A friend of mine, years ago, told me that when her children entered the toddler phase, she had an intense desire to have another baby. At the time, I had a 3-month-old at home, and I was dreadfully sleep-deprived. I thought, How in the world would you want to go through all of that again? But now that my Jane is 3-going-on-13, I'm beginning to understand.
I miss her. I miss baby Jane so much sometimes that I will sit with her box of baby clothes that I've labeled "Jane's Precious Things" and I cry crocodile tears of grief. I understand that my daughter is still my daughter, but I feel like as you leave each stage, you lose a bit of who that child was.
Her infancy, so priceless and so tiny, provided these beautiful moments of connection -- her skin on my skin, the way I could simply sing a tune and her entire little body would calm down. Those late-night feedings where I told myself, "Don't forget this, Amber. Don't forget this," and I'd breathe my Jane's scent in and make mental notes of one of the most pleasurable experiences of my existence.
Her first year was a time when she still looked like a baby, but she could walk a little and talk a little. The smallest things could brighten her mood, and every milestone she reached was a celebration. Leaving places didn't result in huge meltdowns. Tantrums were still a ways off. I could carry her for lengths of time without an aching back. In times of sickness or ill mood, I could still prop her head in the crook of my neck and reassure her through the heat of my body and the tone of my song that all was right with the world.
But, toddlerhood is different. Suddenly, my mere presence doesn't calm Jane. In fact, at times, my presence makes things worse. She wants independence in so many ways, but she's limited by what she can physically do, which results in huge episodes of frustration and disappointment. And, let's face it -- toddlers can be really mean. They can suddenly scream things at you, like, "Get out of here, Mommy!" and two seconds later, "Get in here, Mommy!" "I want to do it myself!" and then, "You never help me do anything!" It's in the darkest toddler moments that I go back to "Jane's Precious Things" and tear up and miss my little baby.
Don't get me wrong -- I adore my little girl. And I'm not tempted to have another baby, because that wouldn't solve the problem. I don't yearn for another child. I yearn for Jane, for Jane as a baby, the baby I miss sometimes. There are still glimpses of that baby, like when she spontaneously enters my realm, hugs me tight around the neck and says, "You make me so happy, Mommy." These are the moments that reinforce the incredible privilege I've been given to raise this little human child. And I know those tender moments of motherhood are not all lost. Just last weekend, when a fever virus crept up, Jane snuggled into me again, the warmth of her little body melting into my skin, and I thought, "Here she is again. Here you are, my sweet baby!"