I didn’t count her toes.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
I didn’t count her toes, or run my finger against each perfectly smooth miniature nail. I was about to. I was about to breathe her in, to smile down at her and envelope those tiny feet in my trembling new-mama hands.
But then it all went white.
My baby girl, just a few minutes old, was taken from my arms. Faces hovered above me and needles pierced through skin, into my veins. I remember pain. Hot, pulsing pain, as the man who would save my life worked to stop the bleed.
I remember turning my head, only slightly, as my oxygen mask tugged against my cheek. I remember gloved hands repositioning it so that my view became only ceiling once more. But I sneaked a peak. I caught a glimpse of my little girl, held tightly in her daddy’s arms as his ashen-white face stared at the scene before him. But nobody was looking at her.
Nobody was counting her toes.
In those moments, color left my world and only white remained...detail and shading were redundant and sounds were muffled as time slowed down. Sleep invited me, but I clung to the white, to the brightness, because subconsciously I knew that I had some counting to do.
In my head, I must admit that I was thinking about myself. This is a hard sentence to write. My baby was minutes old and I was thinking about myself. About my pain, my dizziness, my confusion, my life. But I understand now, all of these months on, that my heart was bound to my daughter; I realize now that it was my heart holding on...holding onto the hope that I would live to count those perfect toes.
You see, I lost more than blood at half past six on that summer’s evening. I lost what I assumed was my right to claim those first hours of my daughter’s life outside of the womb. I lost what I assumed was my right to enjoy her 10-minute old self, her 11-minute old self, her 12-minute old self and so on. What if she had rooted for milk at minute 14, as the doctors set up yet another IV drip for me across the room? What if she had looked up in search of her mama’s face at minute 16, as the nurses told me to stay with them? What if she was counting on me to count her toes?
It’s taken a while, but I am at peace with the questions above. I have a steady ache that those moments were lost for us, that I didn’t get to live out my fairytale birth, but I am at peace.
Because, in truth, the moments that I am talking about are just that: they are moments. And as life thunders on and as my daughter grows bigger and bigger, those initial moments become surrounded by other moments in our vast fabric of existence. Never superseded or overlaid, because a woman’s birth experience cannot be brushed aside or forgotten, no matter how uplifting or crushing it may have been. No, these ‘lost’ moments are threaded between others, interwoven between first words and knitted against happy gurglings.
You see, these ‘lost’ moments are paid homage to every time that I crouch down and take off her shoes, every time that I catch a wiggle of a big toe beneath grubby socks. These ‘lost’ moments are saluted every time a little foot smacks me square in the nose during a gymnurstics session...or square in the ribs during our sleep dance.
In truth, these moments are with me at every new turn, at every junction of motherhood. They remind me of the gift that I was given: I am still here.
I get to be mama to my wonderful little girl, and for that, I am ever thankful. I don’t know how long it took me to actually count baby bean’s toes; in honesty, I cannot remember much through the overwhelming fog of love and fear and awe that engulfed me in those early weeks. But it simply doesn’t matter, as there was more for us; more time, more life, more chances. And there will be more again tomorrow.
Because it’s never too late to count toes.
This post originally appeared on Mama Bean Parenting.
There are days I wish my son took epic naps.
Long, lengthy forays into sleep would free me to catch up on my emails, write inspiring blogs, record another webinar, do some extra yoga, cut and freeze the ripe mangos on my kitchen counter-- I could go on. Yes, there are days I wish for naps that span the afternoon. Days where my toddler would sleep, sleep, and sleep.
And then, I remember.
I’ll always have emails to respond to and inspiring thoughts to compose. Mangos will continue to grow on trees and my yoga practice is a multifaceted friend. She comes in many forms, parenting with patience included. There will be days to perfect my headstand and plant the sunflower seeds that patiently wait in a cup by the sink. At least, I hope this is the case. As a trained hospital chaplain, I know how suddenly the wind of death can manifest and shift the sands of any life. Certainly, I pray to be blessed with many more future days.
One thing I know, I won’t always have this day.
I won’t always have the humbling honor of mothering this little boy who laughs when he plays in his new, blue, plastic swimming pool.
He splashes and giggles. I watch him try his own limits by attempting to lie down on his back in the water. The grass between my toes tickles and I lift my arms up toward the Florida palm trees that grace our peaceful and secluded backyard. Then, he runs to me laughing. He pulls up my shirt to nurse. My pants get soaked as he sits on my leg doing what is natural for all young toddlers to do--suckle milk and snuggle with mom before bounding off for more play.
I would never want to miss this. I can be physically present with him and mentally elsewhere, surfing the contours of my to-do list. No more. This is wasted time. My son won’t be 19-months for long. His feet are growing, as is his vocabulary. My own 39-year-old body continues to age and I see the wisps of single grey hairs now and then. I was once 19-months-old.
I pray to slow the inner speed of my to-do list down.
It’s Ramadan now and recently I touched base with a Muslim friend in New Jersey to wish her well. She wrote, “I've been overwhelmed lately because my oldest son just got engaged .... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! How time flies. I just remember just giving birth to the boy! So here is a little advice to you: hold on to each precious moment as long as you can, it all goes by in an instant!”
As I read her words, I revise my wish for inhumanely long naps for toddlers.
There is much wisdom to be gained from letting the transience of life really pierce open a sleepy and habitually sluggish way of seeing. I put aside the to-do list. I put away my computer complete with the ever-flowing stream of information on my FB feed. I turn off my phone. I pause to breathe and remember the truth of these words. My son will awaken in his own good time. His sweet, simple breath--each inhale and exhale---is irreplaceable.
So is this day.
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