I find myself living the dream - one I recorded on this blog several months ago. I dreamed of the joy of getting down and opening my arms to my little girl, coming toward me for a hug.
My baby Alicia started walking a few weeks ago now. Recently she has started walking toward me, briskly, after she’s been off playing by herself for a while.
She heads steadily in my direction, squinting her eyes into a round-cheeked smile, showing all her teeth, making a happy little humming noise.
Just before she gets to me, she opens her arms, and falls into mine for a hug. It is heaven.
When I pick her up, she’s started putting her head on my shoulder and her arms around my neck. This is brand new and very welcome - and fleeting? Every day is new with a baby.
My husband captured it last Thursday because our camera was lying out as the magical moment occurred and I told him frantically to “take it, take it, what if it never happens again?”
I am very content, starting my 14th month as a mother. I have settled into the rhythms and realities of days with a babe-becoming-toddler. I realize I have embraced this new identity.
I think about how much I struggled with it at first, with the profound shifts to my life and time and body and identity. I resisted being seen as only a mother (or often, not seen; taken for granted; minimized).
A year ago, as I can barely remember but Facebook Memories reminds me, we had a month-old newborn on our hands, grandparents safely back in their home, my husband back at work.
The baby girl had not come with instructions, and yet had been entrusted to us, as I remember frequently and sincerely remarking on: “I can’t believe we have a baby in our house! Is this OK, that we have a baby in our house? Oh my gosh, I have no idea what I’m doing! I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I can’t believe they sent us home with the baby!”
When she snuggled, falling asleep on me, I thought it was sweet but mostly wondered whether she would stay asleep if I got up to pee. When my husband got home, I would thrust the baby at him, crying about how smothered and tired I felt after nursing her all day.
It’s just really not very rewarding, for a while. The smiles come eventually, and then giggles and coos, just in time, but this relationship now - this is what I knew I had to hold out for and trust in.
Now, to be preferred by my daughter, singled out by her, chosen by her for hugs and holding and safety and security, hearing her murmur “mama,” receiving open-mouthed “kisses” on my cheek - this is so heartwarming and soul-filling and deeply good.
Embracing my identity as mama is easier with the sweet moments, but challenges and self-doubt still visit, of course. Last Thursday was a fair snapshot of motherhood:
When I picked up Penelope Leach’s very good book and perused the section on cognitive and social-emotional development from one to two and a half years, I became totally engrossed.
I hadn’t fully appreciated how my background as an educator would help me facilitate learning for a new human. I got really excited about experiments and exploring and outings to come, things that had seemed very far off until I suddenly found myself with a walking, beginning-to-talk-and-sign toddler.
I was reading along until I came to the part where she discusses leaving your child at nursery school or preschool for the first time. As Leach considered the child’s point of view, being left in a new place under a new adult’s care, she sketched the parent’s experience, peering through the window in the door after you’ve left to see if your child is looking for you or crying.
I welled up, imagining it - and then I started sobbing.
When my husband came home soon after, I was still crying: “I can’t imagine dropping her off at school. Maybe we’ll homeschool. Yes, maybe that’s it. Oh my gosh, I’m not going to be able to do it. Can’t she just stay little forever??”
The babe I had wanted freedom from, to get space away from, now my cherished companion. Tears of frustration transformed into tears of love. What a difference a year makes.
We peeked into her room, where she lay sleeping face-down as usual, head wedged into a corner, diaper butt pushed into the air, arms by her side in a gesture of surrender. All of her lovies were strewn on the floor, as well as her blanket, and a sock was half-off: the efforts expended as she chattered to herself before finally succumbing to sleep.
When she woke up a few minutes later, hair mussed and cheeks rosy, she was all snuggly and we took these pictures. I was so grateful to have a chance to capture the joy.
The magical moment was immediately followed by a torture session with the Nose Frida and two adults restraining a flailing, shrieking, mucus-streaked version of this same happy little girl. When will we get some good pictures of that?
Fellow new moms: What helps you embrace your #momlife and new identity?