Her lashes, grown long and full, flutter against her cheeks. Her smile has relaxed into crinkled lips. Her hand is limp on her lovey’s edge, where not long ago she held it tightly in her pudgy fist and rubbed the soft cloth across her cheek. Her hands still smell like this morning’s cheerios. Her breathing is even, soft and sweet and milky. I brush the curl of hair resting on her forehead off to one side. She has the softest hair I’ve ever felt.

These moments are coming to an end, too soon too soon. It’s time to start moving her out of my arms, gently but steadily. Our afternoon naps will soon be in separate beds. Our nights connected by electronics rather than the warm, soft touch of my hand resting on her leg.

In my head, in my heart, I knew that the drops of blood that spilled as I cut the cord with her were symbolic of a lifetime of growing further apart. From that point on, we would be like taffy stretching, always recalling when we were a single being but growing further and further away. Some day, she would be able to walk away from me, tottering off to her own adventures (that day is already here). Some day, I will offer to nurse and she will say, “no thanks.” Some day I will send her off to camp and she will forget her sunscreen and bug spray and come home scraped, burned, bitten, and full of excited stories of all the cool things she did without me. Some day, she will move out and there will be entire days, weeks, where I don’t hear from her.

I have always tried to cherish the time I spend with her, even when it’s hard. When she was just a few days old I would walk outside in the middle of the night, singing endlessly and tunelessly to this screaming, exhausted, helpless being. Despite my own exhaustion and pain, I assured her that I would love her through every moment, that some day I would look back and miss those nights. And it’s true. I miss them. She is growing more independent by the day. And it’s time for the taffy to pull a little tauter. It’s time for me to give up watching her open her sleepy eyes, smile up at me, and give me her sweet, “hi” before settling back into sleep. It’s time to night wean, sleep train, move her into her own bed.

I will miss this. I am grateful that my husband and family and daughter have given me the emotional space to do this the way it felt most right in my heart. So I lean down, kiss her sweaty brow, whisper that I love her. I will hold the memories of my sleeping infant daughter as tightly, lovingly, and protectively as I now hold her.

And, because it’s best for her, I’ll let go a little bit more and feel my love stretch a little further, like taffy.