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Time may change me, but I can't trace time.

I'm sitting her staring at a picture of Nat's sweet little screaming meanie, Rita, who now has TWO teeth, and laughs and smiles.

Just yesterday, I was worried sick about my friend and her tiny daughter in an incubator.

Staring at the cuteness that is Rita, I starting thinking about my own girls. In about 2 weeks, Vivian will be three years old.

Three years already. Seems like just yesterday, I was scared, unprepared and immature, not ready for what was about to happen, unsure about what exactly that was, and annoyed that someone's toes were lodged in my ribs.

There is nothing on earth like your first pregnancy and birth. I cannot compare it to anything else. Nothing in life so terrified me, or made me recognize my womanhood so much at once. Everything was new, everything was special, the sun shone in technicolor and my heart felt that it might burst open for all the happiness I wished upon my new daughter, even through the haze of hormones and mental illness and loneliness.

In those first few months, I began to discover a new ME, a woman inside this girl who I had mistaken for a woman. I began to grow in ways that would have taken substantially longer without children. I became calmer, reminding myself that even though I hadn'd had much sleep, she could be sick. I could be sick.

We were healthy, and happy, and I remember sitting on my front steps one day, smoking, and for the first time in as long as I could remember, I was content, and perfect in that one moment. The sun was setting, and nothing, nothing could hurt me at that moment.

I sit back now, and I find myself staring at this girlchild I barely recognize sometimes. It is so true-it goes so FAST! And I warn Nat to just sit and enjoy it as much as she can, because she will turn around and that sweet baby will be replaced with I WANNA DO IT!

But we can't freeze time now can we? And I don't want my sweet little toddler/preschooler (is she one now?) to go away. The fierce hugs and kisses I receive, the requests for pink kitties, the dignified "Ros wants a nap now" when she wants to watch the backyardigans, I wouldn't trade those for anything. But I wish I could have just held tight to her babyhood, instead of wishing it away.

My firstborn will be three years old soon, and I have grown so old, and so young in so short a time. I don't recognize myself, and not just because of all the weight-there's a weight on my heart that all mothers must carry, the weight of worry and joy, of tears and laughter, the weight of knowing that you love something so much, that your heart will shatter if anything happens. The weight of being loved without question, the trust implicit.

I've done some reading that suggests that how we cuddle out children unconciously duplicates how our mothers were with us as children. As I snuggle in to read her Wee Willie Winkie at night, I can't help but feel my mother between us, bringing us together, three generations of women, three generations reading the same bedtime story in the same way. It comforts me, and it hurts, to know how much she is missing. But it reminds me that my time may be short, and to grab each moment, each hug, each fragment of time, and hold onto it.

We never know what we won't get back.

So Nat, hold Rita a little tighter for me tonight, k?

I look at the girls, two of whom are taller than I.

When did that happen?

We can't freeze it so we'd best enjoy it while it's happening.

I'm so freaked out at how quickly she has already grown. Trust me: I cherish these last few moments of babyhood while they last... Everytime she giggles, I'm like: "Whoa, that was a little PERSON laugh!" And then I see a newborn at the store and think: wow. You were THAT small!

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