Through plastic she kicks in slow motion, a swimmer doing a static back-crawl, getting her bearings but not getting them at all. Her limbs circle randomly in the shock of release, a foreign exposure. She should still be inside, unaware and enveloped. Instead, pink gingham flaps at her thumb-sized wrists.
I can’t do it, Ben whispers. There’s a sacredness in this garden. You do it.
I lean in. Grow, baby. Grow and grow and then go home. Ben nods, satisfied, and she writhes some more. We stand there a while, tresspassing, and then we walk away through double doors that buzz and swing, leaving behind us a near-new breast pump (FOR D’BOOBIE MILK) kindly sent to me a lifetime ago. Someone else needs it now.
The card had said I AM A GIRL and MY NAME IS: ESMERELDA or something like that, except it’s not, because it starts with a soft ‘J’ that comes out like a ‘Y’ and then something that sounds like YANA but with a multi-syllable ending that sounds like music. 3 LBS 3 OZ but I can’t believe that, because that’s mightily respectable, yet I’m sure she’s the tiniest thing I’ve ever seen. She’s palm-of-hand tiny. Ring-on-an-ankle tiny. But she’s not the tiniest thing I’ve ever seen. She’s one-third bigger than Ben was when he was born.
Have you ever looked at your hands and said to yourself, “I made it. I am living. I am so HERE. I am so here I need a Tums. I made it! I am here!”
Have you ever looked at someone else and said, “Holy crap, man! There you are! Look at you! You’re so HERE! Want a Tums?”
I know I've said this before, but you should.
They make your breath catch, those babies. Your hand goes to your chest for the comfort of your own thump.
If you’ve ever been so unfortunately fortunate to meet one, you know they’re the most beautiful creatures ever. They make it so you never see anything the same way again. Not food, not grass, not your own thump. You step out from inside a controlled, sanitized staleness to the place where mud puddles and rosy cheeks happen. You shrug at all the crap you once thought was precious. You stop and stare at all the things you once thought were inanimate.
If you love a tiny baby, you get humble quick. Too quick to worry so much anymore about how anyone lives or loves, so long as everyone has some and gives some.
Across the parking lot Ben yanks on my hand in the rain, turning back towards the hospital. GROW, BABIES! People in our vicinity turn and smile, and he waves a hand in the direction of the door. GROW AND THEN YOU CAN EAT PIZZA!
There you go, Ben. That’s what you can say the next time we visit. That’s just right.
YUP. He nods again. I SAY DAT NEXT TIME.