On Mothering Young Children
This post originally appeared on our old blog, Born to be a Bride.
On August 16th, 2017, our little family welcomed a second daughter, 7 pounds, 3 ounces, 19 inches of pure delicious. Growing up all I ever wanted was to be a mom (well, and a writer, too, but that was far second). Having a second child has come both naturally and shockingly, but it’s a continuation of a plan and the best possible one.
I’ve been floating around outside my body, seemingly, this past month. The truest form of sleep deprivation combined with nearly burdening love has left me both acutely aware of the moment and swimming in an endless sea comprised entirely of emotion.
No one could have ever made me see, ahead, how much I’d love a second. How swiftly my heart would double in size to accommodate room for Marigold next to her sister, Willow. But here we are and isn’t it lovely despite its own form of relentless messiness?
My second daughter is her own person already in newbornness. Mystified yet focused, she follows our faces and bodies as they shift shapes and spaces. Her sleep patterns keep me perpetually exhausted but allow us quiet time alone in the dead of the night. There are moments I feel wrecked, the exhaustion so acute it is like a punishment I can’t seem to fulfill.
But more than anything, I feel grateful. Watching her little chest rise and fall in succession with mine, tracing the shape of her soft cheeks with my finger while half of my brain tries to figure out how to transition her back into the bassinet and the other half tells me to slow down and just be present. For this is the constant pull of motherhood.
I gather that the popular thing is to resent the newborn stage and believe me, I understand why. But I find myself in a different emotional state during this tender time. Last time I wrote about it, I received both support and brutal, ugly criticism from every corner of the earth. This time, my feelings remain. So as always, I write them as they are.
This fleeting slice of time is more precious to me than anything. I never want to forget the shape of her tiny lips, the puppy-like squeaks she makes just before waking. I wish I could watch her lower body fold into fetal position forever, or at least be guaranteed to remember the feeling of her doing so every time I pick her up.
I pray the scent of her tiny head and the sweet wrinkles of brand-new skin beneath a layer of fuzzy hair never escape my memory. That I can close my eyes at 80 and picture kissing it. That in the night when she cries out, it’s for me — mother, home, sense of safety. I can wish it true all I want, but it won’t be. That’s the dual gift and torture of motherhood, after all. The reality of the moment fades, and with it go the memories.
I already know that some day soon the legs will stop folding, frog-style toward my chest. That eventually the scent will go, too. Her cries will turn manipulative then disappear. The part of her that now manifests as determined to eat and be held, will turn into the headstrong, diva-like will of a toddler. And I hear, eventually a teen. (Heaven help me…)
One day she won’t reach for me, maybe won’t want me at all. One day my babies will be all grown up, this precious window of time simply a memory I can squint to see through cloudy glass. The crush of this reality smacks me in the face every time I allow myself to go there mentally, so mostly, I focus on today.
The truth is, nothing completes this tired, overflowing mama-heart like the curl of their fingers around my thumb. Nothing thanks me for the thankless work of raising young children like the love they give me, freely and firmly. There is a reason, now, I realize, that my dream was always to be a mother. It is in this role that I feel the most myself.
My dear daughters, I will love you both until my dying day. I wish I could bottle this time in our lives. Preserve it so I could spritz it on later when I need it. I know I’m going to need it.
When the kids are packed up and moved out, the house empty of child-laughter, void of dirty-sock messes, vacant of toys. When the curfews have been instated, ignored, and long since forgotten; the artwork packed away. When all that remains are the memories, I hope against hope I’ll still have them.
This is why I write our life, it becomes increasingly clear. So that one day I can look back and relive the moments that so sweetly introduced me to who I’m meant to be.