Thursday, January 30, 2014

Birthdays Are For Mothers

You may have heard me say it before: birthdays are for mothers. We're the ones that hold the memories, and we're the ones who were there. For. Every. Second.

So, memories of this day, eleven years ago:

After giving birth in the early hours of the morning, I was wheeled to a hospital room. The nurse insisted that the baby had to be taken to the nursery for washing or checking or who-knows-what, while my parents took Josh home for a shower and a rest. I protested, but truly, I was in no shape. After several days of early labor and a whole night awake doing the hard work that brought my girl into the world, I was beat. As soon as I laid down in the hospital bed, I fell fast asleep.

I woke up two hours later (at maybe 7 am) and couldn't find that nurse call button fast enough. I sat up, full of anticipation. Ready. The nurse came and put my beautiful red-headed, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked baby in my arms. I held her, and stared at her, and nursed her, for the rest of that day. I felt so many intense emotions: accomplishment, pride, wonder, and love. I'd never felt love like that.

(Makes me think of Stevie Wonder, who got it just so right.)

It's strange watching her grow up, as it all happens so fast that I can remember, though she can't, exactly what she was like when she was 18 months, and three, and six, and nine, and now, eleven. I can see all of those stages in her face: her resourcefulness, her social acuity, her impatience and her kindness. I remember what it felt like to hold her pudgy baby body in my arms, even though now she is almost as big as me.

Watching your kids grow is like experiencing a time warp. They give you a perspective on the passage of time, unlike any that you could otherwise experience. I can't really remember myself eleven years ago. But I can remember Bella, in so many details.

Even a glimpse of someone else's newborn--their slumped bodies, their squinty eyes, their little, desperate yawns--brings it all back to me. I remind myself that grandparents and parents with older children were once smitten with love for their own helpless little sacks. All parents are newborn parents. Our kids may outgrow our nipples and our laps and even our homes, but they're still made out of the magic that we first saw that day when they showed up in the world, teeny tiny, but fully formed.

Photo copyright Julia Smith

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