Twenty one months ago I saw you for the first time. Through the grainy flickering of a screen, my eyes made out an image of you lying on your back, one hand behind your head, elbow kicked out to the side, as if vacationing on a warm beach somewhere in Fiji. The kind lady with the cold jelly stick was very interested in how you were doing. You didn’t like her much, nor the cold jelly stick she was waving about the place. Five minutes in, you began somersaulting quicker than she could keep up with you. Soon, you wedged yourself under my hip bone and stayed put like that for the rest of the session. She got a little frustrated, the kind jelly stick lady, and she told me to move this way and that and she dug the jelly stick in deep. But you wouldn’t budge. You curled yourself tightly in a ball and asserted your position as boss.
I loved that you wouldn’t budge. I loved it because it was then that I got my first sense of who you were.
I couldn’t know that years from then, on Mothers Day, I’d be doing the exact same thing. I’d be watching your image through the flickering screen of a camera. I’d be watching you squeal with joy because we let you in the water, even though it was colder than it should have been. I watched you tantrum when we tried to get you out, desperate to stay in a little longer, just a little bit longer. I clicked the button of my camera, tears pooling in my eyes, hoping to freeze in time what I saw. What I felt. Who you were.
After we said goodbye to the kind lady with the cold jelly stick, we got in the car, your dad and I. While your dad drove, I gripped the photo the lady had taken of you. My eyes scanned every millimeter of that picture, glad to have it in my hands, but aching for the weight of it to turn into you. I stared at it until it blurred; trying as hard as I could to choke back tears. I looked across at your dad and he smiled at me. I’m so in love, I said. All I could do was look at him and whisper, I’m so in love.
It was that moment that I felt it for the first time. It almost winded me, the force with which it hit. I gripped your photo and I cried because I couldn’t believe it was true. I became a mother that day, honey. I hadn’t met you yet, not really, but it was a pivotal moment because I knew that I was forever changed. I knew that it would never really leave, this new-found ache in my heart, so piercing it was almost painful. I finally knew how it felt to love a child that was your own. I finally knew that it was like my heart muscle had stretched, like it was pulling out its own sides and wrapping them around a tiny treasure. I acutely understood that once a heart muscle is stretched in this way, it can never go back to its original shape.
I finally realized that this was both the agony and the ecstasy of a mother’s love.
Honey, I realized something else that day in the car. I realized it was possible for dreams to come true long before they are even dreamt. You might one day roll your eyes reading that. You might cringe at how corny it sounds. I don’t mind. You might be where I’ve been one day, honey; in wild love with a baby inside your belly, having no idea what it is about to hit you. You can’t know what’s about to hit. You might be nervous and a little scared, too. That’s okay. It’s not until that baby is in your arms that you find yourself staring in utter awe thinking over and over, “It’s you. It’s you. It’s you.”
This is what life with you is like, honey.
We wake up early, before the sunrise. You don’t like to sleep in much. Some days I try to will you back to sleep, just so I can rest a tiny bit longer, but you call out for us over and over. I go in and scoop you out of your bed and you wrap your arms around me and nestle your head into the nook of my neck. We spend the first drops of the day together while your dad meditates. Sometimes, we light candles. Sometimes, we play music. Sometimes, we grab the sidewalk chalk and plonk our sleepy bodies down on the driveway, mama sipping coffee, you drawing, and we watch the sunrise together while the rest of the world is quiet.
It’s those moments I find myself silently thanking you, honey. It’s then that I realize just how much beauty you expose me to, beauty I would surely miss with my eyes closed in bed.
You want to be just like us, honey, and ain’t nobody gonna tell you you can’t have what we have. So, mama quickly drinks the rest of her coffee, fills the mug with imaginary coffee and hands it over. You are delighted. You are growing with rapid speed before my very eyes.
Sometimes in the morning we go to the park. You are obsessed with slides. And dogs. And other children. All I usually do is put you down and let you run free. You’ve got business to do at the park. You’ve got things on.
Over the weekend, we had a special couple of days, honey, you, your dad and I. You see, the weekend honoured that day in the car. The photo I gripped. The change which took place in my heart. Sunday was Mother’s day, honey, and even if there are more babies to come, brothers or sisters to love and cherish, there will forever be a special place in my heart for the girl who made me a mother. You. You made me a mama.
We celebrated the family you’ve bound us to be. But then again, we usually spend the weekends doing that.
We had a picnic by the water, after a quick trip to the markets where I picked up this new little tee for you. Fitting for Mothers day, I thought, and sound advice at that. When you grow out of it, I’ll have it framed and it will hang above your bed the day you turn 13.
It was a weekend that just felt like family. And home.
One we never would have had, had it not been for you.