I think about writing this to you all the time. Every time I smell your silky chocolate brown hair or hold your pudgy fist, I think of it. As I watch you nursing, I often think, “I will never forget how you look in this exact moment.” But somehow, I do. I remember thinking the same exact thought with your brother and sister, that the moment would be etched perfectly on my brain. Yet now that they are bigger and their tiny baby selves morphed into the kids they are today, I can’t exactly put a finger on the moment that their babyhood slipped away, but one day, it was gone. They weren’t babies anymore. They were children. The plumpness had turned to long lean muscles. The innocence had turned to intention. The giggle had turned to a sense of humor! And one day, when I gathered them up in my arms, they were big and squiggly and . . . kids.
As babies, I reveled in them just the way I do for you, but knowing that I might not catch this moment of transformation that I both love and dread, I cling to each baby thing about you. Your twinkly eyes. Your feathery soft hair. Your pink pursed lips. Your velvet skin. Your sweet little half moon nails. Your giggling mouth. The way you peek over your shoulder mischieviously, on your hands and knees crawling away, waiting to be chased.
Now you are 1 year old, which means that your infancy is over. And you are my last baby. Unless God does something pretty amazing, I’ll never have another sweet little infant again. Now when I am nursing you, your sweet little sausagey legs hang over the edge of my lap. You’re so tall standing up with outstretched arms, leaning to take the step and then . . BAM . . plopping firmly down on your little diapered bottom. You have eight teeth. Eight!! You know how to make a funny face and make me laugh. You can cluck your tongue. And you can take a step. Soon you’ll take two. And three. And more.
Tonight when I held you, you had “little bigness”. Daddy laughs at me when I call it this, but it is the only way to describe how you can be so small, dependent, and helpless, enclosed in my arms, and yet, so heavy, dense with of life and breath, potential, future, freedom, and autonomy. You rest your sleepy soft head on my shoulder, clutch your blankie, and I think amazedly, “I’m holding my own child’s life; a whole future person, right here in my arms. How can she be so small? How can I be responsible for teaching and nurturing and caring for her? How can this person, who was once so tiny inside of me, be growing so quickly, displaying an identity her own, with so little help from me.” And of course, that always leads me to praying for you because I desperately need help with you. . . and your sister and brother.
I’ve read many books that describe romantic love and religious devotion, but I’ve yet to read anything that really can capture the heartrending aching depth of a mother’s love for her child. Because it is both the passion of the romantic and the awe of the worshiper that I feel as my heart and mind try to take in the depth of our relationship . . . since that first amazing moment when I knew you grew inside me.
When I think about my love for you, Addie, and Dylan, I find it impossible to comprehend how any mother could disbelieve in God. God, our parent, creates us in His image and gives us the amazing gift of emulating his experience as a life sustainer and parent. In our most creative, life giving act, we mothers are suffused with an unbreakable, unshakable joy and wonder because this baby’s life we sustain–the one we have been granted by God– is, paradoxically, dependent and free. As your mother, I can only guide and direct you, but ultimately, you have your own will apart from mine. It is unfathomable that my complex nuanced sense of love, thanks, and joy could be a result of anything other than a purposeful loving creative God, whose design for me to create requires me to see you through the lens with which He sees me. His creation of humanity in his image is echoed meagerly by us, human parents, as we attempt to pass our lives on to our children. Yet we don’t truly create like God; we simply reproduce. As I struggle to serve God in life, in motherhood, in marriage, I have to catch my breath thinking of how much greater His love is for me than what I can humanly feel for you, my baby girl.
And one day, in the not too distant future, you will start by saying “No,” and probably then one day, it will degenerate to you throwing something at me. Hopefully, it will not be a Weeble Wobble toy with an insanely heavy magnet bottom like the one your brother pitched at me a few hours ago, virtually crushing my hand. Instead of tottering on those plumpy legs toward my outstretched arms, you’ll be treading steadily off into the Kindergarten like your sister will do in just three weeks. You’ll develop habits and ideas and words all your own, not just the ones that we all prompt you with. Instead of being my baby, you’ll be Anika, a child, a girl, a teen, a woman, perhaps a mother as well. And I don’t even know what you’ll be like yet. It’s incredible to think that I hardly know you even though I know you better than any human.
Even though you’ll always be my baby, one day you won’t be a baby at all.
So before I forget to write it all down (since I’ve barely written two words in your babybook–so insane this year has been) . . .
And in case I do forget it (should you come home with loads of tattoos, piercings, wretched boyfriends, or worse) . . .
I adore you my sweet baby.