Yesterday I walked into my baby’s nursery to wake him up for the day. He was lying perfectly still, swaddled, with his bright blue, serene eyes wide open. He was totally calm.
“Good morning my love,” I whispered, smiling. “How is my baby today?”
His eyes moved slowly from where they were gazing and landed on my face. Our eyes lock for a moment before a smile of pure joy unfolds in recognition until his whole body is smiling. That moment never gets old.
When my baby was placed on my chest for the first time, he started sucking on my chin instinctually until my breast was available. I kissed his soft, warm cheek and let the tears flow unabashedly while he sucked. The first time he shifted his body on my chest, I knew his movements and his feet from his months moving and kicking inside me. His little body would calm and his eyes dart at the sound of my voice from those very first moments outside of my body. Crying from being cold, he would instantly melt into my skin when the nurse handed him back to me. There was no doubt: I was his momma and he was my baby. I knew him deeply, and he knew me at his core.
Three months later, he still knows when I enter a room. He looks for me when he hears my voice. And when I enter his nursery, stand over his crib and smile at him in the morning or after a nap, I get that overwhelming smile right back. My momma’s here. A warmth wells up and spreads from deep inside of me every time. One of the sweetest parts of being a momma is that moment of pure recognition. We belong to each other. On a Darwinian level, it’s the driving force that keeps our species going. On the God level, it’s what makes the heart overflow with unconditional love.
You don’t have to be a momma to understand the power of recognition. Think of moments waiting for a loved one at the airport. Finally, after watching so intently for what seems like hours, a deeply familiar face emerges from the crowd of strangers. Our eyes lock for a moment before we exchange smiles. We’re not alone. Here comes someone who knows me. Simon generously gives me the gift of recognition, knowing, seeing, belonging over and over again every day. “You are my momma. I love you.”
A similar knowing smile creeps onto my face involuntarily when I see the beauty of nature. Looking out to the endless horizon with my toes digging into the sand as the tide comes in, lifting my eyes to the snow on top of a towering mountain, or closing my eyes to hear the roar of a waterfall feet away from my face, that same warm goodness wells in my body. It is recognition of my Creator, the one I belong to. It is a smiling of knowing, seeing, recognizing, appreciating, of belonging. And I have to hope that my smile is pleasing to my God, who smiles back in the warmth of the sun and the cool of the wind on my cheek.