Friday, May 20, 2016

my new stink

I had a baby in January! She changed the way I smell in more ways than one, even before she arrived. I had that super-smell power in pregnancy; along with my already keen schnoz and some nasty nauseau this made me weak in the knees in the worst way. The streets of Cambridge have known my vomit. Certain late-summer evening-time plant smells that have always felt a bit scandalous became wretched with their desperate ooze. I remember telling people that I could smell poop through a wall, with the door closed. (I was fun to be around, and I got some of that renowned new-parent poop-talk practice in early.)
Then I gave birth and my sweat changed, during labor and after. It became potent in a way that I associate with too-close quarters and equatorial sun. Stink is one of the ways a baby knows her mother, so perhaps the strength of my stench had a use, but it was strange to be so potent during such a hazy, dreamlike time, as though someone else had snuck into my clothes, my skin, in the night. The strongest of it seems to have faded into what I now consider a 'chicken stock stink,' a kind of brothy underarm smell that I'm not wild about but that doesn't bowl me over. (If I return to this blog in earnest, you can trust it is likely to only get grosser!)
Baby Zo in February, freshly bathed, regards her mother, a bit of a stinkpot 
It is too hard to talk about a new baby's smell, but I will say it is beautiful and strange in ways I did not expect. There is something about her clean milky brand-new puppy breaths that feels too tender to say much about. At one point, she smelled to me like a (gently spiced) graham cracker--the way my own dried drool used to smell on the pillow some mornings, one of the best smells I've ever made now emanating from a new person I helped to make. She smells like a sun-warmed kitten and the cleanest creek, so soft and sparkling and elemental. Mineral and tang. Yogurt pop and cheese puff. Now she is four months old and it is spring.

She goes out walking in the evenings with her father and comes inside with that clean spring smell lifting off her, and it’s enough to knock me to my knees again, the radiance of it, but also a kind of grief that the world can touch her now, and she has to carry it, beautiful and blooming, on her skin.


Ayla Adler said...

"one of the best smells I've ever made now emanating from a new person I helped to make." Elizabeth! And your whole last paragraph; I won't cut and paste it here, but only say it's so moving, how you circle around what is too tender for words, with words. this is love.

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