The grocery store has become a really special place for me on days when Emmett is in the mood to go shopping. I love watching him take in the world, and there are a lot of interesting people and things for him to look at while I dream of the meals I'll cook for the week and search for the best finds to stick within our weekly grocery budget.
When he is in an especially good mood, I love taking my time and introducing him to the fruits and veggies in the produce section. I tell him, 'yellow pepper' and take his tiny hand and glide it over the shiny, smooth vegetable and repeat, 'yellow, Emmett.' We go past the cold and watery lettuce and look at the 'orange, long carrots' to find ourselves introduced to mangoes and tomatoes and avocados. I don't know who enjoys this game more. The shapes, colors, textures are a whole new world for Emmett; the idea of slowing down and looking at the shapes, colors, and textures rather than rushing to fill my cart is a new adventure for me.
Today, Emmett was not in one of those moods though. I was a little disappointed as we had hardly gotten past the display of bananas when I realized Emmett was way too tired/overstimulated to do a full week's shop. I figured we could pick up at least a few items, and Neil and I tried passing him back and forth while we wrestled with the cart, a fidgeting, fussy eight-month old, and trying to remember what we needed since I hadn't written down a list. I ended up with Emmett on my hip as I stood in front of the citrus fruits, trying to contemplate whether I'd go for the 5.99 bag of huge navel oranges (a splurge, but a delicious treat), or stick with my normal staple of the green apple bag, when suddenly Emmett got quiet. I looked down at him and saw his big gummy smile and his shining eyes and followed his adoring gaze to see what, or who, he had found.
She was older, probably in her mid-eighties. She had white hair curled softly around her face, and she had the creases around her eyes that only come from years of smiling. She and Emmett were waving at each other and she was laughing a cheerful little chuckle that made me stop and laugh along with them. She asked me his name and told me she loved it. She watched him wave and then hide his face in my neck and peek up at her again. She told me he was a smart baby. She asked me how old he was and said he was a big boy. This woman had clearly spent a lifetime around children. Whether she was a mother herself, and now a grandmother and maybe even great-grandmother, or had spent years in a classroom or as a nurse, I wasn't sure. What I did know is that she was gentle and that children love her and she knows how to connect with them. Emmett clung to me and nuzzled his little head on my shoulder, and she told me, 'That boy loves his mama.' I nodded my head and beamed. My heart felt like it could burst, warm, and full, and so aware of this truth.
I have been surprised over the past eight months or so with the length of time it has taken me to connect with Emmett on a very deep level. I think I had an expectation (that many women carry with them) about what it would be like the first time I met my son, and what it would be like when we brought him home from the hospital, and how I would know that I loved him more than anything else in the world. When we met him for the first time, all pink and crying and wet from the womb, tears fell down my face and I knew that I loved him. He hushed when my husband whispered his name. Our boy was here. But between the post-partum depression I experienced for the first few months, and Emmett's severe colic and acid reflux, those first months were far from the joy I had always expected upon entering motherhood. It felt more like a haze that I could only move through slowly, barely feeling like I was surviving from one fussy day to one sleepless night at a time.
In living with Neil's parents, I have experienced help from my in-laws that I will never fully be able to thank them for. In a time when I needed that support most, my mother-in-law stepped in and helped me learn how to mother. I watched her calm him and feed him and he came to love her and I watched and thought at times, 'what if my baby doesn't know who his mama is? what if he doesn't love me?'
It has taken me longer than other mamas I know to fall in love with being a mom. It's taken me a while to feel completely confident (without having to ask all of the time 'is this how you do it? what if I mess up? can you help me?'), and it's taken me even longer to finally get into the groove of our daily routine and know how to respond best to Emmett's needs and show him well the love that he needs. I have never doubted that I loved him, singing him to sleep at night, and feeling my heart swell with each smile, and feeling proud of him when he learns something new, and bathing him in prayer all day long. But I have wondered if he loves me back.
I see it now.I watch him search for me when I leave the room for a minute and I see him light up when I walk back in. He eats the best for me (oh, the challenges of getting this boy to eat these days), as I sing him his favorite songs and spoon his food towards his little bird mouth. I know that he is comforted by me when he's hurting or sad, and my chest is the one he falls asleep against best when he just needs to be held. I know that my baby boy needs me, but more than anything else, he loves me dearly. Our love for each other is growing yet, and it is like nothing else in this world to know that love.
I cherish the words of the woman in the produce aisle today. I write them here, and in my journal, and will probably think back on that observation and profound statement many times in the months and years ahead (especially when things get challenging). I'm so thankful to know, and to know with confidence, that this boy does love his mama.