One of the things having a baby does that I didn’t really consider before Jackson was born is it makes you visible. Even in this neighborhood where I found 18 — 18!! — women who gave birth within a few weeks of me to join my new moms’ group, people still know me by my baby. If I go to a store without Jackson — oh, to have a few minutes to myself! Even if it’s just to run an errand — the check-out women ask me where my baby is or how my baby is doing. They never talked to me before I got pregnant and I feel conspicuous in a way I wasn’t before. That’s not a bad thing. But in a city where it’s easy to be anonymous, being conspicuous is something I haven’t felt in a long time.
Another thing having a baby does that I wasn’t quite prepared for is make you all-too-aware of the passing of time. It’s not just that Jackson will be three months old on Tuesday and it seems like yesterday I was lying on a delivery bed in the hospital, screaming my head off and pushing him out. It’s not just that he’s outgrown all our favorite newborn outfits or that he eats three times as much as he did the first couple of weeks or that we’ve converted his bassinet into a crib and we’re moving him into his own bedroom this weekend. Those are bittersweet milestones, sure, but what I’m really talking about is the big picture: life, aging, moving from one generation to another.
My parents were here for ten days over Christmas and Hanukkah. It was their first time meeting Jackson. My sister came, too, and I bought Christmas stockings that I had personalized for each of us. My stocking said “Mom” and if I thought going without sleep for six weeks was a trip, getting my head wrapped around the idea that “Mom” was me — especially when my mom was sitting right there — was almost as crazy.
Sometimes I look at Jackson and I think I can see what he’ll look like as a man. And then I wonder if he’ll have a family of his own. Will he get married and have babies? Will I still be around? Will my grandchildren love me the way I’ve loved my grandparents? Having a kiddo has made me imagine myself an old lady a lot more than I ever have before. Having a baby has made me think about my own mortality in a way I never have.
Suddenly, time in so precious. It’s precious in the day-to day — I don’t squander a free half hour anymore, for example, because they’re so much rarer now — but also in the big scheme of things. My time isn’t just mine anymore. My husband isn’t just mine anymore. My body isn’t just mine anymore.
This is hard, raising a baby. It demands so much — attention, focus, time, energy and money. And if you care to, it asks that you re-examine yourself, your life, your future. What’s important? What can go? Everything has to be re-prioritized. Space has to be made. So much space for such a little guy.
It is getting easier, though. Ever since Jackson started smiling and I began connecting to him in more than just a primal way, it’s gotten easier. He’s so charming. And he’s smart. And he’s mine, and I love him.
The other day I was walking down the street, Jackson nuzzled against my chest in the big green Moby wrap that I wear. A woman a few steps behind caught up with me and asked how old my baby was, and said: “Cherish these moments. They go so fast.”
Jack will be three months old on Tuesday and then three years old and eight years old and then twenty and on. He’s going to belong to this world and some job and a partner and his kids. But today he’s mine. And today’s mine.