Friday 2 December 2016

Smug Married: The fascinating journey from naught to 9 squillion

The birth of a niece gives Aine O'Connor cause to reflect on how tiny, flickering eyes absorb life's wonders

Aine O'Connor

Published 13/03/2011 | 05:00

Our daughter was induced when she was almost two weeks overdue but once induced she shot out.

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It was as if she just needed someone to get things going for her. She emerged 9lbs, hail and hearty, so no need for a little extra cooking time, but she was extremely red. Even the midwives remarked on it, she just looked overcooked.

When she was about two and a half this daughter asked me where she had come from. My tummy. "Your tummy? Oh. It was dark in there, I wanted to come out but I was stuck." I nearly crashed the car, even if she had been told she was late, there was no way she could have processed the information and come up with that story. She wasn't able to tell me again and has no recollection of it now or since.

We went to Venice shortly after she turned five, we had a lovely weekend of sun and ice cream and pizza and piazza, took water taxis and pigeons landed on our hands and heads. We were all four in a room and had breakfast on a roof, we sighed every time we crossed the pertinent bridge and watched gondoliers and ate endless ice cream. We loved it. She loved it. But no longer really remembers it.

When Number One was just gone two we went to Tunisia, the highlight of which was a trip on a camel. He loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it and referred endlessly, for years afterwards to the "tama". There were photos of him on the tama, near the tama, feeding the tama, the little blond -- who knew he'd been that blond? -- boy with tama.

He started school and a new set of memories seemed to take over and fill his head. At four he remembered the tama, by five he was getting hazy on the details and by six no longer remembered it at all.

I have just got my first biological niece, marriage has already given me lovely nephews and a niece, but a year-and-a-half ago my first sibling-produced nephew arrived and hot on his heels, a sister.

We took turns holding her and gazing upon her. She occasionally graced us with the opening of an

unfocused eye but mostly slept. Newborns sleep about 21 hours a day for their first couple of weeks, they can barely stay awake for the feed they howled for. But still their eyes flicker in their sleep, they make little noises, they sure look like they're dreaming. Which must mean they are taking something in.

Gazing at us gazing at her was her brother who in 17 months has learned to do all these fab tricks such as sitting and walking and laughing and playing hide and seek.

He can pick things up, throw them, feed himself, see all kinds of things we thought we'd put away. He's clearly been taking lots in.

In the first years of life we absorb so much, from naught to nine squillion in a tiny portion of life, more and faster than we will ever learn again. Memory is clearly functioning for how else would we learn? But where does it go? For there we were, the new eyes flickering, the 17-month-old ones, not just seeing but watching, my 10-year-old seeing, watching and looking forward. And my oldest ones seeing, watching and mostly looking back. Welcome, little woman.

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