Andrew takes Paige from the cradle position and lays her on his long, bent legs so she is looking up at his face. Paige sizes him up with her big, brown eyes. He gazes down in return, and smiles. Eli slides up to Andrew’s side, bored with the room’s few toys. Paige spots him and laughs when he makes silly faces.
“Are you hot?” Andrew asks, gently unwrapping the blanket and removing her hat. Underneath the blanket she wears a black and white top with built-in scratch mittens, pink knit pants and matching socks. She is smaller than at birth and has little baby fat. I wonder if this is the result of drug withdrawal.
I sit down to their left, fidgeting; my fingers aching to touch her.
“Do you want to hold her now?” He doesn’t wait for an answer; he already knows it.
I accept her into my arms as easily as I did in the operating room. Holding her in front of me, I contemplate the turn of events. “Do you remember me?” I whisper. She smiles.
Andrew hands me her bottle. Paige tracks it eagerly and opens her mouth when I bring the nipple to her lips. Awestruck, I gaze into her eyes as she starts sucking. I feel the contentment I see in her eyes. I greedily soak up as much of her as I can in the brief time we have.
“What do you think about having her on Thanksgiving?” I ask Andrew, my eyes never leaving Paige.
He thinks for a moment and says, “Let’s talk to Theodora about it when she picks up Paige.”
I nod, flipping Paige over my shoulder to pat her back gently, sliding my hand up and down to draw out the gas bubbles. I bury my face in her warm neck, which smells faintly of formula and something sweet. I kiss her cheek and a lump forms in my throat. “I’m never letting you go,” I warn her softly.
The visit is over too quickly. We bundle up Paige, who is getting fussy, put her in the car seat, and walk outside to Theodora’s minivan.
“Did you enjoy your visit?” she asks, putting Paige into her van.
“Oh, yes!” I shout quietly. Andrew asks about taking her for Thanksgiving.
“Of course,” says Theodora warmly. We arrange a time to pick up Paige and she gives us her address.
I peer inside the minivan and whisper, “Bye, Paige, we’ll see you in a few days!” I kiss the top of her head, inhaling her distinct baby scent.