Handed to me fresh and gooey, she stole my heart instantly.
I wasn’t prepared for the impact of pure love when I looked at those eyes, wide open and brown as dark chocolate. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, she was so perfect, so beautiful that I almost felt frightened as she stared directly through my soul. She never cried, she just watched, taking it all in like the old soul that she was. In fact, we all remarked that we didn’t know what her cry sounded like until days later. Since I had traded the option of pain relief and hospital birth for the autonomy and gentleness of a home birth, I never had to deal with someone whisking her from me until I was good and ready to put her down, which didn’t happen for days. Our first year is hazy as we slept, nursed endlessly and stayed swaddled to each other to soothe her colic and to ease my anxiety that I must be doing something wrong.
The beautiful child eventually found her footing and released my breast at the exact perfect time for her. I never pushed her away. Never. My body and soul was there for her as long as she needed me. It couldn’t have been any other way. It was absolutely futile to resist my role as her mother, it called to me so strongly like a destiny that I had been waiting for my entire life. And I know now, that up until that point, I had never experienced a love like that. Blinding, pure, knock me off my feet love for this little 6-pound being. Everything that I had felt for my parents, friends and other loved ones didn’t hold a candle to this. For the first time, I felt the enormous power of my emotions seize my being. I knew that I could have lifted a car from this child or flat out murdered anyone who attempted to harm her without a blink of the eye. I felt that certainty and a distinction that I not experienced prior.
If it was even possible, our life together just got sweeter and sweeter. We walked and sang and looked at stars. We caught lightening bugs and set them free in our bedroom at night. We played late into the summer nights and then went for ice cream. Sleepily, she would crawl onto my lap, wrapping around me murmuring “I love you mommy heart”, her pet name for me when she was especially full of love.
Over the years, I stayed close as she watched other children for endless hours before venturing toward them. She was reserved and shy. It was to be respected and always on her time frame. Always.
She became a little girl, then a young woman. The eye rolling started and the physical touch disappeared. It hurt. But it was necessary. It had to be done. One couldn’t love this intensely and wholly without having the separation be of epic proportion. So she did what she needed to do at exactly the time that she needed. She hugged her friends, then her boyfriends. It was reserved for them now and I made do.
Leaving for college was a snap for her. Her independent wings had sprouted so long ago that she simply just took off. Her rock solid foundation of love made it easy for her to leap. It was never about me, she did exactly what she needed to do at that moment. She needed to fly. And I needed to cheer her on.
We approached the deadline of her moving cross country with mixed emotions. She would be leaving her midwestern roots and heading toward the ocean and a new life. Mostly we occupied ourselves by planning and making lists of necessary items to purchase or pack. I kept it light and wouldn’t under any circumstances let her see my sadness, only the excitement. I knew firsthand what a burden it could be to watch a parent crumble as a child left home. My mother waved bravely as I pulled out of the driveway headed for Texas, post college and headstrong. It was my mistake to look back. She sank to her knees sobbing with her head in her hands. I’ve carried that forever.
My daughter and I were both methodically and consciously trying to let go of each other, coping as best we could, trying on for size the separation that was inevitable. We had bonded so completely that it would be difficult to pull this off but we still needed to try. Maybe that’s why she chose to go so far away. Maybe she needed the distance to see where she started and I left off. It made sense. It was always about her time frame. She always got to choose what worked best for her.
A few days before she left, I awoke to her sleeping in my bed beside me. My husband had already left for work and I mistakenly thought the dog had taken his place, but it was her. A full grown woman replaced the tiny 6 pound miracle that graced my life a mere 25 years before. We snuggled but not too close, mostly letting the dog absorb our affection, tempering the emotion. I knew she needed some mother comfort and so did she. But we didn’t speak of it. We didn’t have to.
The Saturday morning she left was crisp and clear, a day before her 25th birthday. The morning air brought that snapshot frozen in time flooding back. It was the same weather the day of her birth. It felt cyclical and right. We busied ourselves with packing her car then fussed some more and kissed all the dogs and took photos and put off the moment when we had to say goodbye. It was finally upon us.
I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of her hug. She’d spent over a decade avoiding touching or sometimes barely acknowledging me and the sheer impact of her propelling sobbing body at mine literally knocked me off balance. My baby. She’s back. Pressed up against my heart… how good it felt to hold her again. I immediately felt guilty for loving the embrace at the expense of her unleashed emotion.
I reassured her that her home was there always, waiting if she needed it. I held her until she pulled away then came back for one more embrace. I inhaled her sweet essence and let her cry. Then I let her pull away from me. It was always about her. She let go when she was ready and I made do.