As I was reading in bed the other night, I heard a Thunk! as Ainsley fell out of her bed. Thankfully her bed is very low to the ground. I soothed her bumped head and tucked her in with me. She was snugly and sweet -- patting my cheek, putting her head on chest, being, if only for a fleeting few moments, the baby she seems to have so suddenly and so completely left behind.
She's two in all its glory. While we still get hugs and kisses, she's go, go, go these days -- wholly invested in little girl activities. Let's play dolls or build with blocks or play tea party. Being content simply being held? Not so much.
A few months back I tossed out my rocking chair -- the rocker my dad bought for me when I had my first child, the rocker in which I have spent a good chunk of my life reading Curious George and Winnie the Pooh, Mike Mulligan and The Hungry Caterpillar, the rocker that, I was forced to admit, was falling apart and beyond repair.
Some time after pitching the rocker, I realized I had all but quit reading to Ainsley. Her bed is just not conducive to a forty-seven-year-old woman reading a book, even if it's in large print and only eight pages long. I missed the reading, but I really missed the slow and snugly part of Ainsley's day. My friend Amy offered her glider rocker. We are reading and cuddling once more.
Last week Ainsley conked out in her car seat on the way to Mass. Typically this is not a good thing. A poorly timed twenty-minute snooze can leave her half-rested and cranky. On this day it worked out just fine. I carried her into church where she peacefully slumbered for forty-five minutes.
Tim was serving Mass. Kolbe and John didn't engage in any semi-overt guerrilla warfare in the pew. In the quiet presence of God, uninterrupted by phone or To Do List, I enjoyed the luxury of holding my sweet baby. I twirled her soft, blond hair and rubbed her fair, still-chubby cheeks. This was a welcome and unusual treat.
A while back it was John who went catatonic in church. During an extra-long homily, he put his head on my lap and out he went. The boy who is full-throttle from dawn to dusk, just lay there, chest rising and falling. I tousled his caramel blond hair. I noticed his shoes on the wrong feet. I rubbed his arms still bronzed from a summer at the pool and in the yard. John has a year round tan his Irish mother could only get from a bottle and then there would be an orange cast to it. He blazes through the day with equal parts of action and mischief (with a whole lot of charm and affection thrown in). For this all-too-brief time, I enjoyed the weight of his slumbering form and drank in the cuteness that is age four.
Motherhood is a physical job from start to finish. Long before I gain my first ounce of pregnancy weight, I am overcome with fatigue and nausea. One of my babies had hiccups for hours and hours every single evening for months. With both Ainsley and John I had weeks of Braxton-Hicks contractions. With each pregnancy I had the distinct thought, "I can't get any bigger. I just can't." Somehow I did.
Infancy brings the joy and challenge of nursing. Mothers rock and hold and feed and burp, rock and hold and feed and burp. How many of us have found ourselves in a grocery line or Mass without the baby and noticed that we were doing a soothing, jiggly motion simply because it had become second nature?
Toddlers have shoes that need tying,capes that need fastening, boo boos that need kissing, hands and faces and backsides that need washing.
When I was thirty-eight weeks pregnant with Ainsley, I sat in a doctor's office with John. He had spiked a fever of over 104.5. With ears, throat, and nose clear, the doctor suspected a urinary tract infection. Getting a urine sample from a dehydrated two-year-old who was not yet potty trained proved to be a challenge. I spent hours -- hours -- sitting in a hard plastic chair with a feverish John draped over what really didn't qualify as a lap. I had little left to give.
This is motherhood. It's a physical job, a demanding job. I have sometimes felt touched-out. There wasn't enough of me to go around, or so it seemed.
But then these needy little people grow up just a bit. And a tiny part of your heart crumples. We so want them to grow and thrive and develop. We cheer their every milestone. This, of course, means they need us less or at least need us differently.
And I find myself mourning just a little bit.
We are currently at the beach enjoying bacation, as John likes to call it. Ainsley has picked up on this.
"We on 'cation," she asks me every night. "John John on 'cation? Timmy on 'cation? Daddy on 'cation?"
Yes, sweetie. We are on 'cation.
Her favorite part of 'cation is the king-sized bed that means she gets to sleep with mom and dad all night, every night (rather than clandestinely sneaking in as she likes to do at home). After our queen-sized bed, this king-sized baby feels positively cavernous. Or it would except that Ainsley has taken to pressing her squirmy little self right up to me. "Mama!" she says in her bossy voice, if I try to move an inch. She wants my arms around her and my cheek next to hers.
"She thinks she's in utero again," I commented to Dave.
For this week this suits me just fine. After all we're on 'cation, and there really is nothing like a sleeping baby.