You never really “woke me up” those first few months. I don’t think I ever actually fell asleep. I was terrified of SIDS and anyway my body ached all over from pushing you out of my vagina. Your father and I fought like two people under an evil spell cast every night around 6:00 p.m. He’d say “you’re shutting me out. You’re putting too much pressure on yourself with the breastfeeding.” I’d say “No I’m not! You don’t understand!” And we’d transform into squabbling, sleep deprived ogres. Then, suddenly, the spell would lift, I would cry, your father would hold me in his arms, bewildered and worn out, both of us staring at each other with matching “how the hell did we get here?!” expressions on our faces.
I remember the day I whipped my nipple shield across the room in a fit of rage, only to go frantically looking for it 10 minutes later when you wouldn’t latch without it. I hated that thing. Every day I’d watch through the clear silicone as colostrum or formula pooled around my nippIe. I obsessively looked at the mL markings on the SNS bottle clipped to my bra, inwardly lamenting over how slowly the amount seemed to be diminishing. And it never stayed behind the damn shield. Some portion always leaked out, running down the vastness of my size E boobies. That period of time: me waiting for my milk to be fully in, building up my supply, using the shield and the supplemental nursing system, only lasted for a couple weeks after bringing you home, but it felt like fucking forever. Somewhere in the deep dark hormonally saturated corners of my mind, I knew even then, that I would laugh about it all one day.
You were so little then. Now you are weeks away from being a 1 year old. I’ve stopped reading all the breastfeeding books. And the books on how to get you to sleep through the night. We don’t need them anymore. No more silicone torture devices. No more pondering over questions that people ask about your sleep patterns like: “Is she a good baby?” or “Does she sleep in her crib now instead of in your bed?” We have made our choices. And for now at least, we are content with them.
I believe they are choices that have promoted and helped establish the bond we now share. We do everything together. Every morning we get up and go for a walk, or a run. We pass by the “Little Free Library” on our street and look at the selection. In the house directly across from it there is a man who sits in his chair, in the front window, reading a newspaper. Each morning he’s there. He looks up as we walk by; maybe one day we’ll wave. For now I feel too reserved.
But we do talk to the crosswalk lady who has a little patch of land in Ireland where she grew up. She will spend part of her summer there once school has ended for the year. I feel that familiar sting of longing for my old freedom as she tells us about it, when your father and I could just travel to any place we wanted. But you will go with us now. And during the recent road trip to see your grandma and grandpa, I caught a glimpse of how fun it will be to have you as a travel companion. You notice people. You charm them from across the room, in random hipster coffee houses and “Any Town, USA” restaurant chains like Applebee’s, until they can’t help smiling back at you, until they are compelled to cross rooms to talk to you, greet you as if you were an old friend.
You are always watching me now. I have to be careful. My temper is quick. I am easily frustrated when I feel inadequate and overtired--not a winning combo but one I live with daily. I think about that chapter in Little Women where Jo is struggling with her passionate nature which often manifests as a quick temper. She is surprised to learn that this was also once true of her beloved Marmee who has over time learned to control it. So much so that her daughter was not aware it had ever been difficult. That is what I wish for you and I. Not that you will see me perfect--I’d rather be real to you--but that you will see me modeling my ability to master my temper not be ruled by it..
You made me a mother. You are a very small person with no agenda other than to be loved and yet you’ve changed my identity. I have been altered by your small 18 pound presence in this world. And as you and I move together from one developmental milestone to the next I ramble on about all of it. Documenting you, in my journal, in pictures and videos, on this blog. Like the first time you smiled at me, or held your head up on your own, or rolled over, or crawled, or most recently, walked. You took five steps in a row one afternoon at our Wednesday Waldorf class. I wanted to memorize the event, hold it, like a yoga pose, and just breathe. In spite of the desperate moments: the postpartum depression woes, the torturous, sleepless nights, some little piece of these experiences must remain close to me, available in my memory for re-visiting, re-feeling. I don’t want to forget you as you are now. I don’t want to forget me as I am now. How we are together, at the beginning of things. Memory is a time machine, so I must build a good one.