Never was there a more sentimental rabbit hole than the new Facebook app, On This Day. To prove it's addictiveness, because it is "not yet available" to all users, I regularly sign on to my husband's page to fall down it.
On this day in 2011, a naked and newly-2-year-old Asher sang/screamed "You are my sunshine" with his Aunt Jessie.
On this day in 2008, Jack started his first day of primary school in Ireland.
On this day in 2006, Ella was born.
I wish I remembered more of my babies than Facebook does. But the truth is, my memories are painted in wild watercolour, the edges only blurry splotches. I have visions of singing late night lullabies to a restless baby boy or how every day we'd find a new permanent mark on our rental walls, drawn by the hands of a wily toddler. I remember how she'd march down the centre of our Meath garden allotment, tearing fennel leaves off the top, shoving them straight into her mouth. She'd do this in grocery stores, too, not realizing their fennel must be bought before snacking.
I don't remember their first words, though. I don't remember when Ella learned to walk (North Carolina, maybe?) or when Jack slept through the night (I'm thinking he was 5) or when Asher finally stopped screaming (could be we're still waiting on that one).
But I do remember wishing I could capture every single thing and hold on to it forever. Every birthday poked a little hole in my mama heart; I'd go to bed on the eve of their big day with tears in my eyes.
Oh time, I'd say, I hate you.
Yesterday Ella turned 9. She was our only planned baby, our easy baby. When they told me to push, I thought hard for a moment and there she was: perfect and pink with spiky brown hair like her daddy.
We fought for that girl, losing a baby to an ectopic pregnancy exactly one year earlier. My OB ran across the hospital campus just to deliver her, our victory baby. A long season of grief gave birth to joy.
She nursed for 20 minutes like a champ and then slept for hours on end. She loved being held until it was time for a nap, suddenly turning squirmy and fussy, practically begging for a bed by herself. She was our October baby, Autumn embodied. We dressed her in lavender and brown, took pictures of her in fallen leaves. She was somber and standoffish until 18 months when we moved her to Ireland and she first tasted salt water and sand.
Then she became a rascal, indefinitely.
Words cannot describe this child, but it's fair to say she's everyone's favourite for that very reason. She's unpredictable and fierce and hilarious. She's got eyes like old pennies. She holds a grudge. She pretends she's an animal.
I think, perhaps, that's exactly what she is. A wild creature in a forest of domesticity.
For you mamas of babies, the ones who still cry for no reason, who won't go back to sleep, who only know one safe place in the world and it's in your arms, all the live-long day: it gets better.
I mean, apart from the aforementioned, it's super great now, right? You know this moment is fleeting and there's just no way to grab hold of it tight enough, no way to keep it from turning all sepia-like in your memory. You look into the future and it's a blank canvas; the reality is now. Change is coming and it's gonna hurt like a... well, you know...
But here's the thing: as wonderful as life is now, it will get even better.
Eventually they will learn to talk, learn to wipe, learn to hold a fork. They will have whole conversations with you, tell you why they're sad, thank you for all you do. They will be the same, but different; full-bodied essences of the same wee soul.
Yes, they will change, but so will you. And you can grow up, grow wiser, grow closer together.
Don't waste your time on the know-how books or advice columns, but take videos and take notes and sing songs that they'll still ask to hear years and years later.
Whichever age they are now is the best. And every year after will be, too.
Asher was super angry one day last week, crying like that long-lost baby in his crib. I went in and sat on his bed, cradled his growing body against the curve of my stomach, and tried to rock with him right there.
My body moved back and forth and I sang Jesus You're Beautiful like I did way back when and his voice shushed and mine croaked. His tears gave way to mine and it was the best kind of awful. I thought of the old rocking chair Matt restored and desperately missed every single moment of the last six years.
This is it, I thought, the last time I'll hold him like this, sing to him like this.
But it won't be. The last time won't ever come.