Firsts and Lasts.

By: Jen Shoop

It feels like yesterday that I woke every morning to the sight of minimagpie’s empty bassinet, its vacancy engendering the deepest sensation of longing and anticipation.  Mini had not yet entered the world, but there it stood–open-armed, waiting, a visual reminder of what was to come.  (As if I needed the cue–my belly growing by the day, her kicks so forceful they sent electric shocks through me multiple times a day.)

These days, I wake to the sight of her empty bassinet, but feel something entirely different.  Most mornings, my eyes travel over it thoughtlessly, so accustomed am I to seeing it there, her existence and all of her paraphernalia so deeply incorporated into the quotidian activities of my life that I barely give it a second thought.  I’m too distracted by her cry, or too tired to think much of anything.  Other mornings, I wake and look at it and fight the urge to cry.  I thumb through pictures of her in it from just a few months ago, her limbs scrawny and her face red and squished and my recollection of this time continues to soften and float, suspended, in a haze of tenderness.

Did I adequately cherish those moments?  Those mornings and noons and nights with her snoozing in it by my bedside?

Her infant tub (we’ve now upgraded to this one) lays in disuse in our adult tub, “air-drying.”  Well, it’s been “air-drying” for the better part of three weeks now, so that excuse has exhausted itself.  I’ll admit it: I can’t quite bring myself to retire it to the enormous, weather-proof tupperware bins (incidentally, these, which are very sturdy) in our garage quietly accruing all of the items mini has outgrown: the infant insert to her car seat, the bottle she did not care for, the bassinet attachment to our stroller that she one day, out of the blue, decided she could not withstand any longer.

Soft-sided storage bins now stack neatly in her closet, collecting too-small clothes and overflow diapers she’s outsized.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to bring myself to look at the pineapple-print preemie-sized lounge set she wore for all of a week or two.  I had ordered it, along with select other pieces, in a post-hospital daze, shocked that none of her newborn clothing fit her and urgently desiring to clothe her in the softest cottons.

I store these things briskly, matter-of-factly.  “Oh yes, this is too small,” I tell her nanny, pulling it off a hanger (these are the best), folding it neatly, and placing it in the bin without fanfare.  Mr. Magpie will occasionally ask: “Should we donate/sell/discard this?”  (He does not yet know that I have saved stashes of too-small diapers; he will take me to task for this; I, too, know that I should give these away.)  I shake my head vigorously: they’re too precious, these little treasures, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to them yet.  But I advance a different, more practical excuse: “Maybe for a future sibling?”

It’s a hopeful, precarious thought: after all, these fixtures of newbornhood may well silently collect dust, never to be used by our family again.  Or, maybe, only to be used by a future generation–one day, a granddaughter who will wear the pineapple print two-set ironically.  “It’s so dated,” minimagpie might say.

Did I fully appreciate these articles of clothing, these now-too-small-diapers, these toys and vestiges of her infancy, while they were in use?

And yet, it’s just stuff–the discarded shells of a crab, the residue that’s left behind, a symbol of outgrowth.

We have about two weeks left before I start weaning minimagpie, and I dread and welcome the milestone.  Every day inches closer to the final installment in this intimate pattern of mother-daughter bonding.

“There are other, more meaningful ways to bond once you’ve weaned,” my sister offers, helpfully.  “And bottle-feeding can still be special and snuggly.”

“Just think of how free we’ll be,” asserts Mr. Magpie, who has been so deeply involved in the feeding of this child that the decision to wean will substantially change his day-to-day life, too.

“You’ll cry the last time–be prepared for that–but then you’ll say: ‘Ok, what’s next?'”  This last directive from my mother, a few weeks after minimagpie was born, advanced gently but pragmatically, as all her child-rearing advice is, and delivered well in advance of the actual event: she knows me so well that she understands I need time to digest and acclimate to these things.  I’ve never been good at ripping off the bandaid.

Having this “angel baby” (a nickname I call her routinely, in a singsong voice — I can’t help myself! — so much so, in fact, that Mr. Magpie suggested we dress her as the devil for Halloween, noting: “It would be funny, because you’ve always called her your angel”) has been a long succession of new discoveries and abrupt discardings.  A chain of firsts and lasts.  It’s hard for me to swallow, sentimental as I am, but then, the world keeps moving forward, and minimagpie wakes again at 4 a.m., and I quietly go to her, and I stroke her downy hair, and I thank God for this moment while I simultaneously wonder when she will just go back to sleep so that we can again wake together at 7 a.m. and I will see her vacant bassinet and either pause and linger over the thought of her as a newborn or spring into action, hastened by her cries, wondering what new today will bring.

Firsts and lasts, firsts and lasts.

(Written with a lump in my throat.)

(Written, also, with the following new baby purchases on my radar.)

+Of all of the bells and whistles that came with minimagpie’s new activity center, she’s most keen on a bowl that has a suction cup on the bottom of it that came with the set.  She will play with this for minutes at a time, dropping it over the edge and waiting for us to retrieve it; placing the lip of it in her mouth; turning it around, gingerly, in her increasingly-coordinated hands.  Of all these toys, a bowl is her preferred form of entertainment.  These are accordingly en route to our household.

+Not too early to order Christmas jammies (ahem) — I just snagged these, on sale for $30, but also have my eyes on these, in the candy cane print.

+Minimagpie loves the tags on toys — she’ll tug at them and finger them and place them in her mouth.  Other babies must do the same, because my sister turned me onto these taggies toys.

+We’re always looking for new books around here; I can easily recite about two dozen board books by memory.  I know the repetition is a good thing, but new literary fare is also welcomed: this new bedtime book seems a welcome reprieve from this, this, and this (our other bedtime go-tos).

+Mini can nearly hold the bottle for herself.  These might be a good transitional tool, or these, for our Comotomos.

+Minimagpie’s recently-purchased fall jacket.  For more casual fare, I might snap up this one, too.  I don’t feel bad spending on her coats — she’ll wear it every day for the next six months straight.

+Fun storage bins I’m considering for her increasing battery of toys.

+Obsessed with this fox-print dress for her.

P.S. Thoughts on moving minimagpie from her bassinet to her crib.

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10 thoughts on “Firsts and Lasts.

  1. I keep rereading this lovely post and wanting to cry! We are staring down that first birthday next week. So happy and yet so emotional. Thanks as always for verbalizing tricky-to-write-about moments.

    1. Hi Sarah — Oh gosh, you and me both. When you posted this comment, I re-read it myself and choked back tears. Such a bittersweet time. Glad I have my Magpie Mamas to go through this with me…xo

  2. This is so beautiful and made me cry! We have a five month old and he is also smitten with the yellow bowl in that activity center – it is his favorite thing in the world.

    1. Aw, thank you for writing this, Danielle! I moved myself, too, thinking about all these tender moments. So funny the things they find entertaining! My daughter’s new favorite toy? My empty water bottle.

  3. I almost started crying reading this, and I’m not a crier – but you’ve captured much of what I feel regarding my little getting older. Though it’s impossible, I somehow want to bottle up these quickly-passing days (does taking lots of pictures and videos help? I hope it does!).

    (I received that activity center as a baby shower gift – it is the best! My daughter absolutely loves it, though she is still a bit suspicious of the pop-up owl and gives it the side eye.)

    1. Aw – I know. There’s something so incredibly tenderhearted about motherhood. The part I don’t think I can quite capture is how a whole day can go by and I’m just sort of a whirling dervish, and then the minute she’s down for the night, I sit there musing over how perfect she is. It’s such a weird time warp, day after day…

  4. I just love reading your blogs. My daughter is about a month younger than yours and I can relate to your words closely. Thank you for saying what I feel so eloquently.

    1. Thanks, Jill! It’s so reassuring to see all of you other mamas experiencing the same things. What a wild ride!

  5. Oh I have felt many of these same feelings while staring at my 11 month old. Where did the time go? How am i already planning her first birthday?
    My sister had a little girl born in June, so I pass down many clothes to my niece. I always find myself pausing while packing up too small items. I have saved quite a few outfits I cannot seem to part with. Her first chrismtas dress, many sweet onsies, tiny booties, and so on.
    I find myself sad she is getting older but, equally anticipating the many milestones and adventures to come.

    1. Thanks, Mary, for standing next to me in this confusing mixed bag of sentiments — so tender and, at times, overwhelming. I know there will be so many items I will have an impossible time parting with. I love the idea of passing items along to my niece — also born in June! — which makes the discarding of mini’s clothing a little more easy to bear. (It’s still in the family!)

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