It dawned on me this week that my baby is no longer a newborn. His skin is no longer flaky. His face has filled in around his features. His eyes that once had broken blood vessels from labor are open for longer and longer periods of time. Even his cries are sounding more grown up.
I will look at him one moment and look at him again moments later and swear that he grew in an instant. Every sign, every change takes us further away from the memory of his birth, further away from his newness.
I tried so hard to keep him in his newborn clothes, stretching out the newborn onesies before trying to snap them despite the way the sleeves pulled down on his shoulders. When we went in for our 6 week check up with the midwives, he hardly fit in the sling of the scale that informed us he had gained 4 pounds since he was last placed in that sling soon after his birth.
He looks completely different than he did the first time I saw his face. If only I could stretch out this time like those little newborn onesies and make it last just a little bit longer. Can’t I trade the newborn time for a few less weeks of say year two, or three, or four?
I look at my son now, and he looks like a baby—not a newborn baby, but an infant. While I am reluctant to say goodbye to the newborn phase, I would be much more upset if it weren’t for the smiles that I now receive when I study that face. Those ridiculously gummy, full-face smiles that return my gaze remind me that when one phase ends, a new one begins. I’ll never again have a tiny, sleepy, umbilical-corded newborn, but I now have a son who shows me love.
The smile milestone is one of my favorites. Accompanied with sweet coos and gurgles, the reciprocity of love that is revealed in a smile makes the sacrifices of hormonal craziness, sobriety, sleeplessness, body breaking and labor seem insignificant.
The smile is the beginning of it all—the communication between you and your baby. It’s the sneak peek into the personality that will unfold in the months and years to come, and is a key part of the face that makes us recognize and know who they are. When I see my son looking at me and smiling, I am not looking back and mourning the passing newborn phase, but I am looking forward to all the conversations that are to come.