I look at my daughter’s hands while she’s nursing. Her palmar grasp reflex is mostly gone now, but she’ll still make a conscious decision to wrap her pudgy little fingers around my index finger every once in a while. Sometimes she’ll push my finger away instead, or pet it like a cat. Her fingers are getting chubby, and they’re getting much better at doing what she asks them to do.  She folds and unfolds them like an adorable miniature silent movie villain and then presses the back of one hand to her brow like the same film’s damsel in distress. She can wrap her hands around things, wave them around, bang them on surfaces, and stick them in her mouth (my mouth, the dog’s mouth…).

She likes to reach out and grab my face, snatching at my cheeks and lips. Ripping off my glasses is a new favorite game. Sometimes it kind of hurts – her nails are razor sharp and grow faster than I can cut them. I hate cutting her nails. I slipped once early in her life. There was blood. She cried in pain, and out of the thousands of times I’ve heard my daughter cry, that was the one that was truly intolerable. It spooked me, and now I put off her manicures until tiny little scratches start appearing on her cheeks. It’s getting easier now that her fingers are bigger.

She was born two and a half weeks early, and weighed five pounds and twelve ounces. Her hands were tiny. They were also purple, wrinkly, and looked rather embryonic and frog-like. She’d wave her arms and contort her hands like she was trying to conjure her familiar amniotic environment back into being. She seemed aquatic and alien, confused and out of her element.

But soon she started learning to reach for objects, and then to flap her hands against things, and finally to grasp, throw, shake. She also figured out how to grab handfuls of my skin while she nursed and grab and twist in attempt to either speed up the flow or yank it out of her mouth (also quite painful – her grip is shockingly strong). Sometimes she knocks herself off by jamming three or four fingers in her mouth while she’s trying to eat, and then we have to unravel her from herself and relatch. She’s squirmy now; she has places to be and things to do.

But during her last feed of the night, when it’s quiet and dark, she lays her little paws on me softly, no grabbing or hitting. I think it gives her comfort, and it comforts me too. We’re so far away now from the days where all of our life systems were tangled up in each other, but while she’s falling asleep laying her tiny hands on me, I can still feel that phantom connection flare up.

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