instead you find a spot that has no tubes and hold your fingers on it, motionless.) That's how I hold her. I sing to her. I tell her about her sister. She's heavily sedated. She doesn't move at all except for the air being pumped in and out of her lungs.

    My friend jumps up from the lunch table explaining that it's care time. Her baby weighs just under 2lbs…and lives in a clear box. Care time means a parent gets to change the baby's diaper and hold a thermometer under the baby's arm. That's how she holds her daughter.

    Another friend declines a movie. She has to be at her son's bedside at exactly 8pm. She refuses to risk not being back in time. At 8pm they change his sheets. She holds out her hands (palms up) and they put the 3.5lb baby on her hands. She stands as still as a statue and watches him breath. The nurse changes the sheets slowly so Mom can hold him a few seconds longer. Next week he'll be well enough to be kangaroo held – you take off your shirt and bra and hold him next to your skin with a blanket wrapped around both of you. It's all she talks about.

    Two days later I visit my daughter again. This time she grips my hand and opens her eyes. I'm amazed to be so attached to her in so little time. My prayers scream. Please don't take away this gift. What's the best way to ask for a miracle? "Mommy loves you." I pull my hands away so Daddy can have a turn.

  12. I missed this when I was on vacation. Lovely, Emily. And I remembered loving the poem the first time I read it.

    Our first son will be 8 months old next week. We adopted him when he was just a few days old, but were able to spend a lot of time with him from his second day. The fragility you wrote of was so real, so beautiful, so scary . . . and while we were waiting those few days between meeting him and the papers being signed, holding our breath, hoping and praying it really would work out, everything seemed as fragile as he was.

    He was pretty scrawny because his birth mom smoked during her pregnancy, but he has nearly tripled his birth weight and is sturdy–the doctor says "thriving" and my new biceps verify he's a chunk! Because he is so chunky, he doesn't feel nearly so fragile anymore–which, really, for over-anxious me, is a relief. But sometimes, when he is eating, and I take the bottle out of his mouth too soon, he cries this amazingly fragile little cry, evidence that he is still dependent, still so young and small and, in a different way, fragile. It moves me every time.

  13. Wow, splat. Thank you for writing that. Wow. I have learned more from you about the fragility and the strength of newborns.

    Liz, what a great way of putting it–the lightness of newborns is divine, like they're not really solid matter yet.

    Wendy, I think it's good to recognize that spirit fragility in our babies as they get older, too. Thank you!


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