As I sit writing this post, my soundscape is filled with the contented murmurings of my daughter as she sleeps in the bassinet beside my bed.
During a point in each sleep cycle she becomes quite animated, her breathing quick and irregular, her little palms flailing in front of her face and her lips letting out wordless utterances of agony or ecstasy. Such is the way with the dreams of a newborn child, where the realness of the experience manifests itself in the physiology of the dreamer.
Just what a newborn dreams about is hard to imagine – perhaps a pleasant dream about the cosiness of the womb or a nightmare about her sudden exit from it.
My daughter Amelia entered the world just two weeks ago. Every moment since then has been one of bliss for my wife Melanie and I, even the moments when Amelia’s contented murmurings metamorphosise into pained screams from deep in her lungs.
As parents of a newborn we can quite happily while away the hours with Amelia, cuddling up and talking to her when she is awake and watching and listening to her as she sleeps. At first the appreciation centres on her physical cuteness – the dainty feet, the elaborately formed ear, the smooth crevices of her neck. All are a sensory delight that look so delicate, smell so fresh and are so soft that your fingertips barely detect that they’ve made contact.
But then the appreciation moves to the things she does. If she's in the right mood she can beguile us by making eye contact and staring deep into our souls - or so it seems. She can signal her desire for a feed not just with a throaty cry but with pleading eyes and an outstretched tongue.
She can perform multiple bodily functions in perfect synchronicity and seemingly minimal effort. She can appear completely unconcerned as her whole body shudders in the throes of hiccoughs. Perhaps most satisfying for me is to watch her grapple with mild distress by taking in her surroundings and adjusting herself to achieve physical and psychological comfort on her own, rather than pushing the infant panic button.
Yes, I know, all these things have been going on with newborns since the dawn of time and are of no great interest to people other than a child's parents. The seen-it-all-a-thousand-times-before malaise of some of the midwives we've encountered is hard to miss. But we are her parents and so can't help but be captivated and intrigued by them.