I read Bella a story before laying her in her bed last night. She was curled up on my lap and I bent to kiss her in between pages, and for just a moment, I got the smell of baby from her. It sent me into a thousand memories of her from newborn to just walking, and for a moment I couldn’t catch my breath.
She looked up at me curiously, as if to say, “Why, what’s wrong Mama?”
I noticed how big she was. How she used to fit so nicely on my shoulder while nuzzling me and now is a third my size. How she depended on me for everything. How her little face used to show little expression or recognition for so long, and now she knows so much.
My heart ached, my eyes filled with tears, and I wondered, “Maybe this is how people feel when they know they want another baby?”
But I didn’t. I wasn’t even thinking of that.
I wanted her. I wanted Bella to be small again. My heart aches because I missed so much. She was so sick and I was so tired. I feel like the entire first year of her life I spent looking at a movie that I was in, but not in. Not really. And it’s only lately I’ve become aware of all this. How very off I was.
Now that I’m here and fully present, I wish I could have known what she was like as a baby – really known. Remember it better. I would have spent more time simply being with her while she wanted to cuddle. I would have let my family care for her more instead of being so worried and protective. I would have slowed life down and marveled at her babyness.
And 21 months later, I feel angry that I didn’t get that. Because of her reflux that kept me on edge, because Sam drank and that’s all I thought about, because of the lack of sleep for 10 months, because of whatever happened to me that year that I’m still sorting through. Why I became a person I don’t even recognize when I look back on now.
Sam and I went through old pictures yesterday of her and us, and he felt it too. Cheated, and it’s no one’s fault. Maybe ours. The drinking and fighting didn’t help plug us into her very much. He said, “I don’t want another kid, I just want Bella.” And I completely understood what he meant.
All of this leads to me hesitating to want to do it again. I don’t want to feel that way. I don’t want the stress, the anxiety, the heightened sense of turbulence in our home. The distorted way I was, but thought it was normal in the middle of it. I don’t want to do any of it again until I get sorted out what happened the first time around. I think I owe us all that.
So when she hugs me with her chubby little arms, and says, “Mama, plee?” when she wants me to play, I try to be there as often as I can now. And to live in the moment. All while feeling that sense of resentment that I wasn’t able to do this before. It’s silly to feel this way because it’s over and done. No way to change that first year. I guess if we had another baby I could try to remember this and do better.
But it’s not what I want. I want her to be the baby again. I want to rewind and relive it as a whole person, with a healed family. My heart aches because I can’t ever look back on it that way. And that makes me angry and so very sorry.