It happened with Ewan, and it's happening again. There are times in any given day when, thinking of how much I love this little girl, I have to stop and touch her and tell her over and over again how much she is loved. Without her even knowing it, she's loved me back in a way I'm not sure I will ever fully understand.
There is a normal and natural order to parenting that we skipped over entirely last time. The normal way of things is to have a baby and to hold onto him, caring for his every need. In a not-so-slow seeming progression of his development you learn to let him go, guiding him gradually from dependence and into self-reliance: potty training, doing chores, going to school, and eventually sending him out into the world a (hopefully) responsible, conscientious and well-formed adult.
There was a whole lot that we skipped over last time. Ewan had (and still has) our whole hearts, but one hundred percent of our prior experience with parenting meant letting him go before we had any idea what it was to hang on, even for a little while. And so even with everything being completely healthy and normal with this pregnancy, there are still "what ifs" that disturb my peace from time to time. What if something does go wrong? What if I have to let go too soon again? Then I touch her some more, and tell her how much I love her. I tell her to keep growing and moving and becoming stronger.
We were talking about some of these things at my midwife appointment this morning -- feelings about labor and how we expect it will be different this time, especially on an emotional level. I talked about there will probably be some level of hesitancy in my ability to accept that she will stay will us after she comes -- that I will get to hang on for awhile. No one is going to pull her away, tuck her into an isolette, and hook her up to IVs. I won't have to ask nurses if I can visit her or hold her. I won't have to hand her over to a surgeon and trust him with taking his knife to her skin. The idea of these things not happening this time around still holds an element of the surreal for me.
I talked about how I expect things to be different in that first of many unbelievable moments: the one where I give birth and get to keep her against my skin instead of giving her up to the arms of strangers. And then the one where I can nurse her and watch her doze off into a milk-drunk sleep. The ones where I perform all the very normal mundane tasks for her: changing a diaper, putting on her clothes, bathing her. The one where I wrap her up against my chest and go for a walk. The one where I wake up and she's here: at home.
They haven't even happened yet, but the anticipation of these moments is already beginning to heal my heart. Where I had to give up, I will get to hold on for a little bit. Where last time, love meant letting go, this time, love will mean hanging on for a little while. I know that the "what ifs" will continue to pop up until this string of beautiful and unbelievable moments are actually here. I will continue to acknowledge them, but then touch my little girl and hang on to the picture of hopefulness God gave me months ago.
It is no secret that Ewan broke my heart wide open, teaching me to love in a way I had never loved before. Austen is making it happen all over again, but in a way entirely new -- teaching me to trust, and showing that it's okay to hang on. Letting go will come soon enough, but for now, I will hang on tight, let my heart love, and let myself anticipate and welcome each and every beautiful and unbelievable moment, one right after the other.