First-time motherhood confounded me in a way I could not, and still cannot, put into words. The new life in my arms astonished me. I’d never before looked for so many hours at one face, day after day. I’d certainly never been simultaneously exhausted, enthralled, and overwrought for weeks on end. All the ways I knew to understand another human being were muddled, beyond what the heart knows and the eyes show. So I asked my body to teach me how brand-new Benjamin perceived his world.
When just the two of us were alone, I set him on the carpet and lay down next to him. Then I imitated every single movement and sound my seven-week-old baby made. Pursed lips.
Arms sweeping across the air.
Arms held tight to the body.
Feet and toes turning, flexing, flailing.
Arms and legs jerking.
Coos and bubbles.
Hands in fists.
Hands open, waving,
Long pauses of full-body stillness, with a wondrously calm facial expression.
I thought I’d indulge in this for only a minute or two, but I kept it up for much longer. Something about it transported me to my own bodily memory of infancy. I felt, from the inside, a sort of freedom from the physical template created by years of upright posture and acceptable facial expressions. I felt helpless, yes, but also expansively connected—as if my being didn’t end at the boundaries of my skin.
Lying there next to this being in baby form, I got a clearer sense of his personhood. And then I got a message as clear as spoken words: that our bodies, mine older and his brand new, were temporal gifts. Our souls were the same size.
I got up from the floor humbled.
It was such a powerful experience that I now look back at it as a sort of ceremony. If you too want to step into an infant’s world, give baby choreography a try.