When I was a kid, I remember looking out the windows on planes and trying to understand why it seemed like we were going so slowly. My father explained: there were only wispy clouds to which we could compare our speed. We were going more than 200 miles per hour, but it felt like five. It went on like this--until the trip where I saw another plane on the horizon. It was at least 100 miles away, but was gone in seconds. I got it. We were indeed barreling through the sky. Having children is like seeing that plane. Samara is something to which I can compare my speed.
Just four months ago, she was so raw and unformed, a baby chick stumbling on new legs. Now she reaches with purpose, smiles widely, tries to put everything in her mouth and interacts with people. I am astounded, so in love with my changed baby. But I am also grieving for my little chick, the one I will never see again. Even if we have a second, it will never be this one. I will never have another opportunity to see her smile for the first time or to hold her in a drunken sleep, milk spilling from her lips.
I have a physical need to stop time, to dig my heels into the ground and shake my head. I am not ready for her to crawl or walk or sit up or stop wanting to be in my lap. I want so much to show her the world and to watch her develop, but in wanting that, I know I have to lose a little bit of this baby. She will be gone and I will never be able to get her back.
Parenthood is such a mix of emotions. I never knew I was capable of feeling so much, of wanting two such opposing things. I know I can’t control the rate at which she grows and, like that plane, this phase will pass in seconds. I am trying to savor it, to record everything, to hold her close, to sing to her, to read to her and to cuddle her while she still wants me. And I do look forward to the new phases and the changes that will come—even as we say goodbye to the old ones.
I am now aware of life's brevity. When Samara sat on my grandmother’s lap last week, I was looking at two people on the opposite ends of the spectrum of life and yet, in the scheme of the universe, my grandmother’s 85 years seem less than Samara’s four months. There is no way I could live long enough to satisfy everything. But, more than ever before, I have an understanding of what is really important. I appreciate every second I get to spend with Samara and every moment the three of us are together as a family.
Tonight, as we walked home from the our dinner, eating ice cream and watching Samara sit upright in her stroller for the first time, we saw her eyes widen at the trees above her. She smiled at the dogs on the bike path and let a very nice woman hold her so that we could finish our ice cream. "She has such strong legs," the woman--a fomer labor and delivery nurse--kept exclaiming. "She will walk soon." We were proud, but also wary--both of babyproofing and what walking will mean. Once she walks, there is no going back. She is hurtling, full speed ahead.
Right now, the air feels electric with our happiness. The other day R asked me if I thought we would look back on this time in our 80’s and wish we could get it back. They say nobody ever wishes they had spent more time in the office or on a plane. Mostly we all wish we had just one more day with our family. So I try like hell to enjoy it all—the explosive poops, the embarrassing screaming when we take her to sushi, the crying at the gym daycare—because before I know it, she won’t need me as much and I will be 85 wondering how we all grew old so fast.