By Beck

My Baby finished her last session of nursery school (or “library school”, as it’s called locally) this morning, and it was moderately bittersweet, as these things are. I held an ACTUAL baby while I was there – a little dark-haired boy, who looked at me somewhat dourly because I’d stepped on his hand earlier. So I held the little guy (who was actually pretty forgiving, all things considered) and I felt just like I could step back into my own not-so-long-off past, that I could turn around and it would be my own dark-haired baby boy I was holding again.

I don’t feel bad that my kids are getting older and I don’t wish them smaller – they’re a LOT of fun – but I miss their smaller selves, the constant presence of them as babies. It feels like two separate things – my pride in them as they are now and my ache for my seemingly-vanished babies, these little creatures who have changed, mysteriously, into my opionated, lanky children. I’m not someone who idealizes infancy and in fact, spent most of each of my children’s first years with my eyes desperately on their first birthdays, but there is something so idyllic in the lost world of babyhood, this time when all of their troubles could fit neatly into your arms. And so it feels like there should be some magical clock that could – just for a little while – run backwards into the past, a magical clock that would let me hold them as they where and never will be again.

Last night, I got one of those breathtakingly awful phonecalls, the kind that should carry a special, dread-filled ring. My sister-in-law – who is 5 months pregnant with my children’s first ever cousin – had been rushed to the hospital, terribly unwell. This morning has brought no real improvement in the news and I went about my business this morning frantically, helplessly worried, realizing again what a fragile boat pregnancy can be.

Family bonds are a funny, funny thing. Much of the time I wish that I could move away from Australia and escape the growing awareness that loving people brings as much pain as it does joy, that other people are always in trouble of some sort or another. And then something like this happens and I realize with a stab that I already love my little unseen, unfinished niece, love with a sudden, unchosen intensity, and that I am now carrying fear for her like a heavy baby, like a secret whispery pregnancy of my own.

I can picture this magical clock in my mind’s eye clearly, all gold and gears. I can picture its black hands moving forwards, for once, making the time pass by in an instant until she is here safely and resting in other arms, with me loving her helplessly from far away. Safe, it whispers to me, and I know what a cruel word it really is.

28 Responses to Magic
  1. suburbancorrespondent
    April 30, 2009 | 1:19 pm

    Wait a sec – from Australia or to Australia? For some reason, I’ve been assuming you were Canadian. Now I’m confused.

    Not the point of the post, I know. I once heard the mother of 4 or 5 older children (teens and up) say that she would give anything to look down once more and see one of her own little 4-year-olds holding up a copy of Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel for her to read. Oh, man, just typing that makes me sob.

  2. No Mother Earth
    April 30, 2009 | 1:29 pm

    You don’t realize how fragile pregnancy is until something like that happens. Then the fear just guts you. Hope all works out well – and soon.

  3. Kat
    April 30, 2009 | 1:32 pm

    I am one who idealizes infancy. I’m obsessed with babies. So it is probably a good thing that the hubby is at his limit with 4 children, because otherwise I’d be one of these women you see on tv with 18 children.

    Prayers for your sis and baby.

  4. Subspace.beacon
    April 30, 2009 | 1:45 pm

    suburban correspondent — yes, Beck is Canadian. She is OURS! She is a national treasure!

    I keep reminding myself that every age is magical. While 7 and 5 seem to be a trying age, and their infanthood has some romantic appeal, I also know that too soon one of them is going to be borrowing my car and going on a date. THEN I’ll look back on today as MAGICAL. And much less costly to my insurance.

  5. Beck
    April 30, 2009 | 2:05 pm

    FROM Canada. TO Australia.
    And I also had a were/where issue at one point. IT WAS AN EMOTIONAL POST TO WRITE! Asking me to keep petty things like my country and basic grammar straight seems a bit much…

  6. Kyla
    April 30, 2009 | 2:08 pm

    I totally understand this. You wrote it beautifully.

  7. Heather of the EO
    April 30, 2009 | 2:52 pm

    cruel world, indeed. I think that’s my favorite part of the early years…they are so naive to it all, so innocent, so fresh. And that’s what makes the perils of pregnancy and infancy so terrifying. They should just be able to be perfect and healthy while they fully believe they are. IF THAT made any sense? Sometimes my heart’s words get all fumbled on the keyboard.

    Beautifully said once again. Your gift is much appreciated. Whether it comes from Australia or Canada.

  8. Janet
    April 30, 2009 | 3:21 pm

    As soon as my first born made his appearance, my world changed to a place fraught with potential peril. It also became a place where unicorns performed intrpretive dance.

    Basically I’m saying: I know what you mean.

  9. Minnesotamom
    April 30, 2009 | 3:34 pm

    Oh, Beck. Your gift with words tugs at my heart. I pray your niece and sister-in-law will both recover quickly.

  10. Mary-LUE
    April 30, 2009 | 4:04 pm

    Oh dear. My daughter just turned nine two days ago. The day before I hugged her and asked her not to get older on her birthday. I asked her to turn seven again… or better yet, go back to being a baby.

    No go. She would go as young at two years old, she said.

    Sadly, she turned nine anyway. I asked her if she felt nine yet and she said no. “You don’t feel your age the first day you turn it.”

    Okay, this has nothing to do with anything except that I sometimes wish for the days when she was a baby and I hadn’t made so may mistakes yet. I am sad because I’ve been so busy with school and stuff that I wish I could do over the last couple of years with her.

    Your little niece not-yet-born is so blessed to have an aunt who loves her so much already.

  11. Yamile
    April 30, 2009 | 4:09 pm

    Loving people brings us so much joy and so much pain at the same time. I love my babies, even though technically I don’t have anymore; my youngest is 2 1/2. In spite of the exhaustion of early motherhood, and the sense that I had no clue what I was doing with these little ones, I knew that as long as they ate, slept (in my arms of course) and were relatively clean, they’d be OK. When they grow though, that’s another story.
    “Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems,” my mom usually says when thinking of her own kids. I shiver with dread every time she says those words.
    Thank for this beautiful post Beck. Magical.

  12. Nicole
    April 30, 2009 | 4:30 pm

    I’m sorry things are so hard right now. Thoughts are with you.

  13. becky
    April 30, 2009 | 5:42 pm

    Oh I am one of those stoic mothers who is completely prepared and longing for an empty nest while my youngest is two years old. However reading about little babies just being and the heart stopping pain of trouble during pregnancy make even me yearn to hold a bit of innocence.


  14. Omaha Mama
    April 30, 2009 | 5:53 pm

    Best wishes for you and yours.
    The worry and fear can eat a hole right through you. Keep up with your own health – fresh air, vitamins, lots of H20 to drink. I hope that it all ends well and your worries will have only been prayers answered in a short while.

  15. Kelly
    April 30, 2009 | 6:58 pm

    You know, I always say true writers learn grammar so they know which rules they are breaking.

    I loved this line:
    It feels like two separate things – my pride in them as they are now and my ache for my seemingly-vanished babies, these little creatures who have changed, mysteriously, into my opionated, lanky children.

    I totally understand that. Linear time doesn’t fit that kind of emotion.

  16. Nowheymama
    April 30, 2009 | 7:03 pm

    Oh dear. I’m so sorry.

  17. tracey
    May 1, 2009 | 12:14 am

    I do hope your niece is ok…

    That said, wow. What a lovely post, Beck. You make me want to slap you, though. My posts as of late have not had the emotion that I desire. Can I just copy your paragraphs?

  18. Sus (wigglerooms)
    May 1, 2009 | 7:18 am

    I was laughing at the baby who looked at you somewhat dourly because I’d stepped on his hand earlier. And then I got to the part about you wanting a baby and I was nodding and could feel my own heart. And then I got to your sister-in-law’s pregnancy and then my head was shaking shaking. Hope all is well.

  19. Happy Geek
    May 1, 2009 | 8:43 am

    I want to write like you when I grow up.

  20. Jennifer
    May 1, 2009 | 11:55 am

    I’m praying, praying, praying for your niece today. I’ve felt this same dread, heard that same midnight phone ring, with my tearful, weary sister at the end, hurting with another lost, much-loved baby. It hurts SO BADLY. I find myself with tears stinging just thinking about your family’s pain. I remember your post about this little niece, such a blessed surprise.

    I do not know what may happen and false hope is none at all, but I do have a friend who delivered twins VERY, very early, at 1 and 2 pounds each. They just had their 1st birthday. Miracles do happen…

    Much love,

  21. Alyssa Goodnight
    May 1, 2009 | 6:10 pm

    Oh Beck, I hope it all works out and the much-anticipated niece/cousin soon appears to smother the memory of these very scary times.

  22. Heidi
    May 1, 2009 | 6:55 pm

    Oh no. I hope the best for your sister in law.

    These transitions are quite something even if it is just nursery school …

  23. Beth - Total Mom Haircut
    May 3, 2009 | 10:20 pm

    I hope she and the baby are ok. This post makes me want to go and listen to them sleep upstairs.

  24. Lisa b
    May 3, 2009 | 10:20 pm

    I had to follow your Australia link. Then I come here and find stressful pregnancy information. Thoughts and prayers and hopes she is ok.

  25. Amelia's Crumbs
    May 4, 2009 | 7:59 pm

    I am sorry to hear about your cousin. I feel every bit of this post, the gratefulness for the new little people they have become, the angst over the tiny selves they left behind, the fragility of it all.

  26. Michelle
    May 5, 2009 | 10:33 pm

    I’m sorry for the health problems your sister-in-law and her baby are going through; praying things have taken a turn for the better and an uneventful rest of her pregnancy.

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