Long before I ever got pregnant – long before I even knew that I would one day want a baby, desperately – one of my very, very dearest friends told me this:
When you have a baby, the one thing that you must never forget is that you WILL forget. You’ll forget how scared you were, how anxious, how tired, how frustrated. But you’ll also forget how tiny she was, and how she smelled, and what she sounded like and how she looked at you. So always, always – in each and every moment – try to commit what you’re experiencing to memory. Remind yourself that you’re going to forget the details, and that you will miss the details, desperately. Remember that no matter how tired or afraid you are, you are one day going to wish, hard, that you could have those moments back. Even the scariest moments, the hardest moments – you’ll want them back. Never forget that. Try to cherish each and every one of those moments for what they are, and hold on to them as long as you can.
I’ve never forgotten that. Those words (which exist in my memory only in paraphrase) echoed through my mind and heart during all the long, wakeful nights of the first weeks and months with our new WonderBaby, during the first, excruciatingly painful and frustrating weeks of breastfeeding, during our first trip to the ER with our feverish infant, during the first bad fall, the first tears of anger, the first flailing of tiny, furious fists. During the depression. During the highs, and the lows, and all of the in-betweens, I remembered this: that I would, one day, forget, and that I would regret, to the bottom of my soul, that forgetting.
And so I struggled to commit everything to memory. Every sniff of her wee head in the dark of night, every sharp tug on a ravaged nipple, every bite, every giggle, every paralyzing moment of fear, every overwhelming instant of insecurity – I stopped there, in each of those moments, and tried to preserve them. I tried to really feel them, to really live them. So that I could remember them, all of them.
It didn’t work, of course. As promised, I can no longer remember exactly what it felt like to be woken in the night by her plaintive cries. Nor can I remember the fresh new scent of her head, or what it felt like to have her mouth on my breast. But I can remember what I felt. I can remember that I paused, and that I let myself feel. I can remember thinking, and feeling, in the moments of my greatest fear or anxiety and in the periods of my darkest, most inexplicable sadness that these things bound me to her, and that they were woven tightly into the tapestry of my life with her, and that one day I would try to search out those threads, try to identify those threads and tease them out so that I could remember. I can remember thinking: you’ll want these moments back. And I do.
But you can never get those moments back. You can only live them. And you only get to live them once, all of them, the good and the bad.
So love those moments. All of them. Don’t be fearless: feel the fear and embrace the fear (and the anxiety and the sadness and the frustration) and pay attention as it weaves its way into the tapestry of this new, extraordinary life with this new, extraordinary love.
This post is dedicated to Liz and Christina and Tammie, on the occasion of their baby shower, and to fearless (or, better, consciously fearful) mothers everywhere.
Because you all know.
(Check out links to other dedicatory shower posts here, and the Mother-Talk Fearless round-up here. And read more about fearlessness here.)
(And prayers to Tammie, please, because she’s started her tapestry already, and it’s been difficult so far. Good wishes that there’s not too much fear for her to embrace.)