As best as I can right now
The family has expanded: welcome, León! Cutting the umbilical cord. Paths of milk and honey. O Leãozinho: thank you Caetano Veloso. Uncertainty. Doubts. The present and nothing else, is it possible?
Today I find it hard to write. I have a lot to tell, but I am uncomfortable. I feel that this is not the best time to do it: I would like to be in the hospital, not at home. Actually, I feel that I am full of contradictions.
To help you follow my train of thoughts, I'll start from the beginning. On October 28, León, Lorenzo's little brother, arrived. The family has expanded, there are four of us now.
Reflecting back on my first experience as a father, my mind wanders, thinking about the days to come and how this new phase will be. Now there are two children, we are — at least for now — in Greece, with little support, and I am full of work commitments just when I would need some peace and rest.
I suppose that things will be a bit like Recalculando, this newsletter — with more questions than certainties, more doubts than answers. As a friend of mine says, life is more imaginative than us.
But let’s not get carried away because there are several certainties. I will share some of them, besides the most obvious ones (infinite gratitude, happiness and hope admiring this new life that blossoms). Some of what follows may appear just as obvious, but I think it is important to dedicate some space and thought to it.
I cut the cord
How can I describe my admiration for how Irene, my partner, did everything to get León out of her belly? I was once again surprised by the extraordinary and brutal experience of childbirth (at the risk of sounding cheesy, I can't thank her enough, so I will try to make this one my last thank you).
It was a birth that, like this entire pregnancy, was at times surrounded by fears and apprehensions — I will come back to this at another time, but basically it boils down to the fact that last year we lost two pregnancies, and it still hurts (a lot, sometimes).
But now the prevailing feeling is that of having witnessed for the second time such an incredible event that, at times, it seems unreal.
Being a witness of the birth was as fabulous as it was unbelievable because of how difficult it is to grasp it in all its magnitude. Yes, I know that births happen every minute of every day and that they have happened for hundreds of thousands of years. But how many other things as dramatically beautiful and astonishing as this one will I be able to witness in my lifetime?
The experience of childbirth is elusive, perhaps because of its proximity to the dream world. I am going to move to the mental present of León's arrival. It went something like this:
Is what I'm seeing real? Is León — a person — going to come out of there? And is he going to have his first contact with this side of the world not with the air, but with the water of the pool Irene is in? As in the deep night, I have a hard time discerning whether it's all really happening or I'm dreaming.
I feel I can't do much to help her but Irene has said my presence is important: just being there for her. I would do anything she asked me right now. I would like to mitigate her pain, but I can't (it's hard to accept it, isn’t it?). I decide to be present during this wild moment as best I can.
But an inner voice continues to ruminate. When all this vertigo is over, will I remember every detail of what I'm seeing?
This time, unlike with Lorenzo's birth, I found the courage to cut the umbilical cord. I remember that with Lorenzo I had a childish fear: What if I do it wrong? Rationally I knew there was no way to make a mistake but, at the last minute, I chickened out and said no. I was overwhelmed at the thought of cutting a piece of flesh.
When León arrived, I realized that I had been left wanting. Yes, it was something I had pending, something I wanted to do; and if not now, then when? “It's a tradition,” said the midwife. And that helped me: if everyone does it, I thought, it can't be that complicated.
With some doubts, I accepted: could it be a way to feel more involved and responsible?
When the time came, I wondered if the cut would hurt León or Irene. But well, we know what life is like: just because it hurts, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done, sometimes even the opposite (anyways, I later read that no, it doesn't hurt anyone, because there are no nerves in the cord).
Without knowing specifically why, I also felt (or wished?) that symbolically it could represent something significant for me and for our family: I finally cut the umbilical cord. It has a nice ring to it.
To my little Lion
Hello, León! We'll see more of each other soon, it won't be long now. I know you arrived three days ago and we’ve hardly seen each other. On this Sunday night, as I write, it is very likely that this matters more to me than to you.
Now I’m at home with your brother, Lorenzo, who is sleeping but who can’t wait to meet you. He hasn't been able to do so yet because they won't let him in to see you (Covid, enough already!!).
With you, León, the same thing happened to me as with Lorenzo: I already loved both of you before I saw you, but when you appeared for the first time, that love took a physical form straight away. Said like this sounds kind of cold, ugly or strange, doesn't it? Well, it's as if upon seeing you a spell materialized.
So, León, while Irene takes care of you in the hospital — how thankful I am that both of you are doing so well — we are getting ready to embrace you in a few days (also many relatives and friends want to see you, but for that we will have to wait a little longer).
I know that until now I haven't spent much time with you, but you will see that we’re going to have plenty of time for that. I love that you have arrived. I know, I’ve said another obvious thing, haven’t I? But it is very important that you have no doubts about this. Well, I hope your life is as beautiful as you want it to be.
In the present
A friend whom I love very much wished me "paths of milk and honey" for this new phase. He told me the phrase comes from Ladino (the Romance language spoken by many Sephardic Jewish communities around the world). It is an expression to wish good luck. One that Luis Alberto Spinetta (the Argentine singer-songwriter) could have easily said or rather included in one of his songs.
I had other plans for today’s newsletter, but the truth is that I can't focus on anything else at the moment.
Sometimes, like with this newsletter, the best I can do is not up to the best I think I could do (that is, up to my expectations). Even so, it's still the best I can do at the moment. And that's enough. Anything else is fantasy and unnecessary self-demand.
Today I can't think of a more timely — and beautiful — closing than O Leãozinho, the legendary song by Brazil’s Caetano Veloso that could well be a lullaby. To top it off, this version is performed by Caetano with his sons Moreno, Tom and Zeca.
Thank you so much for making it this far. I know that in this newsletter I could contemplate a lot of questions about being a father, why we wanted a second child and, perhaps, about the uncertainty of life.
I could even talk about the fact that I don't have (just like most men in Latin America and beyond) paternity leave, but I don't want to complain either, eh, not today. So I'll leave this for another time. Today I prefer to stick to the present, and not much more.
As always, I look forward to your comments and emails. I read them all and I want to answer them, but you will understand that these weeks are busy. I do have a selfish wish though: I hope you will keep writing to me and won't take my lack of responses as a lack of interest — far from it!
Also, you can forward this mail to someone else, as many are doing already, so they can also read it and 🤞🏻subscribe — we are growing, slowly but steadily.
Have a good week and see you next time.
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