As They Are Now Is The Very Best

October 25, 2010 at 9:36 am 5 comments

When I became pregnant with Echo it was like my world stopped. In my mind I was pregnant, I was going to have a baby, and that’s where the story ended. I knew logically that babies grew into toddlers, then kids, then pre-teens. In fact I had watched both Bella and Xi turn from chubby babes to leggy tykes, but somehow when it was my turn to actually give birth my mental imagery and certainly my planning ended at baby. I figured she would always wear the onesies stacked in my top dresser drawer, she’d always wear the puffy booties, always fit in the crook of my arm.

I knew my belly would out-grow my jeans. I knew I would eventually quit my job. Hiking dogs up snowy mountains with a belly would work for a little while, but those same mountains and drooly dogs with an infant? Probably not. So my vision ended with birth. Part of this limited view is in part due to the very real “pregnancy brain” but also to the fierceness with which I was approaching my role, the steel-like focus. I was doing nothing with more intensity than growing that baby, almost like I had never done a single other thing in my life until that moment. I continued, of course, to wildly love and take care of our older girls. Riding three-year old Xi on the hump of my belly, baking muffins, vacuuming the hairy carpet, reading stories and whipping up batches of play-doh. But all the while I had baby on my brain, and even though the older girls were growing before my eyes I never imagined this baby as anything other than a forever baby.

But she’s not.

Today I am only even allowed to call her “baby” if I remind her it’s just a mushy love name, not an indicator of her actual size. She reminds me every day that she grows during each day, not just on her birthday.

I don’t know if I ever wanted her to stay a baby or if that is just as far as my imagination went, but now when I look at photos of her, even the most full-of-thigh-rolls, eat-her-up-on-the-spot, kind of images I don’t long for that girl. I love this girl, the one next to me in a black turtleneck. The big one with blueberry smears on her chin and a thoughtful look on her face.

I think unless it is a particularly horrible moment, perhaps with kicking and screaming involved, the current version of our children is the best. Who they are today is the very best age, the very best stage.

Sure, as a baby it was cute when Echo found her toes, when she made signs to let us know what she wanted. But today she is discovering the delight of thighs clad in corduroy rubbing together. Today she is looking through a kaleidoscope trying to get one eye to look and the other to close and needing to smash the uncooperative one without simultaneously closing the other. Today she is finding out what happens when you stare at the standing lamp while closing your eyes and rubbing your eyelids, the swirling black, orange, and red shapes that swirl before her like a good acid trip. She is doing three-year old things and they are just as cute as those baby things, but better. Because they are happening now.

And I get to watch and remember, both when I discovered the wicky-wicky sounds of corduroy thighs but also when her sisters did. Those sisters are bigger than ever, their heads reaching my armpits and above, and yet even though I can no longer carry either of them, can no longer see a trace of baby fat, this is the version of them I like best as well. Xi is learning to read and spell and carrying a fairy book around with her everywhere we go and I find it the most endearing thing I have ever seen. Bella is inching her toes into the big-kid world and only yesterday we found ourselves in the underwear section of a department store to try on that particular undergarment, so mundane in the grown-woman world but so blow-your-mind-exciting when it’s your first one.

And this is the stuff worth living for. The photos of yesteryear are not. If I were to talk to my pregnant self I would say: Yes. You will have a baby, and yes, she will be the most important endeavor you have ever begun. But it doesn’t stop there. She will grow and change and not only is that okay, it is delightful and just as things should be. You will not be able to live the baby days over, but you also will not mourn them. You will love your girls more each day and always love the moment before you the very most.

It is a relief actually.

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Entry filed under: life lessons. Tags: , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shelly  |  October 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Beautiful!! And very true!
    Thank you

    Reply
  • 2. Jennifer  |  October 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I love this post. It is so nice to hear that another mama isn’t mourning the loss of babyhood. My “baby” is 2, and I couldn’t be happier for him. I’ve always thought that every stage he’s in is the coolest. I don’t want him to grow up too fast OR too slowly.
    I do still call him baby, though. 🙂

    Reply
  • 3. 6512 and growing  |  October 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Exactly, exactly, exactly.
    This is how I tamp down the nostalgic side of me that wants to cry to the creaky sounds of violins and my own warped memories. This truly is the very best time, and they are at their very best.

    Reply
    • 4. nataliechristensen  |  October 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm

      creaky sounds of violins, I love that. I imagine even when they are older, when we sit down with our thirty-year olds and slurp soup we will be loving it too.

      Reply
  • 5. Myers  |  October 27, 2010 at 7:34 am

    So bizarre — I was just thinking this same thing the other day; my son is turning one tomorrow, and I was feeling just a whiff of nostalgia for tiny-baby days. I realized I thought I’d feel SO SAD when he hit the one-year mark and his true baby days were over … but I find myself happy for each day, joyful to see what he discovers and does and what his newest babble will be. Truly, you nailed it — “as they are now is the very best.” And what a nice counterpoint to the “oh, THIS is a great age — just wait till he’s three — that’s when it’s not so fun anymore” or “oh, he’s so sweet now, but when he hits two …” I found it so refreshing to read what you wrote, about Xi and Bella in particular because they’re older.

    I, too, had that thing when I was pregnant — of thinking he’d always be a baby, always fit in onesies and we’d always be using our blankets and bottles. My mind just kinda stopped there. My father-in-law, after the baby arrived, would always compare him to his cousin, who’s a year older, saying, “Next year, he’ll be C’s size!” And I couldn’t wrap my head around it, and I sorta didn’t think it’d even happen! I don’t know why. Perhaps because he was my first one, and I have very little experience with babies, so I couldn’t picture him older … or we’d had such a long, long struggle with infertility that the furthest I ever hoped to get was a successful pregnancy and a live birth — and that took all my mental focus. But interesting to hear I’m not the only one who thought this.

    Reply

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