I remember waiting impatiently for my daughter to be born. My baby bump had swelled and ripened to its fullest. Come to think of it, so had my feet. Those days when everything was prepped and ready, the nursery painted, crib assembled, baby clothes washed and folded is when there seemed to be not much else to do, but wait. I would sit on the floor in what was soon be her room, refolding and admiring each baby clothing item. Included in the baby clothing were the swaddle blankets. The muslin cotton blankets were bright white with patterns and shades of pink. I refolded the crisp, clean, and fresh blankets into perfect squares thinking how they would soon fold my baby girl up in warmth and comfort too.
I brought the star-patterned swaddle blanket to the hospital, and that’s the one we wrapped her in as she slept dreamily for newborn pictures. I tried other methods of swaddling with her as a newborn including velcro wraps, those tight little sleeping bags, peapod cocoons, and so on. Nothing seemed to work better than those swaddle blankets.
As my daughter got older, long after the swaddling stopped, her love for the blankets did not.
She was not entirely particular about which blanket she was cuddling or sleeping with as long as she had one. The need for one eventually became the need for two blankets at bedtime. She’s been known to have a wad of about four blankets with her on a given night.
Over the years, the once crisp, clean, fully square blankets have faded and frayed, with some of them having been loved to shreds. I’ve cut off parts that were in tatters, causing the large square blankets to shrink in size, and eventually lose their square-shaped properties.
Now approaching eight years of age in just a few short months, my daughter still sleeps with two blankets at night and will bring them with her to the couch for her morning TV shows, but that’s about the extent of it.
She’s at the age now where she hides them when friends come over.
Whispering to me with a smile and half-embarrassed chuckle, “I don’t want them to know I still sleep with blankets.” She stuffs them under her pillows.
My son was wrapped in the same brand of swaddle blankets. Instead of being adorned with pink stars and stripes, his blankets boasted shades of blue with animal patterns. We couldn’t keep him contained as a baby in any other form of swaddle either, except these blankets. As he has gotten older, unlike his big sister, he is very particular about which blankets he sleeps or cuddles with. I have to sneak them away to wash them or stealthily replace soggy, sucked-on, balled-up ones left on the couch or his bed because he has his favorite ones he will use repeatedly.
There are many aspects of my kids’ baby years I have been willing or gladly able to part with, but the swaddle blankets have not been one of them. I will let my kids keep those shredded, loved-to-pieces blankets as long as they want. I’ll wash them up well and pack them off to college if they so desire.
Much like the swaddle blankets, as an expectant mother, I was fresh and new.
Slowly over the past several years, my unsure and tense self has softened with each wash and use. Stains, slobber, and the sticky hands that clutched those blankets so fiercely in those early years, have clutched me too seeking the same warmth and love.
I’ve become comfortable with this worn-in feeling as my stars, stripes, and animal patterns fade and get lost within the folds of life as a mother. Fraying at the edges and falling to pieces, I’m mere scraps of what I used to be before I was called mom.
I’ve tried other versions of myself thinking the tattered, worn-out me might not be good enough. The velcro-wrap made too much noise and seemed unsettling. The peapod cocoon seemed too confining and stiff. Realizing I am my own kind of mothering-self, I go back to the swaddle blankets because I see that I am somehow stronger, more durable, more capable, and longer-lasting than I ever thought possible.
Somehow the more worn I am, the more beautiful I become.
One day instead of my daughter hiding her blankets under her pillow from friends, I’ll hear her say, “I don’t need them anymore.” Or instead of having to sneak them away from my son to wash them, I’ll hear, “I don’t care about those blankets anymore.”
After all, I’ve grown to love their softness, smell, and familiar comfort too. As the blankets fade into a distant memory of my children’s lives, I will remain as tried and true as those tattered pieces of fabric once were, folding myself around my kids and giving in to the faded and frayed beauty of motherhood.