10 little fingers and 10 little toes

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Hi, I’m Mom. Up to this very moment, I’ve been known by another name, but throughout your hopefully long life, you’ll only know me as Mom. This, your first day in the world, I count and then recount your ten little fingers and your ten little toes. Don’t really know why. Just think it’s something new moms do … and counting is something I’m good at.

I’ve spent the last nine months preparing for this wondrous day. Seeking out advice from other moms, reading books and every article I could find on being the perfect mom. You deserve nothing less. But far from perfect I’ll be. Already I know I’ll make mistakes — just like my Mom did and her mom before her.

Tomorrow we’ll go home together and I’m to take care of you, feed you when you are hungry, give comfort when life distresses you, teach you to love, and yes, sometimes scold you. To be honest, I’m more than a little frightened. I don’t know how to be a mom.

So I count your ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes over and over again. I know how to count. It’s all the rest of being a mom that I don’t have a clue how to do. But that’s something I’ll never tell you. After all, I’m Mom, the person you’ll look to for answers to questions you don’t even know how to ask yet.

Watching you sleep for the first time in the new world, your lips shape a little bell. Bell … now that would be a perfect name for a perfect little girl. My Bell. A quick check shows me you’re still breathing easily and getting a good night sleep.

Another thing I now realize as a mom: a good night’s sleep will elude me for years – perhaps forever. Worry will replace sleep. Worrying whether I’ve done everything a mom should or worrying whether I’ve unknowingly done something dreadfully wrong. How I’m to afford giving you all of the opportunities you so deserve so you have a full and happy life will keep me up most nights.

As I watch the covers rise and fall, you smile your first smile, and with it comforting warmth washes over me. Somehow I now know things will be all right. So I count and recount; ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes.

The nurses come in and gently take you from me. They say it’s for your own good. In your place they give me a pink diary. Why, I don’t really know. But they’re the professionals. Only the first of many I’ll listen to over the coming years.

When you’re old enough to go to school, I’ll listen to coaches, counselors, and teachers. Some of them will be moms, and moms know what to do when it comes to rearing children. They will teach me what to do, and I’ll be glad of it. Looking at you as the nurses gently place you back into the bassinet, the pain I now feel is not just from childbirth or separation.

I’m frightened. So, as they wheel you silently away, I do what I know how to do. I count. Ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes. Then I start to write.

Bell closed the well-worn little pink diary, placing it back in the center drawer of her mom’s dressing table. It had been a long day and the first few pages were all she could bear to read. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The diary held Mom’s most private thoughts – thoughts she rarely shared.

The loss of this day was overwhelming, and the weight of it all came crashing down on her forcing her to fall back onto the bed — covering her eyes with her hands. Bell cried once again. She cried for the loss of her dad to a heart attack a year ago. She cried for the loss of her mom. Dying five days ago from a broken heart.

Then she hears another cry. Her younger sister walks into the bedroom carrying a baby. She hands the baby to her big sister. Bell cradles and soothes her 2-week-old daughter and does what her mom had taught her to do. She counts. Ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes. Comforting warmth washes over Bell and somehow she knew all would be all right.

After all — she was now a mom.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]