When Ezra was an infant, I spent a lot of time in our rocking chair breastfeeding, and to pass the time, I would try to memorize his imprint in my arms. I would pay attention to the size of his body next to mine, the shape of his back as it curved into my chest, the weight of his small frame on my belly. I mentally traced the features of his face and torso, his arms and legs, his hands and feet, his fingers and toes. I wanted to remember every detail vividly. I knew it was an impossible task, that I would never quite succeed, but I repeated the exercise over and over during his infancy and toddlerhood.
Tonight, Ezra woke from sleep and when it was clear from his cries he needed help going back to sleep, I went upstairs and found him sitting in bed, groggy. I normally sit in the rocking chair beside his bed and pat his back until he falls asleep again or I will lie down next to him, but tonight I brought him into the rocking chair with me. As the motion of the rocking chair quieted him back to sleep, I repeated the exercise I hadn’t done in so long.
His torso fills my arms, his legs spill over my lap, and his face and limbs are leaner. He’s no longer a baby. I know the change has come gradually, but in this moment it feels sudden. My heart is aching the loss. I have been acutely feeling his growth over the last three months. He started preschool, weaned, and potty trained, and every aspect of his infancy is only a memory. My mind hasn’t fully grasped this new imprint and the outlines of his infant frame are blurred.
I cried for my loss, and I cried for my failure. I don’t remember his smell, I only remember it was intoxicating. I can’t recall the physical touch of his infant fingers and toes with my fingers, the grasp of his hand in my own. They are only reassuring traces in my mind.
While the physical details of Ezra’s infancy that I tried so hard to memorize are elusive, the emotional imprint of that exercise is etched in my mind precisely. Remembering how much time we spent together breastfeeding, physically close and emotionally bonding has left an indelible mark on me. He is stitched into the fibers of my heart and the fabric of my soul, and it has no undoing.