Saturday, January 22, 2022

She's Not a Baby Anymore

She's not a baby anymore, and yet she is.  She doesn't speak, she doesn't walk, she doesn't pee in the toilet or feed herself with a spoon.  But she claps her hands when we say "yay," she points to things demanding to know what they are, she tries to imitate our words, she intentionally does things that she knows she shouldn't do.  She knows her daily routine and has her own preferences and expectations...and an opinion when those are not met!  She wants to look at the pictures and hear the story rather than just taste the pages of a book.  She is aware of her limitations and isn't as foolhardy as she used to be, though sometimes she can be so stubborn!  She is eating lots of table foods and growing a lot less interested in breastfeeding.  The things that can always make her happy are baths with Daddy and large pieces of meat--Daddy saves her the best cuts.  She loves to cheerfully announce to us that she is awake and ready to play every morning, and at night, she falls asleep peacefully and takes long naps through even the loudest family gatherings.  Who is this girl?  Though we've had almost a whole year of getting to know her, we still have no idea who she is and who she is going to be.  

"She's not a baby anymore," is what we've been jokingly saying all month, as we watch Zoe surprise us over and over with all of the new things that she knows.  This was also the phrase that went through my head when I found myself caught in a dilemma a few weeks ago--for the first time in a long while, Zoe drifted off in my lap while breastfeeding.  Do I move her into her crib where she can sleep for longer?  Or do I keep her here so that I could selfishly hold onto her and stay stuck in this sweet moment for as long as possible?  That's when it hit me, how much has changed.  When this used to happen when Zoe was very young, the choice was the same, but the consequences were the opposite.  Back then, she had a way better chance of sleeping longer in my lap than alone in the crib...but I would selfishly move her so that I could have some time away from her even if it was just thirty short minutes.  She's not a baby anymore, and I'm glad for that, yet I'm also so heartbroken that the baby who she was is suddenly gone.  

So I let her stay for a while, as I cradled her just like the baby who she was and is.  I look down at her small but not-so-small face, those features no longer strange and new to me, but still changing so quickly as the weeks and months roll by.  I try to take it all in, to absorb this vision and just sit in this present moment, forgetting about the dilemma just for now.  This may not ever happen again, this moment came to me like an unexpected gift and I did not want to squander it this time.  Now I understand why my mom, when she would come and visit, would never want to put the baby down when she had fallen asleep in her arms in the past.  But after twenty minutes, a voice echoes back to me like a gentle nudge.  Don't be selfish, let her sleep.  So I get up carefully and slowly, like how I used to back when she was only a few months old, and I inch my way from rocking chair to crib, lower her with that same control that my muscles will always remember, and slip my hands out from underneath her now heavier body.  She barely flinches as I step away--quickly, so as not to distract her with my face if she happens to open her eyes--and then I shut her door behind me in a way that I have not done in months, but with an assuredness and calmness that I didn't have back then.  I thought back how I would second-guess my every move, tiptoe with such fear, move my hands out from underneath the baby while holding my breath, and shut the door nervously as I wondered if she would suddenly stir and cry, which would undoubtedly send me into a guilt spiral that I wouldn't be able to shake for the rest of the day.  And for a split second, all of the emotions came back over me like a wave when Zoe let out a wail from behind the door.  But before my heart skipped too many beats, she resettled herself back down and was breathing heavily again.  I realized that yes, I miss those days so very much now that they're over, but I only am able to miss them now because of how much better things have become.  I'm better, too--less tired, less worried, less confused.  We are almost one year old as a family, and though that seems very young, we've all grown together immensely.

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