SELECTION FROM

Lilli de Jong

Janet Benton

My baby was born two nights ago. Seven pounds, five ounces in weight, and twenty inches long.

I lived the agony, yet somehow I marvel and disbelieve that she came from inside of me!

How is it that every mother discovers this miracle, yet doesn’t proclaim it in the streets?

When the doctor said the head had crowned, I reached between my thighs, and my fingertips met a scalp. There was a hardness. On top of that was hair as soft as milkweed floss. I gave two more mighty pushes, and the whole body emerged.

A girl! A joy. Her breathing and color were deemed acceptable. Things were done to me and to her, as if at a shadowy distance, until she was placed upon my chest.

And there she thrummed, a singular human, giving off a vibration as familiar as my own.

I thought, I already know thee.

Of course! Because in me she came to life.

She squirmed to my nearest breast and opened her tiny mouth to claim its nipple. I saw then how her hair grows in a spiral beginning at the peak of her head, as if she rotated while forming. With her weight upon me, I let my fingers follow that path. I leaned my head forward to her scalp and inhaled, finding her smell—the intoxicating, slight smell of her scalp.

She seems so unformed and pliant, so thoroughly helpless, apart from her glossy eyes. These are fully opened and inquiring. Dr. Stevens has deemed her the most wakeful newborn she has ever seen. “Your baby stares,” she noted, “as if she could eat the world with her eyes.” She said most babies shut out the world by sleeping.

Already, dear Charlotte, thee distinguishes thyself.

I’m calling her Charlotte, but her new family will give its own name.

There are nineteen days until we part.

She’ll never know: her father’s hair is also red.

Lilli de Jong