Phoebe turns one tomorrow. Leading me to reflect a lot on the past year. I’ve been asked if having Phoebe has changed my life a lot. The answer, after I stop laughing hysterically, is more than I could have imagined. But while I’d expected my life to be different, I hadn’t realized how much I would be different.
I always knew I wanted kids at some point. (Not many kids. One or two.) But I always thought of myself interacting with older kids. The kind that can walk and talk and feed themselves. Read books. Go to school. Have conversations about reading books and going to school.
I was pretty indifferent to babies and small children. Actually, I had a slight aversion. I’d jokingly, or not entirely jokingly, call them small things. Smelly things. Noisy things. And all these things are true. Babies are small and at times smelly and at times noisy. This has not changed. What’s changed now is how I react to these issues.
I used to work in a bookstore, and spent some time as children’s department manager. Not for love of children, exactly, but for love of children’s books. The kids themselves were part of the scenery. Almost a necessary…well if not a necessary evil exactly…a necessary hazard. I liked (some of) the older kids well enough, and enjoyed doing craft and reading activities with them. But babies? Toddlers? Well, quite honestly I learned to tune them out. I could actually pretty much ignore the the squeals, cries and other miscellaneous noise emissions from the smallest of bookstore customers. I once had an experience where I became aware of this power to turn out the sound of babies crying. I was on a long flight, and shortly after landing, some parents travelling with a small baby in the row behind me more or less apologized for all the crying during the flight. Amazingly, I hadn’t even particularly noticed.
But lately, I’ve developed heightened baby awareness. And I’m not annoyed by them at all. In fact, when I was on the train recently, a young baby around Phoebe’s age was making fairly loud babbling and howling noises. Not crying, but making loud happy noises. And I…enjoyed it. I felt warm and fuzzy. Me, who once would have tuned it out with some annoyance, or even changed seats to get more quiet.
And this isn’t the only way I’ve changed. I’ve developed a new vulnerability. I’ve been devastated for weeks about news stories involving the deaths of young babies, and lost sleep over stories where a parent of a young child died. It’s even been when such stories were from several years ago. Don’t get me wrong. I was never exactly insensitive to such events, such stories. But they never used to make me feel destroyed. And my new sensitivity extends to fiction, too. I got choked up watching “The Incredibles”, for god’s sake, when I saw it a few weeks ago. An animated action movie. And I’d seen the movie before with no such effect. But in many ways I was a different person then.
So, here I am. One year later. Almost one year ago today, the population of our household changed. We added one small new person. And small as she is, the difference she’s made is immeasurable.
Phoebe Lenore, 1 hour old (left) and almost 1 year later (right).