We are sitting on the floor. My back is against the sofa, and my knees are up in the air, and you are in my arms, struggling. Because you want to be held but you want to be stretched out in your own bed too, and you can’t do both at once. You need to be quiet, but you really want to be loud and dancing and clapping and smiling. You want to laugh and play, but the thermometer says 101.5 and your nose is stuffy and crusty, and you want mama to hold you, but not really.
And then you finally fall asleep, your chest on my chest, and we are breathing in motion, and oh how I missed holding you like this. And I start to cry because only a few months ago, we did this every night. I held you tight, tight, tight until you fell asleep, and then I laid you down next to my bed in your pack and play and watched you for 30 minutes before turning off the light and going to sleep myself.
But it’s different now. You used to smell like baby and milk and Burt’s Bees shampoo, but now you smell like baby and sweat and the bananas you ate for breakfast. Your legs used to curl up into my tummy, but now they are splayed out awkwardly, falling onto the floor, and you don’t fit all neat and tight into my chest like you used to. You used to need to be held to fall asleep, and now you need to stretch out and play with your lovey and be alone. And you are far too busy during the day, baby girl, for cuddling. Except today. Today, you still need me to hold you.
And I need to put you down in your crib so that I can get some work done, because this is the worst possible time to miss a day of work, and there is a to-do list a mile long, and my hair is a wreck, and I am wearing yoga pants and a nursing tank top that fit really nicely on my postpartum body, but after 11 months of nursing and 3 months without dairy, they are laughably frumpy and baby snot shows up starkly on their black fabric, and I have a meeting tonight, so I should iron and put on makeup and fix my hair and print agendas. And this floor is uncomfortable, and I left my phone upstairs, and the dryer just buzzed, and there are dishes all over the kitchen counter, and the computer keeps making the email “ding” noise.
But there is nothing, baby girl, that is more important than this moment with you. Because every day of being a mama means letting go just a little bit more. Every day, you become someone who is more separate from me, more her own person than you were yesterday. And the to-do list will still be there tomorrow, but you will be just a little bit different. And you will be well and waving bye-bye to me from the daycare window while you crawl away to play with your buddies, and I will be at work, and that is right and good, and this is the best thing for our family. But tomorrow, I don’t get this choice. I can’t choose to hold you while you struggle and sleep and fuss.
So today, Clara, you are mine. Hot and sweaty and stinky and fussy. All mine, and I will sit on this uncomfortable floor in these snot-covered clothes all day long with you if you let me.