I should lay you in your crib. I have things to do — laundry to fold and a sink full of dirty dishes. But you’re snuggled into that sweet spot under my chin, the spot that was made to fit you, and I just can’t let go of your warmth yet.
You’re only 13 months old, but you don’t snuggle much anymore. If your eyes are open, you’re on the go, crawling gleefully behind your big brother and your big sister. When it’s time for a nap, there’s no rocking you to sleep, no lullabies. No matter how sleepy you are, you squirm out of my lap the minute I sit down.
As much as I love these coveted cuddles, I enjoy watching you take on the world during the day just as much. You hit the ground crawling as soon as I scoop you from your bed each morning. You’re cruising around, investigating, exploring. Most of the time, you can be found with a face-splitting grin directed at one of us.
We knew you were a gift to our family, baby girl, a rainbow after a dark storm. Those nine months of waiting to meet you were hard, harder than I imagined they would be. I woke up one morning to blood, so much blood, and we knew we must be losing you, but somehow, miraculously, you were okay. I don’t think I took a full breath the rest of those long months. It wasn’t until you were here, safe in our arms, that I felt that ever-present anxiety start to fade away.
It was clear our family wasn’t whole yet, but we couldn’t have anticipated the way you would complete us. The way you’d fill an emptiness we didn’t fully comprehend. We longed for you and we prayed for you, but we underestimated how much we needed you.
It wasn’t just your presence we were missing, but your spirit, your heart. The way you make eye contact with strangers and tug smiles from even the grumpiest of them. The way you frog-kick your legs when you’re picked up because you’re just that excited to be going somewhere, anywhere. The way you’ve already pulled in so many people, both kids and adults, with your forget-me-not blue eyes and your wet grin.
It’s a cruel paradox, this having a rainbow baby. Losing a baby before we got you was the hardest thing our family has endured, and I would give anything to know that child. But if he or she had lived, would we have met you? Would we know your chubby hands and your gap-tooth smile? It’s a thought that’s impossible to reconcile.
So I’m just going to sit here a little longer, breathing in the scent of your baby shampoo and the peanut butter you eat like it’s ambrosia. You aren’t asleep yet; you’re just content to rock with me, your long lashes fluttering in long blinks, one hand fisted in your blanket and the other clenching and unclenching in your precious baby wave as you whisper, “Bye-bye. Bye-bye.”
We just walked through a quiet house so I could show you your siblings were already in bed and that it’s okay for you to go to sleep too. Now we’re rocking and you’re whispering, a treasured sound that I know is your way of telling the world goodnight.
Goodnight to you, too, sweet girl. Sleep well, and tomorrow we’ll take on the world again.