He’s 7. Seven. I won’t bore you with how quickly time goes, even though it does. And I won’t complain about it the velocity with which my older child is growing-in bounding leaps mentally, physically, spiritually, every which way one could grow- because as fast as it is going (and man, it is heart-stoppingly quick), I will take it over the first few months of his life when time basically stood still.
Elijah was a “hard”, “difficult”, “fussy” baby. I knew, somewhere in the recesses of my sleep-deprived mind, that he wouldn’t always be non-verbal, non-mobile, the world’s worst sleeper, that he wouldn’t always want to be thisclose to me. But it didn’t make that first year any easier knowing that, and the beginnings of motherhood were basically nothing like I had hoped. There were tender moments of course, mostly while nursing. And as the months went on, and he giggled and began to love looking at books and rolling over and smiling that impish, irresistible grin, cracks of light pierced the darkness that I felt had descended over my life when he was born.
I never was diagnosed with post partum depression or anxiety (at the blessing of my ob, I took antidepressants for 2 nights then gave them because they left me unable to sleep despite the fact that I was, in every sense of the word, exhausted). But let me put it to you this way-my mental state during those first few months was not good, and I kept my head above water with the knowledge that time would indeed pass, even if then, the days felt unspeakably long.
I don’t think about that time that I wished away much anymore, definitely not every day, sometimes not for weeks. The feelings of inadequacy, the fear that held onto me for most of the early days of his life, the nagging sense that I had failed to make my baby happy bubble up now and then, usually when I am holding someone else’s baby and he or she is content or falls asleep easily in my arms. But those emotions are there, I think they’ll always be there, and in a way I have come to be thankful for them, because they keep me humble and because they make me appreciate the wonderful person Elijah has become.
When I was especially down, I tried to comfort myself with the idea that the qualities that were so frustrating at the time (his extremes in temperament, his determination to never fall asleep, his need for constant stimulation) would one day be admirable attributes: determination, passion for life, curiosity, an innate sensitivity and emotional awareness.
He has all those things and so many more that I didn’t understand or couldn’t see he did: he is kind and thoughtful and helpful and tries so very hard to understand why people say and do certain things and how the world works.
People say that becoming a parent is a leap of faith, and I didn’t really understand that before I became one (one of the dozens of things you can’t really understand until you have your own children). I had never had my faith tested in anything so close and personal before. I had to trust that the love and energy and attention and basically every ounce of my entire being that I was putting forth for this baby who I loved (but didn’t really like) would somehow make sense, would somehow be worth it.
Sometimes I mourn the idyllic early days of mothering an infant that I once imagined I would have. I didn’t get them, not with Elijah, nor with Remy, who I imagine was more capable of offering them, had she not been half a world away. But if I were to count my blessings (and I do, frequently), I know that even those early nearly impossible difficult days (and nights) strengthened our family and oddly forged a deep bond between all of us.
Somewhere between then and now, gradually and then in seemingly gargantuan advances, he became someone who I love to spend time with, who I actually want to hang out with, who loves to make me laugh, and who is brave and silly and curious and is always checking in on everyone to make sure they are “okay”.
He is almost up to my shoulders now, but he still loves to sit on my lap. He will read anything he can get his hands on (the other morning I came in to my bedroom and he was reading Beyond the Beautiful Forevers from my beside table!), but he still wants me to read to him every morning and every night and often in the middle of the day. He consistently beats me at chess, but he is careful to offer words of encouragement: “You had some really good strategy there, Mommy.”
Seven years ago, I could not imagine being this grateful to witness the events, big and quotidian, in my children’s lives: writing their full names, crossing the monkey bars independently, riding their bikes, choosing kind words or actions at just the right time. Watching Elijah and Remy grow and develop and become their own people has been the joy of my life, and I do not take this time for granted, no matter how quickly it speeds past me.