Today one of my best friends, D, had her second baby. She sent us a picture of her second little girl, bundled dry and clean, held up by a nurse. Baby girl looks like she is certain of the camera in front of her. I wish I could share it with you here, but if I remember my own commitment to privacy the first few months my kids were born, I know it’s not my picture to post. My mom described the image just right: you can’t help but see it and not laugh a little because there she is, a new baby girl all surprisingly alert and with the perks of a smile saying, “I’m here, guys.”
The ripple effect of hearing the news of a new baby inspires conversations along many households. My parents probably said something to each other like, “Remember when these girls were just kids sleeping over at our house? Laughing in the basement? Now they have two kids.” D, dressed in a blue hospital gown, still looks like that young girl in my memory. Maybe it’s because I didn’t consider my mom as a woman in her 30s the way I am today that I’m still in awe of my childhood icons being real adults.
In another household, maybe someone wonders if or when this type of moment will be one of her own memories or if there are other joys that are waiting to be born. In my household, though, the news created electricity as my kids stared eagerly into my phone. They loved seeing the baby held by their cousin, who Zade said with marvel is “not a baby anymore. She’s a kid now, Mama!” Their reaction brought to surface sincere memories of when Zade was born.
For example, D sent me a picture of herself right before getting to the hospital. I could tell she’d been crying; her adorable chin looked like it housed small rain drops beneath the skin. She said simply, “I’m excited but also feel bad. I can’t explain it…lots to process.”
If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to say bye to your first child before you leave for the hospital, you know that feeling. You know in your head that you’re doing something good for the family, that she won’t be alone in her life, that you’ll be back in a few days with memories. And yet you may fear you’re choosing something else over your child or that something so big is happening, and she is innocently left out of it; or even worse, you wonder if you’d been worrying about the wrong thing all along and that maybe things won’t turn out right.
When I left Layla to deliver Zade, I felt a hollow carve up inside, like when you swallow water too fast and there’s a bubble trying to force its way down. Like so many mother guilts, it’s not logical, but it is an ache you don’t forget.
And life goes on after those hospital days. It did for us, and now the kids are approaching birthdays. Layla will be 7 soon; she’d barely turned 2 when her brother was born.
Before my maternity leave was up in the winter, we went to Rosemary Beach. We snuggled in a green and white carriage house, all of us in one king size bed, the smell of steak still coming through the cool cracks. Beach winters are the best kept secret.
Last week we went to Panama City, which is close to Rosemary. Needing a family trip in the worst way, we rented a huge minivan and drove toward a tropical depression that was incredibly merciful to us.
On the only rainy day we had at the beach, we took a day trip back to Rosemary and visited our usual spots: the park at the town’s peripheral, the nooks between each unique, designer home, and a coastal book shop (it’s one of my favorites and never disappoints). The kids looked like kids and like grown people at the same time.
Seeing them up against the scale of memory, the scale of the swing Zade looked like a giant potato in a few years ago, made Kal and I start talking in tongues of the future. That type of talk where you plan and say God willing, where you try to face realities of what could be while also chanting why you’re so appreciative of what is.
Time is moving us forwards in whichever way it wants. Seems like I’m swinging backwards here in this post. I’ll keep that momentum going and end back to the first day at the beach.
After nearly 2 weeks that tested the Murphy’s law adage, we thought we’d barely make it on our last-minute trip. We were so sick the night before our departure that we couldn’t pack or clean the house in preparation. Instead, we did all that in the morning and didn’t leave until the afternoon on the next day. Finally, we arrived to Florida at familiar surroundings. We dropped our stuff in the condo and went down to the beach. The kids who’d begged for the beach the whole summer were short of shrieking with joy when they felt sand.
Even though we’ve done many things as a family, this year felt different. As Kal drove, I crossed my legs out in front of me above the dashboard and looked out the window over familiar bridges, familiar long-leaf pines, familiar road stops, familiar faded homes. I told Kal that we used to sit in the back seat with my parents driving at one point in our lives, yet here we are in the front seat, making our way. I handed kids their snacks; he put gas in the car.
In this life of constant work and rotation, I’m grateful beyond measure for what the new brings and what the familiar holds. I can say with certainty that I’m curious about how things will look against today’s scales, markers that show us so much during the rippling ebb and flow of our lives.