On the evening of October 23, 2011, I stood by the side of Malachy's crib, starred down at him and cried. I cried big, fat sloppy tears that turned into sobs. The sobs lead to the kind of heavy sighs in my chest I used to get when I'd cry as a little kid. As the clock turned to 10:13pm I felt an ache, knowing that one full week had gone by since he was born. Just like that, the week was over. I could never re-live those days. All I could think was, did I remember enough of it? Did I appreciate every moment? Did I let the sleep deprivation fog my memory? It was inconceivable to me that a week had flown by that quickly. How in the world did that happen? With the mix of lack of sleep and post pregnancy weepiness, I was a mess.
I felt completely helpless, like the time was already starting to slip away from me and there was nothing I could do about it. There was nothing in the world I wanted more in that moment than to figure out a way to slow down the clock. To not let another day, another week slip away so quickly. The teeny, tiny baby newborn we had brought home from the hospital was changing in front of our eyes already. It's only going to get faster, I thought to myself. Rob saw me standing in the nursery and came in. One look at my face and he understood without having to say a word. He pulled me into his arms and I leaned on him, gave up wiping the tears away and just let them stream down my face while I continued to stare at our beautiful little boy. A week I mumbled. I felt Rob nodding while he rested his chin on the top of me head. It's going by too fast already, I said.
The next day, after I composed myself, I did what any logical first time mom would do: I called my mother. She always has the best advice. She had four children, she had to know this feeling, I thought. My oldest brother was well into his thirties now. How do you deal with that? I asked her. How do you accept your baby growing up so quickly?
I can still see the baby, she said. I look at each of you and I see not only who you are now, but I can still see the baby, the toddler, the child, the teenager - all the stages of your life so far. She explained to me that with each new stage, she was sad to say goodbye to the previous stage but excited to get to see all the new things we were doing. That little baby may grow up, but it's never really gone.
Of course I cried while she told me this, imagining Malachy's first day of preschool, the day he would learn to ride a bike. Exciting moments of course, but each of them would mean another stage was over. But time had to move forward, I wanted him to grow and learn and do new things. And really, I couldn't stop time even if I tried. All that was left to do was embrace the change and freeze as many moments as possible in my mind (and with my camera) so that I can remember it all. I started taking more pictures, even if it meant doing more with my point and shoot rather than our pro gear - I didn't need to pull out the big lenses for every moment, I just had to capture them. The pro pictures would happen too. I started a journal for Malachy, writing him a letter every night, telling him about the cute things he did that day. Really, all of it is probably more for me than for him and that's okay. Because when he's a teenager, standing six feet tall and looking down at me, I'll still see that tiny little baby whose crib I cried over when he turned a week old. And when I miss that baby, I'll have the journal to read and the pictures to stare at. Time is going to keep on moving forward, I'm just going to keep on soaking in each and every moment - writing and taking pictures to help myself remember them later.
And someday (in the very distant future) when Malachy is an adult with a baby of his own, I'll be there for him just like my mother was for me. I'll let him know that he'll always have that little baby in his mind. No matter how fast he may grow up.