Last week, on the eve of her fourth birthday, I was giving my oldest, Sophie, a bath. She was chattering on as she usually does (constantly, incessantly—just like her mother), telling me half-truths and half-stories about her day at school. She mixes real life with the magical world in her head a lot. Not because she’s trying to lie, I don’t think, but because, to her, her imagination is just as real as the kids in her class or her beloved kindergarten teacher.
As she talked, she leaned forward to grab a toy just out of her reach, stretching out her back and showing off the tiny vertebrae that hold her upright. Watching her move—seeing her spine extend and contract— brought tears to my eyes.
I remember that spine. I remember watching that spine appear on the ultrasound screen—the only thing I could really identify in the hazy picture—and catching a sob in my throat. I remember that spine as the first moment I realized what was really happening inside of me; it was all so abstract before that moment. I had symptoms, but they weren’t unlike that of PMS or the flu. Those little bones, seemingly delicate building blocks on top of each other, made my heart beat faster and grow bigger simultaneously, in a single instant.
I’ve watched that spine round as my sweet baby curled into herself to sleep. I’ve felt that spine arch against me when my defiant toddler Just. Wanted. Down! I’ve run my hand along that spine when my preschooler clung to me for comfort. And now she’s four. I imagine I will feel the same way when she’s 14 or 44. Nostalgia is an interesting frenemy—it allows you to remember things that touched the very core of who you are, but it also needles you in the soft spots you protect so carefully. I don’t like thinking about Sophie as a baby right now, because if I think about it too much, it breaks my heart that she’s watching Monster High and giving me sass about what shoes to wear to school. It’s of course the natural progression, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but I also need to do more in my life than sit and watch her grow, and if I think about the rate of that growth, how accelerated it seems, I will never do anything else.
I didn’t know that motherhood came with an inherent grief, at least for me. And that something as clinical as my darling girl’s bones would set me off. I knew to expect joy and guilt in the same breath (I’d read enough mommy blogs before the second line appeared) and that my kids would both infuriate and delight me hour by hour. I knew to cherish every single moment I could get with them, even when they are pitching a fit over not wanting to eat breakfast. But I did not know that there would be a tiny hint of sadness in every year that passes. Maybe some of you will write and say that it’s a terrible way to look at parenthood, but it is what it is—I miss the years that have already passed in the same breath as looking forward to the years yet to come. What a weird paradox. And all because of a glimpse of my first baby’s spine.
Walmart Live Better editor-in-chief Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization—a lot. Now imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie, Juliette and husband Blaine. Read all of Katie’s Type A Baby posts and follow her on Twitter @katie_dupuis.