6 years ago. I hold my friend’s newborn baby, and marvel at how tiny and perfect it is. I listen to her talk about how wonderful motherhood is; how much joy it gives her. We’re not pregnant yet. I feel left out.
8 months pregnant. The family is bubbling about an upcoming trip to Mexico. They invited us to go, but the kicking, writhing little alien in my belly advised me it was better to pass this time. And so we stay home, and I feel a pang of jealousy when they return and we see their bronzed glows and hear about their adventures. I feel left out.
6 weeks old. She’s here. And she will not stop crying. All day, every day. No one told me what colic was, or that it would suck this bad. Meanwhile, my husband “gets” to go to work every day. But I want to go to the office! I want to interact with adults! I want a daily respite from the blood curdling screams! I feel left out.
9 months old. We’re at Christmas with his family. I barely get to see anyone because I’m holed up in the spare bedroom breastfeeding and trying to get her to nap. I scarf down a few bites of dinner in between her meals. I miss getting to see people open the presents we bought them. I feel left out.
Toddlerhood. We’re at a wedding. It’s an hour past her bedtime, but we’ve amped her up with punch and goldfish, trying to delay the inevitable. As she rubs her eyes and begins to whine, we see that the meltdown is imminent. We sneak out of the reception before the cake is even cut. I feel left out.
She’s three now. A colleague drops into town. At the last minute, he organizes an impromptu happy hour. I am dying to go sip martinis, and enjoy some real adult conversation like in the good old days. But I can’t, because I have to leave work to pick her up from preschool. I feel left out.
And just like that, she’s almost five. We enter her classroom, and she immediately runs over to play with a friend. She giggles at something her teacher says. I beckon her back for a hug and kiss. She looks embarrassed. “Mom, the other kids are looking,” she says, with an air of annoyance. She’s a big kid now, and doesn’t want them to think she needs to be babied. She begrudgingly lets me hug her, and gives me an obligatory peck on the cheek. Then she scampers off to play.
As I exit the school, I feel left out.
Outside, I stand at the window for a minute to spy in on her. I watch her laugh, and I am both proud and sad at how independent she’s becoming.
And I realize that it’s beginning. That those moments of feeling like I’m knee deep in the trenches will ever-so-slowly be replaced by moments of feeling like I’m on the outside, looking in. She will need me less and less with each passing year.
It’s already beginning. Even though I don’t want it to.
At that moment, I feel a slight twinge for those years when she needed me, and only me. When I was the center of her universe. When I was immersed in all things baby, and the rest of the world went on around us.
When it was just us. And everyone else was left out.