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keepin it real

Motherhood brings out the best and the worst in me. Because no matter how tired I am, how fed up, I know that there is no other option except to continue to care for this child and give it the most of me I can. It is after all helpless. And unable to communicate. And relying on me. The knowledge of that is generally enough to make me overflow with compassion and guide me back from whatever dark place I drove myself into with my frustration. I dwell there for a while, a few breaths. Then move on and let go. Come back to wherever my infant is and offer it all of the love and patience that I've scavanged like an array of jewels.

It also brings out the worst. People who know me but aren't related to me, generally see me as a calm, easygoing person, who is gentle and works hard to communicate well. On the other hand my family and my husband also see the other side where my rage lives. And there's nothing that shortcuts to that rage (the rage that lies beneath all of my reasoning skills) than the utter unreasonableness and irrationality of the newborn. A tiny person so discourteous, so self-centered and so rageful when unpleased that it is like a shortcut to bringing out all of my very worst traits.

Matei is a mix of a very amiable baby and a dementedly stubborn one, a baby who is one hand perfectly capable of sleeping well, smiling often, taking strangers in his stride but on the other hand similarly capable of rigid-bodied screaming fits that leave him breathless. And the rages - they can go on and on. As do the smiles and the gurgles in other circumstances. Although it's much easier now that there's a sort of routine in place, you still day-by-day don't really know what you're going to get. It's like living with a tiny person who at unpredictable intervals develops a case of PMS.

Each day I am grateful for his thriving, and his strength and his ferocious health just as I wish the bugger would sleep a 7 hour stint in the night. My baby is wonderful, but he is not the child I fantasised I would have (who was a much more docile model). Acknowledging that dissapointment and moving on from it has been part of the process of learning to accept and treasure the child that I do have (which is much easier now that more often than not he isn't trying to kill me with the howlings).

Indeed, this goes both ways. As patient as I've had to be with the baby, he's also had to be with us. I am a deeply fallible person and I cannot count the number of times that I have screwed up in the past six weeks, that my baby hasn't held grudges about. For instance the occasion when he just wouldn't quiet down and instead of it occurring to Z and me to check his diaper we just kept trying to plug him up with a dummy and jiggle him (in the process smearing him more thoroughly with poo and making him even more miserable) and this exercise in idiocy went on for well over an hour by which point the baby was one heartbroken little munchkin. But he got over that, just as I get over my broken sleep and his erratic one. We have good intentions and good will, we are trying hard to learn how to talk to one another.

I knew Z would be an involved daddy (and he is) but I thought we'd have more of a shared-care approach to the baby. But I didn't realise that while Matei is fully prepared to spend time with his daddy and smile at him occasionally, he still craves me. That I for all my failings still read him best, have the strongest sense of what he needs. I wasn't prepared for how deeply the mother-chain binds in the helpless-baby stage. Matei is mine and I am his in the deepest sense of that word, in a way that I am no other person's (nor would want to be). We are one flesh, one blood, for close to a year we were one body he and I and most days still I can feel the phantom tugging of the cord between us. Its ghost lingers. It permeates everything. It tells me that while one day my son will sail away from me without looking back and toddle into his father's arms for now he is mine, entrusted to me to care for and nurture until he develops language, erratic mood shifts and all.

The bond is neither sweet, nor picturesque. It is too primal for that. It is more like the bonds forged by allies in a war. I am what I am and he is what he is, and we try our best to the utmost of our abilities and understanding and resources and in the end deeper than any marriage vow, deeper than ancestral memory and flesh and bones, all we have is each other.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 11th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
You are the first person I've ever encountered who has made me think jealously about motherhood. It's a wonderful (and awe-ful, in the true sense of the word) thing you've got there, and thank you for communicating it so lucidly to those of us who remain bystanders on the battlefield. x
Feb. 11th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
I've said it before, I'll say it again. If anyone should write a book, it's you.

As far as messing up with the baby, we won't get into the time I left my month-old daughter on the floor of the grocery store, in her carrier. When the clerk came out with her, I was sure the Mommy Police would get me. I can't wait to see what I'll pull when she's a teenager.

Feb. 11th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
I have been reading every post and have not replied because all I can say is stupidly: I know exactly what you mean and even now my daughter drives me to the highest highs and lowest lows and that not everything is sweet and sometimes, more often than seems safe to admit, you really are not sure you want this, but you could never have it any other way, so there you are.
Feb. 11th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
I was surprised how different it was to how I imagined. You can imagine how hard it will be before hand: but experiencing it is a whole new level of difficult. You can imagine the bond before hand (which often involves long hugs and going "goo, ga ga") but it turns out to be something more powerful (which often involves 4am diaper changes and just "knowing" that he needs you).

It will get worse with you're hubby when the baby starts the "I will play with daddy, cry with mummy" thing. I'm just the caregiver EVEN IF I've read all the books, crawled around for two hours, kissed until my lips were sore, sang nursery rhymes and invented my own that involve her name, taught science lessons of why the food can't go up her nose.... All of that, and it just takes daddy to walk in the door and she's content just to sit on him lap!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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