When you have children, there are a countless number of firsts. As parents, we carefully document every first as though our little ones’ childhoods depend on knowing the exact date that they first smiled. We track everything from their first teeth to their first steps to their first day of school. I find it sort of funny that we tend to document the firsts of things that will continue on for a lifetime but neglect to document the firsts of childhood and parenthood that are more temporary: the first time we hold hands, the first time our child falls asleep in our arms, the first time we carry our child on our hip. Unlike a smile that will (hopefully) last a lifetime, these are the things that will inevitably end. The part that breaks my heart is that most of these “mommy and me” moments end without warning – we never know which time will be the last time. For me, some of these things ended earlier than anticipated.
When my boys were very small I remember having a very emotional realization that I would never know that the last time I’m holding their hand to cross a street would be the last time I’m holding their hand to cross a street. I wouldn’t take the time in this seemingly every-day-moment to say to myself “hey, you should remember this because it may never happen again”. One day I would simply realize that this particular part of our mother/child relationship had faded away undocumented. And I would want to remember the last time it happened; remember the feel of their little hands inside of mine and how validating it was for me to have their unconditional trust and love because with me – holding MY hand – they felt safe.
I think there are many aspects to motherhood that we take for granted because, when you’re in the trenches, it feels like it is never-ending. We get lost in the chaos of diapers, spit-up and sleepless nights turning into school schedules, homework, childhood attitude and then puberty and teenage drama. It’s exhausting. But it’s fleeting. Sometimes ever more fleeting than we anticipate.
It was emotional for me to realize that so many of the things I loved about being a mom were temporary. But I took solace in the fact that I still had many years to attempt and savour it all. And then I had my accident. In the aftermath of that, while in the depths of recovery mode, I was being informed of all of the things I could still do with my children and for my children. But I remember always coming back to one thing – I would never carry my daughter on my hip again. Maybe that seems small to some. But if you are an able-bodied mother, I want you to think of how many times in a day you hoist your little ones up onto your hip; the universal stance of a mother. There was so much of myself I could still give to my children and yet this one simple thing seemed to carry more weight than a lot of the things on that list.
As time passed and life rolled on, we discovered other ways for me to carry my daughter around. I built up an emotional wall when it came to the hip carry in order to protect myself. Even then, seeing other people carry my daughter or their own children in this all too familiar position always makes me wince just a little bit. It is one of the losses that is constantly staring me in the face.
Recently, when I tried the standing frame, I started to wonder if I could try holding her like that again. I was excited to try it but nervous it wouldn’t work – like the kind of nervous where, if failure wins out, you know you will feel completely crushed. As I sat alone in the shower this morning, thinking of trying it out, I couldn’t help but cry. I can’t help but cry now just thinking about it. This piece of my identity as a mother that was so abruptly and cruelly taken from me could, if even for a moment, be mine once again. A moment between me and my daughter that I have ached for relentlessly for over 19 months.
It still breaks my heart that so many aspects of parenthood end without realization or even a chance to truly say goodbye to things that were, for a time, such a large part of our life. With my spinal cord injury there were things that ended for me far sooner than they should have. But in this photo, in this moment with my baby girl, I have something that I wouldn’t have had before. I have proof that this last time belongs to me. It wasn’t an every-day-moment to be lost among the rest or a memory I try to search for when I realize that a once so prevalent action has become a thing of the past. It was purposeful. She rested her head on my shoulder and told me I was “tall like Daddy”. It was a moment I took back from that stupid hole and that painful accident and this relentless injury. It makes me smile, it makes me cry and it makes me want to take as much of my life back as I can. Remember to take note of the things that make you feel your worth; savour them. You never know when the time will come where those moments become memories.