This night was different or, perhaps, I was just more aware. I heard whimpering from upstairs. Instead of a baby’s shrieks and squeals piercing the air in our home, my son’s voice was moseying downstairs in a drawn-out call from his crib “maa maa”. At that moment, I realized that his cries of need had changed into calls of want. I was not exactly sure when that transition happened, though.
As I walked upstairs to attend to him, the reality hit me -- my “baby” will never really be a baby again. I scooped him up in my arms, and he rested his head on my shoulder with a look of perfect peace about him, as if to say “Yeah, you came for me”. The dialogue in my head followed up: "I will always come for you and your sister whenever you call, from across the house or across the country." I walked across the hall and laid him down on our bed before climbing over to take my rightful position. Laying on my right side, pulling him close, we became two C shapes fitting as nicely together as ever before. As he cupped his hands around my breast and suckled himself back to sleep, I gazed down at him noting that his fingers seemed longer than they did just last week. His hands shifted form from one month to the next. His body was long and lean, his feet reaching near my knees. I traced his handprint with my eyes and drew a line gently across his knuckles. As my finger went back and forth a few times, I felt less dimpling and softness under my touch. I came to the conclusion: he is slowly losing his “baby hands." You know, the pillowy soft ones. His forearm housed a trail of scattered temporary tattoos. His palms told the story of his and his sister’s days painting and marking and creating messes. I thought about the falls he had taken off of his bike recently and the skinned knees and bruises that had appeared. I remembered the week before- standing over the sink and rubbing at grass stains on his pants. Life now sat apparently on his skin. He was no longer the untouched human I once held within me. No, it seemed in that exact moment he grew right up into a little boy. I bowed my head down to the top of his head, as I did most nights. I felt the mound of hair that grew from mere wisps. It seemed like I was time-traveling through warped spaces. In one moment, it does not seem that long ago when I was cradling his plump, insecure body close to me in the weeks following his birth. Then, in the next moment, it feels like I’ve known him forever- like there was no formal separation between the time before he existed and when he came to earth to meet us. I breathed in his smell, and it struck me. In some fleeting, intimate moments, like this one tonight, I catch a whiff of his infant self. Many moms know what I’m talking about- the baby smells, those heavenly, distinctive scents that sit at the top of your child’s head for an uncertain period of time. The smell that smells unlike any other thing you have ever sensed before. The one that varies from one of your children to the other. The aroma that is as unique to them as their fingerprint. Just as with most other things, it does fade away. Under the sweat, the sorrow, the musk and the muddiness of life, the baby scents will eventually disappear. That night, I found myself in a flood of tears as I rested my nose on his crown. I thanked God for allowing me to have another moment with this baby boy who was on the cusp of becoming someone different, changing with each minute of every day. I thanked God for allowing me to have a front-row seat to his life and that of his sister. I thanked God for allowing me one more night to take him in as who he is right now. I promised myself that I would not take these moments for granted because they pass so quickly and swiftly. And, these moments would string themselves together to make up the single sequence we proclaim to be our lives. These moments are the ones I’ll remember as I rock back and forth in my final days. These are the ones that will be on replay. I promised myself I would not hurry through or hustle around or sprint away from all of the little bits of life that are stitched together to create our story. The lovely. The sad. The disappointments, the celebrations, and the melancholy. I promised myself that I would be still enough to take it all in, to enjoy it all while it lasted. I promised myself to allow these moments, these experiences, and these small humans to change my heart for the better.
As many nights of rolling over to our kids in the bed and wondering what are we doing, I know deep down that in 10 and 20 years, I won’t wish I had more alone time, or more space in my bed, or my body back. I will not wish I had not spent as much time loving on, caring for, and nurturing my children as I do now. I will only wish to flip back to the memories and relive the experiences of being this close, this at peace, and this purely in love.