Dear little bird,
I will never forget the way that it felt to kiss your cheek, to squeeze your foot, to smell you one more time before I left the hospital that day, with your sister and your daddy, but not with you. Because that was the day we left you behind. Because you weren’t ready to come home yet. I know that it’s irrational, I think I knew it was irrational that day, but I still feel guilty for leaving you. I wondered if you thought you did something wrong. You did everything right. I went back to the hospital every day and your daddy came every night until you grew big and strong enough to come home. With your little blue hat knitted by the NICU staff for NICU babies, to somehow try and comfort NICU mommies who thought their hearts had most certainly broken. And every day since that day you came home, you’ve been my little bird. My little baby and then my little toddler and now my little boy. You are the sweetest child that I have ever known. You feel other people’s pain. And you go out of your way to make it better, even at the cost of your own happiness. Sometimes at night while you are asleep, I crawl into bed and smell your breath as you exhale in and out of dreams.
You turned five a couple of months ago and this week I met with your teacher. Who told me that it was time to have a conversation with you about bathroom privacy, and body consent and “keeping things covered by clothes”. I got in the car after the meeting and cried into my hands harder and louder than I have in years. I know time flies. I fucking feel it every second I look at you and your sister. And it terrifies me. Because I don’t want to lose any of this, I want to dig my fingernails deep down into the experience and claw it still. Claw it steady. So that the minutes stop becoming hours and days and years. I’m not ready for you not to be my baby anymore. I’m not ready for you to not be free and beautiful and wild to run around the house naked screaming “look at my booty everyone!!!” I’m not ready to place you in a world full of rules and “he should”s and “what’s appropriate”. Because you are my little bird. The same little bird I birthed and nursed. This didn’t happen overnight but goddamnit it sure feels that way. You are too big for my lap. I can barely carry you anymore. You still want to snuggle and call me “mommy” and get a hundred kisses and you cry when you scrape your knee or feel left out and you reach for me when you have a nightmare or hurt feelings. But you are moving away from me as well. I don’t want to weep because it’s over I want to rejoice that it happened. I want to rejoice at what is happening right now. Every day that you come home with a new thought or observation. Every time you tell me about a new friend or a new word you’ve learned. “Mommy, did you know turtles have a million eggs filled with a million babies?”
When I looked out the window last week and saw you riding your bike, I didn’t weep, I felt utter pride. And awe at who you are. At who you, my little baby, has become. Being a mother is heartbreaking. It is so powerful that thinking about it, feeling it right now, makes my legs wobbly, my heart shaky and my breath short. When I close my eyes, I can smell the antiseptic soap we were required to use in the hospital before we held you. I can hear the incessant “beep beep beep”s of the baby heart monitors. I can smell the formula and breast milk and diaper cream and baby lotion. And I can still feel the way your chubby little fingers felt, first as I squeezed them tight, then as I pulled away from them. As I left the NICU. As I left you behind. You chirped a little bird sound as I opened the door and entered the hallway. I looked back at you, at my little boy, a boy that at times over the past several years I imagined would never come. And then I left you and went home.
My little bird.