Today I said to Max, “It’s so strange to think about…do you realize a few months ago we didn’t even know her? We didn’t know anything about her, other than that she liked food. We only knew that because when I got hungry she would kick me every time my stomach growled. And now she’s a whole little person, with all her preferences and personality. She likes Cuban music, hates riding in the car, her favorite toy makes crinkly noises. A few months ago we didn’t even know her name was Piper.”
A few short months ago, we did not even know this strange and delightful creature. We did not know her name, we did not know the tone and pitch of her cries, we did not know the curves of her smile. She was still hidden deep in my belly, floating in the darkness and muffled noise. There are times I miss those days. I don’t miss the discomforts of being pregnant, but growing a child was the greatest mystery I have ever known. What would she be like? Who would she look like? What would her voice sound like? What color eyes? I also find myself missing the feeling of her there, swimming around in her own safe cocoon. I did not have to share her in those days. I happily shared everything my husband wanted to know, but when the house fell quiet late at night and I trudged off to the comforts of our guest bedroom with its sinkhole mattress just for me, we were alone. Nobody could take her from my arms, or insist that she missed them, or tell me they knew what she needed. I could put my hand to the place where my abdomen used to be, and feel her limbs thumping against the swell of my belly.
In the late months of my pregnancy, a friend told me to enjoy those final weeks, because it was the last time the baby would be all mine. It was the last time I would not have to share her or wonder where she was, and any decisions about the baby were still mine to make. I tried to do this as best I could, but I didn’t fully appreciate her words until after my daughter was born. When people ask me what the hardest thing is about being a new mother, my answer is always easy and always the same. Sharing. Sharing my baby is the hardest thing. So many arms reaching out, so many mouths talking, so many people laying claim to the child that was all mine until so recently. I can’t fault these people for what they do; Piper is their niece, granddaughter, grand-niece or pseudo-cousin just as much as she is my baby. But it can be exhausting, all these reaching arms and talking mouths. It is tiring to manage them, to try and make sure that everyone gets a turn and everyone feels special and everyone gets to dispense their own particular advice and know-it-all about my own child.
I am trying to be gracious. I am trying not to hold her too tight, because I know these people are the first of so many I will have to share her with. Teachers, roommates, friends, lovers, maybe even her own children one day. They will all know her and love her in ways that are different from the way I love her. They will all be parts of her life, each building on the last. I look ahead and I see this, the endless line of people waiting to love my special little girl.
But for now, I yearn to have her all to ourselves, away from everyone, just the three of us together safe and warm and loving.