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.