I sat, in the darkened bedroom of my infant daughter, with her sleeping form cradled against my body, her face nestled into my throat and gently rocked in time with her breathing- in and out. Back and forth.
The hum of the air conditioner muffled the creak of the floor under our chair, and cooled the early summer heat from the air. As my daughter sighed and shifted, my heart leaped and surged with love for her- for her innocence, her newness, her trust in my arms to keep her safe while she slept. And my mind drifted to my son. Stepson actually, but I never call him that.
I never got to hold him the way I held my daughter tonight. I never got to smell baby shampoo wafting from his head or feel his breath across my throat as he curled up to sleep. He was seven years old when we met- funny, sweet, quick and kind. He was filled with boyish independence and his eyes flashed with humour and trouble both.
I am grateful that he came into my life- and stayed these last 17 years, but the birth of my daughter made stark all that I missed of him in those first years of his life. I never got to see him discover his hands, or babble his first sounds. I missed his first crawl and his first steps and I didn’t get to teach him to read or to write his name…
As I rocked, I remembered the first Christmas we were together- how, because of him I got to be Santa for the first time. I remembered that the greatest gift he ever gave me was the year he began calling me “Mommy”. I remembered the pride I felt in his every accomplishment; the terror I felt for this small boy in such a big and unpredictable world where I could not be everywhere to protect him. I remembered laughing till our eyes streamed and our bellies hurt; I remembered when he had to say goodbye, and I remembered the glorious day he came back.
As I rose to place my daughter in her bed, I kissed her twice. Once for her in heartbreaking gratitude that she came into my life, and once for the baby my son used to be.