Once Rich and I were done eating, he began clearing the table, whilst I got up to check on Rilla. She’d fallen asleep in her Moses Basket as I was cooking, and I’d moved her into the dining room so she’d be close by, but less likely to be disturbed by cooking/eating noises. I’m exactly the thing that all child-rearing books fear and loathe the most—a parent who interrupts her child’s routines—so in spite of the fact that she was still asleep, I lifted her out of her basket, walked to the sofa, and offered her a tasty snack.
As per normal, she latched on before she’d even woken up. By the time Rich followed us in, she was staring up at me, eyes bright, her little mouth working, her tiny fists kneading my chest. I stared right back at her, transfixed by how beautiful she was, and filled with the peaceful, slightly dozy feeling that breastfeeding induces (once you’re beyond the cracked, bleeding nipples stage, anyway).
Richard, for all his distrust of ‘mammaries’, had never made me feel awkward about feeding Rilla in front of him. As she fed, he came and sat down next to us, remarking that she was bigger and even prettier than the last time he’d seen her. I addressed him without looking up.
“That’s not all,” I said, my voice full of pride. “She’s learned a new trick today, haven’t you, my pretty girl?” Instead of correcting me, as he had in the past (“A new trick? Is she a baby, or a poodle?”) Rich said only, “So I heard, and I can’t wait to see it,” while smiling fondly at her. Eager to oblige, I set her down on her floor blanket as soon as she’d finished on 1 side of me.
“You can have the other breast once you show Uncle Richard how you roll over,” I said firmly, ignoring the face he made at the word ‘breast’. Rilla, although looking somewhat disgruntled at having her meal interrupted, gamely lay down, and began squirming and wriggling about. Moving as swiftly as was advisable with a baby underfoot, I walked across the room and grabbed my digital camera from the coffee table, which had spent the entirety of the day pushed up against the far wall in order to give Rilla space. Walking back over, I said, “Kneel down next to her, Richard. I want to get video of both of you.”
He obeyed, and for the next 20 seconds, I filmed a tense, watchful silence, punctuated only by occasional deep breaths from Rilla. Then, with a little grunt of effort, she pushed herself over, to the sound of gently excited clapping, and Richard telling her what a clever girl she was. She smiled up at him, and then, as I moved closer, she grinned up at me for just a second, before spotting the camera and instantly getting that cross-eyed look of concentration that babies do. As she reached upwards, a not-quite-frown of focus shaping her face, I stopped filming and put the camera behind me, safely out of reach. I was more surprised than I can tell you when she blinked at me, and then, with what was now a definite frown, burst into tears.
“Oh,” I said, not really sure what to do. “I can’t give her the camera.” I looked to Richard for help.
“She’s tired,” he said, as if I hadn’t realized. “Perhaps she’d sleep, if you finished feeding her?”
I sighed, annoyed at having my plans thwarted. “I know, but I saved some prunes for her. I wanted to try her with solid food, tonight.”
“Isn’t she a little young for that?” Richard asked, sounding far more worried than the situation warranted. As Rilla began to cry with serious gusto, I shot him a look that was approaching irritation and said tersely, “Barely. She’s supposed to start weaning next month anyway.” I thought for a split second, then leapt up. “Watch her for just a minute, Richard. Please.” He nodded, and I nipped into the kitchen. Within 2 minutes, I’d brought back a small plastic bowl and spoon. The bowl contained the flesh of 3 prunes, messily scooped out of their skins, and I’d managed to get a tiny dollop of the brownish mush on the end of the spoon. Richard had lifted Rilla into his lap, and had mostly quieted her down. I’d thought I could hear him singing to her, when I’d been in the kitchen; that was usually a good way to improve her mood, on the rare occasions when she got upset, and I felt hopeful that it had worked tonight, as well.
Still, she wasn’t going to wait forever, for more food. “Turn her to face me,” I instructed Richard, not wanting to waste time moving her into the kitchen and setting up her high chair. He did, and as soon as Rilla saw me, she began crying again. It was okay—I understood why—but the look of accusation, even betrayal, that she was shooting me, stung.
“I know, I’m sorry,” I said, kneeling down, “You just want to finish your dinner. Mummy’s got something nice for you,” I continued in that daft singsong voice, trying to cajole her into smiling again. “Look at this, now, there’s no need to be so impatient.” As I talked, I began lifting the white-and-blue-flower-patterned spoon towards Rilla’s mouth. She looked at it with less interest than she usually showed in things, and she was still making grumbly noises, both signs that she was, after all, quite tired; but the closer the spoon got to her, the more her interest grew, and the more her noises reduced. When I touched the spoon to her lips, and tipped a couple of squidgy… drops?… of prune into her mouth, her eyes went wide, and then narrowed again as she focused on rolling the food around in her mouth. After a few almost painfully intense seconds, she suddenly came to the conclusion that she liked the taste, and beamed a huge, open-mouthed grin at me, causing the food to fall out of her mouth, and splat! right onto my posh, Dazzling White sofa.
Richard glanced over at me with a touch of uneasiness, and even I was a little surprised to find myself wordlessly grinning back at her. The sofa had been expensive; I am not known for my forbearance when people (other than myself) are careless with my things, and prune juice was never going to come out; but even so, in spite of mine and Richard’s disbelief, all I could do was smile back at my daughter.
Only Rilla was unperturbed by these events, her faith in me completely restored, her hunger on its way to being sated, her mood elevated into the clouds. I had left her, for 2 or 3 whole minutes, while she was hungry, true; but I had returned, and I had brought new, exquisite delicacies, tastes she had never dreamed of, textures that had been hitherto unexplored, and as such, I was once again her provider, her mummy, her best friend in the whole wide world, and everything was wonderful.
Looking at her, I couldn’t have wiped the grin off my own face for all the prunes in Egypt, and every last thought in my mind agreed with her. Right at that moment, everything in the world was absolutely wonderful.