The transformation

April 19,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I don't know where to begin! The weekend was certainly not an uneventful one. There were storms and tornadoes back home in North Carolina on Saturday, and lots of text messages back and forth between neighbors to check on the status of the house, Annie the cat, and the power (the downside of keeping fish tanks is the fear over what could happen with a power outage--we've been lucky so far). The campus where I teach was hit hard, and classes were cancelled yesterday, which gave me a chance to recover from the ups and downs of the weekend. Fortunately, none of the students or staff were injured, but the campus is a mess of debris, and the students are--understandably--very rattled by it all.

So are lots of people.

Yesterday, while Scott and I were cleaning up the front yard, a neighbor came out to talk with us.

"We were lucky," she said, giving a little shiver at the memory of Saturday's storms. She'd been at the gym downtown, and spent a scary hour in the locker room when the warnings went out. We were lucky. Yesterday and today, with the sun out and shining, and the bees buzzing around the azalea bushes, and scarcely a breeze in the air, it's difficult to imagine what happened here only a few days ago.

While the weather was raging out of control back home, and the rain poured outside the windows of my sister's D.C. apartment I sat and held the brand-new baby and marveled at his breath-taking smallness, his absolutely beautiful long fingers, his curved ears like little petals, the feel of his soft skin. I know I drank in my own children's tiny bodies like that when they were first-born, but I can't remember it now, which bothers me. I worry that I was too consumed by the exhaustion--the nursing around-the-clock, the crying, the new-parent angst, the second-time-parent angst to spend much time drinking in the miraculous marvel that is a newborn's body. What I do remember is how Scott and I were transformed--over-night, into parents: one day we were a couple, moving within the comfortable boundaries we'd created in our marriage, and the next we were parents--bone-exhausted but happy, giddy ones, suddenly spending our existence recording feedings, and wet diapers, and talking about things like milk let-down, and when the last time was that we'd swabbed the drying stump of umbilical cord. 

And right then and there in front of my eyes, my sister and her husband were undergoing that very same transformation. I saw them both so differently all of a sudden, and it was as beautiful and awe-inspiring and soul-filling to watch as the sleeping baby nestled into the curve of my arms.