There were years (and years) when if felt like all I did was look after babies. Hold them, change them, rock them, nurse them, carry them, feed them, entertain them, read to them.... do you get the idea?
During those years the last thing I wanted to do was look after someone else's baby. I had enough babies of my own, thank you very much.
My babies are big now. My first baby is nearly as tall as me with a shoe size to match. My middle baby can serenade me on her violin and make me laugh. My last baby can read chapter books and clears the table herself.
And somewhere along the way, I started to love babies again.
My friend Lisa had her second baby almost a year ago. Ava was born a pink bundle with a thick head of luscious blond hair and twinkly blue eyes. I get to see her every day when she and her momma come to pick up her older sister from school. I've been able to watch her grow. And I like her.
I like to take her out of Lisa's arms while our older girls play on the playground after school. My arms are empty and hers have felt baby weight all day. I like to smell her head and squeeze her squishy cheeks together. When I didn't know Lisa that well I would gingerly give Ava a little peck on her cheek, but now it's a full-out wet kiss. She's beautiful and funny and I've grown to love her.
And she's a baby. See where I've come from?
Today I convinced Lisa to let me have Ava all to myself for the morning. We played with blocks and looked at books and shook vitamin bottles. We laughed at ourselves in the mirror and danced around the kitchen to Raffi's Christmas album. When I changed her diaper I kissed her milky white thighs and rubbed her soft baby tummy.
I had nothing else planned for today. No meal to make or groceries to put away. No toddler seeking my attention or dishes to do. I could give myself to her.... the way I so very often felt I couldn't (or wouldn't) give myself to my own babies.
Before long we were nestled on the couch and she was drinking her bottle in my arms. Soon she was heavy with sleep and a little trickle of drool ran down her face as she let herself go into my arms. We snuggled there, like that, for a long while and I marveled at how much I love to hold a sleeping baby. To hear their soft slow breath and feel the weight of them abandoned against you in sleep.
I can't go back to when my girls were babies. In all honesty, I really wouldn't want to. But if I could, I would love them like that.
Focused, patient and all theirs.
How I wish I could love my babies like that again for just one day.