Ever since we made the decision to be done, finally done having kids, I’ve been looking toward the future with great enthusiasm. We’re getting close to closing the chapter on the infancy stage of life. In many ways, it's exciting. I can’t wait for the day when all three of my children can put on their own shoes and get in the car without feeling out of breath from all the child and gear lifting I've done (and that's before I even get them buckled). I can’t wait for vacations that don’t leave me needing another vacation to recover from the first. I can’t wait to watch them all bloom into their own unique people, exploring their interests and passions with wild abandon. And I seriously cannot wait to sleep through the night for the first time in over five years.
My youngest is on the cusp of nine months and already he's moving away from being a tiny baby, crawling and climbing and growing like a damn weed. It won’t be long until he’s not a baby at all anymore. He’ll be a toddler; a preschooler. I’ll blink, and he’ll be a kid. As exciting as the future may be, however, I know there will be so many moments I'll miss about having an infant, someone who needs to me and depends on me for every little thing. Leaving the infancy stage behind us is great, but it's also bittersweet. There are days when I wrap my arms around my oldest and wonder how he ever fit in the crook of my arm, longing for days I can barely remember now.
Already I miss the sweet scent of newborn skin and the primal cries that echoed through the maternity ward halls in the moments after my kids — each of them — were placed in my arms. I miss those early days of loving someone I didn't yet know, kind of like the way falling in love happens when you're a teen: disorienting in its obsessive nature as you forget to eat and cannot sleep. I miss the puppy-like sounds as they sleep. I miss easing their discomfort with this wide new world by holding them close to my heartbeat.
Some days I pass by the hospital where all three of my babies were born and feel buried by a wave of nostalgia. Their births are still so fresh in my mind, I can map the halls of the hospital from memory, each path taking me to the rooms where they born — first my son, then my daughter, then my baby boy. Those first moments and days are imprinted on me in a way that the rest of my memories are not: bright, vivid, clear. I hope that vibrancy stays as long as I live, because there is so much else that's happened since then that I cannot remember.
How did it all go by so fast? I try to remember their small baby voices cooing and babbling, but even when I look back at old videos, it's like a dream, familiar but not real.
The sleepless exhaustion of new motherhood steals the memories that once seemed so irreplaceable to me. Things swore I'd never forget have become hard to remember. In the heavy fog of being constantly tired, it's become a battle to keep track of the things beyond those necessary to keep them all alive, and the precious things I promised myself I'd never forget fade away.
The thing I miss most about infancy is that it cannot be captured, no matter how hard I've tried. I want to bottle it up and keep it forever, but as they change one day to the next, those memories fade too.
“Take a picture of her like this,” I remember saying as our daughter curled on my chest while I held her with one hand. “I never want to forget how small she is right now.” I look at the picture now, years later, but I still can’t remember my girl like that. In fact, I can’t remember any of them being that small anymore. The pictures of my children as infants seem less real than the high school photographs of me and my husband. How did it all go by so fast? I try to remember their small baby voices cooing and babbling but even when I look back at old videos, it's like a dream, familiar but not real.
The thing I miss most about infancy is that it cannot be captured, no matter how hard I've tried. I want to bottle it up and keep it forever, but as they change one day to the next, those memories fade too. They become something else entirely: a memory of a time and place I swore I wouldn’t forget, like the time my oldest was helpless with laughter over me zesting a lemon for pie.
“Do you remember that?” I say, to my husband, to myself.
Yes, of course I do ... but then again, not really. It’s more like a story I tell myself over and over again. The details I know by heart, but the moment, the real moment, has been misplaced. It is so hard to keep track of every precious thing, no matter how badly I want to.
I know my kids will not remember these years, but I want to be the keeper of their memories. Infancy is so fleeting. It feel like just a few seconds, and then it's gone. I am the gatekeeper of their memories — of our lives. These are moments only I've witnessed — first breaths, first coos, first giggles — so what will become of them if I cannot remember? What becomes of these years when they're gone? Already my two oldest have turned the corner from babies and toddlers to kids, and I know my 9 month old isn't far behind. It'll all be over so soon, and I know that I'll be left with an aching longing for things I can't even rightly remember. It breaks my heart. My babies will disappear, and in their place, kids and teens and soon, adults.
You have to remember this, I think to myself as I watch my youngest drift to sleep in my arms, his chubby cheeks pink with warmth, his lips still pursed and suckling at air. This will all be over soon. Not just the moment, but the memory too, lost in the quicksand of busy days and long nights.