It’s my daughter Annie’s birthday today.
Annie is our firstborn. She ushered us gently into parenthood 32 years ago. On day two she slept so long that we sat around her woven Moses basket like we were humans examining an alien being.
The conversation went something like this:
“She’s so perfect.”
“Yes. She is SO perfect.”
“Look at her tiny hands.”
“Look at her nose.”
“She is so tiny.”
“She is so beautiful.”
“Do you think she’s sleeping too long?”
“I don’t know. Do YOU think she’s sleeping too long?”
“I kind of think so.”
“Me too. Maybe we should wake her up?”
“Do you think we should wake her up?”
“I kind of do.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“It’s been so long since she’s nursed.”
“Yeah. Let’s wake her up.”
“Well, maybe if we pick her up she’ll just wake up.”
“You do it.”
“No. You do it.”
“But she looks so peaceful!”
“I know but I think she needs to wake up. She needs to nurse.”
“Look at her feet!”
“I know. They are so perfect.”
“Look at her rose-bud lips! Look at how they are quivering.”
And so it went on and on and on.
Finally, we woke her up. And then….well, then we couldn’t get her to sleep. She was the wide-awake baby girl.
So the conversation continued.
“Do you think she’s still hungry?”
“I don’t know. I think she nursed a lot.”
“Do you think anything is wrong?”
“Maybe we should change her diaper again.”
And on, and on, and on. Because we were smitten and all we could do was talk about our baby. The most perfect baby in the entire world.
There is something about those days with your first-born child that you will never, ever forget. Your whole being is raw with love. Your heart is on the outside of your body and there is no protection for the arrows that come your way. You marvel at every tiny move, expression, furrowed brow, slight smile. You hold the tiny thing close, afraid to let it go. Your nights and days are no longer your own, and they swim together, closing in on each other. You have never known that kind of exhaustion. You thought exhaustion was about research papers in college, but you now scoff at that exhaustion. That exhaustion is kid’s play compared to this real, grownup exhaustion.
You can’t get enough of this little human. When you play charades, this little baby is your favorite person to act out. First touch, first smiles, first tooth, even their poops and peeps are cause for amazement or distress. And your conversations? You hide it from your friends but when you’re alone together, all you want to talk about is this little baby that now consumes your life.
Today I remember those first days and I smile. My first-born now has her own first-born and I delight in watching the two of them. His face lights up when she enters the room and his smiles brighten her world, just as her’s did mine.
In the dance of parenthood, we have left the slow dance of the beginning, with it’s long moments of sheer wonder. We are now in the era of jazz, where you agree on the notes, and then you improvise. Slow jazz plays in the background, but this dance of parenthood is no longer the central part of our lives. The furniture is rearranged and sometimes the house echoes with empty. We miss them but we have raised them with wings to fly and they exercise those wings well.
But still there are those moments, especially on their birthdays, when we are taken back to the beginning.
We remember and we smile.
Happy Birthday Annie! Being your mom is an undeniable gift.
Note: The above dialogue went on for much longer than it took you to read it!