06 Feb 2013, Posted by elizabeth in Blog, 12 Comments.
Exactly three years ago I wrote this love letter to you.
I was just rounding the bend on the first trimester of my first – and, I’m confident now, only – pregnancy. Never sick a single day, I remember feeling nervous that this was a bad sign, foretelling a “weak” pregnancy that might not stick, but after passing that magical 12-week mark I breathed a deep sigh of relief. This was how I told the world about your impending arrival. It was an ebullient time, the final gasp of winter before spring broke through the cold, crusty days. On our last Valentine’s Day as a family of two your dad and I spent the day working on a do-it-yourself bathroom remodel that we had just begun, one we were certain would take a few short months and instead wrapped up just a few weeks before you were born, a desperate race against the clock. But that day we were full of the bright optimism that one feel’s at the beginning of such projects, before the inevitable budget-busting, time-sucking setbacks dig in their muddy heels and threaten to sully everything. Before reality has a chance to cast its long shadow over the excitement. There is a photo of me taken that day, standing in the midst of the construction zone, pretending to shampoo my hair where the new shower head would be, a slight bulge peeking out just above my waistband, luminous smile swiped across my face, oblivious to what an all-consuming project this would end up being.
We were such bad judges of so many things.
Reading those words I wrote to embryo-you feels like opening a message in a bottle, a barnacled time capsule sent over the currents of three life-changing years. They are years that have simultaneously worn away my edges, like a piece of dull sea glass, and bolstered me, depositing more sands on my shores. When I read that letter, it is clear that I had no idea of the magnitude or nature of the challenges that were in store, only a vague notion that things would be tough. Everything has been infinitely harder when we ever could have imagined. What I see in that letter, even in the folds of the uncertainties, is blind confidence, the kind that every love affair begins with. They are the capricious words of young love. I do not doubt the love I expressed for you in that first letter, but it was abstract and incomplete. The worries I felt were the ones that every mother feels for her baby, not the specific ones that I feel for you, my daughter, Abra: that your inherent clumsiness will inevitably result in you losing a front tooth on the playground, that your soft-hearted nature will lead to you feeling perpetually pushed over, that you will absorb the anger and frustration I sometimes unfairly cast in your direction.
These early years have chastened me, but my love for you has matured. Despite what I predicted (and secretly hoped for) in that first letter, except for your infancy, we haven’t taken you out to eat much. You have never been content to sit in a high chair, happily popping Cheerios into your mouth and ogling at other diners through batted eyelashes. Instead, going out to eat is generally a three-ring circus, your father and I the frantic lion-tamers. But a few Sundays ago we took our chances at an early dinner at a new burger restaurant in our neighborhood. I nervously peered in the window, seeing not a single child or high chair in sight. But we were warmly welcomed and settled into a quiet corner booth, where you arranged yourself on folded knees, two clothespins tucked neatly under you, and observed the bustling scene. I ordered you a root beer, which delighted you to no end and gave your father and me 20 solid minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation, and we all gasped and then giggled when you accidentally poked a finger through the soggy Styrofoam cup, so firm was your grip on this rare and delicious treat. And when that was done you happily ate a small plate of French fries, carefully swiping each one through a shallow trench of ketchup, another infrequent indulgence. After dinner we walked into the dusky evening, clouds scuttling across a moody sky, pink light illuminating the Sandias. You jumped up on a wall in a parking lot, spotting one of the stenciled “You Are Loved” signs that pop up from time to time around town, the clandestine work of a sentimental graffiti artist. I snapped a photo as you hopped along the wall, holding your papa’s hand, happy as a clam. It was an exceptional and precious afternoon, specific and totally complete.
Loving being pregnant is different than loving being a mother. Loving a person is different than loving the idea of a person. Although you have always been loved, what I know now is that I love you, and I love being your mother.
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