The Baby Memories We Keep

by Jean Lomas-Hamilton

Memory is a weird thing.

My earliest memory is an image of my pregnant mother explaining to me how my baby sister would come into the world. It appears in my mind as a vague impression—like opening my eyes underwater. I was 3 years old. My first clear memory, a few months later, is of Annie coming home from the hospital. I don’t remember what she looked like or what it was like to hold her in my arms, but I remember what I was wearing—the blue plaid dress with trains on the buttons—and the excitement that I would get to hold her first, before the neighbor kids.

You’re so new, my darling, so much littler than 3, and you won’t remember any of these days we spend together. That’s a strange thought, because I’ll wear this time like a tattoo, probably for as long as I exist. The instant recognition when we met, the way we fit together in perfect symbiosis, the exquisite (and sometimes frustrating) codependence of feeding.

Now you’re 4 months old, and becoming more you every day. Amid all the changes, all the firsts of the past few months, the biggest surprise is that there’ve been some lasts too. This scares me a little, not because I’m not excited to watch you grow, but because I’m afraid I’ll forget some of my favorite things—and then how will I tell you?

The way that, almost from birth, you used to make a little oh sound after a chain of sneezes, and later, after each individual sneeze. How we scrambled to film it but were never quite fast enough. A reminder of lyrics from my adolescence, sung in the shower during pregnancy: Every time she sneezes, I believe it’s love.

The way you melted into the bath with your dad in those first weeks, like a homecoming.

The way you smiled conspiratorially at me while I fed you, usually losing your latch, not that either of us minded. That time you dealt with a too-quick letdown by squeezing my breast and sucking the milk from your fist instead. How you gave me the middle finger while feeding, more times than I can count.

How you looked in that little cradle—the same one that held your dad and uncles decades ago.

The way we paced the floor (and sometimes collapsed on it) for hours at night before finally giving in and bringing you into our bed.

Your eyes while you slept—two flawless crescent moons of lashes. The seashell imprint of your ear on my skin after you fell asleep in my arms.

The day you finally learned to love diaper changes, and how all it took was an enthusiastic rendition of Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time.” The way you now smile at me in anticipation of the song when I lay you on the change table.

The way your face transformed when you first noticed your now-favorite toy (and when we first discovered your dimples).

The way you excitedly chatted at my painting of your dad and the cat every time we walked by it, even if you’d just been crying. And how it felt to have someone else finally get it, the way I do.

The way you felt every sensation, every emotion, with your entire body, and expressed it without a hint of self-consciousness or exaggeration. How you clasped your hands near your face when you were excited.

How you smile at strangers. How happy you are when you wake up and see our faces. How you’re already so strong, and I’m simultaneously excited and terrified for the day you won’t need me to hold you anymore.

These moments, these minutes, these days and weeks and months don’t fit into the generic blanks in any baby book. They’re not milestones, not numbers, not checkmarks in a column on a page. One day, though, when we’re both a little older, they’re the things I want to remember, so that I can remind you.