It’s funny how a visit to the hospital still brings on the pregnancy déjà vu. I had a moment in the parking garage on Monday, checking to make sure I’d left enough room next to the other car to get my big belly through the door. Oops.
No big belly here. My “baby” turns three today, in fact, and I was only at the hospital for my “Hey, You’re 40!” routine mammogram. Nice to know that even though the baby factory is closed, there are still plenty of opportunities to slip on a hospital gown and get probed. Standing there at an awkward angle while the tech carefully spread out each breast on the cold surface like a homemade pie crust, it really wasn’t much different from all those ultrasounds and blood tests of yesteryear.
Except, of course, it was completely devoid of that deliciously giddy prospect of a new baby, which takes the edge off of just about any unpleasant medical procedure. Even now, walking around that hospital is like flipping through a photo album of precious memories. (Aw, there’s the waiting room where I downed that bottle of noxious orange stuff for the gestational diabetes test! And there’s the hallway where I had all those contractions while waiting to be admitted!)
Did I mention my baby girl is THREE today? Three. Older than her big brother was when she was born. I wrote about her baby days for her birthday last year, and I’m so glad I did. Reading back over it now, there are so many details I’d already almost forgotten.
Where did that baby disappear to? This past year she’s grown so beautifully into her child-self, from the full head of hair to the full-fledged love of Bill Nye the Science Guy. She speaks in complete, thoughtful sentences now, always with a pressing story to tell. She attempts jokes and responds to them with a finely honed fake laugh. She can sit next to us at Taco del Mar and chomp down a black bean burrito with no help at all. There are plenty of tears and tantrums, of course, but for the most part she is sunshine itself. Everything about her shines – her mischief, her imagination, her absolute joy in her favorite things.
I thought I would be missing babies by now. And I do, sort of. I’m always happy to see one bobbing along in his Moby wrap or flapping her arms joyously at something shiny. But at the same time, I can definitely feel my own baby window closing. In a good way. I can look at another baby without the compelling biological impulse to swoop it up and care for it. When I hold someone else’s baby, it doesn’t instantly zap me back to my own postpartum days anymore. It just feels like . . . holding a baby.
What I really miss is my babies. Or, rather, I miss the time I spent with them. I miss when it was enough to bundle them up in ducky pajamas and just sit around listening to each other breathe. I miss heading out for long, dreamy walks with a baby snoozing contentedly in her wrap. I miss when the “firsts” were innocent and easy. Baby’s first laugh. Baby’s first ride on the playground swing.
Mostly, I think I miss that intangible bliss of the transition to parenthood itself. Yes it was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t want to go back to the sleepless nights. But the stretch of it all . . . realizing we were capable of raising a newborn at all (and then another one!), and finding those little corners of pure happiness amid the chaos . . . I’ve never experienced anything quite like that. I used to tell people it felt like getting pushed off a cliff at the very moment you discover you’ve had wings all along.
The Christmas season is already so evocative, with its twinkling lights, carols, and whatnot; ready-made for nostalgic warm fuzzies. And each year I realize a little more just how truly amazing and special that first Christmas season was, welcoming our new baby. Our daughter. Little sister. The final member of a nuclear family which, for a long time, had been largely hypothetical.
The previous years had been a rapid current of transitions – the move to Seattle, new jobs, the new house, the marriage, the miscarriages, the birth of our first child. And now, with this final tremendous change, with the nights getting longer and our loved ones gathering to celebrate the holiday, we were finally ready to settle here for a while. Things would still keep changing constantly, of course. But at least we’d established a setting and a cast of characters. And with that, a new chapter was ready to begin.
And here we are. Three years of driving a station wagon with two car seats in the back and saying things like “Don’t ‘But Mommy’ me!” without irony. Three years of gathering them both into my lap for stories and silliness. Three years of being a team with these incredibly smart, funny, constantly evolving little people. They never cease to amaze me, and these have been some of the happiest years of my life.
Happy birthday, Little Girl.