The young mother is absorbed in her task as she warms the bottle and offers it to her newborn girl. I wish I knew what goes through her mind. She smiles at her baby and without taking her eyes off her says to me, “She’s a handful, you know.” Then puts the tip of her nose on the baby’s belly and tickles her. The infant drools.
“We like bothering mommy in the middle of the night, don’t we?” Her tone has now changed into baby talk. The infant starts to fuss and she puts her on the sofa over a small blanket and starts to unbutton the pink overall. I watch her change the diaper with utmost skill and can hardly believe she’s only done this for a few weeks. These are different diapers than the ones I used to buy for my kids, then again so are the bottles, the pacifiers and even some baby clothes.
I used to buy diapers from Toys R Us because they offered the best price. Sometimes I thought I lived at Toys R Us. A coupon for this and a gift of that and I was trapped in those isles hours at a time. Never figured out the reason behind their peculiar entrance and exit or why I had to make a large circle around the store whenever I needed to go back in. It’s been years since my toy days and I wonder if that system ever changed.
I study the mother and child with care. It must have been a rough night for I can see dark circles around her young eyes. The baby is now screaming and I wonder how much more of this I could take. Where’s the patience I used to have? But in fact, I never had that. I must have turned off my ears the way this young woman seems to have done. She’s still smiling. “Good lungs we’ve got! Maybe we’ll be an opera singer,” she says and chuckles.
My three kids also had good lungs and I suddenly realize none of them turned to opera. Oh, the illusions of parenthood. We imagine them achieving our dreams and we see them getting over the hurdles that stopped us. I wonder if the young woman is picturing her children around her when she turns old, smoldering her with affection, even worshipping her. She probably banks on the fact that they’ll be around when she needs them, won’t forget the sacrifices she’s making.
“Can I offer you something?” she asks me.
I shake my head. She has already offered me plenty, the best of which has been a glance back at the long gone years. I am walking through those sleepless hours, a time when a full night’s sleep was nothing but a dream. I see my crying babies and am once again filled with the longing to know what was wrong. I hear my old neighbor telling me, “Enjoy them while you can for they’ll be grown up and gone before you know it.” How ridiculous those words sounded after a night that had seemed to have no end.
As my girls grew into beautiful dolls, I dreamed my dreams for them. Sometimes I pictured them around me in my aging years. I saw them giving meaning to my existence, I saw them filling the gaps in my life and I knew they would never let me be sad again. I never doubted their success, their happiness. Oh, there’s no end to the dreams of a mother.
Is that what goes through this young woman’s mind? Is she picturing her baby all grown up? Can she imagine a day when her daughter may return some of the love that she so freely gives away?
The baby is now quiet and the young mother puts her down in the bassinette. She stands there, watching the sleeping child. Her smile is now distant and dreamy. Does she think her baby can sense the depth of her love? She seems too absorbed in the present, too taken by the baby’s every move.
In my silence, I see her years from now. She may struggle with the new chaotic schedule, but the future is all hers. Someday the nurturer will be nurtured and the caregiver will be cared for. Someday, this tiny girl will prove to her mother that none of this love was wasted.
The baby squirms and she rushes to pick her up. The tired look is back on her face and I know her mind is nowhere near the better days ahead. Maybe I should talk to her, maybe she deserves to know that the future is well worth the effort. Then again, it doesn’t matter what I say, she needs to find it out in her own time.
If we’re lucky, our children will pay us back in two folds. I should know because I just had a birthday and mine did!
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