I carried you. From an invisible dot to the tiny baby you became, I carried you. I carried you inside me and I carried you in my heart.
And then, there you were – outside of me and into my arms. Then I began to carry not just you, but the enormous weight of responsibility, love and exhaustion. I feared sometimes I might collapse under its heaviness and occasionally, I did. But then I got back up and I carried you all once again.
At first you were so small I could cradle you in one arm as I jiggled you to sleep or fed you almost constantly – anything to calm your urgent cries. My other arm would grab a drink, scroll through my phone to pass the time or – during ambitious moments – sling the latest dirty onesie at the washing machine in a bid to tidy up.
I held you for hours and hours in those early days. It seemed there was no end to me holding you in my arms. I carried you as you fed, I carried you as you slept – so rare was it for your eyes to remain closed if I put you down.
We spent long, dusky hours together overnight, me imagining everyone but us asleep while your eager sucking became the soundtrack to my 2 a.m. It was just you and me – propped against pillows and fighting to stay awake while I held you.
You grew right before me – I only looked away for a moment and you changed – your legs becoming long and lithe, your hair turning fair from dark, your smile changing from fleeting to semi-permanent. And all the while, I carried you.
Gradually and suddenly you became someone I knew – a face I saw myself in, a noise I knew by heart, a shape in my arms so familiar as I carried you through those early months.
But you just wouldn’t stop growing.
You became hungry for more of the world and my arms were not enough – I restricted your view. First you began to look, and then move away from me; and all of a sudden I wasn’t carrying you so much. But any time you needed me – and sometimes when you didn’t – I scooped you up, I carried you.
When I left you, it was never for too long; my light arms and unburdened legs would whip through the streets and I would feel free and happy and also little empty. I enjoyed the time apart yet craved being back together; when I couldn’t, I’d want nothing more than to carry you.
Some days, though, my head and hands would be so full of other stuff that I didn’t want to carry you. Your angry insistence that you take priority over every meal I tried to cook or load of shopping I needed to carry created temporary standoffs between us and rifts in my patience. Sometimes I would worry about your dependence, my aching back, the future.
But even then, I carried you when I could, because I knew deep down that you had to come first, and also that there was nothing nicer than holding you in my arms and feeling your contented heart beat against mine.
Now, little though you still are – and perhaps always will seem to me – it is like you have been here forever. You are so young, but I can’t truly remember a world without you, a time when I didn’t carry you, when we weren’t holding tight to each other.
Although you are still so small in the grand scheme of your big life, I am now conscious of the limited time I have to carry you. I’m aware that someday, you won’t want me to pick you up, and I won’t be able to soothe your sadness with a kiss. How will it feel when I can’t be the one to make things alright – when carrying you is not enough?
You have so much growing still to do, and so do I. I know these ties that bind us so tightly will loosen over time and that will be right, natural and possibly – for me – a little painful. But until that time, I’m going to hold you. I will carry you … when you want me to.
You pull my jean leg each day and adorably order me to, “Carry you, carry you.”
“Carry me,” I correct, and I smile, secretly enjoying these little muddles that remind me there is still time before you go it alone, before our tiny world is no longer everything to you.
And then dancing around the kitchen with you just now, looking so pure, happy and beautiful, I realize that I will always carry you. In moments like this, and as the years move you out of my arms and our love becomes background, I will still carry you. I wonder if you will feel it.
There are times with you I will remember forever: moments that defined me, memories soaked with love, and for those, I will always be grateful.
But of all the tender times, the firsts and the fun days, I think what I will remember most is the feeling of carrying you: in my arms – then, in my heart – always.