Back to the Newborn: My Experience with Time Travel

I’ve always fancied time travel. When I was younger, I wanted to travel into the future. I dreamed that life at 30 would be sophisticated; I would dab Coco Chanel on my wrists before stepping out of my New York City apartment for a glass of champagne with friends. Now I long to travel into the past—to revisit brief pockets of time when my life was insatiably good. If I had a time machine, I would set the clock back to my summer writing retreats or a handful of episodes in my life defined by a particularly poignant friendship or love affair.

Funny enough, I had a chance to travel back in time last week when my daughter’s molars emerged from her gums. I woke up one Saturday morning to find the hands of the clock had turned counter-clockwise—my toddler was in so much pain that she behaved like a newborn. It is a terrible thing to see a child, especially your child, suffer. But there was a silver lining—at least from my perspective. I was able to dive back into my life as a new parent, a second time.

While Ayla whimpered and writhed in pain, I was—for the first time in months—able to hold her close to me, rub her back, hum soft lullabies into her ear. Then, after taking a long morning nap, Ayla walked right over to our Ergo baby carrier and tugged at it’s straps. My heart skipped a beat. “You want mama to put you in the carrier?” I asked, barely able to conceal my excitement. She tugged the straps again. I couldn’t get the carrier on fast enough. I could feel my eyes well up with tears as I lifted her up and placed her against my chest. Instead of squirming around in typical toddler fashion, she put her head against my chest and actually hugged me. My heart melted.

I have persistent memories of the hardest moments of newborn parenting—the sleepless nights, the un-diagnosable tears, the explosive poops. But I had forgotten how life affirming it is to have a child nestled in your bosom, and to feel their heart beat against your chest. During the first two days of Ayla’s retreat into newborn-hood, I was ecstatic. I didn’t realize how much I missed the intimacy of newborn life. I had forgotten how fulfilling it is to give round-the-clock hugs. It was so life affirming to give and receive affection all day and night long.

There were other things too. Traveling back in time helped me realize how much I had grown as a parent. Instead of living in a state of constant anxiety about what to do next, I was relaxed and confident. I wasn’t worried that Ayla would have an outburst in public or that I wouldn’t know how to meet her needs. This time around, reading and responding to Ayla’s signals was near effortless. I could anticipate her exhaustion and her hunger; my responses quickly fulfilled her needs.

It is a strange thing to re-visit your life as it was. The gift of time travel was a yardstick against which I could measure my hard-earned maturity as a parent. Just as my daughter had undergone enormous development in the space of a year—so had I. I wasn’t a mother-in-training anymore. At first, motherhood had felt like a badge pinned to my chest. I had given birth—I had done it—I was a mother! Now motherhood felt more like a well-worn sweater; I wore it comfortably, and with more softness, than I had in the past.

When Ayla’s teething pain subsided, she no longer gestured for the carrier. She wanted to be free now. She wanted to explore the world on her own terms, instead of mine. So I put Ayla down to play and headed to the bathroom. I was amazed to find that I was menstruating again; after nearly two years of being free of my moon cycle. Was this a sign from the universe—that I was ready to have another child? Was the experience of time-travel an affirmation of my readiness to give birth again? I started to imagine life with two children and then stopped. For once, I didn’t want to travel into the past or the future. Today, I just wanted to live in the present moment.

If you would like to read more from Taz, visit her Labor of Love site.


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