I am writing so that I may never forget.
Today, my little girl turned 21.
I just now finished rocking her to sleep, and my mind began to fantasize about her future. And then I realized this is the last time I will be able to hold her like this when she turns 21.
I take in her sweet little round nose, her bulging cheeks, her downy, dark brown hair. I notice that there are slight curves on the edges, framing her face…will she have curls someday? Her green summer onesie has white polka dots, which accent the milk stains left over from her lunch.I notice that her face is so different now from the day I met her, even though that was only 21 days ago. How much she has already grown!
Perhaps rocking her in the glider as she laid in my lap may seem like an everyday, and therefore insignificant, event; however, it is one of those small moments that I am taking to mark in my memory. One small detail of her babyhood that I will not allow time to rob from me.
Because the next time she turns 21, she will not be a babe of 21 days, but a young woman of 21 years. She will not be falling asleep in my lap as I rock her to sleep, as I marvel at her tiny, animated facial expressions that flash across her face, offering just a glimpse into her infantile dreams. No– she will no longer possess the total innocence that she has now. No more crying for food, no more holding my finger with pudgy little hands. She may even be married by then, and no longer belong to me.
So I will hold onto this moment because I know how time flies, and she will only be the sweet little baby that I now love and can hold in my hands for a little while longer. And I want to cherish each moment that she is.
I have found that having a baby changes everything– and she’s not even here yet.
For one thing, morning has been redefined. No matter how I try, I cannot bring myself to alertness during “normal” morning hours. Waking up shortly before noon has become routine, and when the clock chimes 1:00, I am mentally still in morning mode. But how can I help it when my baby is up ALL night long, twisting around and stretching my abdomen in ways I never thought possible? Maybe she is practicing what she knows is the typical baby sleep schedule. Although in my opinion, she has it pretty down-pat.
For the few collective hours I do actually sleep, I hardly find it restful. Even rolling over in the middle of the night has become a chore. I can’t just unconsciously turn into a new and more comfortable position. Now, I must leave dreamland to reposition my multitude of surrounding pillows as well as this mountainous body. If this waking happens around 3 or 4 AM, I find that I am hungry, but have already used up all of my energy in relocating this huge mass that I now carry all the time, with no reserve to get up to feed myself. I truly have found the meaning of “sleeping like a baby:” waking up hungry every few hours of the night.
The house’s appearance has also changed. Open space has been replaced with baby toys, a crib, bassinet, playpen, clothes and other miscellaneous baby items waiting to be put to use. We are still attempting to “baby-proof” the house, but I keep imagining new and infinite ways our little one could get into something and hurt herself. Of course, being a first-time mom, I suppose I will have endless worries about just about everything, and I will have to face the fact that I cannot protect her from everything. But I do not have to think about that just yet; she is safe inside me– for now.
Please don’t get the wrong impression: I have loved being pregnant so far. I have to admit, I cried when I first found out that I was pregnant, but only because I am so young and I felt as though my new husband and I were still adjusting to each other and to married life, when suddenly parenting was thrown into the mix much sooner than we had planned. But once I pushed those fears into the background, I found myself daydreaming about what our new baby would be like. Would she be tall like her dad? Would she have talents in music, art, or sports? Would she be intelligent? Whatever she might become, she will always be our daughter. Our child. What a privilege to have been hand-selected by God himself to support and guide this little person and teach her all about the world we live in and the one yet to come. Yes, I have felt ill, tired, stretched, and in pain for the past 8 months, but these annoyances are only temporary and will be forgotten once I see those big, round eyes and pudgy fingers reaching for mine. My discomfort now only makes me more aware of our fast-approaching meeting and increases my anticipation.
The biggest change of all is that we are already in love with this little baby, and she’s not even here yet.