“Is that your baby?” the woman says to me while I wait in the pharmacy the other day. “It looks like you’re holding a soft toy.”
Though it’s tempting to ask whether she takes me for some sort of loon who walks around with a soft toy in a baby carrier, I smile and explain. She’s nearly four months old, I say. She was premature and that’s why she’s so small.
Today, four months ago, Raphaela Ragini Pillay was unceremoniously yanked from her comfortable, warm abode and brought into the world 10 weeks ahead of schedule. After five weeks in NICU, she came home. I spent that first week juggling a new baby and a new business pitch before finally settling down to get to know our daughter.
I’ve come to know her faces, which range from Alabaster Angel to Angry Red Tomato. My names for her include Raphaela, Ra-Ra, Nunu and the Nunu-est of Nunus as well as Droolie Andrews, Grumposaurus Max and Fiddler Crab.
Her eyes are slaty grey with a hint of green, like a distant hill on a rainy morning. She frowns when she’s concentrating on suckling. I think she gets that from me. “Focus,” I tell her when she fusses and spits out the nipple. “Focus on the task at hand.”
She’s smiling more now. Oh, I live for this smile.
We listen to lots of Mozart, mostly the piano concertos played by Daniel Barenboim, with the Bach French Suites to mix things up a bit. We’ve also started play with the toys I bought her from Baby City, which are designed for babies’ limited vision.
Ra-Ra has developed quirks. Her rigid routine established in NICU is a thing of the past. She’s into cluster feeding these days, which means she’d be attached to my boob the entire day and half the night if she could. When she was younger, we regularly took her out to restaurants with us in the evening, but I can’t see that happening again any time soon.
Ra-Ra has lots of friends. There’s the original and greatest, Loquacious Mancini the zebra from Brooklyn. There’s Muncho the monkey (named by Mia), Taneekwa the African-American doll, Lorenzo Mancini (Loquacious’s flashy Italian cousin), Ralph the rhino and Bev the elephant. Just this morning, Ra-Ra also met Bruno the bear who speaks to her in French.
I miss her terribly when I’m away from her. Last week, my husband and I went to Emperor’s Palace to watch the Jazz Epistles. They were remarkable and the show was wonderful, but for every moment of it I felt a great ache at the core of my being: that I wanted to hold my baby, and just then I could not.
Happy four months of being in my world, Raphaela Ragini. You may be small, but you’re the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.