No. 8

Artist: WubbaNub
Title: Pacifier with Stuffed Elephant
Date: 2019
Culture: American
Provenance: Purchased at Target by EAH for her wee daughter

If you think about it, our relationships with our babies are unusual since most other relationships are founded on a shared history—family that you’ve known since you were born or friends you’ve had for years or new friends that you’ve met exploring some shared interest. But with babies there’s none of that. It’s all biological; they are composed of the same genetic material as you, and they need you. And somehow, from the first moment you meet these wee creatures, even though you know nothing else about them, you love them with a stunning intensity.

My wee creature turns one this week, and I’m witnessing different features of her personality emerge every day. I have glimmers of the person she will become: She is a charmer. She is determined. She is outgoing. She loves cats. She wants to fully engage with the world around her. She loves to move. She is capable. And yet, since she is still so small, there is so much that I still don’t know. Will she like Russian literature? Will she play sports, or will she prefer ballet? Will she feel a thrill on those cold, gray November days when the first snowflakes make their appearance? Will she prefer steamy summer days? Will she be a distinguished cook, like her aunt? An artist, like another aunt? Will she be funny? A perfectionist?

I think part of the magic of babies is that we can imagine any of these things coming true. There are no limits. The possibilities are endless. No doors have been closed. When you look at a baby, your imagination can run wild.

And run wild it does. But at the same time, it is so delightful to soak up my baby as she is in the moment. Like all parents I know, I am guilty of watching my daughter sleep and marveling at her . . . “herness.” The way her mouth puckers in her sleep. The furrow in her brow as she dreams. The deep rhythms of her breathing.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper, a fact that is greatly facilitated by her elephant pacifier. Before she became a pretty good sleeper, my husband and I would often resort to putting her in bed with us. She would roll onto her side to nurse, and soon she developed a habit of sleeping on her side. Once we got her to sleep on her own, that habit continued. But instead of clinging to me, she’d cling to this soft elephant pacifier, her chubby, dimpled hands massaging its plush gray body.

So, on days like today when my daughter is at day care and I’m at home working, when I see her elephant pacifier, images of her chubby little hands and sweetly furrowed brow immediately come to mind. I’m reminded of her perfect baby essence.

I also think of how fleeting this phase is. Of how soon she’ll be running and biking and swimming and becoming the wonderful person I know she’s destined to be. It’s so exciting to think of all that lies ahead. But for now she’s my baby, and I want to hold on to that—just as I want to physically hold her innocent, heavy-breathing, furrowed-brow sleeping self—for just as long as I possibly can.

Happy birthday week, little cherub!

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