When I first met Joel, he seemed like this foreign creature. He was small, his face looked a bit like a bulldog, and he had an overbite only an orthodontist could love. My friend Kirsten (who doubled as my labor and delivery nurse that day) handed him to me and I just stared, thinking, "Who are you?"
When Owen was placed in my arms, I sobbed--tears of joy. He's here! He's here! I didn't have that feeling with Joel. Instead, as soon as I held him, I felt a sense that something was a bit...off. He would look around, then he would squish up his entire face and wail with rage. "What the hell is this? Who the hell are you? Why the hell am I here?" He continued this pattern for the first hour of his life. Quiet--Rage--Quiet. Kirsten encouraged me to breastfeed. I made my awkward attempts, and again, he would look at me, as if saying, "What are you doing now, crazy woman?"
The whole thing felt surreal. I remember thinking, "I hope we didn't mess up a good thing by adding this guy"
The Hopkins experience (that sounds like a really bad '70s band featuring saxophones and vocal modulators) jump-started my love instinct, but it was a crazy, fearful love. An Oh-my-God-if-I-lose-him-I-might-lose-myself kinda love. That too, passed. He came home, and the business of loving him began in earnest.
With Owen, it was instant love. Head-over-heels teenager love. With Joel, I fell in love with him. Each smile, sigh, grunt, or slow, sleepy breath brought me closer to him. It's hard to say why. Perhaps I was so concerned about Owen's adjustment that I focused my energy on the baby that could talk, walk, protest. Or, perhaps I was fearful that Joel, despite all of the reassurances, wasn't going to stick around, so I withheld my feelings out of self-protection. It's hard to say.
Anyway, it's a moot point now. I am smitten with Joel Edward. He is joy personified. He loves to jump, and when we place him in the Jump-A-Roo, his eyes light up, as if to say, "I can't believe the world is this much fun!" I can make him laugh outrageously by saying nonsense, such as "Dynaco Blue!" or "French Fried Potatoes." When I sing, he grins, which is a welcome change from Owen's, "Mommy, please stop doing that."
I am more relaxed as a mother with Joel, and have thus enjoyed his babyhood more. Because I don't have the time or inclination to consult the various baby books, I'm not obsessing about his next milestone (or lack thereof), and instead, I just marvel at his new skills. They are little surprises. I find myself thinking, "Oh my gosh, he has two teeth now! When did that happen?"
The other morning (and by morning, I mean three in the morning), I finished feeding him. As he rested against me, he started babbling, "Da-Da. Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da." His voice was full and sleepy. It was the first step at communication, a window into the person he's becoming. It was also a time-machine, flashing back to Christmas 2006. Owen was a little bit older, and he too was saying "Da-Da," although with him, he would stress different parts, as if arguing a case before Roberts and Ginsburg: "Da Da Da Da Da Da!" Whatever "Da" meant to him, it was important.
Owen is still a lawyer in training, always ready to negotiate, and not adverse to playing hardball. And I love him.
Now, Joel. He is a seed just starting to sprout. With each passing day, I understand him better, and love him more and more.
His roots are my heart.