Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Grief of a Playpen

We were in the car navigating our way through the rainy night. The closing credits of the movie had appeared on the screen in my parents’ basement just moments earlier. The baby had slept longer than we thought she would, leaving us with a decision to make. We either fed her there and navigated putting a very awake baby down for the night or we carefully put her in her carseat, crossed our fingers and hoped she would stay asleep until we got home. We opted for the latter. Incredibly, she only woke briefly during the transition from her daddy’s warm embrace to her carseat and was back asleep before we backed out of the driveway. 

As a precaution, I had parked myself in the backseat, believing that if she woke up crying, a shush and rock from her mama might do the trick (it’s a 50/50 chance, usually). With her eyelids shut tight, I was actually able to lean forward to whisper with my husband. 

“We should probably lower the mattress height in the playpen,” I said, almost inaudibly. She had reached the recommended weight limit last week but with being away on vacation, I hadn’t wanted to switch things up. In all reality, that was my excuse. 

I didn’t want to admit that my baby was growing, changing. 

“Probably,” he replied, reaching back to take my hand. He knew this was hard for me. Now, for many people this seems ridiculous. Once your child hits a weight or height restriction, naturally you move along, adjusting as needed. You celebrate, you watch them grow. 

But for me, I grieve a little bit too. 

As I sat squished in the middle seat in the back of our car, I felt the tears well up and silently slide down my cheeks, matching the rhythmic drops of rain hitting the windshield. 

I am realizing that amongst the joy of my baby’s growth and development, there is a sadness for what is lost. She has found her hands, gripping her soother and sucking her little fingers whenever she pleases. She has grown bashful, smiling broadly at every familiar face. She has moved through two sizes of clothing, forcing me to tuck away favourite onesies and tiny pants. Her neck has become stronger, allowing her to lift her head and look around from new angles. She has giggled once or twice. 

She has even outgrown the top mattress height of her playpen. 

Change is challenging for me - this is not a new realization. But the dramatic shifts and changes that occur on a daily and weekly basis with a child are forcing me into a new world of acceptance as well as a new place of grief. 

She is no longer the tiny baby I brought home from the hospital, fragile and new. And I am no longer the scared new mom, unaware of how to handle my rollercoaster emotional state let alone a little baby girl. She needs me, definitely, but not in quite the same way. I can no longer deny that the letting go process has already begun. 

Certainly, and most often, I celebrate every little achievement. From blowing bubbles to clasping her hands. From falling asleep on her own in the car to sleeping six hours in a row. I am so proud of this little girl. But those quiet moments, late in the evening in the back of the car? Those are sometimes hard. Those are the moments where I want to hold her close, memorize her tiny features, watch her breathing. Those are the times I want to always be her sole provider of nutrients or the only one who can calm her down when she’s overtired. Because I know these moments are fleeting, and before I know it she will change again, moving on to greater independence. 

Yes, there is so much joy in raising a child. But there is also mourning. There are also tears. Just as my body bears the marks from growing her inside me, my heart has stretched and changed too. It is larger because of the love I have for her, but that has not happened without some scarring, without some marks being left along the way. 

So tonight she lies beside me, in her playpen, with her mattress all the way down. It will become our new normal, just as every change does. But for now, I might shed a tear or two before I go to bed. 

(Can you imagine when she leaves my room??) 

1 comment:

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