I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page February 20th, 2016. My daughter turned 9 that day. The week of her birthday I had a slow (and awful. It was awful.) realization that we are halfway to my baby being 18 years old and a legal adult. 9 birthdays in, 9 more and she would be an actual, real, legal adult citizen. It was overwhelming, and that’s an understatement.
Anyway, here we have it.
On this day, 9 years ago, I distinctly recall asking my doctor if we could possibly go home and have a baby another day. I wasn’t ready today, actually. I was 22 years old and knew exactly nothing about what it takes to mother a child. Can’t we just all slow down and take a breather for a bit, do this all another day? Turns out, as you’re being wheeled to the OR for an emergency c-section is not the time to ask for a mulligan. I admitted to my doctor I hadn’t even READ that chapter in my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book because I just didn’t think I would need it. At that point I realized what should have been obvious: no one needs that chapter until they need it. I WASN’T READY. But there we were. It was happening, ready or not.
That night, holding my baby in my hospital bed with some ridiculous inflating compression boots on my legs, I suddenly had a terrifying realization that I later confessed to my future husband: they were going to let me leave this building in a few days with this baby. Without anyone stopping me, asking important questions, like ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ I was now in charge of a tiny human. Completely, fully responsible for a life. This little bitty life.
Somehow we survived that first year. I could walk the path from my side of the bed to the front door and back with my eyes closed, humming and “shhhh”ing and bouncing each step from weeks 4-8. I mastered the art of giving a tiny squirming baby medicine that tasted like mouthwash. I figured out how to tie a wrap in the dark as well as in a parking lot without letting the ends drag on the pavement. I figured out the right temperature for bath water, and I never let her slip like I was so terrified I would. I figured out how to do homework while feeding and burping a baby. I realized baby socks are stupid. I learned that poop does not abide by any laws of physics, and it CAN go over a baby’s shoulders and this will always happen at the WORST TIMES, and white baby clothing is a cruel joke. I realized you don’t actually want your baby to crawl when you think you do, and watching them take steps at 10 months old is simultaneously incredibly exciting and terrifying. I learned to never challenge the universe when you think the day “just can’t get any worse”, because it will. Someone can always vomit.
Over the years, I have watched that tiny, terrifying, beautiful, squeaky, squishy baby grow into one of the most amazing human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing. A person who is amazingly kind, with such spunk in her spirit, and just the most beautiful amount of weird and goofy.
What was so hard for me to see on Day One in my panic is so clear now: I am The Luckiest.
I have learned more about myself as a person as I watched my reflection in those tiny blue eyes. I have seen parts of myself I’m not proud of and I’ve been humbled more times than I can count. I have cried tears of every kind; happy, sad, laughing, nervous, angry tears…I’ve cried them all. I have laughed more than I ever thought possible and smiled so much my face hurt. I’ve wanted to freeze time over and over, and yet all at the same time, could not wait for what was yet to come.
And so here we are. Right smack in the middle. 9. I fiercely miss the days of carrying my girl on my hip, with her head on my shoulder. We’re at a point where it feels a bit unnecessary to reach for her hand to cross a parking lot with me. She hasn’t needed my help to get dressed in years, but I’m no longer making the “Oh, she dresses herself” excuse because she is now capable of putting together outfits that don’t require explanations (usually). Problems that seemed so huge just years ago, like potty training and tying shoes, are laughably minor in comparison to the obstacles I know are coming for my blue eyed baby in the next half. Girls, boys, school, body image, power struggles, learning how to drive a car, learning how to wreck a car, figuring out when to play it safe and when to make that leap.
The whole first half I realize now was about making me into the adult, the mom, the person I was always meant to be. There will never be the right words to make that baby, the one who made me a mama, understand the amazing bit of power she held in her chubby little fingers. But now, there’s more to learn, more to teach, more to hear, more to say, more to do. And I’ll hold her hand as long as she will let me. Ready or not, here we come.