I assembled C’s swing when I was eight months pregnant. We put it in her nursery adjacent to the changing table, but by the time she was one week old, it had been relocated to our living room along with all the items we found to be truly necessary to life with a newborn. I always felt a little let down that we didn’t use her room right away. I had visualized parenthood looking a certain way, and I wanted the setting to be her room. Her first night home, we put her in her bassinet, closed the door, and were frustrated that every 20 minutes she was up. We had become parents over the weekend but we were dumb, naively expecting a houseguest who would take us up on our offer to help herself to whatever she needed and then politely retire for the night. Instead we got a crying melon.
The swing came with straps, and Fisher Price let us know in no uncertain terms that unless we used all of them to secure her down, she wouldn’t live to see her first birthday. We snapped our tiny baby into her nest and let her rock while we took our places on the floor next to her, just to watch. She nestled in tight, unable to move even if she wanted to.
By week three, the straps had been abandoned for the obvious reason that our daughter was a taco. She was too big for my body but too small for the world, and securing her with the straps was as unnecessary a precaution as telling her not to take our car out for a spin at midnight. We swaddled her up, placed her in her swing, and watched her sway left to right over and over, filling up our home with her tinyness. Her number one safety mechanism was her own inability and lack of motivation to move and explore.
But then she grew. I really don’t know how this happened. Several people I’m close to are pregnant right now and I keep finding myself telling them to hold on tight to the tiny, quiet moments that are so specific to newborn life. The amount of self loathing I take on when I tell them to brace themselves for that baby smell – not just generic baby smell but that your-very-own-baby-that-is-yours-and-will-always-be-yours smell – is staggering. I hated it when people told me how exactly I was going to feel about parenthood before the baby was on the outside. They didn’t know my brain! And what if I didn’t feel that way when I saw her? What if that smell didn’t hit me on the requisite gut level? What if she grew and I never even felt nostalgia for the entirely different life we all enjoyed together only a couple months before? I find myself saying these things and hating myself for it but having no other words because this time goes by just.so.fast and those straps are going to be not-in-use for a far shorter time than they will be in use.
I’ve talked before about C’s magical shirt that gave her the ability to levitate out of the Pack ‘N Play when I was showering. It turns out that the shirt’s only magic is located in the girl who wears it. I know this because this little girl who has found a way to manipulate time climbed out of her Pack N’ Play during my shower. The Pack N’ Play: a far greater obstacle than that swing. Before I could tell her to stop, she climbed into the shower with me, fully-clothed, giggling the entire time and completely aware of the feat she had just accomplished.
My big girl never knew I was tearing up beyond the water.
From here, it goes fast. I thought it was fast before, but I was wrong. I am hoping and praying that the world keeps creating situations where my mama tears can be masked by water when the girl thwarts the straps.