By now, you’d intended to have explanations—for the life you lead and the home you’ve made and the diminishing balance in your bank accounts, for your student loan debt and your temporary inability to afford clothing that fits or a haircut. She does not need these now, but you do. Lord, how you need to be able to explain things to yourself.
You have no time to remember.
Your life has become a carousel–there’s a bobbing electric breast pump; four escalating stacks of ungraded essays; an apparition of DJ Lance Rock flailing his orange-clad arms; and the sound of your daughter’s breathtaking wail as a soundtrack.
You don’t get much time to settle into her. Four days a week, you work, which means you’re gone no fewer than five hours and, often, closer to eight. When you’re home, you are still at work, stealing the attention she rightfully deserves, reassigning it to students and sleep. You feel guilty that your mother is with her all day and also helps with her at night. You worry that there’s prolonged stasis, that the arrival of your maternal instinct has been waylaid by your work and the convenience of round-the-clock child care.
You are never enough, alone with her. You are never alone with her enough.
She is growing. You swear that her oft-uttered coo, “ah-pool,” is “apple.” She also says “up” rather clearly, when you do*. You resist the urge to proclaim her a genius, though you secretly believe it in your heart.
You will tell her she talked at two months.
But what more will you be able to tell her, if she asks, of her first quarter of life?
Mommy was tired. She was barely holding onto lucidity at her classroom lecterns. She yawned as she held you at home. She grumbled whenever she rose to pump milk at 3 in the morning. Her chest cramped every time she checked the fridge and saw that you were just one bottle away from hunger, that the ten bags once crowded into the freezer are down to two, that your appetite is growing quicker than her breasts’ supply.
You miss her. She’s holding your gaze so much longer now. Her crying is no longer constant. And though she’s only been with you 75 days, you feel like she’s been here forever. You feel like, years from now, she could be your dearest friend.
You rush home to smell her hair, to touch her skin, to try to elicit her smile. This last thing has recently become easier, for your serious daughter now anticipates your ritual of making your fingers her mobile, of widening your eyes when she coos.
She knows your face, your expressions, the varying lilts of your voice. You’re learning her sense of humor. You’re learning what keeps her from crying.
It’s the best education you’ve ever had.
*Once, every tenth time I say it or so. 😉