Parenting H

Category: growing up

Your baby does not want to be held in cradle to nurse at bedtime anymore. You have always started bedtime this way, ever since he learned to nurse, but the last few times you tried he has latched for only a second or two before throwing himself back in your arms. He wants to nurse lying on the bed, and so you do. You nurse on the first side murmuring Wherever You Go: My Love Will Find You as he twists and kicks his leg into the air. He unlatches and rolls away, but does not race to the foot of the bed like he used to and resists less when you pull him back. You nurse on the second side, singing Taps, then Simple Gifts, Over the Rainbow, and Stewball. Sometimes he unlatches and relatches. When he unlatches and rolls away unsettled you switch to the other side while continuing to murmur and hum. You switch back and forth until you lose track of how many times it has been, and then he rolls away and lies quietly babbling to himself. You rub his back. He rolls around before finally settling on his tummy, and you rub his back some more as you watch him drift off to sleep without the help of nursing.

You look at him sprawled out asleep on the bed. You see the baby from the NICU, the baby you brought home from the hospital, and the baby you had just before he turned one, but all of these babies exist only in your mind’s eye. The baby asleep on the bed next to you is a little boy. He is your baby, but he is not really a baby anymore. The reality of this hits you, and you almost cry. You feel the tension of holding simultaneously the sadness of letting go of the baby he used to be and the joy of watching him grow into the person he is to be. It is not the first time you have been caught in this in-between place. The sweet and the bitter, the happy and the sad, the pulling close and the letting go collide often in parenting H. As you watch him sleeping, you bounce between joy and sadness before your mind comes to rest on the little boy next to you, not as he was or will be, but just as he is.

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Some Things I Want to Remember About the Toddler* I Have Right Now

The way he hooks his left arm around my right when I hold him. That he gets excited about the bucket swing at the park, opening and closing any kind of door, and the morning light cast on the walls through windows and blinds. The way he navigates while in my arms by shifting his weight and pointing his tiny index finger this way and that. His laughter. The not so subtle way he pulls at my shirt to let me know that he would like some milk right now thank you very much. The grand jetes he does while nursing side lying. The way his arms thrust from his body and his legs scissor in and out in full body expression of his excitement. The seriousness with which he studies his board books. The way he flips onto his belly and races with laughter to the foot of the bed to practice pulling up, over and over, at bedtime. His open mouthed kisses. The warmth of his head against my cheek as we settle together in bed. That he is, even though a toddler, still my baby.

*H is a toddler. A toddler!

Some Things I Want to Remember About the Baby I Have Right Now

The sweep of his red-tinted hair across his forehead. The thickness of his feet. The way he curls into me as we nurse side lying, one tiny foot resting on my thigh, the other pressed into my abdomen. His milky baby breath. The way he reaches around himself to touch my leg in the middle of play, as if to make sure I’m still there. The fullness of his cheeks. The way his right eyebrow wrinkles when he furrows his brow. The way he curls his toes toward the soles of his feet. The way he lifts his arms away from his torso when I ask “Up, up?” The way he ever so slightly reaches towards me when he is held by someone else that lets me know I am home to him. His large hazel eyes. His delicate pincer grasp. The way his breathing slows and his arms fall from his body as he nurses to sleep. His easy, wide-mouth baby smile. The weight and warmth of his body in my arms. The downy softness of his hair against my cheek.

One day you look up and realize that your baby doesn’t spit up much anymore. He still does occasionally, yes, but not near as often as he used to. When did that change? One month ago? Two?

You’re not sure, but you suddenly miss that baby. It’s not the spitting up you miss, although you had grown quite accustomed to and comfortable with always being covered in spit up. It’s the other things about that baby – the way he always rested his heavy head on your shoulder when you held him. The easy way you could flip him around to nurse at the second breast. The way you had to support his head and neck when you sat him up to burp him. The way he raised his arms, as if in salute, while you patted and straightened his back to help him burp. The deep ferociousness of those burps when they finally came. The deep slate blue of his newborn eyes.

You feel nostalgic already for the not so distant past. You revisit it, but you don’t stay too long, because time doesn’t stop. And you don’t want to miss the baby you have right now.

I was studying H’s hands while nursing him to sleep tonight. He has rubber band wrists, dimpled knuckles, and little hammocks hanging on the palm side of his fingers from the knuckles to the first joints. His hands are small and deliciously plump.

I thought about my impressions of his hands when he was first born. His pinkie fingernails were so small that they could barely be seen. They were, of course, visible, but they were very, very small. His thumbs also seemed impossibly small. Holding his hand felt like holding something fragile and delicate.

As I was studying H’s hands tonight, I marveled at how huge his little hands have become. And that it’s all because we nurse. Amazing.