Rearview mirrors

Livy is on a really good schedule. She’s a great sleeper who eats every three hours during the day and only wakes up once in the early morning after a 9 to 10 hour stretch. We joke that our hypothetical next child will probably be as difficult as she is easy.

I wake up an hour or so before she does and go to bed an hour and a half or two hours after she’s asleep. The hours in between have us ping-ponging between work, breastfeeding and diaper changes in a pattern that is honestly a helpful way to make the days feel shorter during a pandemic.

There are so many little moments throughout the day when, even after four months, I’m briefly overwhelmed at the fact this is really our life right now.

When I look in the rearview mirror and see her little face looking out the window, taking in her surroundings, I almost feel like I need to pull over. For whatever reason, that particular sight has been one of my greatest sources of joy.

I imagine the next several years of seeing that face in my backseat – as she moves from backward carseat to forward, then a booster seat, then just a seatbelt. I imagine the conversations we’ll have – the questions she’ll ask, maybe even the hard questions I’d rather talk about across a kitchen table. I see her soaking in passing trees and traffic lights and I can see myself explaining these things to an inquisitive toddler.

The overwhelming joy from these little moments comes in knowing I’m not imagining someone I haven’t met yet. I can see that little face and I know the broad trajectory of this relationship. I know, god-willing, she’ll grow up in front of my eyes and we’ll get to have those conversations.

It’s a lot to think about at a red light, but I find myself doing it often.

A friend of mine still in the throes of fertility treatments recently asked me if the grief and anxiety go away once you actually have a baby.

To be honest, they don’t fully go away. I don’t know that the grief ever will, but the anxiety evolves.

It might seem silly to anyone who hasn’t been through that uncertainty, but it’s all-encompassing. It alters your brain, throws a wrench in the expectations you have and teaches you you might not be able to trust the one thing you’re guaranteed to carry with you through your entire life – your body.

When I was still pregnant, but far enough along to reasonably believe she would be okay, the anxiety looked like me randomly worrying that maybe she’d come out missing a limb or her lungs wouldn’t form properly or she’d catch a deadly virus.

In the early days after her birth, it was me worrying that she’d just randomly stop breathing with no warning signs or that her small head wasn’t just a small head like her mom’s, but one that wasn’t growing at all like it should and she would end up with severe disabilities.

There’s a lot of this that comes with the normal new mom territory, but the added experience of pregnancy loss and not knowing if you’d actually be able to have a child amplify the fears. It’s like you can’t quite let go of the nightmare of that uncertainty and realize that she’s here and healthy and your biggest fears of that time can no longer come true.

So when I look in my rearview mirror and see her eyes wide and mouth open as she watches blurry trees rushing by the window, I let myself feel overwhelmed – recognizing the moments of overwhelming joy are quickly overshadowing the once overwhelming moments of anxiety. I soak in the daydreams of watching her grow. I don’t watch her ever-changing face and wish she’d stay little. I relish that I get the privilege to watch her grow.

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