I believe in the mystery of a newborn.
Although I had already seen my first-bon son, Nicholas, through his newborn days and into his toddler years, I cannot say that I felt better equipped to manage the challenges of a newborn when my son Simon was born.
Nicholas had defied any mean, median, or mode in the pile of baby books my husband and I had in our collection. He had not slept eighteen hours per day as a newborn “should.” He had consistently outlasted in stamina and concentration any number of adults taking care of him. He never sucked his thumb, never took a pacifier. More importantly, Nicholas developed at two weeks what my husband and I would come to call the werewolf, a phenomenon that lasted until he was two months old. Although American doctors grouped it under the loose definition of colic, my mother’s intuition told me the werewolf was something else. It was something deep, from the depths. And here, I must say I prefer the poetry of the French.
Nicholas was born in Paris, where our midwife and pediatrician associated the werewolf with “l’heure bleue,” dusk. It is the time of day when the birds nosily sing a last song, the time of day when adults sit down with a whiskey in hand, suggested our midwife. Late in the day – at nightfall, like clockwork, Nicholas would yell his guts out for one hour, then enter into a quiet spell, and then drop off into a deep, irretrievable sleep. We were all mystified. Nothing worked – not a pacifier, not a feeding, not a cuddle, not a song, not swaddling. Nothing. This was the mystery of a newborn.
With Simon, too, we experienced the werewolf over a period of two weeks. We knew better than to believe we could quell this potential energy and strength as it became real. We had learned that we could not understand it, control it, or harness it in.
I remember sitting with Simon as “l’heure bleue” descended upon us on the Summer Solstice. With Nicholas, I would have been incredibly tense, or even tearful, at the sight of such a young being in such apparent distress. With Simon, I let the sun fall on the longest day of the year, knowing that this phase would pass, and knowing, too, that I would only understand the werewolf as something we cannot know.
I believe in what is unknowable, the mystery of a newborn, the mystery of life itself.
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