I’ve watched the video of your birth no less than 70 times. If an iPhone video can be one of someone’s favorite possessions, this is mine. I will forever be grateful that the delivery was routine enough to allow one nurse the time to video 38 seconds of your arrival that I couldn’t see.
“What a chunk!” says a nurse, off-camera.
“Geesh!” says my doctor, as she’s pulling and bending and yanking on your shoulders to come out. She has to bend at her knees to get enough leverage to pull you out.
The night before, your daddy and I took bets on your size. Your sister was a decent eight pounds six ounces. Since my doctor had said that second babies are often bigger than the first, we guessed nine. Nine pounds one ounce, nine pounds three. Part of me thought that it was wishful (would we call it wishful? Or fearful?) thinking on our part—most likely you would be a heavy eight pounder, maybe close to nine.
Still, it was fun to think you might resemble my own birth weight. At nine pounds nine ounces, my arrival was still a topic of conversation 32 years later. The doctor who delivered me, though needed elsewhere, waited around the room to see me weighed. He was certain I was a 10 pounder. I wasn’t, but my birth weight nonetheless raises most eyebrows.
I didn’t hear the chatter of the nurses or my doctor during your actual birth. I only heard the excitement of your dad narrating to me the critical events happening just inches away from me, behind the blue paper curtain: your head (“baby’s head! Hi baby!”), your hair (baby has a lot of hair!”), and finally your sex (“woah! Baby Anderson!”). With that news, tears fells from my eyes. Though your cry paled in comparison to most babies, it was soon and strong enough to signal health and vibrancy. You were here. You were safe.
I asked to hold you before they weighed you. Your dad and the nurse laid you on my chest. With five hands helping to prop you up on my chest, I could barely feel any weight. I felt your pruned, purple fingers; I uncurled the blankets swallowing your face so I could stroke your cheek; I kissed your ears and examined the absence of eyebrows and the length of your eyelashes. You were so little and so light—was this really the same baby who had caused my belly to swell so much? Was this really the same baby who had kicked me so hard it kept me up all night? You hardly seemed capable of such strength, such power.
The OR team then took you to get weighed. I was now occupied in conversations with my doctor and anesthesiologist, while watching you and daddy out of the corner of my eye.
At first, your dad thought the scale was broken. I started to worry that maybe you were too small.
“What’s going on?” I tried to ask, but doctors were talking to me about other things.
“Is this right?” Your dad asked.
“Well, we can try it again to make sure.”
They weighed you three times to make sure. 10 pounds, seven ounces. You weren’t too small at all. Quite the opposite!
From that moment on, your size was your identifying trait. You were the largest baby any of our family or friends had heard of. My doctor told me later that for a moment, she was worried you wouldn’t fit through the incision.
“He’s huge!” visitors would say, after having walked past other mothers with their six or seven pound babies.
“He doesn’t even look like a newborn!”
“How’s your kindergartner doing?”
I smiled at these comments, even found a strange sense of pride in them, as if you or I had done something particularly well to arrive at 10 pounds and nine ounces.
Even though I heard these things, I didn’t feel them. You felt like a tiny newborn to me. I felt the way your head rested against my arm, not yet strong enough to support itself. I felt the way your clenched fists could both fit inside one of mine. I ran my hands over your onesies, knowing they would only last a couple weeks before you outgrew them. I took a diaper to put in your baby book, to show you how small you once were. You slept in a hospital bassinet just five inches deep, and no one was worried you would roll out of it or crawl out. You were too little to do that. You hardly cried at all, and when you did, the sound was but a grunt. You were too little to wail, too little to sob, too little for tears.
10 pounds, seven ounces. The smallest you will ever be. Years from now, I will yearn for those first days when you could barely keep your eyes open for more than an hour. When I could hold you in one arm and not get tired. When I could lay you on my chest and nap with you without getting a crick in my neck.
“Tell me about the day I was born,” you will ask me one day, as your sister does now.
“You were so small,” I will tell you as I tuck you into your bed.
“How small?” you’ll ask, as I lie next to you, pulling the blanket over both of us for a snuggle.
“Small enough to completely fit under my arm in bed,” I will say, as your legs reach my knees.
“Small enough to carry you in a sling. So small no socks would stay on your feet. So small you could only suck on pinky finger. You were the smallest ten pounds I ever saw.”