Nico has recently taken to calling her younger self “Bebé Nico.” It started around the time of her second birthday when I had the bright idea of showing her a video of her birth–or rather her post birth. Marta, as long-time readers may remember, had a C-section, so the video I have is of Nico right after she was taken out of Marta.
A team of nurses has her on a metal table with a heat lamp shining down on her tiny body. I am standing there dumbstruck in scrubs and a face mask and one of the nurses tells me they have to keep her there for five minutes. I don’t remember why. She’s on her back with her legs splayed open and a little pink knit hat on her head that the hospital staff had put on her (her first item of clothing was pale pink! yuck!). And she is crying. Her cry is steady and so sad, but not really that loud now that you realize the pitch at which a two year old can scream.
Sometimes when we watch the video with Nico, she imitates herself, opening her mouth wide and letting out a soft baby cry. She always smiles afterwards. In fact she laughs often while watching those first five minutes of her life and I wonder if she realizes, really realizes, what she’s watching.
“Bebé Nico?” she asks about once a day. Sometimes we relent and let her watch herself, again. Other times we tell her, “Not now.” We’re trying, after all, to limit any sort of “screen time.” But last night I was alone with Nico because Marta took her students out to dinner, so I gave in and let Nico watch Bebé Nico not just once but twice.
While she watched, she slipped her arm through mine and rested her head against me. I love the weight of her when she snuggles like that. We adults hug each other, yes, but usually we hold a little of our selves back. We lean into each other with the idea that we will soon part. But Nico just folds into me, her weight suddenly mine. I happens when I’m carrying her, when she sits on my lap, and when I’m sitting next to her watching the first five minutes of her life, for the twentieth time.
This time, though, watching I suddenly got teary eyed. I’m not quite sure why. Was it how small and helpless she looked on the screen? Or was it how much she loves and trusts me now? Or maybe it was just a recognition of the span between those two moments. A recognition that ever since that moment on the screen–a new baby howling while nurses scrub her clean and me there tentatively taking her fingers in my hand, touching her baby toes for the first time–everything has changed. I suddenly became a mom. And Nico became Nico, this small person I love so much.
Or, as she says, Bebé Nico.