I know that when you smelled me, smelled my milk; you knew your hunger would be soothed. When you were sleepy and struggling to settle down, the warmth of my skin, the tick of my heart was all it took.
After those first days, when you could finally stay awake for any stretch of time, when your eyes were studying and your hands were grasping, I finally knew you, finally marveled in what made you my baby. I knew you from your moments under my heart. The way you stretched that foot. I could still feel your foot under my ribs, and though it ached that we’re no longer a pair like we were, we’re a new pair. And you can now see me. You study my face.
This is what love is like when you’re a baby. You see my eyes. The small smile. You recognize my happy sighs, my soothing singing voice, the touch of my hands on your tiny body. And you stare. And I know. I know, little one. This is love for us.
Then you can spot me from a few feet away. And you always turn when you hear my voice. And you smile. Oh that smile, little one.
I can’t help but smile back. I live for those smiles that become more and more frequent every day, that one day turn into a vocalization, then a giggle, then a full-on belly laugh that shakes your whole chubby body.
While I delight in you, you delight in me. We’re mirrors of smiles looping endlessly back and forth. And I know, this is the way we love.
Pretty soon, every day it’s a new trick: grabbing a toy, nibbling your own feet, sitting up, making new noises. I’m the first to see. We celebrate together. And you’re proud. And I’m proud.
We have conversations these days, you and I. I tell you what I’m doing, sharing every mundane detail of our day and you are rapt. When you open your mouth to speak, I listen. Because you try new things for me. And we talk. And even though it’s all baba, goo, hah, I know what you’re saying, little one, I do. I love you too.
This ache becomes familiar to me, when you don’t need me for everything. You entertain yourself. You eat solid food. You crawl. It seems you could spend all day exploring. You might not want to be held, because adventure awaits. But you look back at me, with that smile. That smile I’ve known since its inception. And I know.
You may no longer live nestled under my heart, you might be too busy to rest your head there to listen to it thrum, but you know it’s yours. You may not have the words to say it. Or you may be too busy to say it. Or you may be kicking and screaming at me because of some grand injustice. Or you might be too busy playing soccer. Or you may be at school. Or you may be grown up and far away, but I know. I know, little one.
About Olivia Hinebaugh
Olivia Hinebaugh is a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year-old boy and baby girl. She is an aspiring novelist and steals time whenever both kids are sleeping to clack away at the keys. She tweets about mothering and writing @OliveJuiceLots
She can also be found on Facebook.
Photos by Lauren Preti.