No matter how old she grows, she’ll always be my baby
Recently, my daughter graduated from kindergarten. The emotions I feel are hard to describe.
As clichéd as it sounds, I still remember the first time I held her in my arms. I remember being mesmerised by her dark eyes, as if they still held secrets of the world they had come from, wide awake and looking right into my soul.
I remember the feeling that took over me; a feeling more powerful than love, more powerful than any other emotion I had felt before that. I don’t have a name for that emotion. Only a mother knows that emotion and understands it. It was like no one and nothing else mattered anymore.
I had waited for an eternity before the moment I held her. In reality, the first time I held her was an hour after I gave birth to her. I suffered and cried for that one hour I was forced to wait to hold her as she was admitted in the NICU because of the unbearably long delivery. That one hour was longer than the few days of labour and delivery.
And then, when finally my legs could feel again and the doctors allowed me to go to see her, that moment changed my life. My dad had told me;
“Life will never be the same again.”
Little did I know how true his statement was.
I spent my days and my nights worshipping this little creature that was a part of me ─ was and always will be.
I would lose my mind any time she would cry, and she cried a lot. I’d rush to the doctor if she would only but sneeze. I remember hitting my head on the window in the car because she hit her head and cried and I wanted to know exactly how much pain she felt. I remember tasting her medicines before giving them to her, to know exactly how much her mouth would suffer. I remember feeding her with my hands till she was five.
Most of my friends, who knew me at that time, and my family, thought I was crazy. And I was.
Letting go of her, when she started kindergarten, was a tumultuous process for me. It felt like I was going to let my child go out into the big bad world and I could no longer protect her and watch her every move. But then I found out that the kindergarten classes were separate from the rest of the school. Their playgrounds were separate and their bathrooms were inside the class. The children were still treated like ‘babies’. I felt relieved and ready for it.
I don’t think she understands or will ever understand my love for her. She is my first-born. She will hold, forever, a place in my heart that no one else can take. Even though, since the birth of her baby brother, I have scolded her more times than I would like to admit. I have been annoyed with her, impatient with her, I’ve screamed at her. She will remember this. But she will not know of the guilt that would take over me every single night for the first 18 months of her baby brother’s life, for being so hard on her during the day.
Every night I would promise myself, tomorrow I will not lose my patience with her. But in the morning, after a night of endless nursing sessions and diaper changes with the baby, all promises would be forgotten, until night would come again and I would feel the guilt all over again.
Firstborns are a strange breed; I am one and have had a love-hate relationship with this title. They are smothered and protected, yet they are expected to understand and do things beyond the limited scope of their over-sheltered experiences.
With the immeasurable love that they are showered upon comes this expectation that they need to suddenly stop being babies as soon as a second one comes. She knows now she is the big ‘Appa’ who has to act like a big girl. She has lovingly accepted this title. But the truth is that she will always be my baby. Always.
With my second one, my ‘farishta’ (angel), I realised he did pretty much everything in his tw0-and-a-half-year-old life sooner than his sister. He weaned off sooner. He learnt to eat sooner. He crawled sooner. He climbed stairs sooner. He zoomed off slides in parks sooner. This was all because I let him; because I knew it was okay to let him fall and then get up and try again. His birth helped me come out of the spell that had held me paralysed with fear of the unknown since my daughter’s birth. I finally realised everything was going to be okay. I had to let them grow and learn and make mistakes and cry, then grow more. It was a gruelling process but one which I am eternally grateful for.
Now in grade one, she is finally going to be part of the big bad world that I had been so afraid of till last year. As much as I want to hold on to the baby in my six-and-a-half-year-old big girl, I am ready to let go, inch by inch.
I am proud of myself for finally growing up, too, and being able to understand that all I have to do is remember to breathe, because, everything will be okay.
Read more by Tayyaba here.
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