This month, I have been thinking about the time before you were here.
After all – seven months is not that long of a time. It feels long, certainly. You are now such an integral part of our lives that we cannot imagine living life without you – even if you’ve only been with us seven months, and the nine months before that.
And this month has been a good month for reflecting upon what our lives did feel like before you were here – you were sick, for the first time(s), from your sixth into your seven month. First a high fever from a virus, then a cold, then a touch of the stomach bug that’s hit everywhere lately. Those days were hard – it was hard to see you suffer. We were so lucky to make it so long – six months – without you getting sick. It was so emotionally painful to hold your hot, limp body in my arms, to have you snooze fitfully and wake up with bleary eyes and a troubled expression. Why is this happening to me? Why haven’t you fixed it yet?
And they were hard days, physically, for your papa and me. We didn’t want to see you suffer, first and foremost – but having a sick baby is tough. It means taking off work and getting into the doctor and waiting fifty minutes before we even see him, while you cry and cry. It means leaning over the exam table to hold your little flailing arms and legs down so he can scope your ears, it means holding rock steady and strong as you scream and scream in protest. It means trying not to cry watching you so mad at the circumstance, it means reminding ourselves that what we do is helping you, even if you hate it in the moment.
And a sick baby means even longer nights, and earlier mornings. No parents is ever well rested, and we’re lucky enough that you enjoy big chunks of sleep already, that your papa and I aren’t more tired than we are. We’re lucky, we know it. But you sick meant more middle of the night wake-ups, it meant there were nights when you didn’t want to sleep at all, and I sat up bouncing your fitful self while some movie played on the TV in the otherwise dark room, your papa napping on the couch as I watched the hours slip away before my alarms for work would go off.
It could have been easy to slip into bitterness, or resentment on those nights. Or on those mornings when your poor upset belly woke you early, before you maybe normally would have gotten me up. I could have been cranky, I could have been grumpy – and yet, oddly, I wasn’t.
What a blessing it was, to have these memories come to me, on those long nights and early mornings – those memories of before, before you were here, with us, belonging to us.
We wanted you for a long time, Ariadne. I hope you know that. I particularly, wanted you – needed you – for a long time before you became a reality.
There were so many days and so many nights that I had this empty spot in my heart, waiting for my baby. There were so many days and nights that I cried because yet again, I found out I’d have to wait longer before the idea of you could become a reality. In retrospect, I can realize I am lucky – I didn’t have to wait as long as some, and I certainly didn’t have to deal with never, because here you are – I know that I was just impatient, and every week and every month that passed seemed like an eternity.
The thing is – I felt like I knew, deep in my heart – that I was waiting for you, specifically. It’s one of those things that sounds ridiculous, to some. And because of that, it seemed foolish to me sometimes. But part of me just knew I was waiting on my baby – my little girl, this specific child that was meant to be with me. It wasn’t just the idea of a child, a baby that I craved – I felt deep in my soul that I knew you, and I was waiting for you – my little rosy-cheeked, cheerful, big-eyed little girl baby. I knew you, and I missed you, somehow. I missed you before I knew you, because I was waiting on you. You had a place here, first in my tummy, and then in my arms. You had a place in my heart before you ever came earthside.
And that made the waiting harder – it made the waiting to conceive harder, and it made the waiting to bring you here, in our arms and our home, harder than even I expected. And when you got here – you were so new, so fresh. And I was so new to mothering. For so many weeks and months, my only goal was just to survive, to keep both of us as healthy and happy as possible as we learned about each other, how to work together.
But now, in this last month, as strange as it might sound – I feel for the first time that I recognized you. Ah, there you are, my baby. There’s that girl I knew in my heart for so many years before I had you. There’s that girl I was waiting for. I see you, and it’s not just, there’s my baby, she belongs to me – I recognize you. You’re my girl, and you’re so familiar and dear and precious. You have so much personality – I see your papa in you, in so many ways, and I see so much of myself in you. Sometimes we look in the mirror together, or take a picture or send a snapchat, and our eyes are so the same, our smiles. You smile and smile, you laugh and laugh, you hum and sing – and how could you not belong to us, your papa and me?
This is what I thought of, on the nights your papa got me up at one AM, because he’d been up and just needed a break. This is what I thought of, when I nursed you and bounced you, and cleared your snotty nose even though it made you mad enough to cry real tears: all the times I had cried because I missed you, cried because you weren’t here yet – all the times I felt this ache for something that wasn’t real yet – as the hours ticked away, from one am to two am to three am, three thirty – even though I knew my alarms stated going off at 5:30 and I was in for a full day – I didn’t mind so much.
Sure, would I have rather all of us were in bed, sleeping peacefully? Absolutely. Did I wish you were healthy and not in pain or discomfort? Of course.
But each month flies by, faster than the first. Each day, I put you to bed, and yes, there’s some relief there, the first time all day that I can just breathe, and just be me, again for a little while – but then I miss you. We lay you down in your bed and we shut the door and walk away, and some nights I want to go right back in pick you up and hold you again. I want to remind myself you’re real, and not going anywhere. The days pass into weeks, and the weeks into months, and here you are – seven months old.
I don’t mind the hassle. I don’t mind the exhaustion. I don’t mind the dirty diapers and the endless laundry. I might get cranky, I might need three cups of coffee a day, I might need to vent to your aunties on a particularly hectic, trying day – but I remind myself: This is what you wanted. This is what you prayed for. This is what was missing and this is what made your heart hurt. And now it’s here, you have it, and you can only embrace it – the joys and the challenges alike.
Never ever for a single moment, Ari Grey, do I want you to doubt how much you were loved, how much you were wanted. And if you ever forget – here’s a letter, waiting for you, to remind you.
All my love,
– outside time, looking at trees and birds and squirrels
– taking socks off
– sticking anything in her mouth
– her turtle blocks and exosaucer
– being sung to and trying to mimic sounds
– animal noises, especially ducks and sheep
– carrots, butternut squash, prunes
– nursing AND bottles
– kicking her legs, especially in the bath
– grabbing Papa’s beard or Mama’s hair
– pants and long sleeves
-being forced to wear socks on her feet
-peas and green beans
-being invited to nap anywhere that isn’t her home
-sitting up, for longer and more steadily each day
-grasping and holding
-pushing up and is slowly working on getting her back end up into more of a hands-and-knees position – no crawling yet!