Today, you are nine months old. Today, you sit, playing independently with your toys, screaming “Mama” anytime anyone comes within two feet of you. You have eight teeth, blondish hair, gray eyes and a world of personality. You can sit, stand, crawl and take sideways steps holding onto various pieces of furniture.
You’ve gone from sleeping through the night to feeding at least four times. You kick Alex in the back and sleep horizontally between us, our bodies forming a sleepy H.
You paw my face and say “Mama” at least 100 times per day. You follow me around, you cling to me. It seems I am your world. And for as much as I roll my eyes at times or vow that I would trade my right eyeball for just five minutes alone with a glass of wine (someday!) and a novel, I know you will only need me for such an infinitesimal amount of time.
So, I respond to you. I sometimes make you wait just to test your patience (yeah, apparently you have none). Every time you say “Mama” I say “Dada,” suddenly eager to hear another word coming from your lips.
You giggle. You eat oats in the morning, smoothies at lunch and vegetables or legumes for dinner. You observe. You shove everything in sight into your mouth and never ever ever stop moving – even in sleep.
Together, we carry on conversations. Mostly “ahs” and “oohs” and “Really, Sophie?” “Look, Sophie!” “What’s that, Sophie?” “I love you, Sophie!”
All day, I watch you, I care for you, I feed you, I bathe you, I put you to sleep, I set you on the potty, I take you off the potty, I do laundry, I try and keep you stimulated, I let you wander.
For nine months, you have been my world, and I have been yours.
When I think of the nine months it took for you to grow inside of me… all the moments of uncertainty, all the hours spent wondering, “What will this be like to have a baby? Like… forever?” I really can’t believe you’re here. And I must pat myself on the back – just a little, for just a moment. I have fed you every single meal every two to three hours, 24 hours per day, for the last nine months. And I am proud of myself. Nursing is by far the best thing I have ever done, and I have no plans to stop soon.
People ask if I can remember what life was like before you. I immediately say, “Oh God, yes.” Because I had 30 years without you. I had three decades to do my own thing, to sleep, to be spontaneous, to come and go as I pleased. I had time to grow and take risks and only focus on myself (I’m really, really good at that, apparently).
When you were born, you started at 0 (though shouldn’t you technically have been 9 months old????). You have only been breathing for 270 days (though after choking on a piece of apple last night and watching your face turn purple and stop coughing, I literally thought my world was coming to an end. Thankfully, I reacted immediately and you were able to get it swallowed. Back to purees we go.). Your eyes have only focused on the world around you for a mere nine months, and yet it feels like forever…
How our worlds have shifted to accommodate you. How our bed has become smaller, our world brighter, our smiles more meaningful. How I have become a more ragged version of myself: sometimes confined to our condo, leaving faucets running, burning oatmeal, feeling so tired I literally lose my balance when I bend over to pick you up (Is it a tumor? Positional vertigo? Who would feed you if something happened to me? Maybe they can find a way to extract my milk, even after I’m gone…).
Sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball and cry. Other times, I am so filled with energy, I want to strap you to my chest and go run a marathon. I want to show you the world.
But mostly, I want you to know us now. When I think of you in your teenage years (Oh, Christ), I realize Alex and I will be in our mid-40s. Will we still be cool, in shape? Will we have our sense of humor, our wits? Will we still be struggling? Will we be leading the lives we have always wanted to live? Will you be an only child? Will we still have a small family? Will we be super affectionate? Will you still have lungs like a dinosaur? Will our lives ever be quiet? Will we even want them to be?
As I hear Alex struggle to get you back into a cloth diaper, and my parents patiently waiting to go get coffee on their impromptu visit to Chicago – I feel grateful. I feel grateful for the exhaustion, the struggles, the uncertainty, the absolute trial and error that is raising a first child.
Am I doing it right? Am I doing enough? Are you growing the way you need to be? Are you stimulated? How can everything fall back on me all the time? Can I please get some help – just a little, for just a little while?
You look at me and smile.
“Happy nine months,” I say.
You grin, your teeth clicking together in a massive under bite. “Mama,” you say. “Mamamamamama.” You crawl over to me, slapping your palms on our dark hardwoods and reach up your arms. I scoop you up effortlessly. You stroke my cheek. “Mama.”
Suddenly, it’s the sweetest word I have ever heard, from the only girl I will ever unconditionally love.
And just for a second, because of this child, because of you, all is right in the world.
You have tipped the balance, you have answered every question, you have given me pause. You have allowed me to be present, to stop thinking, to just do and not think.
You have given me a bigger purpose than myself.
For this, I thank you. I love you. I respect you.
I appreciate you.
Thank you for choosing us.