Sunday, January 20, 2008

Out as long as he was in

Today, when I was lying on the floor playing with Lucas, he crawled up to my tummy and gave my belly button a big wet kiss, catching one of my ticklish spots and causing me to give a big belly laugh. Of course, he then had to poke my belly, and so I told him, "That is your old house, where you used to live inside Mommy." He gave it another wet kiss, and I pulled him into a hug as tears welled up. It hit me that he's been "out as long as he was in" now that he is 9 months.

As his Mommy, I've had the privilege of knowing him the longest, since he was a tiny bunch of cells inside me. I documented every mood swing, every fetal movement, every inch I grew with him, and despite the normal pregnancy pains, I loved carrying my unborn child. And now, that seems so long ago, as I look at my little boy, who is his own person now, no longer an infant, hardly a baby anymore. I realize I have already been as close to him as I will ever be, when he was brand new and would nurse in my arms all day and night. In some ways, I was devastated when he began to sleep through the night, not needing our feedings, already letting go of me, maybe before I was ready. At his naming ceremony, my dad said that parents need kids as much as kids need parents. I am coming to see what he meant.

But I also realize that every month as he grows, I get to develop a new kind of closeness with him. When I walk in the door after being out, he just beams and rushes over to me. When we are playing, he will stop and climb up on me for a cuddle, before turning his attention back to a toy. As he starts to test out his independence, he will crawl away, but then look back with a twinkle in his eye checking that I am there watching him. We have our things we do together - like reading and singing and going for walks. I know him so well - the looks he gives, the grunts, the squeals, as he probably knows my looks and tones as well. I used to think that babies weren't interesting until they got to a year, but boy was I wrong. I could never have imagined having such a close relationship with him already.

And now, I contemplate my return to work in April and realize, with a sinking heart, that our days of shared rhythms are coming to a close. When he was six months, I agonized at the idea of going back to work, certain he would not be ready for me to leave him. And now, as I see him becoming a little toddler, entertaining himself as he explores the world, I think - he will be okay. He will be three more months older, and I don't dare imagine how much more he'll have developed by then. He will be with his Daddy, and we will have transitioned him so slowly there won't be any shock to him. The shock, I think, will be mine. The one who will have trouble letting go will be me.

Of course, there is nothing I want more than for him to be his own person. For nine months, we shared my body and were one. And for nine months more, he has been still physically nourished by me. But those days are numbered, I see, as he begins to wean to solids and milk. Eventually we won't have any of that physical connection that binds us together. But then... he really will be able to be free to become who he is, to continue to develop his personality, to assert his independence, and to experience his ever-expanding world. And the thought of getting to know Lucas every step of the way is so exciting that I really can't hung up on my fears of letting him go.

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