I am lying in bed with my baby. She’s just woken up and finished eating. This is the time of day when she is most bright-eyed – everything about her is awake, clear, ready to play.
I coo, she coos.
I say “aaaaaah” and she says it back.
I smile and she smiles. I laugh and she laughs.
As I stare into her eyes and look at her, I wonder what it’s like for her to look at me. Of course, I’ve read the child development books that tell me now her vision is 20/40, that she can see subtle contrasts in color, that she can see me when I am farther away. But what is it like for her – what is she experiencing – at a time before words, before conscious concepts, before beliefs?
As I look at her, the phrase “baby body” occurs to me. She is a baby body moving through the world, soft and small and sensing – all feeling.
When I coo in a spirit of delight, her whole body feels it and is lit up with that delight. When I talk to my husband in an even slightly stressed tone of voice, her baby body feels it and she immediately begins to cry. If I read a great novel on my phone while she’s falling asleep nearby, no problem. But if I check my email, her baby body feels it and she comes right out of her hazy doze.
She experiences life not just in this baby body, but through this baby body – sounds and images and the very quality of the space she’s in, shaping what she feels.
And at that moment something says in my head: Tara, inside of you, there is also a baby body. My own baby body is still there, like a Russian doll nested inside the bigger, tougher, worldlier bodies that have been layered around it over a lifetime.
That baby body is still inside of me, sensing her way through the world, absorbing a trillion pieces of data – sounds and images and facial expressions and the feeling in the space – that make my body-mind-heart system tense up or relax, open or close, stay or flee.
Yes, now, at almost 40, I have some tools that help me work with what my baby body senses.
But that is not what is interesting to me today. What is interesting is that the baby body is still alive within me and within you, always sensing, reading the cues, feeling her way through what is safe and what is not, and responding.
How many times have we neglected to return to the places, the conversations, the activities that make our baby bodies joyful, or relaxed, or at ease?
How many times have we pressured ourselves to return to the places, the conversations, the activities that make our baby body contract, constrict, sadden?
Our baby bodies deserve respect.
I don’t just want to remember my baby body.
I want to remember that inside of everyone else is also a baby body, as sensitive and ever-sensing as my baby’s own.
I want to be the kind of person that other people’s baby bodies relax around. I want to meet them as tenderly as I would a little one who just came here.
After all, we are all little ones who just came here.
photo credit: Oleg Sergeichik