As a mother, nighttime has become sacred for me. I'm not quite sure when it became that way, but it was sometime during my pregnancy. I give thanks each time night comes, for it has become our time—time for you and me to celebrate our mother-daughter bond.
When I was pregnant, it was always at night that you were most active. I would lie awake and feel your movements, as if we were carrying on a silent conversation. We were soul mates.
"You're so lucky," your dad told me when I was three months pregnant. "You get to feel all of the baby's movements, and have her all to yourself for nine months more than everyone else." I had already known how truly blessed I was, but it was nice to hear it out loud.
As a matter of fact, following your birth, I experienced a bit of sadness at having to share you. For nine months, it was you and me. I alone got to feel your every move, your kicks, your hiccups. I nourished you through my own body. You were my constant companion on this incredible journey and, no matter what, I was never alone.
Over the monitor, I hear your cries and jump from bed with equal parts concern and joy—concern for your cries, but joy that our nighttime ritual has begun. I pick you up from your crib and hold you close against my body to calm you. I sit in the rocking chair and begin to feed you. I feel the warmth of your skin against mine, close my eyes and say a silent prayer of thanks for this moment.
The decision to nurse you was one with which I struggled. The first days after you were born were awkward and difficult for both of us. "Give it time," my older sister encouraged me. And so I did. Gradually both of us fell into rhythm with each other, and the bond was formed.
The thought of providing you with the best possible nutrition available drove me to succeed. And my perseverance paid off. At your one-month checkup, I rejoiced when the pediatrician announced a four-pound weight gain over your birth weight. I celebrated, knowing the role I had played in that achievement. My pre-pregnancy jeans would have to wait a while longer. My body, in its current state, was busy nourishing you and was, therefore, perfect.
A box in the corner of your room catches my attention, and a sudden feeling of sadness comes over me. Inside the box are clothes that you have already outgrown. I recall how, for nine months, I folded and refolded those clothes, awaiting your arrival. Now, they will have to wait for the next child. The box serves as a reminder of time already gone.
This is also evident in the decreasing number of pages in your baby book. Every few days I find myself noting another first in your life—first smile, first laugh, rolling over for the first time. I celebrate your achievements, but mourn the time too quickly passed.
After you finish eating, I change your diaper, then sit back down to rock you to sleep. Now that you have been fed and changed, we take time to smile and talk with each other. I sing you songs that used to put me to sleep as a young child. I don't remember all of the words, but you don't seem to mind.
I hold you close, remembering the feeling of being wrapped in my mom's and dad's arms. I hope that you will have the same wonderful memories of our times together that I have of growing up.
"Just trust your instincts," my mom told me before I gave birth. My instinct is to hold you like this forever, but I know I can't. Eventually I will have to let go, and hope that I've done my best. But for now I soak up everything about you—the way you smell, look, sound. You truly are a miracle.
Caring for you has given me a glimpse into the divine. Growing up, I always thought of God in terms of a parent experiencing all of the joys, frustrations, heartaches and millions of other emotions that my mom would tell me only a parent can truly know. Now, as I hold you in my arms, I am beginning to understand the scope of that love, and it draws me closer to God. You draw me closer to God.
Your eyes slowly get heavier and eventually close.
I place you in your crib and stand there for a moment, just watching you. When I was pregnant, everyone told your dad and me that our lives would never be the same. They were right. We just weren't aware of how much better you would make our lives. Sometimes when we sit and play with you, we ask ourselves what we did for fun before you were born.
I hold my breath as you stir. Your pacifier falls out of your mouth, and I'm sure I'll have to rock you back to sleep. You immediately, though, replace the pacifier with your thumb and drift back to sleep.
As I stand there, I recall the pediatrician urging me to get you to take a pacifier. It's easier to break the habit of a pacifier, she tells me. Your father and I have tried, but to no avail. You look so content and peaceful sleeping—thumb in mouth—that I decide there are worse things than thumb-sucking. I am reminded not only of my own less-than-desirable habits, but also that you are your own person, and that this is not the last time you will do your own thing, despite what I say.
I gently kiss you on the forehead and head back to bed, awaiting our next nighttime encounter. As I crawl in under the covers, your dad asks me if everything is O.K.
"Everything's wonderful," I say. "Everything is wonderful."