Parenting is just a bunch of letting go

Kid Henry
Kid Henry

Tonight Henry fell asleep in my arms, nursing before bed in the rocking chair in his bedroom. There’s nothing unusual about that. It happens most every night. But tonight.

Tonight I looked down at my sleeping baby in my arms and realized how big he was. His body’s bigger than my torso, now. His baby hands are kid hands. His baby butt’s a kid butt. Kid legs. Kid face. He’s not my little newborn Henry Austin-Avon any more. He’s crossing the baby line into kidville.

I’ve been so busy counting milestones, looking into the future. Excited that he’s sitting up. Excited that he can play on his own. Excited that he can hold my hands, stand up and walk across a room. Excited that he can put a carrot in his own mouth and eat it. That’s a good thing, probably.

Because the sadness, pain and loss in looking backward is almost unbearable.

Never again will I have to hold his floppy head to my breast to teach him to nurse. Never again will I cup his tiny little body close to mine to calm him, hoping he remembers the sound of my heartbeat. Never again will I have a six-month-old Henry. Or a five-month-old, four-month-old, three-month-old, two-month-old, one-month-old, three-weeks-old, two-days-old, newborn baby Henry.

Feeding himself.
Feeding himself.

The thought’s occurred to me before that it’s okay that time’s passing, because I want to have another baby. That I’ll be able to do it again; to hold my own little newborn baby, to be the only one to calm them down, to be so close.

But I realized tonight that it won’t be the same. I’ll have a two- or three-year-old son running around as a distraction. I’ll be worn out. And it won’t be Henry. It won’t be the first time; like watching a movie the second time or reading a book the second time. The surprises don’t hit you the same way.

I worry that I’ve missed it. I was on my phone, or talking to someone, and I missed it. Henry will never be seven months, two weeks and five days old again. That was just for today, and I was working, Facebooking, sending a press release, designing a postcard, chatting, hanging laundry, driving, in a meeting. I missed it. I missed him today.

Sleeping on Daddy.
Sleeping on Daddy.

Every day is letting go. Every day he is further from me. No longer a part of me. When he doesn’t want to breastfeed any more, our bond will just be a token. I won’t need a babysitter to bring him to me every two hours. We could go our lifetimes apart and he would probably be okay. Someone else can comfort him, after that’s gone.

It breaks my heart. Seriously makes me well up with tears to think about.

From birth, parenting is just a bunch of letting go. First he’s no longer a part of me. Then as he can hold his own head up, feed himself, eat food other than my milk, no longer needs to be carried around. Parents of teenagers, I don’t envy you.

I’m starting to realize why everyone glows at you when you’re pregnant or carrying a newborn.

It’s the best. It’s all ahead of you.

A fleeting moment.
A fleeting moment.

It’s the very very best. The closest. The part where your child needs you the most. The road into the unknown stretches out ahead, all sunshine and blank canvas.

My baby is growing up. He’s still so new, but no longer a newborn. This is so painful. I miss my newborn Henry so badly. It hurts, makes my chest cave in, to think that I will never hold my newborn Henry again.

He doesn’t exist.

My newborn Henry doesn’t exist any more.

I can’t think of anything more awful than that. I mourn for my son. He’s gone; the little curled frog legs, the long wispy brown hair, the twitchy breathing and high-pitched sleep squeaks. I wish I took more video. But it’s just not the same.

I console myself knowing that newborn Henry has grown into infant Henry, and infant Henry is the most beautiful, bright, happy, funny boy in the history of children. He’s amazing. He’s perfect.┬áHe’s a shining star, radiating joy and love.

And when he doesn’t exist any more, I’ll have toddler Henry to keep me busy. And then little boy Henry, and older boy Henry, preteen Henry, teen Henry, young adult Henry, adult Henry and beyond — all wonderful people I look forward to meeting.

… If I can just try to let go of his past selves.

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Chasing the train

Parenting feels like a train I just can’t catch. The familiar scene where the hero races up on his horse and stre-e-e-etches out for the railing on the caboose to grab hold and triumphantly board the train. It’s going so fast, cacti whooshing by in the background scenery, hearts pounding, blood rushing, the horse’s hooves pounding as its mane whips in the wind and its muscles strain to go faster, then even faster – but that moment of triumph and relief where you hop on and can breathe for a split-second before saving the day just never comes for me.

Chasing the train

That second I think I’m finally up to speed and am reaching for the train, it speeds up again and eludes my outstretched fingers, again and again. Times I try to swerve and head it off at the pass, it takes a different direction, or just races by before I can grab hold. It’s impossible to stay ahead of, and impossible to catch. I just keep running.

But, you know… I get tired.

Henry will be six months old on Friday.

Suddenly he can sit up on his own, kind of. We should probably start to give him foods to try. He can wriggle around and end up feet away from where you put him down. He reaches for things he wants and grunts and pouts if he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t want to cuddle as often as he wants to stand. He picks things up off the floor. I haven’t seen it for sure yet myself, but babysitters swear he’s mimicking their sounds and facial expressions. He’s getting a tooth. He’s just so much more alert.

I feel like I missed something. Maybe I had my nose glued to my iPhone or sometime during my workday while he was with a sitter, he grew right up. It feels like I’ve missed weeks of development. Months, even. He’s not the same baby I knew.

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Sitting up already

I mean, he is. He smiles when he catches your eye. He loves getting his neck gobbled or legs nibbled (I’ve decided to call it “monstering”). He holds onto my necklaces or my ponytail. He tickles my side while he’s nursing. But there’s something new every day. I was shocked when I went to carefully prop him up in a sitting position on Saturday and he held it for so much longer than I expected. When did he learn that? Where was I? Have I been ignoring him?

He’s growing and learning so quickly. He’s a new baby every day. Before I know it, he’ll be a boy and not a baby. And then a man and not a boy. The train’s going faster and faster and faster. I’m never gonna catch this thing.

While I thought I was doing a good job of cherishing the moment, instead it passed me by. He’s so big already. Not a floppy baby any more. I’m not ready for this.

Not that it matters. The train rushes on.

And here we go. I thought he was down for a nap, but he’s up and noisy. Still haven’t caught my breath.

…But I’ve gotta keep running.

Bumps in the night

Last night Cory and I saw the baby move for the first time. Earlier in the day, Grandma Avon felt him kick for the first time. Seeing him move was crazy. Like in the cartoons where somebody’s banging on the door and the whole door moves THUD THUD THUD. It was wild. Sometimes I go about my day and forget (forget the way that on your birthday you might forget it’s your birthday for five seconds and then remember and go YAYYY) – though I’ve had that epiphany ten zillion times, every time I go, “Oh yeah, there’s a PERSON in there” it blows my mind.

And not just a person, but my kid who is going to give me stories to tell people. My kid who is going to be what my life revolves around. My kid who is going to make me a mommy. My kid who’s going to hopefully graduate from high school someday. My kid who’s hopefully going to get married someday. He’ll yell at me and tell me he hates me and he’ll pick me flowers and make me Mother’s Day gifts. That guy – that kid – that’s in there making thunks right now. It’s so bizarre.

My sister quit smoking yesterday and I’m really glad about it. I quit in 2005 and have been begging my family to give it up ever since. But it’s an individual decision that you have to make yourself. People pushing you into it doesn’t make it work. I’m really happy she got there on her own and I’m going to do everything I can to support her in it. It’s such a big gift to yourself and to everyone around you. I just wish my parents would get there. But I know I can’t make it happen for them – that has to happen on its own. But I really don’t want Baby A-A around it.

Today I’m feeling tired and weird. I think the phenomena they call Baby Brain is starting to get to me. It scares me. I have a lot of work to do and I worry about slowing down. But I guess that if I need to slow down, I will. It will happen whether I like it or not. There’s something a little comforting in knowing that things will take care of themselves and it’s not my job to take care of that stuff, but it’s also terrifying that my body turns into my boss and dictates everything. I thought I was the boss!

Mr. Peanut is squirming up a storm right now. Thump! Bump! Bonk!