Baby Love

I want a baby.

Not a third baby — and no, I don’t want your baby (nice try, though).

I want my baby back. The boy or the girl, it doesn’t really matter at this point. Maybe both of them.

Just not at the same time.

For the past few months I have been going through this horrible, embarrassing midlife “thing” where I love babies. LOVE them. And because the stars are aligned or life is really cruel my Facebook and Instagram feeds seem to be overflowing with wee little ones who are sleeping, learning to walk, just born or maybe celebrating a first birthday. Chubby little thighs, the tiniest of fingers and a smattering of fine, wispy hair. The bright blue-eyed babes are especially yummy, as both of mine sport different shades of blue, even into their teen years.

These babies in my stream? Clean slates, all of them. Asking nothing more from you than to hold them, feed them and love them unconditionally. What is simpler and more life-affirming than a brand new baby? It’s a fresh start, a reminder that life goes on. A reason to love yourself a wee bit more than you did. Babies don’t hold grudges, roll their eyes when you ask a favor or leave their socks on the floor. They take a lot of care, but what they give back you can’t get anywhere else. Joy, happiness, that look of I-love-you-so-very-much that you can only get from a little one without a curfew, a driver’s license or a list of chores to complete.

I find myself willing my soul back in time, grabbing frantically for what was once my daily life with babies and trying to remember. To remember how it felt to snuggle a sleepy one right up next to my neck in the early-morning hours when the rest of the house slept. To remember what it felt like to bathe that tiny first baby, so afraid he would slip from my hands and be hurt, or scared.

To remember hearing, “It’s a boy!” and “It’s a girl!” and both times feeling that somehow I already knew who they were, that I could feel their presence in my daily life since those little lines appeared on the pregnancy tests. To remember when they started to dance, to sing and to play pretend — and all of it without any feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety. To remember what it felt like to rock in the kitchen with a baby girl on my hip and feel her heartbeat through my hand on her tiny back. To soothe tears, protect, console, teach, or just to be in the moment.

But I can’t remember.

You’re making memories!” people loved to say to me during those late afternoon grocery store runs or endless hours spent pushing a swing robotically at the park. I probably say that now, to my much-younger friends who are just starting their little families. And somewhere, deep inside they get it. They know too, that while their time feels long and routine and boring it will all end faster than they can imagine.

But memories! “You will have all the memories!” they shout. But the memories you make aren’t all solidly defined or outlined as time goes by. Some memories have jagged edges, some are raw and painful and many of your memories won’t match up with how your kids remember them (which is a shock). But then there are moments that stand alone as if a searchlight shines on them, so vivid and defined that you can relive them at any time.

Just rewind.

But other memories? The day-to-day routine, the bath times and the bedtimes, endless renditions of Hop on Pop or Brown Bear, Brown Bear and the countless boxes of mac and cheese I made, scraping the bottom for a few scraps of my own. The “firsts” and the “lasts” for each baby, from taking tentative first steps to losing a first tooth to starting high school.

To graduation, and beyond.

They blur together — like a fog that I can’t see through just yet. I comb through boxes of printed photos (yes, my little ones were pre-digital) that span an entire childhood and I can “see” it all. It happened, it was real and we all lived to tell about it. There were camping trips and amusement parks, birthdays and sleepovers, friends, family, beloved pets and favorite toys. I didn’t have a blog or a journal when mine were small. We made videos and took pictures, so we do have lots of great memories stored in boxes down the hall.

But the blur of memory that I have of those 20 years is unsettling to me right now. I honestly thought I would remember more vividly. I worry at times that I am truly starting to lose my memory, one old and faded mental photograph at a time.

But just give me that baby. My baby, either one of them.

If only I could relive a day with my baby girl on my hip, or my baby boy laughing so hard he would lose his breath.

I promise I would remember — I really would.

I would just love to hit rewind again.

mom and baby girl

Time Machine

We settle into the couch together; he squirms a bit, searching for the most comfortable position in my arms.

Such a familiar routine.

Same spot on the couch, so many times it seems now. Feeding, rocking, gazing into deep blue eyes full of hope and innocence.

Lost in his scent, somewhere between milk and baby shampoo, with undertones of sugar and sunshine.

The summer sun is hot today, leaving a heat rash as a souvenir on his tender skin. I try not to make him too hot, but he’s content just being held today.

I am content with it too.

Too small yet to have filled out the curves of his thighs. His tiny face ends in only one chin, at least for now.

His eyes are so trusting of me; he has no choice but to just let me figure him out.

When he fusses a bit, I worry: Is he hungry? Tired? Am I holding him wrong?

We work through it together and settle back into quiet.

A friend is visiting; cold iced tea in hand and friendly chatter.

We laugh and share stories, not all of them about mothering.

Laundry, groceries, and errands put on hold for just a short bit of time.

This feeling of holding a life in my arms, this brand-new life not yet lived but encased in such a perfect form: this feeling is magic.

A feeling that never goes away, but remains locked forever in the deepest pockets of my soul.

She rises to leave, says she’s stayed long enough. Traffic, chores, and the like pulling her back home.

I reluctantly hand him over to her, and she straps him into his car-seat.

This baby boy? Not mine to keep.

Mine drove away in his car several hours ago.

Busy with friends, living his life.

Seventeen years since I sat on that same couch, in that very same spot, gazing into the deep blue eyes of my own baby boy. Eyes full of hope and innocence.

Dreaming of what his life would be like, who he would become, what traits of mine he would inherit.

And what has been a lifetime for him has passed for me in a whisper of time.

She leaves and my soul aches just a bit.

But I’m smiling with the memories she’s stirred up inside.

Hey Mom, I’m home! You’ll never guess what we did today…..

And I gaze once again into those deep blue eyes.

And Then She Was Mom

Seventeen years ago I had no idea my life was about to change.

Obviously I knew I was pregnant. Thirty-eight extra pounds don’t just hide themselves under Spanx and layers of cute tops.

But through the whole being pregnant period I always just focused on the baby. The baby was it for me.

I collected cute little blankets knit by aunts and assorted stray neighbors; onesies in yellow and mint green (unisex colors of the 90’s); bottles, nipples, binkies, and rattles.

I handmade bright primary-colored crib bedding and curtains in my spare time.

Yes, I had spare time.

The nursery was ready with teddy bears, a musical mobile, tons of books, more toys than a daycare center, a baby monitor, fingernail scissors, and a Diaper Genie.

We took labor classes, learned to change a diaper, practiced the Heimlich maneuver for babies, read about c-sections, and bought an infant car seat.

We were ready for this kid.

There was only one thing I was afraid of.

Delivering this baby on a weekday.

Which was when I was due. Wednesday, June 1.

See, I worked as a Financial Analyst at the hospital I was going to deliver at. I worked very closely with the Department Chiefs in all departments.

Including Labor & Delivery. And Anesthesia.

I was terrified these people whose budgets I’d hacked and paychecks I’d authorized would suddenly have me in an awkward position in stirrups or with a needle pointed at my spine. Chiefs rarely had to be on-call on a  weekend.

It was enough to make me wish for an emergency airlift to a neighboring city.

Even so, on Friday May 27th when we went out with my in-laws for pizza I cringed when hubs said, “I think we should have the baby this weekend!”.

Now?

We?

And darn if my water didn’t break that night around 11pm.

Nothing has been the same ever since.

Because it’s not really all about the baby when you become a mom for the first time.

It’s about that intense connection you just can’t have with another human being.

That feeling that your soul is attached permanently to this little person; that you love your child so intensely that you would throw yourself in front of a bus to protect him.

Or maybe just in front of a crazy middle-school kid on a scooter.

When wiping snotty noses, changing countless diapers, washing spit-up stained clothing, nursing cracked nipples, and staying up all hours of the night become as second-nature as balancing the checkbook or buying groceries.

It’s about giving up the inner portions of your heart to little people who can’t yet speak, walk, or take care of themselves.

And it’s awesome.

Happy Birthday to my son…the one who pulled me headfirst into motherhood seventeen years ago.

And I’ve never looked back.

Baby Love at the Shower

This past weekend, I had the chance to do something I haven’t done in a long time.

A very long time, actually.

I was invited to a baby shower.

The baby from the last shower I attended is just about to turn three years old. When you get closer to 50 than you are to 30, the baby shower invites seem to dry up.

Like my eggs, I guess.

Most women my age just aren’t making babies anymore.

But there’s just something about a baby shower, about a group of women gathering around a round-bellied goddess sharing stories and admiring tiny clothes. The stories flow like they happened just yesterday…memories of tiny newborns held to naked chests for the first time; of delicate fingers and toes counted not once, but probably three times; of worries and complications and questions answered in their own time.

There’s a certain magic in the air.

Then there’s that longing to be pregnant for just one day; to remember the awesomness of life growing inside your belly; that all-powerful feeling that the secrets-of-the-universe might quite possibly be known only to you.

And it doesn’t matter that I haven’t held a baby of my own for almost 13 years. I can still feel the ache in my arms, the sway in my hips, the exhaustion in my bones, the pride in what we created.

I’m so thankful for these memories, that I can pull them up on a whim and share them with other mothers.

Because that magical time, those early days and weeks, will eventually fade away to make room for time-out chairs, sticky couches, playground politics, back-talk, and puberty.

But for just one afternoon this week?

I sat for a few hours in a time warp, remembering my children only as babies.

And there was magic in the air.

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I am honored to be a featured blogger over at Mamapedia today! I would love for you to stop over there for a moment and read my post What Connects Us, about how I feel connected in the universe of moms.

Mother of the Year – BK (Before Kids)

Kludgy Mom
 

This post is part of my homework for Gigi at Kludgymom‘s Back to School, Back to Blogging extravaganza. Maybe that’s too big of a word. It’s really more of a workshop, without the horrible catered food and boring keynote speakers. And there’s no dress code.
I chose the writing prompt “How were you a better mom BEFORE you had kids?” which was suggested by Cheryl at Mommypants. Who, by the way, is hysterical and shares my love of candy corn pumpkins.
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Before I had kids, I rocked the parenting world. At least in theory.

I had fairly strong opinions about everything from pacifiers to breastfeeding; stay-at-home mothering to cloth diapering; potty training to driver’s training. I was sure I had this whole parenting game down even before I suited up for the kickoff. Carol Brady would have nothing on me.

Then I gave birth.

And the walls on my Mommy Castle turned out NOT to be made of stone, but of sand. Or maybe they were made of glass. People in glass castles shouldn’t throw diapers.

Or use pacifiers.

But from the very first few days at home with a new little one, you are tested. He deprives you of sleep, nutrition, and personal hygiene. Simple daily tasks remain undone after hours spent doing what? You aren’t even sure you can answer that question. Your whole world revolves around his needs. And his cries. You love, love, love him but your love affair with your pillow has become a thing of the past.

So in a sleepy stupor you consider trying out the pacifier, the one they sent you home from the hospital with.

I told the nurse (rather smugly, even), “We won’t use a pacifier! It will cause nipple confusion! Damage the alignment of his future teeth! Delay his acquisition of speech and language! We won’t need it, so save it for some other mom.”

Yet, in the no-so-quiet of the night, after rocking and feeding and changing his diaper and driving around the neighborhood in a stupor….it called to me. The pacifier that somehow came home with me despite my protestations.

Just give it a try. What can it hurt?

And that little bit of flexible plastic, that ugly-as-heck nipple-like thing becomes the best.thing.ever. Because it helps calm the baby. He is instantly more content and drifts off to sleep.

I felt naughty, almost like I cheated at The Mom Game.

But then I slept; we all slept, and I never looked back.

The pacifier was one of many, many things that I swore I would do/never do as a parent. I am still finding new things now that I have a tween and a teen. I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to parent. Nobody has ever raised your kid. This is your stint on The Apprentice: Parenthood.

And Donald Trump can’t fire you.

So while I may have considered myself quite the perfect parent before I had kids, I was wrong. But I have grown into the perfect parent for my kids. And I’m still a work in progress.

Oh, and Carol Brady? She had Alice.

I rest my case.