If indeed your child is not yours, but rather given to you by the universe for a brief period of time, then I think my time is up.
One of my most pleasurable memories as a child was the mysterious and secret peek into a bird's nest in my backyard, perched precariously on a ladder so as not to disturb the baby birds or eggs within it. Seeing the tiny turquoise eggs snuggled in these dainty nests, gently and creatively woven with bits of twig, strings and even a colored thread or two was so ... awe inspiring, endlessly fascinating.
For weeks afterwards, I would patiently look through the grass underneath the tree for bits of eggshell, unsure of the fate of the small inhabitant, wondering whether this fledgling hatched or fell to its death while still inside its egg. Once in awhile there would be a bony little feathered carcass, its big head wobbly on its skinny neck... a sad reminder of what could happen during the in between stages of vulnerable, newly hatched baby and strong adolescent bird, able to confidently fly to its next destination. I often thought about the mother bird, and how she must have felt helplessly watching her baby fall to the ground in a feathery clump and stay there, for how on earth could she ever get it back up to its nest?
How and when is the baby bird ready to fly? It's one thing to refine the ability to fly-- to teach it to land safely, to fly straight or soar on a headwind, but quite another thing to place the fledgling gingerly on the edge of the nest and give the push! Is it a bigger leap of faith for the baby or the mother?
For 18 years I have taught my baby everything I know, everything I could imagine. Currently the nest is quite crowded, and the the tiny chirps that used to happily greet me have become the angry squawks of an adolescent bird whose wings are almost grown-- strong wings, only the tiniest bits of baby fluff left amidst the feathers. Her eyes no longer meet mine-- they are busy looking outward, scanning the horizon, peering past the leafiness of our tree to the sky above. I see her wings begin to stretch, twitching with the collective energy of a thousand such birds, a million--- all birds in history, in fact.
I can, and do, envision her soaring above the earth, joyfully catching a headwind on the way to wherever she has chosen to fly next. Ruefully, I think of hawks, large and hungry... hunters with rifles... electric wires vibrating with danger. For just a brief moment I picture a baby bird laying on the ground under the tree, and then, willing that image away, prop her on the the edge of the nest, and with a silent prayer, push.