She screams as I press her tight against me. Memories of colic flooding back. Now she’s bigger and I know it will stop within minutes instead of hours. Still, night terrors bring all the same feelings back. Please. Make. It. Stop. Please.
Two years, today.
I’ve revisited each moment of anticipation for the past week. Going into the hospital to get checked. Sleeping every afternoon to build strength for the nightly contractions. Returning to the hospital again. An entire family anxious in the waiting room. And, finally, at 8:27 this morning, the moment when she was handed to me and everything changed.
Everything is Thomas the Train now, even the little boy undies she’d prefer to wear outside. Obligatory morning hugs for her “grumpy” dogs. “I missed you” breaking and healing my heart simultaneously. Embraces worthy of a luchador, making me a little sorry for those maybe not-so-grumpy dogs. Wash everything, hands and blankies, but never teeth. “Mine” for all things she wants and “yours” for all things she doesn’t. The sweetest sleeping face I’ve ever seen, legs that seem to reach for the far end of the bed, or more often her dad’s face.
My growing girl. My little love. Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re real.
I will remember the night we spent in the pediatric wing of our local hospital for the rest of my life. E was just 4 days old and her jaundice had reached the highest level her pediatrician had ever treated. Not the best thing to tell first-time parents.
Even though we were reassured everything would be alright, my heart was ripped open. Here I was a mess of post-partum hormones being told I wouldn’t be able to hold my newborn baby while she cried in the glow of an artificial blue light. The nurses must have thought I was crazy. My tears just wouldn’t stop.
As I tried to settle into my fold-out chair for the night, my body still cramping in post-delivery discomfort, the sound of an emergency chime kept ringing in the hallway. Children in much worse states than my little girl needed immediate help. Quick footsteps and rushed voices repeated throughout the night. The urgency was palpable.
At some point in the early hours of the morning, worried about E’s persistence in peeling off her protective eye wear, I stumbled into the hallway in search of tape. The corridor was empty. Determined to find what I needed, I headed for the nurse’s station, but open doors caught my eye.
One stuck with me. The sock-covered feet of a mother who lay beside a crib, the room decorated with all kinds of items from home. These people lived in the hospital. A long-time patient, something seriously wrong. Suddenly my night of not being able to hold my baby became trivial.
It’s hard to think about sick kids but they’ve been on my mind a lot this week. A friend is raising money for a volunteer-run organization that directly funds innovative pediatric cancer research. Her friend lost her six-year-old daughter to a brain tumor.
After watching the video below, I couldn’t get the girl out of my thoughts. Her smiling, happy face. Her dancing in the midst of such darkness. Her mom wishing for just a couple more normal days filled with simple time together around the house.
September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Four days left. If you’d like to donate to the organization my friend volunteers for, click here. I already did and am also giving 10 busy bags to our local hospital. If you’d like to send me with more bags to keep sick kids busy, click here.
And, if nothing else, take this post as a reminder to appreciate the people you care about. Laugh and play. Love and gratitude. Simple enough.
Sometimes when I lie in bed next to E, I still cannot believe she is mine. Everything I went through to get her here and somehow it is already a blur. Sure, my hips still creak and my body aches in new (and unexciting) ways, but mostly, I am the same.
For a brief second, without her in a store, I forget I am a mom. I feel so light without a carrier or a stroller or a diaper bag attached to me. Then suddenly I think of her and feel naked, like the people around me should be able to see such an important part of me, like they are not actually looking at me if they cannot see her too. When this feeling hits, I miss her terribly.
I imagine this sense of connection changes over the years. I often go days, if not weeks, without talking to my mom. I doubt I still define her in the same way I once did, no matter how much she loves me. Yet, for now, E defines me. I eat, sleep, and live around her schedule. Simple acts like learning how to point excite me so much that I must call her dad into the room.
I am entirely her mother, yet I am also the same person I was in 2013 and 2012 and… I always imagined motherhood was this threshold into adulthood that would change me completely. Before E was born, I worried I would never be the same. Yet, here I am, the same person with just a different focus than before.
2014 has been the most vulnerable, challenging, and wonderful year of my life. I almost don’t want to let this year go, as though I could snuggle in it forever. If only. Life keeps marching on and all I can do is hope 2015 will take its time and be as kind, or at the very least, as wondrous.
Every ounce of me is grateful to have a year I do not want to let go. I know not everyone is as lucky. Regardless of your year, I wish you the happiest of New Years because it is a chance to begin again, whether down the same beautiful path or an entirely new one.
Thanks to online discount codes (40% off and free shipping at Shutterfly!), I got in the holiday spirit a little early this morning with a baby photo shoot. I generally take a ton of pictures in order to get enough keepers. Still, it is a bit embarrassing that I managed to take 335 in just a half hour. And, I could only bring myself to delete 155 of them… That means I liked 180. Proof I am a mom.
Tiny, busy, little hands.
Had to share (a few of) my favorites that did not make the family card:
E is passed out in our big bed. We just got home from a baby “class” that was equal parts her favorite thing ever and my worst nightmare. Of course, I exaggerate. I loved watching her happy, even if I dreaded having to sing another song while doing sign language with a huge smile on my face. That just isn’t the part of mommy-ing where I excel.
There is actually a pretty cool coffee place down the street from us, called Java Mama. It has supervised play areas for the little people and grown-up treats for the caregivers. Somehow, in the course of the last week, I have been there four times. It is suddenly everyone’s favorite place to meet with a baby.
That is how I discovered their weekly baby classes. While they aren’t cheap, I figured they were worth a shot because E is mesmerized by other kids. Sure enough, no sooner had we removed our shoes than she had crawled up on another mom’s lap and was listening side-by-side with her baby to a story, (might have been one of E’s cutest moments yet).
And, so it begins. E is already pushing me out of my comfort zone. I knew it was bound to happen, I just did not expect her to be so outgoing so quickly. I, on the other hand, cringe at having to put on a show and meet new people, (even if I enjoy social interaction once I get over the stranger anxiety). Yep, this introvert has birthed an extrovert.
E exchanged kisses with babies, excitedly drew circles in the air when invited to do baby sign language, and, well, threw herself in the middle of everything with her characteristic beast scream of excitement. She. Was. In. Heaven.
As for me, well, I made it through. Thank goodness those classes are designed for short attention spans. My brain doesn’t catch on quickly to coordinated hand motions/new lyrics/etc., (I am still traumatized by high school aerobics). Mix in suburban moms, and, well, I felt a little like a fish out of water. To the credit of the other moms, however, they were all perfectly nice and I even made a new mom connection who seemed pretty cool. It was just a different scene from the babywearers at the park, (even if they ironically met up at Java Mama last week too).
I have heard many times that our children are our greatest teachers. They push us in exactly the ways we need to be pushed. Today, I am grateful to E for exposing me to a new slice of life, one I would have avoided at all costs if it were not for her huge smile and beastly screams… No promises on getting better at those silly songs, though.