When she was a baby, I never put her down. In fact, after the doctors told me she had Hypotonia, I worried it was because I held her too much. I held her while I decorated the Christmas tree, and I iced Christmas cookies with one hand, so I could keep holding her with the other. I savored every early morning snuggle and the way her little body nuzzled next to mine as I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep. She was my last baby. Holding her was a fast fleeting privilege.
I held her during blood draws in the hospital's lab and during genetic and neurological exams that produced no answers. And as much as I hated being in a hospital, I knew I was a lucky one -- a parent who got to leave the hospital with her baby still in her arms.
Before she was able to walk, I held her. And when she mastered her first steps, but her muscles grew tired, I held her. I held her in the swimming pool -- for hours on end -- before she was coordinated enough to sit unassisted on a baby raft.
I held her when she grew tired of strollers and wanted to roam the zoo independently but couldn't keep up. When the crowds were too large or the hills were to steep, I held her. I held her as we meandered up and down the streets of Maryland one summer and down the aisles of Target.
But, now she is heavier, and I'm no longer strong enough to lift her up into a shopping cart seat. And she is taller. Her feet dangle awkwardly at my knees. And she is almost five, which means she doesn't always want my help, but sometimes, she still needs it.
So, I hold her.
I know, one day I won't be able to hold her, at least not like I do now and certainly not like I did before. I know, one day, my back will hurt too much and my own muscles will be too weak. I know that when that moment comes, my heart will hurt a little.
"Pick a pumpkin you can carry," I remind her as she eyeballs the biggest pumpkins in the patch. The irony of those words are not lost on me. If anyone knows, I know that sometimes we get more than we can physically carry.
"I want this yellow one," she says, bending down to hoist it up. It is not too big at all, but I also know we have a long walk back to the car. I picture myself carrying her and the pumpkin, and I question if I am physically capable of making it to the car with both the pumpkin and her intact.
"It's kind of a heavy one," I remind her. "It might be hard to carry."
She stares at the pumpkin for a moment and shakes her head, "Nope. I love this one, momma. I love it so much that I can hold it -- all the way to the car."
It is true that someday she will be too big for my two arms to carry, but she will never be too heavy for my heart to hold.