The minute I found out about you I cried. I have often tried to articulate this feeling—it wasn’t at all a sorrowful cry, but it wasn’t joyful either. I was in my apartment and your dad was in the other room. I looked at that stick and I screamed, “BABE!” You can imagine the same word and the tone it often takes when I’m yelling at dad to come identify a brown recluse spider or help me put out a stove fire.
It’s been hard to describe that afternoon and what it felt like to proceed with the knowledge that you were there: cells were dividing, DNA predicting, a heart getting ready to beat, all of this, totally outside of myself was happening inside of myself—to my baby while I slept—or didn’t sleep as was the case that first night. I already felt like I couldn’t protect you and I was so nervous, but that wasn’t the reason for the tears.
9 years ago today, 9 years ago tonight, this very minute, I was in a hospital room in Cleveland, Tennessee staring at your dad and holding on for dear life. Labor was beyond my control, but the intense and driving force of longing pushed me past my limits and into motherhood.
You were not an easy baby. I do not wish to gloss over that fact because in doing so we lose a valuable part of our story. The first night I nursed you, you attached yourself for 4 hours straight. I thought I would DIE. The nurses were appalled. They said sweetly, “You can take her off you know.” They were wrong. You screamed if we didn’t swaddle you, didn’t bounce you, didn’t pat your back, or if I was outside of the 2 foot radius of your mom radar. The only time you didn’t cry was if you were nursing or sleeping, the first of which you wanted to do constantly and the latter you wanted to do …never.
I am thankful that the difficult months at the start of our story taught me to love, for sometimes love is easy, but most of the time, it is not.
I think it’s also important to talk about our beginning, because it has a lot to do with the end. I know a lot of people pine for the baby days wishing they could go back. I would like to take this moment to apologize for being an absolute crazy post-partum wreck, and that, exacerbated by your affinity for never sleeping but always screaming, is a big reason I do not ever wish to go back to the baby times.
But it is not the only reason.
Tonight I took you to Target to spend your birthday money. As we drove, we listened to some ridiculously old mix CD of mine that includes the Beatles, Elton John, and Counting Crows (among others), and as you were perfectly singing the “ahs” of "Yellow Brick Road" I suddenly felt like I was going to cry. It didn’t help that the next song on the mix was Billy Joel’s "Lullaby," and my voice cracked as I tried to explain the reason behind the song.
By the time Counting Crows’ "Long Decembercame on I was annoyed with myself for getting so weepy—and for being a cliché as I belted out the words to a such a distinctively 90s song. Nevertheless, I felt utterly connected as we sang together--I took the harmony (honestly, who doesn’t chime in on the “na-na-na-na-s?” People without souls. That’s who), and you kept the melody.
It's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
I reached back and held your hand in the dark, barreling down that highway.
Hold on to these moments
My girl. My sweet girl who sings Elton John and Counting Crows and who spends her birthday money on Lord of the Rings Legos and remote controlled robotic bugs. Who knew?
… I think I did.
I think in some nook of my imagination, in a recess of my intuition, I hoped for you, exactly who you would be. Out of the spirals of DNA and swirling cells came the deepest pain and also the most intoxicating rapture I have ever known. And in that first moment of consciousness, not pain or joy but love, like a gladly appointed burden pressed out all my tears.
According to the laws of the United States, most of society, and probably your preference, I have been given 18 years to parent you. Here we are.
And although I still feel like I want to protect you, although it still feels very much out of my control, although I know we are barreling down a highway so much faster than I would like… I would never want to go back.
I do, however, want to remember this: to “hold on to these moments” even as they pass. I may only have 9 more years to keep you here, to geek out over fantasy fiction together on the couch every night, or to hear you wake up before me, but every year closer to goodbye is a year closer to you becoming fully you. I’m so excited to meet you next year, and the year after, and the year after that…
9 years from now we might be driving somewhere together. I might be taking you to college, or you might be showing me your neighborhood. Or you might still be in your room surrounded by bird nests and Star Wars posters. But I know the burden will not have lessened. I will still love you fiercely, and I’m sure you will amaze, surprise, and delight us all.
And I really hope you will not be too cool to sing along with your mom in the car.
Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.