I know that some part of this memorization urge is based on a fear that they will disappear. And in some ways, they will, of course. They will grow up and be big, handsome, hairy men and that will be awesome. But they will not be children anymore and I want to still know this place where they are all soft and sweet and where they still let me cuddle up to their warm loveliness.
I dreamt of this on Friday night after bringing Samuel home from his week in the hospital. In the dream, I was tracing my fingers along Samuel's neck, sniffing that place behind his ears where bigger babies hide their newborn scent for a while longer. I remember doing this type of thing a lot in those first scary weeks where we still thought he might die, especially the day of his first surgery when I feared he wouldn't come back. I could have inhaled him that day, tucked him back inside me where he was safe, where it didn't matter that his lungs didn't work, where I could protect him.
We don't get to do that with our babies, keep them that safe. I knew that before Sam but standing by him while he went through so so so much made me know it more. And I knew before Sam that we couldn't keep them pressed to us, but living with the acute and real fear that he could vanish at any moment made me want to try.
Every so often that vulnerability surges again and I want to hold on extra tight. I take extra pictures and work extra hard to store their words and antics into my memory. But the sound and smell and feel of them isn't something I can keep to take out again another day; that sensory, bodily, momentary experience isn't like the accordion file full of school art projects and successful math tests. Trying to write those things into my neural pathways is just a silly mommy thing I do, and I do it a little more when we've had a scare of our own or when one of the other babies in our CDH community earns wings.
It made me think of the pencil rubbings that my boys did a couple of weeks ago. They collected fallen leaves from our backyard, tucked them under paper and rubbed their pencil crayons over top to get an imprint of the leaf. They learned that you can't press too hard or you get only the colour of the pencil crayon and miss the veins and shapes and details of the leaf. Outside, the trees are getting bare and the air is getting cold and, soon, these pencil rubbings will be all we will have of leaves for a while. That's just how it is. I am reminded to drink in this fleeting moment with appreciation - not desperation. Pressing too hard doesn't make the leaf stay, it just means that the pencil rubbing I am left with will be missing the nuances.