I happened across this photography project by Annie Wang on Instagram, and I find it so moving:

At the first level, the progress of the photographs captures in a concentrated way the velocity of a child’s growth, how strange it is to have an encapsulated life unfold entirely in the middle of your own, how they begin and then leave you in such a blink of time, and how the compounding years eclipse the long moments of babyhood. Although Edith is not yet two, I already feel this. Her babyhood felt like epochs unfolding as it happened but already it is a tiny speck in the past; I can hardly recall it. I look at baby pictures of her from less than a year ago and feel a great sense of longing for her, even though she’s still here in front of me. Time becomes something altogether illogical when you are a parent; it expands and leaps and compresses in disorienting ways.

But the other thing that is so interesting to me about this photo series is the way in which it depicts how motherhood erases and then remakes you. In the first series, there is nothing in the pictures but Wang and her son. There is no time for anything else, he is all-consuming and her life has been packed away elsewhere. Her days are sparse, her appearance low maintenance, her personality has been tacked somewhere out of the way, to be retrieved when he needs her less. And then with each year, while her son grows and develops interests and his life expands and colors, she is there in the background also growing back into herself. We see her with evidence of gradually more interests and obligations, her appearance becomes more intentional and varied.

This has been a surprising and not unwelcome aspect of motherhood for me — that in giving birth to a baby, you are forced to undergo a sort of rebirth yourself, or at least a reset or a remaking. Throughout my first 40 years of life, I often wanted to fundamentally change myself or my life in some way, but I was never able to truly; I would try to jolt myself out of my familiar patterns, but I’d settle back into them eventually. But having a baby forces you into an utterly new world, irrevocably and absolutely, and quite overnight. You go into the hospital one person, and you come out another. And for a year, I had no idea who I was, other than the person who was keeping Edith alive. There was no time for any of my old habits or routines, my familiar thinking patterns, my coping mechanisms, my old obsessions. And my brain was swept utterly bare of any preoccupation other than my daughter. And gradually, as she becomes more independent by fragments I have a bit of space again and the interesting thing about this is that my priorities have permanently shifted. I value time more, I procrastinate less. Anxieties and concerns that preoccupied me for 40 years seem laughably irrelevant now. My values haven’t so much changed as that I am able, finally, to honor them. I am a better, more intentional person than I used to be, and a more genuinely happy one.

I don’t yet have much free time and I won’t for years, but I imagine that when I do, the way I choose to spend it will be utterly different than in the years before Edith. Time is more valuable both because I have less of it, and also because I am aware on a much deeper level of its brevity.

For over a year now, when Edith finishes her dinner, I pick her up and shake her over her high chair, and then I heft her up backwards over the top of my head, and carry her to her bath. She loves this and giggles and kicks, and if there are other people at the table, she waves goodbye elaborately while upside down. We’ve done this every single night since she was….six months? Seven? Lately, she’s been so heavy it’s a real strain to do this, and I was worried about the day she would be too heavy for me to lift. But then three nights ago, when I went to heft her over my head, she said “no, down!” I thought I must have misheard, or maybe she didn’t know what she wanted, so I carried on, and she shouted, and said “down!!!” again. I put her down and she ran to the bath on her own two feet. I thought maybe this was a weird anomaly, but she did it again the next night, and the night after and it took that long for me to finally get it.

I’ll be quicker on the uptake for the next one.


  1. Erica V. says:

    I’m not crying – not at all ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny Zhu says:

    Oof. All of it is so true, and so utterly incomprehensible until you experience it. And because I know I won’t be doing this again, I simultaneously cherish and mourn each and every moment and milestone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is really powerful, and because I’m not a mother, and plagued with anxieties and concerns, I’m curious to know…

    >Anxieties and concerns that preoccupied me for 40 years seem laughably irrelevant now.

    Which anxieties and concerns? If you want to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Oh so many, but top of mind since I just took Edith to the pool this afternoon is just stuff like I used to agonize over how I looked in a swimsuit and now I cannot fathom giving a single shit about that. Or just how I look and come across to people generally. I used to worry all the time that I was wasting my life or my talents or even just my time on a daily basis, and now I never worry about that. I mean, I still think about such things, but in a more curious way than an anxious way; it does not seem crucial or dire. And just worries or concerns about my own comfort — worrying about stuff interrupting my sleep or intruding on my time, wanting to cultivate a certain environment in my house, etc., all that is completely irrelevant now that my time and my environment belong to someone else and I have zero control over any of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds quite freeing, even though that’s not the word I would ever associate with parenthood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth says:

      It really HAS been, which, yeah. Although of course, this is replaced with an all-consuming deep and unrelenting dread that something bad will happen to Edith, which is a more profound and incapacitating fear than I have ever before experienced. BUT! I don’t care if I look ugly anymore, so maybe it’s just a draw.

      Liked by 1 person

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