It feels strange to think that at one point, we collected gender-neutral newborn clothes because I didn’t know whether I was expecting a boy or a girl. It feels weird to remember that, again, at one point, Mark’s clothes had cute teddy bears on them and that t-shirts didn’t have to feature Batman, Star Wars, Spiderman or various monsters. That white clothes stayed white unless I spilled some semi-solid food on them. That pants never had holes. That a load of laundry could be as much as twenty onesies because they were so small.
Like most parents, we went through the several phases of baby clothing: the what-the-hell-is-a-onesie phase, the more-than-actually-needed newborn items phase, the I-bought-it-because-it-was-cute phase (that one features many impractical choices), the too-small-clothes phase, the what-do-we-do-with-clothes phase. I knew right away that I wasn’t going to keep entire boxes for a second child because to me, Mark is all I needed and ever wanted. So, I gave clothes to friends who were expecting and to charity.
But over the years, I did keep the outfits Mark wore a lot and items that had sentimental value.
On a cold snowy night, I decided to transfer two diaper boxes full of clothes into a plastic bin, easier to store.
“Do you want to see how small you were?” I asked Mark. “I’m going to sort out clothes.”
“No, your baby clothes.”
“Ah! I’m not a baby! I’m four, you know.”
Yes, I know. The first thing I found at the very top of the box was the hospital blanket he was wrapped in seconds after he was born—I think the entire North American hospital network uses them, I’ve seen the exact same one in movies. I looked at the blanket, looked at Mark standing in front of me, and I started crying.
And that was just the beginning. Then came the newborn-size white onesie my mum sent before he was born. This was the very first one he wore, I remember putting it on before strapping him into his car seat for the ride home. The onesie was too big for him, back then.
“See? You were that small.”
I sorted out pyjamas, most of them we claimed helped him sleep through the night. “Give him the blue one,” we’d say to one another. “He always sleeps longer with it.” Does that sound crazy to you? It is. Sleep-deprived parents are completely irrational.
I found the Winnie swaddle blanket we used for about a month to wrap Mark like a spring roll. Every night, it was the same routine: I wrapped him in it and put it in his crib. It’d only take seconds for him to start screaming. Mark never slept in his crib. He liked the blanket, though. One night, I rushed to Walmart to buy another one because the original was still in the washing machine by bedtime.
“Look! It fits!”
“Mark… this was your baby hat. It doesn’t fit, it looks like you’re wearing a kippah!”
A specific memory is attached to each item of clothing. Good or bad, it depends. I can’t say I miss the baby stage. If I had to rewind, I would enjoy it best as a background character, not as the not-so-heroic heroine. It was tough, tougher than I had ever imagined. The first two years are a bit of a blur—there was so much to learn, to process and to do that I didn’t have the chance to pause life much. I have snapshots of precious moments in my head but the memories of the long days, sleepless nights and moments of true helplessness are still too vivid.
I can’t claim Mark’s birth is the most wonderful day of my life because there would be the notion of an ending attached to this statement. To me, it was amazing because it was the beginning of something—the life of a new person on earth that Feng and I had made, out of love.
I’m not nostalgic. I appreciate that Mark is growing up. I don’t see why I should be stuck worshipping the first few pages of the book when there is a long and fun story to read and enjoy, chapter after chapter.
“Hello Mrs. Poo-poo! Mr. Poopy-pants!”
Awesome. Just fucking awesome. Apparently, Mark has entered the toilet humour stage.#Parenting
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) November 23, 2016
— Juliette Giannesini (@Xiaozhuli) November 28, 2016