Last night, I sat down to do something I get to about once every six weeks. It was a journal entry for my 8-month-old daughter. I bought the leather-bound beaut when she was about 8 weeks old, didn’t write my first entry in it until 12 weeks, and it’s been sporadic. But it’s very special to me. Some of the pages reveal dried up tears from the early days when I would wax poetic about life and love to her.
Every entry starts the same. A brief rundown of what she’s up to, some stats on her size, sleep, and eating patterns. And then… the tears. “I want you to know that no matter what you do, whom you love, where you go, I will always have your back.” Or these words I almost choked while writing last night: “I am always your mum first, before I am anything else. You will be many things before my daughter — you will have days, weeks, stretches of time where you want and need to push my aside. But darling girl, I will wait.”
Inevitably, I always end up in tears by the end of the entries and I think that’s okay. I also rarely get a chance to put pen to paper and that’s also okay. Because as a mum, I’m busy. My plate is full. But even in the stress, among the piles of dishes and laundry, the unmet deadlines I have to cram in after she’s in bed and my husband is tucked in to a deep slumber, it’s all okay. Because now I’m a mummy. And my heart is so full.
In the early days, I blamed the hormones. But the more I get to know my daughter, the weepier I become about her. First time she slept through the night? Amazing. And sad. First time I felt teeth cutting through her gums? Relief. And sadness. Crawling, and now standing up on her own… I am beaming through the tears. Last weekend my husband and I realised — to his delight and my terror — that we have to start planning her first birthday.
And so it continues. On toward the next new development with a heart that is so overflowing, it sometimes feels heavy. That’s the best way to describe it. Yes, there are hard days and stressful moments. But the essence of motherhood is what keeps me going through it all. What keeps me waking up and going to bed with a grateful spirit. Because now that I’m a mummy, I’m the sappiest, most sentimental person I know.
I love the way she waves at me (and the world), massive eyes full and bright and seeking. I confess I hold her too long after she’s fallen asleep in my arms. In the kitchen, my husband is cooking dinner and I should go. But I need five more minutes, okay, make that six. Or ten. To hold her and be still with her, watch the rising and falling of her chest.
I feel guilty when I’m taken away from her, whether it’s to work or do something for myself. Not guilty because she’s spending time with her father, a family member, or a trusted sitter. Guilty because within moments of the sweet release, my unfettered feet hitting the pavement, the warm sun on my face and my arms free to carry a handbag, or a coffee, instead of a child, it hits me. Something’s missing.
I confess I spend too much money on her. Buying things she doesn’t understand or appreciate because we can’t yet communicate about any material possessions she might desire. I’ll have to curb the spending when she’s older, and no, she doesn’t need yet another hair bow or pair of fancy shoes, or noise-making toy. But I splurge from the corners of my wallet every extra ounce I can squeeze out. Because I want her to have things that she can look back on and remember with the same kind of sentimentalism I will.
I confess to putting her before you. Yes, that’s right, if you are reading this, my daughter comes before you. I will whip a boob out in public to feed her and I don’t care what you think about it. I will stop what I’m doing to care for her even if that means your text messages go unanswered for hours or days. I will cancel our plans if her nap or mood doesn’t allow it. Does that mean it’ll always be this way? Of course not, she’s a baby. But! When her needs become less permeating and more spread out, it will still be true in a way. Because when she’s 13 and she gets her period on her skirt at school, I will drop everything to figure out a solution for her. And ditto when she’s 22 and gets evicted because her roommate forgot to pay the rent. And if she has her own children someday, forget it. I’ll be there every step of the way.
You see, now that I’m her mother, I’m a lovesick, pathetic creature. I’m strong, smart, and capable in the real world. But for her, I’m just melted wax. The thought of her, now sleeping quietly in the next room, fills my hurt to bursting. I confess it’s just too much. I’ll keep writing in that journal, when I’m not bent over my computer working, or my kitchen sink doing her dishes, or the side of the tub fishing out her precious toys. When I get the fleeting moments to jot down how I feel about her, I’ll do it. So she’ll know. But I’ll never forget. When I’m old and gray and looking back on life, I’d rather have the memories to show for it, than nothing at all.
The thought that she’ll one day pick up and leave me reduces me to tears. Yes, there are a few rolling down my cheeks right now. But even if there was only one letter, not a journal full, I’d just want her to remember this: “…no matter what you do, whom you love, where you go, I will always have your back.” And I will always, always love her. More than anyone else ever could.
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