Of the hundreds of memorable lunches that I shared with my colleagues before Baby A was born, there is one that I remember because of a fleeting conversation. I was a few months pregnant, and the first person in the team to be expecting a child, so everyone was excited. I don’t remember what we were discussing that day, but at some point, I reached across the table to grab something and one of my colleagues remarked, ‘You know, Hira, you’re going to have mommy hands in a few months.’ I glanced down at my hands – well-moisturized skin, perfectly manicured nails – and wondered what ‘mommy hands’ were. I know now.
Two years of motherhood have taken a toll on my hands. They have aged in a way no other part of me has. I still get my nails done as regularly as I did before I became a mother, and I moisturize with much heavier moisturizers, but my hands now have a tough, weathered look, one that comes from hours and hours of manual labour. The skin on my knuckles has hardened from the hundreds of dishes I have scrubbed, and the thousands of clothes that I’ve washed; from the hundreds of baths I have given to the thousands of diapers I have changed; from the hundreds of messes I have wiped away and the thousands of times I have rinsed the same tiny hands. The muscles on my palms have strengthened from the countless meals I have cooked, the toys I have put away and the games I have played. My nail polish is often chipped from opening stubborn bottles and replacing batteries in noisy toys. I occasionally have small cuts on my hands from slicing fruit too quickly whilst distracted, or fixing the broken leg of Baby A’s doll.
I am convinced that my child believes that I have an unlimited number of hands. Earlier this week, I was carrying a host of shopping bags, with my handbag and Baby A’s diaper bag flung on my shoulder, when she demanded to be picked up. Manoeuvring myself around, I managed to take her into my arms, only to be informed that the ‘Boss of Everything’ required her water bottle immediately. I asked if she could wait for a few minutes, but of course she couldn’t, so I put her down to retrieve her water bottle, but that was unacceptable as well. Someone please ask my child – how many hands does she think mommy has?
Baby A recently received a toy tea set as a present, complete with a little trolley. She’s been very excited about the trolley and yesterday it accompanied us to the grocery store. Baby A zealously pushed it around for 5 minutes, then either she got bored or tired or distracted, because she turned around, handed me the trolley and informed me that she didn’t need it anymore. I stood there stunned, wondering what I was going to do with a toy trolley when I was pushing an adult sized one that was full of groceries! As it turns out, I was going to carry it home using my third hand.
Underneath all that wear and tear, however, are stories knit together by love, laughter, happiness and contentment. The dishes I have scrubbed are testament to the healthy home cooked meals that Baby A has eaten. The clothes that I have washed carry memories of giggling while rolling around in the mud, squealing with joy while hand painting and making mistakes while learning to feed herself. Wiping away messes and washing dirty little hands again and again, has taught me patience, kindness and resilience. Two years of looking after my little person has taught me to love like I’ve never loved before, to care like I’ve never cared before, and to work harder than I’ve ever worked before (and that’s saying something)!
My hands look nothing like the soft, well-cared for hands that reached across the table that day, nearly three years ago, but what my hands have lost in glamour, Baby A and I have gained in knowledge, love and personal growth. My hands have worked hard these last two years, but the happy, healthy child that brightens my day and warms my heart is more than worth it. Each day, I see her growing bigger, stronger and smarter.
Each day she wants to do one more thing for herself, one thing that I used to do. Each day she wants to do one more thing for me (yesterday she insisted on washing my feet). Perhaps as she grows older, my hands will regain their former glory, but I am forever changed.