I keep hoping that the lump in my throat will shatter, breaking into a hundred little pieces that will scatter about — letters, forming words, allowing me to cast a light on the swirls of emotion that have held me these last few weeks. I find myself uncharacteristically without words as the arrival of Finley has shifted my world, my now and my yesterday.
They are each my baby.
How is it then that as I hold Finley in my arms and watch Avery, faint vestiges of her baby self still clinging to her thighs, I cannot see my baby Briar? This new sensation of remembering through forgetting is excruciating. Finley burrows against me, sometimes suckling, other times simply pressing as much flesh against my own as she can. Avery wraps her arms around my leg, “Pick my up, mommy. Want you pick my up.” As I bend to lift her, I catch Briar from the corner of my eye, a blur of pink satin and flyaway ringlets.
Holding these two dark haired girls in my arms, my fair-haired princess stands by herself. I can feel the tears that coursed down my cheeks day in and day out as I wept at the indescribable beauty of my firstborn. She was the embodiment of every thing I’d ever wished for, having her in my arms took away every hurt I’d ever experienced and I was breathless with the piercing authenticity of joy. Her every move was chronicled in photos and remember-this-moment scrawls on all manner of paper- notebooks, receipts, book-pages, whatever was handy. My need to have each word and action pass through my hand in words I would borrow to light my way years ahead was unending. How brutal, then, to find myself less than four years later, already seeking out those words, the corridors of my memory already constricting in the dark.
With FInley sleeping and Avery calmly tracing the freckles on my arm I ask, “Briar? You ok, sweetie? You need anything?” She turns, her look is one of surprise that I am there, or perhaps the surprise is that I am talking to her. Again the memory of so many nights comes back, as Avery grew inside of me I would rock Briar, reading her stories before bed and murmuring between the lines that she was my baby.
Always my first, that’s you my Briar. My first. Don’t you ever forget. You are my baby Briar.
Her neck is long, the distance between the curves of her jaw and shoulder endless, a rich expanse of creamy skin. Her blonde hair nips at her neck and catches in her eyelashes, her beauty is so lush, it catches us off guard. She will break hearts, she already has. I realize that as two pregnancies have grown inside of me, my heart and body working in tandem to prepare, she has grown up. The baby that nursed at my breast now comes to me to let me know that Finley needs milk. She shepherds Avery through the house, teaching and scolding, her tone and inflection mirroring my own. I forget to ask if she needs things, so intently have I been focusing on the things that demand my attention.
I am clawing from the inside out, desperate to find my way back to her. Panic stained with failure, my eyes well and dark shadows lap along my spirit, I cannot resolve my distance from her. Finley’s cries are so strong, Avery’s hunger so fierce that I turn away and my compulsion to do it all, be all things to all people, has kept my shame a secret. Until now.
Tonight I finally spoke aloud what has haunted me since before FInley was born and what worried me most as we anticipated Avery.
“I’ve failed her, neglected her,” my cheeks flames as I said it and I began crying. Sean, as he always does, said just enough and then followed up with action. He took Avery on the longest walk around the block ever, leaving me free to spend an hour in the backyard with Briar, while Finley napped, no laptop, no dinner to cook, no distractions.
We sat in the grass making “wrinkles” on our clothes as the sun sparkled off her Cinderella costume. We flipped “helicopters” in the air and giggled as the cat leapt to catch them like a dog with a frisbee. I swallowed apologies and bit back tears as I saw her closer than I have in ages. She was luminous and completely without worry or any sort of heightened hunger to be near me. We hugged and talked and had what was ultimately a very normal, uneventful evening. I had worried that we’d never have this again, but what I learned was that I have been wrong. I will never have my first year with Briar again.
What we had was perfect and unhurried and lives on in our memories, the pictures I took and the notes I kept. What we have now is different, not bad. She is still my first, still my Briarriffic. And, after watching the sunset over us I know that as those two pregnancies grew, so did Briar, her own heart and mind doing what they needed to prepare. And so we sat together last night, a mama and her firstborn, legs touching, quietly enjoying being together.