Stepping into Reality through Little Shoes

On a warm summer afternoon, my brother and his family arrive to spend the day at the beach with us. With them they bring just about everything their daughter has outgrown in the three years of her life, delivering us several large plastic boxes of pink. 
Passed down baby items and clothes have become a perk of being the youngest in a large family. My brothers have gone ahead of me and had 2, 3, and 4 children, respectively, making Little H the youngest in a brood of 10 grandchildren for my parents. Our daughter will be the 11th and final of their generation.  

After a day of summer fun, we return home to our family room that looks like about 200 gallons of sherbet melted across it. As soon as the beach sand from the day is washed down the shower drain, the pizza sauce from dinner wiped from the dining room table, and H's tired, sun-kissed head on the pillow, I am upstairs opening those boxes of miniature couture.

I want to see all the tiny ruffles, ribbons, and bows. I unfold and refold one pint-sized shirt, pant and dress after another. I'm so used to big-wheeled vehicles, sports balls and four legged-critters, I keep smiling at the delicate flowers, butterflies, and hearts. I hold them up and feel happy, marveling at both the sudden flood of pink that is soon to wash over our household and the extreme but fleeting delicacy of a newborn.
I open a small box filled with shoes and slippers in various sizes and rummage through the scuffed patent leather and velcro bows. I lift a tiny pair of sandals out and stare at them. I keep running my fingers over the soles that will one day soon hold my baby's soft feet. MY daughter; I have a little girl. She exists. Her feet will be real and she will slide them into butterfly sandals, pink Converse, and rhinestone flip-flops. She is real. I keep touching those tiny shoes in a frozen state of reality.

I spent the first half of this pregnancy afraid of losing her; the second half is tipping toward a fear that she will lose me.

Almost daily now, I battle varying degrees of fear that I will not live to raise my children. In the same way that I am now not prone to imagine the future in general with any sort of clarity or certainty, I have been hesitant to imagine raising a daughter with any sort of detail or unabashed enthusiasm. I don't want to anticipate joy that may not be mine to experience.

She will have long hair, probably with lots of curls. Will I be there to brush it and braid it for her? She will take dance lessons and wear tutus at some point. Will I be there to watch her twirl and plie? She'll want to go shopping and have sleep-overs; will I be the one she cries dramatically to when her friends leave her out? Will she be good at sports? Will she inherit my family’s musical ineptitude or her father’s keen ear? Will I ever know? Can I dare to even imagine being there to help her pick out her wedding dress? 
All of those things in my life would have been lacking had I not had a loving mother to share them with. I hurt to realize the possibility I may create lack in her life. ...As I do that my sweet baby boy may grow into a young man I may not experience ...As I do that my dear husband, the only man I've ever loved, might need to move on to loving someone else someday. How does anyone ever accept these heartbreaking possibilities?

So tonight I sit with the tiny shoes. The reality of my daughter creeps through my guard as I dare to imagine her little feet slipping into those feminine soles. She does exist. So much after that may be uncertain, but she is real.


  1. Breaks my heart, but this is beautiful!

    1. Thank you! Although so sad, this is one of my favorite reflections on this time.