“Let me quick take your picture,” I say, shuffling Nora up my hip while posing Allie on the bus steps. She smiles, her hands tucked nervously under her chin. My nose burns, but the tears don’t fall. My eyes catch the bus driver’s gaze—the skin around his eyes crinkles—how many moms has he waved to, trusting him with their babies on their first day?
Stepping back, I pause—it feels like in one moment, everything has changed. And like a movie, the last six years rewind in front of me.
I see Allie on a bike for the first time and her first lost tooth. I remember the times she told me, “I wanna be just like you when I grow up, Mama!”
I picture her holding Nora for the first time—her nose scrunched up in delight. All the Christmas and family vacations flash in front of me. I picture the red scooter on her third birthday. A black eye comes into focus, but I can’t remember how it happened. Time keeps moving back past her first birthday with a pink owl cake and her first doll.
The movie in my mind slows down to the day of the birth. I see myself at 41 weeks pregnant, waddling through contractions in a city park. The air was chilly, and the leaves were changing, but I felt hot—my body fiery with new life. Each step became heavier with each contraction.
Finally, on the bed at the birthing center, I cried, “I can’t do this!” The midwife gripped my hand, “You are doing this! You have to.” The room filled with tiny cries until I locked eyes with a wrinkly, squishy babe.
Standing on the road by the bus, I try to poke holes in my memories—mining for regrets and where I could have done better. I know they are there.
But those aren’t the scenes that popped up. It was my baby girl’s first words, first steps, the middle of the night rocking, all the milestones and special days, and the ordinary ones in between.
My stomach turns in knots, knowing the days will never be the same—but my memories remind me there’s still so much ahead.
Waving one last time as the bus pulls away, I smile—grateful to feel so much.