I made sure to get in some quality cuddling time last night with my girls. They are going with their dad for the next 10 days, and I’m going to miss them, nearly everything about them. I was trying to capture in a list what it is I love about them so much, but of course, that’s impossible. At some point last night, I just lay there and tried to remember the moment when I got to hold them for the first time.
With Mia, it was after an impossibly fast delivery that seemed so out-of-control. I had taken the birthing classes and thought I was prepared for labor with a side of epidural and a scrumptious baby at the end. Her heart rate was decelerating, it was nearly an emergency c-section; I got no drugs because of the heart rate, and I ended up giving birth, not through breathing techniques and pushing, but with the help of a vacuum and was so out-of-it with pain that I had no clue what was going on. I was so disappointed in the birth process and in myself for failing somehow, that I had screwed up the whole birth process in my ignorance… until they put her in my arms. I just remember feeling like my whole face was turning to mush, that I was melting inside. She was beautiful in a way that only a newborn can be beautiful, which is to say, not beautiful at all, but so wonderfully, miraculously human – a miniature mewing, nuzzling human, screaming their entrance into the world. That’s beautiful.
She’s still beautiful, and in the quiet moments last night after she (finally!) fell asleep, she lay, eyes closed, cheek cupped by her summer-tanned tiny hand and I thought about that first minute of her life, that first hour when she was new and I thought I had already failed and yet conquered the world. It was exciting and wholly terrifying.
With Wendy, we had an induction day — she would arrive on her soon-to-be Uncle Jon’s birthday (which is something of a growing trend in my family). What started as a regular induction went terribly wrong, though, and Wendy entered the world, not in a calming, semi-dark birthing room, but in the blinding white sterility of an OR. I didn’t get to hold her right away, not for several hours, she had jaundice and I was recovering. When I did get to hold her, she looked so much like her sister, but still really different. Her hair wasn’t curly, it was spiky and straight, she had an unsquished, rounded face and seemed to glow. I loved her, immediately and unconditionally, like her sister, but there was something else, there, a confidence in myself, even though I had even less control over her birth, I felt like I had a better grasp on doing the mom thing.
Last night, I moved Wendy to my bed, to snuggle up with her before she would go on vacation, returning nearly half a month older. At her age, 10 days makes a difference. Every day brings new words, changes, understanding. Half a month, when she’s only lived 32 months since that bright entrance into my world – I feel like a complete loser that I’m trying to fill my senses with her now, but in my investigation, I discovered that she smells like the soy milk she drinks – sweet like a fresh-baked cookie, she looks like my baby sister when she was young – big eyes, huge smile and lengthening brown hair. She has a velvety feel to her skin, yet, the baby in her has not vanished.
I drink them in, these children of mine, breathe them. They are, at once, my biggest achievement and my most difficult challenge. I drop tiny kisses on their foreheads and cheeks and store that plump kiddiness away in my mind. I want to bottle them up, distill that energy and attitude and effervescence, but for now, I’ll catalog my love for them here.
I think of the Bible that way. I read it and see God’s love letters to his children. I read that he loved me so much that he gave his perfect child, whose birth had been so serenely apt, whose life had culminated in a fulfillment of the law and prophecy, who had served God’s creation faithfully, gave that perfect child over to death. My children are by no means perfect, but I cannot imagine delivering them to death, sacrificing one of my children for the other — I don’t know how that feels, because I am selfishly holding onto their childhood, to the lingering baby smell and dimpled skin.