Overwhelmed by all of their new skills, young toddlers sometimes regress. Their sleep may become more erratic; they may demand to be held and nursed more often. This is just where my baby is right now. Approaching walking and talking, he has reverted a little to the behaviors and patterns of his earlier babyhood. Today, rather than tearing around the house terrorizing the dog and laying waste to every CD he finds, he spends the morning wanting to be held. I put him on my hip and he rests his head in the crook of my neck. He won't let me put him down, so I tuck him into the wrap and meander around the house. We look in the mirror together, we look out the window, we dance to country music, and he doesn't notice that I'm crying over the lyrics. He pulls at my shirt, I nurse him, he falls asleep, I ease him down onto the bed. He sleeps for hours, like he did when he was a tiny baby, and I drink coffee, eat smoked salmon and cheese, start and abandon several blog postings, write my last client's birth story, put away toys, do the dishes, do the laundry, and try on an Ann Taylor jacket I bought over the Thanksgiving break but have never worn. It is almost like having a newborn in the house; except, of course, that when he wakes up, instead of wailing desperately to be rescued, he sits up on his own, finds my Elizabeth David essays under a pillow, and calls out to me while flipping through them in a leisurely manner.
My baby is one year old now, and he has hair and teeth, and he almost walks and almost talks. I know that our baby days - the long, vague days I spent falling in love with him and myself, his new mother - are over and will never come again. I know that the coming days and months and years of my life with this baby hold all manner of new joy, but it is impossible for me not to mourn the joy that is now irrevocably in the past. Being a parent, as I have noted before, means always having to say goodbye to what one loves most. I can't help but feel, though, that this particular transition - from baby to (small) person - is especially difficult, because it is so marked and so permanent. It feels, then, like the ultimate charity that nature is granting me one last glimpse back at the baby days before I must, inevitably, move forward. I know that this little regression will not last long; like everything else, it must be discarded in favor of what is to come. I will have a shakily-walking, sort-of-talking baby very soon, and I will love him with all of my being until he, too, must leave me and be replaced by a different version of himself, and so on, for the rest of our lives.