Today I got to hold an hours-old baby. Everything else going on in that hospital room faded into background noise while I looked over Baby Kate's teeny tiny fingers and toes. Astonishing. I was privileged to be present while the big brother and big sister met their new baby sister for the first time. I got to hug my precious friend who, I swear, has been pregnant longer than anyone I've ever known through the hottest summer I can remember.
Every detail of my visit brought back every detail of my own babies. How good they smelled...how soft their skin was...the funny faces they made...how I loved to rock and sing to them. I remember the hospital stays--the visitors, the balloons and flowers, the Chick-Fil-A cravings, the tiny outfits, the pride and excitement.
I also remember the first night we had Goliath home with us, when I slept inches away from him for fear he would stop breathing. How my days and nights bled together with a newborn in the house. How my whole world suddenly revolved around feeding times and tummy gurgles. How I learned that there is no laundry detergent powerful enough to get out some baby stains. How I cooked dinner with one hand for years so that I could hold a baby boy with my other. How I obsessively tried to keep them on a good schedule, read them books, and take them outside every day, and how I beat myself up when I missed a day. How I feared failure more than anything...and still do.
When Baby was born, Goliath was not quite 4 and Little Middle was just 17 months old. I had my hands more than full. Those were the days when people at the grocery store gave me that "you're crazy" look. I walked blindly through those first years, kind of in a survival mode. I thought more than once that if I could just get them all sleeping through the night...drinking from a sippy cup...walking...sitting in a booster seat...down to one nap a day...out of the stroller...then I would have it made.
Now my Baby is going to kindergarten. Tiny onesies have long since been replaced by superhero t-shirts. We're down from 3 carseats to 1 small booster seat. Everyone drinks from a real cup and eats off of (gasp!) breakable plates. My baby days are well behind me.
But now I know better than to think that I have it made just because my babies are older. Yes, they are more independent in a lot of ways. But in some ways, they need me more than ever. And it's nice to be needed. Mothering is not for the faint of heart.
My mom tells me that as her children were growing, she always anticipated the next stage and enjoyed it more than the one before. Don't get me wrong--I am super-proud of my boys and the little people they are becoming. I wouldn't trade one crazy day in this zoo for anything. But I guess tonight I just feel a little nostalgic. Their little fingers wrapped so easily around my big one. I wish it could always be easy.
Every single night, I still check on each boy before I go to bed. I lay a hand gently on his chest to make certain of his steady breathing, and I plant a quiet kiss on his forehead. I get to be their mom. It was then, and always will be, the greatest joy of my life.