I froze when I read the text: “I’m free next week if you want to go out for a bit. I can come watch Emerson.” I knew that moment was coming, but I just wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t want to go anywhere—not without my baby anyway—but responding with the truth would take a certain amount of chutzpah that I wasn’t sure I had.
Emerson is my third and last baby. It was a hard decision to have her as my husband and I are both getting older, and we have two independent boys now ages 6 and 8. After much debate, we chose to relive the joy of babies all over again anyway. I never regretted the decision. My entire pregnancy was enjoyable, even up until those final, somewhat uncomfortable days before she was born.
The week before she was born, we had unusually warm weather in New Jersey. Every day I headed out for a walk around the neighborhood hoping to naturally start labor. But as I walked up and down my street, I knew my efforts were half-hearted. I wanted to feel the pang of cramps starting, but instead I felt a pang in my heart. I knew that the end of pregnancy meant I had to share my baby with the world.
For my two previous pregnancies, this was totally not a big deal. In fact, I still to this day say my boys are my gift to the world. They are two of the happiest kids you’ll ever meet. They spread joy and kindness wherever they go. When they were babies, I’d take them to the supermarket and they’d just grin from ear to ear at every passing customer who always returned a smile. I was so proud of how they helped to make other people happy.
Emerson feels different though. This baby is my gift to myself, and I’m trying desperately to find a way to tell other people that. Easier said than done.
In my late 20s, an older friend told me that the best thing about turning 30 was that you no longer cared what people thought of you, and you just did what you wanted. I awaited my 30th birthday with the greatest anticipation of the confidence I was going to gain. Sadly, 30 came and went, and I was no better at telling people what I needed. Now I’m nearing the end of my 30s and I finally feel like I’m getting closer. This baby feels like a test for me.
This time I truly understand that the baby stage doesn’t last forever. At 8 days old, Emerson’s umbilical cord fell off and I teared up because that meant she was getting older. When she wakes up to be fed in the middle of the night I smell her and kiss her and just savor those quiet moments that are completely ours. She wraps all five tiny fingers around my thumb and I feel like she’s also trying to hold on to the last 9 months that we spent together. When she pushes her legs into my still mushy tummy, my heart swells. I just want this time to last forever. I don’t want to give her to someone else to hold for one second. Am I crazy?
With the first two, I was so shell-shocked at having a baby and by motherhood’s all-consuming nature. I couldn’t have imagined actually savoring nights without sleep, especially since I’m someone who generally falls apart from lack of sleep. An offer to babysit? I would have jumped on that. I craved the freedom of getting out by myself. But this time it’s so different, and I want to be able to say that.
In the end, I bought myself some time and lied to my friend. I told her I would go out next week, thinking maybe a week would make me feel differently. I’m not confident it will.
Who knows, maybe as I blow out 40 candles in a few short years, I’ll finally have gained some chutzpah, and be ready to let other people hold my baby.