Welcome to the world, Yuliana

Monday, July 18, 2005

It is difficult writing a column when in the background there are the sounds of baby's hiccups and the sweet inflections of the woman you love reading a fairy tale -- in my case, in Russian. For those looking for my Fact or Fiction column, well, I'm going to have to ask you to be patient. It will return next week. This week, I want to welcome Yuliana Kurka Rust, who was born Sunday, July 10, at 3:01 in the afternoon.

She emerged in a perfect pike position with a wildcat yell, curly hair and eyes wide open. To the doctors, hospital and nurses, thank you for your care and competency. To my wife, Victoria, thank you for your courage, strength and love.

For months, friends and strangers have told me, the arrival of a little one will change your life. Half will then say, "…for the better." Half simply stop, with the word "change" weighted by amusement, experience and complication. After a week, I understand the prevailing sentiment in both ideas. Life is changed. Life is better.

New sensations, never imagined, have emerged, from enjoying the sweet smell of an infant to helpless worry about whether she is eating enough. Or how a cry in the night -- sometimes we call her "Sleeping Eagle" -- can cut through the deepest slumber. Nothing, however, compares to how her entire body molds into an embrace, and how, when awake, she can hug and stare at you with all her being, and your soul is mesmerized. Minutes and hours pass this way without notice.

If this week is a harbinger, I also now have an inkling of what is meant by those who say, "Cherish the time. She will grow up before you know it." Already over these first few days, little changes like the appearance of eyelashes and the rounding of her face are celebrated. But, as well, they represent changes that quickly come and a time that quickly goes, never to return.

We have already created names for Yuliana that were never planned, and which daily are superseded by the next. Before she was born, she had become "The Whale" -- which sounds better in Russian than in English -- mainly because of the motion in my wife's belly that couldn't be explained. Now, when we see her legs languidly move and stretch, bending upward, her toes touching her lips, we understand the waves we had felt. So small now -- five pounds, eleven ounces when she was born -- the name Whale seems laughable.

Then again, Victoria must have a special fondness for the ocean. The way Yuliana roots for her mother's breast at feeding has earned her a new nickname, "The Barracuda." At other times she is "Hungry Papoose," "Sunbeam" or, simply, "Little One." A name she has given herself is "Snorter" for the sounds she makes as she eats.

Then there are her many names in Russian, which is a language that has the endearing power of diminunizing any noun. And so, Yuliana becomes "Yulya" and "Yulinka" and "Yulichka." I, personally, am fond of simply calling her "dochka," which is Russian for daughter. Victoria likes "Solnushka," which means "Little Sun."

Of course, she is also called "vnoochka," which is Russian for "granddaughter." Indeed, at the end of her first night on this earth, we called her Russian grandmother, Valiantsina Ivanovna, who after learning all was well asked us to call back when Yulichka was crying. We did, and for more than 10 minutes, Babushka (grandmother) chatted on the phone with the new one, laughing and giving her instructions for healthy living. There is amazing power around a newborn's cry, and much healing in a grandmother's calm voice.

The next day we learned, Babushka had been feted at the factory where she is an accountant. Her day was spent accepting congratulations … and compliments that she looked too young to be a grandmother. When we talked again later, we could tell the vodka was flowing. Her friends cheered over the telephone. Later, Grandfather Aleksandr encouraged us to talk with the Little One as much as possible, for that way she will learn quickly. And, importantly, take care of his daughter.

These things I plan to do. Thank you, God, for your creations.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. E-mail him at jrust@semissourian.com.

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