last night i went to meet my new nephew, who was born a week ago today. he weighed a pound more than Matthew did when he was born and yet, when i saw the newest addition, i felt certain my child had never been so small.
minutes earlier, Matthew had met me on the stoop of my mother-in-law's, reaching for me as Michael held him, grasping my neck, making his happy cavebaby sounds. i stepped inside to put my bag down so i could take him and he started to cry, mistakenly believing i was leaving him again already.
i hugged him and kissed him a hundred times on his neck, between his ear and his shoulder, my favorite spot. then i carried him over to see his new cousin, who was asleep in my mother-in-law's arms.
if i'm being honest? i wanted to cry.
i know it's possible to believe life is a mystery, a miracle, a wonder even if you've never had a child. but when you do have a child, it becomes an full-on obsession—trying to understand how it all happens. you're in a constant state of amazement. just when you think you've finally grasped the concept, it slips through your fingers and you have to start all over again trying to get your arms around it.
it starts when the baby is growing inside you. at first you feel sick, you feel fat, you feel tired, you feel worried. you see the flickers on the screen during your ultrasounds—"these are the eyes, this is the brain, look at the heart, here are the feet." the technician points out all the parts and you either see them or you don't (or you pretend to see them when really you don't).
then you feel the baby move. you feel the baby hiccup. you see the baby's foot, pushing against the skin that used to be taut against your ab muscles, that is now stretched to the max to accommodate this tiny kung fu star. and, slowly—mostly in the middle of the night—it starts to register. inside your body at this exact moment is a human being, someone with eyes and ears, a nose and a mouth. a person-in-progress who relies on you for everything already, and will need you in one way or another for the rest of your life. (you know this because you still need your mom, more often than you'd like to admit.)
then, before you can fully comprehend what's happened, a nurse places in your arms a creature who resembles—if we're being honest here—a miniature senior citizen. bald, wrinkly, toothless. he's wrapped in a blanket and looks pretty stunned by what's just gone down and you think, "well, at least we have something in common."
your heart is already gone by that point, of course. you don't even know it, but it's gone baby gone. and your life—which has already spanned more than three decades and is chock full of memories and stories and mistakes and lessons—is actually just beginning.
how else to explain the unadulterated, highly-concentrated, knee-buckling love that bubbles up from your stomach to your throat to your eyeballs anytime you hold your child, anytime you hear your child, anytime you think of your child? how else to explain the way you look at the world now? you see all the dangers, yes (and god, were there always this many?) but you also see all the wonders, big and small. new daffodils bouncing in the wind, gray-white seagulls pecking at the sand, a flashing fire truck speeding down the street, an airplane glinting in the sky, an ice cream truck at the corner, an elaborate swing set, a new box of crayons... so many things you get to show him and teach him and experience all over again.
when i saw my new nephew last night, of course i remembered Matthew being that small. it just seemed like he was that size yesterday—and that he's been with me forever. has it been almost a year already? has it only been almost a year?
i can't get my arms around it—how quickly it all happens, how naturally it all happens, how almost seamlessly it all happens. i know i've had a hand in the process—i've kept him fed, i've kept him safe, i've kept him happy (and i am certain he knows he is loved). but it also seems to be happening without me: my baby is becoming a boy. he knows so much, and it's only a fraction of what he'll know in a month, a year, three decades from now.
it's a mystery, it's a miracle. it's a wonder.