Our room was shaped like a square with a baby cribbed next to a wall covered in grey paint. There was a grey rocking chair for breastfeeding and a silver and white changing table stood next to the window awaiting the arrival of baby.

There were no baby rooms. I was never a decorator mom. I never took the time to fashion a room or think of ways to make it a child’s room. None of my other children had one. I expected baby to sleep in our room.

The researcher in me is to blame. When conducting a review on sleep in diverse cultural settings, I read somewhere about the benefits of children sleeping in rooms with their parents. In close proximity to their beating hearts, however you choose. A friend reminded me once, that we all grew up like this in Nigeria, in close proximity to our parents. All my babies have been doing so since then. They transition, when they get older to their rooms.

We began the day like any other day. Baby’s purple hospital bag was ready. I found it at a goodwill store by our home. It was purple and in great condition. Looking at it, one would have thought it was something befitting for a king. I bought it because my son is a king.

My mind was already in the labor room, even though my other children demanded it remained with them, at least for now.

One in particular was my three year old. His keen awareness for the times was incredible. Not only was he clingy, tugging my legs to carry him or hold him at every opportunity, he knew that the arrival of baby would mean he was no longer the baby of our home.

Looking at him, I had the sense that the joys, the fears, even the hopes of no longer being our baby were all lingering on his mind. To ease his concerns, we took him for a walk. Just Dad and I.

We choose to go out with him alone (wearing his baby-blue baby-shark pajamas), just so he knows he would always be our baby. Love will always be his, whether on his dad’s shoulder or on the arms of mom.

Whether by rivers or on top of bridges. Whatever life throws his way, love will be thrown right back. We are all never meant to walk alone. I wanted him to know that he would always find comfort and solace in us.

( I digress-but one of the side effects of the pandemic is an insistence on wearing pajamas. I wonder if other parents are going through this).

There were many flowers along the walk through Forest Park. Even flowers may shrivel and dry up as they cling to the day. Almost all flowers, bloom and whither with each passing day. But tomorrow, they awaken, like yesterday never happened.

It’s this vision of awakening that I want to cling to as well.

In moments where fear becomes intermixed with joy, in moments when things change, and your place is no longer what you expect it to be, even in moments when things seem to be moving at a pace beyond your control, I will always remember our walk through the park with my son. The full force of lesson he taught us this time last year, is only beginning to be clear in my mind. We are never meant to walk alone. Whether in joy or through moments of fear.

So we walked forward together, lost in his world, clinging to the solace and comfort we found as we watched all the flowers blooming in his world.

Everyone needs a sense of connection. A sense of relation. A sense of belonging. A sense of knowing that you matter to a particular group, a particular family, or a circle of friends. To belong, is to have life and live it out fully. Irrespective of how you find yourself, to belong, is to have joy and have it more abundantly. Even in this moment, to belong is to become part of an infinite story, one told for years to come, about how your people framed who you are, framed your identity, framed your possibilities. I am enjoying belonging to my people. They are my national treasure, my soul’s desire, my inner peace, my place of joy, my guilty pleasure, my lover’s rock, my shield and protector, my endless possibilities, my heart content. I am nothing without my people. They make every single thing I do worth it. To find you people, to love and treasure them is to find peace for the world and its ways. To celebrate your people too, to let them know how much you treasure and value every single fiber of their being is to know love for yourself. This week, after a gruesome couple of months of working, I am on a journey to celebrate that which makes my heart leap everything. My Belle.

My Belle turns 9.

I became a mother because my Belle gave me this once is a lifetime opportunity. I also remember the day vividly this week nine years ago. Of how I walked into labor at 41 weeks. Of how nothing seemed to make her want to come into the world until she was forced out. Of the pain of child birth, my first, with the unfortunately tear that occurred when she passed through the ring of fire and it it was fire. Of how she came still, with an angel’s kiss on her forehead. Of how tiny she way in my arms. Of how she became mine to protect and nurture and love. The past nine years of being surrounded by her love has been divine. To know you belong to her and she belongs to you makes my heart content. She pierces my air with bubbles full of joy, full of laugher, full of excitement and full of possibilities. I keep repeating the word ‘possibilities’ and it’s because she demonstrates it powerfully to me every single day. I am a mother because she became my first child this week nine years. I am a mother because I learnt how to become one through her. I am a mother willing to change the rules on mothering, including writing about it because of her ways, full of hope, full of sheer determination to live out her God’s given destiny. If you see all the stories she has written, all the art she has drawn and all the life lessons she continues to teach me, then you will change too. So from this week and till forever, I am on a mission to nurture what matters to her. Every single aspect of her souls desire is mine to fulfill because she belongs to a people who love her unconditionally. She belongs to me. Find your people, learn from them, adapt to as your learn, but ultimately nurture them endlessly. That’s the plan for this week and beyond with Belle. Keep belonging to those that matter.