November 11, 2015

Dear Aria {two months in}

Dear Aria,

You've been with me on this side of the womb for two months now. You've grown from a puffy pink rag doll to a bright-eyed, interactive delight. You coo and grunt and gurgle at me. You reserve special syllables and chuckles just for your daddy. You have sweet dreams and laugh in your sleep. You smile all the time and at everyone.

Your smile is bold, wide, unabashed. It tiptoes around your eyes, flits down to lift the corners of your lips, and then scampers to tickle your entire little body, leaving you writhing with glee. Your smile is not a polite social smile, not a fake, appeasing smile. It's the kind of smile that makes me think your heart must be soaring. It elicits an answering smile from me, bringing me a particular brand of joy that I haven't felt perhaps since I was your age.

But in the middle of the night, when you're finishing your last drops of mother's milk and you beam innocently up at me, sometimes your smile makes your mama cry. I cry because you won't always smile so freely. For now, you have no reason to be frugal with your smiles. You've never met a person who didn't adore you or had an experience that dimmed your sunny world. But someday someone will speak to you harshly and you'll discover unkindness. You'll stumble while playing and scrape an elbow, becoming aware of physical pain. Someday something will break your heart, and you'll become acquainted with heart-pain too. These little injustices pale compared to what other children around the world experience early on. Nonetheless, they will make their mark on you. They will slow your smile. They will cause you to share it timidly, cautiously. You'll learn the polite social smile and the fake, appeasing smile. We will see this earnest baby smile less and less.

I wish I could give you a world that would never steal your smile. With so much of my heart, I want to shield you from these things. But, little one, they are rungs on the ladder of growing up. And though the thought of it brings your mama tears in the wee morning hours, growing up is necessary for you to experience the joy I do want you to feel someday.

I hope someday you have a little girl of your own. As you sit on your sofa nursing her in a barely lit room at 2:00am, I hope she smiles up at you. And in that sacred moment only the two of you will share, I hope her trusting, gummy grin makes your heart soar again—the way your smile makes mine.