To my daughter, on the week of her 2nd birthday.
If I had known that it was going to be the last time, I would have taken our picture. One of you falling asleep the way that you had every day your entire life. Your eyes were usually half closed with a happy smile playing around your lips, all of your focus on nursing.
Your hands were almost always clasped together, as if in some silent prayer. Sometimes you would pull off to laugh, say something to me, or start singing me a song. Sometimes you would just flop back, contented, and drift off to sleep. No matter how it ended, it always started the same, just the two of us in our quiet routine.
Yes, you were almost 2, and I was almost 5 months pregnant, and I was so ready for this part of our relationship to be over, but you were not. It had become both a physical and emotional strain on me in the last month of this pregnancy. I would sit there with you, watching you drift off to sleep, and quietly hope that soon this part of our journey would be done.
And then one day, it just ended. One day it was our normal and the next it was something that we used to do. Had I known I would have done something differently. I would have taken that picture or maybe sat there with you asleep in my arms for a little longer, just memorizing every detail about those tiny praying hands.
Next, you fell asleep, not in my arms, but in your father’s. He took you into your room and laid you in your bed and I stood in the kitchen and cried, not just because this was another thing that you no longer needed me for, but because it was another ending.
This is it, the beginning of the lasts. We spent so much time focusing on all of your firsts that we forgot that there would be lasts to follow. And it all came upon us so quickly. You are still days away from your 2nd birthday, but we have already experienced so many of these lasts.
The last baby giggle, your laugh now deeper and louder. And you don’t just laugh at anything anymore. Gone are the days that I could reduce you to hysterics by saying “mama” over and over again. Now you have this very particular sense of humor that finds amusement in the strangest of things (you get this trait from your father, I assure you).
That last time you that you needed to sign to me because you didn’t have the words to verbally let me know what you wanted. I can remember that first sign (“more”) and how we cheered you on and marveled that you were finally able to communicate in your own way. Then you started speaking (your first word, a simple “hi”) and then your language skills just exploded. One day you had a handful of words in your repertoire, and the next, you were stringing together sentences. There was a last time you had to sign to me, and I don’t even remember what it was.
The last time you asked to go for a walk in your stroller. Now your preferred means of travel is your own two feet. Just like everything else lately, you want to do it all by yourself. I can’t even remember the last time I wore you in your carrier, which used to be the only way that we could go anywhere. Another of the lasts that came and went without much notice. One day it was our normal, the next, it was something we just used to do.
When will be the last time you ask me to pick you up? Or the last time you want to hold my hand and lead me into the other room to show me something you saw outside the window? I know we still have many firsts ahead of us, but right now in this moment, it seems like we are in a season of lasts.
You’re growing up so fast, and changing so quickly, that you are different from day to day. Each day brings a new discovery, a new change, and something new that you no longer need my help with. It is wonderful, amazing, miraculous, and heartbreaking. Not because you’re growing up (because that is what I want more than anything for you, for you to grow and change and learn), but because these moments seem to come and go without any warning. I don’t even realize that I’m experiencing the change of a season until it’s already upon us.
And the reality is that as I view this as a season of lasts, it is still a season of firsts. As I focus on the last time that you nursed, it is also the first time that you fell asleep on your own. Instead of the last time that you asked to go for a ride in your stroller, it’s the first time you asked to take a walk down the street. Just as fall is sometimes actually winter, this season of lasts is still a season of firsts.
I just wish I had a little notice, a little voice in the back of my mind to tell me to hold onto this one thing as tight as I can because it’s the last time it will happen and someday I will miss it.
Today, I miss your baby giggle and the way that you used to fall asleep with your face burrowed into my chest, your ear to my heart.
What will I miss tomorrow?