When my first daughter was born nearly 7 years ago, I was dizzy, overwhelmed, smitten, heart-over-heels in love with her. She was my baby. She was THE baby. She was the only baby in the entire
Her first poop was a life-affirming artistic expression. Her first smile was the best smile I'd ever
seen. When she started talking, everything she said was brilliant.
She and I developed a strong, fantastic bond, and she was the absolute light of our lives. (She still is, actually! ;o) ) She and I were in blissful sync with one another (which is actually very healthy for a mother and baby), and she was the only baby in the world. She was funny, busy, intense and she was mine.
Then, we were expecting baby #2 when she was fourteen months old. Like every mom with a new baby on the way, I tried to prepare us for the We read "We have a Baby" together in endless loop. We talked to my belly, and talked about tiny babies, and talked about all the things we could do for the baby together. We talked about how she'd be my "Big Girl Baby", and I
couldn't imagine her ever being anything or anyone but my charming almost two year old (what grid did I have for that? )
Bessie Bee, 23 mo, the week before Nomi was born :O)
I suppose my point is, I saw her as "The Baby"-the only normal standard I had in my life, as far as intimate interaction with a child was concerned, and the place she held in my heart and life was my ONLY experience with a baby or toddler. Who she was, and the age she was were mysteriously linked and mixed and inseparable. In my heart, beyond the reaches of my rational mind, she'd always be this age, because I had no experience with seeing her any differently. She was Baby.
And then, Naomi was born, fast and furious, late one afternoon in warmsouthern September.She was minute in every detail. So very, very TINY, even at 8.5 lbs. And she was utterly, completely, in every way, inside and out, different from her sister.
I was dumbstruck. I felt my heart's tendrils tentatively kissing every part of her spirit in welcome, and dropping my jaw at how very, very unique she was in every way. She would not receive love identically. She would not seek reassurance in the same way. Holding either one of their hearts in mine for the first time was a singular experience that I would never duplicate
again. This was NOT mini-Esther. More importantly, Esther was not merely "the baby". They were people, different from me, different from one another, and little distinct entities. The change that this realization brought was a force to be reckoned with.
The bright, chattering, brilliant, mischievous puppy-child that galloped into the bedroom, pounced onto the quilted bedspread and then seriously inspected her sister's toes was a GIANT. :D What's more, she was a gem, and fantastically and uniquely her OWN self, just like the tiny hiccuping little nymph in my arms. Two brilliant fires, uniquely colored flames. Both deeply precious and needing of love.
I cried until my eyes were swollen as my almost 2yo sat beside me singing along with her favorite Pooh dvd little chubby cheeks wiggling, "I want to be like this- forever, if only I could promise-forever....Forever, and ever is a very long time, Pooh! Forever isn't long at all when I'm with you!" (Damn that movie and it's sentimental songs! ;OP) In my postpartum, hormonal haze, as tears fell onto my buttered toast, the realization of the weight and fleetingness of my time with my daughters hit me like a ton of bricks. She was going to grow up.
I seriously felt like the world had come to an end. It was like the first time I'd broken a sand dollar as a child; something was painfully wrong, and I'd not be able to fix it. I couldn't put it back the way it was. Life stunk, in that moment. Every little old lady in the market who had ever sighed sadly and advised me to enjoy my children, because one day they'd be GONE suddenly made sense. They were right. This was the only part of my life when I'd "have" them, and then, I'd be a sad, lonely lady trying to drown my sorrow in pantyhose, fancy hairdos and Little Debbie Cream Pies. My baby would disappear.
However, as I'm not writing to you from a black painted room full of pewter skulls and brown roses (my initial plan, which, fortunately only lasted until the next breastfeeding session ;oP), I'm happy to report that I didn't stay in that frame of mind forever.
Because I started to realize that Esther never was mine, at least not in the owning sense. Since she was born, she was always the Esther she was intended to be since the dawn of time. As an infant, as an old woman, as an adult, as a silly 6.5, she will always have the wild, intelligent, thoughtful spirit of Essie. Our bodies and development are bound to time, but our spirits are not, really, quite so tethered.
I'm the woman lucky enough to be her mama while she's small, but, even more than that, I have the privilege of being a part of her life in this lifetime. That's huge. The only thing that changed the day I saw her so differently was MY perspective; she'd always been herself-always on the trajectory of Estherhood. :O)
In a way, on the day that Naomi breezed into my life like a mysterious azure butterfly, I was given two daughters-each unique, each to be honored as an eternal and distinct soul, each full on eccentricities and complexity and eternity. Neither that I owned at any age, but two that I could have the honor of nurturing, teaching, cherishing and honoring as the souls that they were and are.
Having my preconceived notions about my children removed, and seeing them as who they are as a whole, the boundaries of time removed, is always a rich and humbling blessing.
(Funny thing? It totally happened all over again, or was at least re-clarified, 2.5 years later when Eva was born. ;oP Some of the little gems you pick up along the way have to be dusted off every now and again.)