A NOTE TO MY DAUGHTER: TIME TRAVEL IS POSSIBLE

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 papa 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 papa 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 papa 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.  

 

CONFESSIONS OF A MAMA BEAR

By Angel Underhill

Last week I celebrated my first Mother's Day as a mom.  I am a mom. I...am a mom.  Yep. Still has a WTF?! ring to it when I hear myself say it out loud. We went on two walks with the bambino around our new, more family-friendly neighborhood.  Everywhere we looked there were multiple versions of ourselves: mama, papa, baby, stroller.  Some days, I can't help feeling like an imposter--a perpetually dishevled, chronically disorganized, "how-the-hell-did-I-get-here?" expression wearing person--who is impersonating a grown up, pretending to be a parent. 

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That is how surreal this gig can feel at times.  And yet, I can see that the "mama bear" in me, the one that hibernated through 42 years of childlessness, has sprung awake. And she's for real, yo.  I recently felt myself manifest this more intensely at the weekly playgroup Hazel and I attend. It was time to put away all the toys, but with  a bunch of kids under 2 that's not always a smooth transition.  Some cooperated of course.  But there were a lot of little bodies going limp with rebellion in the arms of their moms or caregivers.  Others were making off with some toy they refused to give up, waddling away as fast as their little diapered butts could carry them. Hazel was one of those.  Not quite on board with the message of "clean up time," she was crawling towards something she wanted--can't remember now what.  I turned for a second to put a toy in a basket. All the dramatic stuff happens in a second.  This time it involved some kid's nanny walking backwards over Hazel. One of her legs knocked my girl over and still the woman kept moving, not looking down or altering her course in any way, as if Hazel was some inanimate object she could not harm.  I could see her other leg coming down; she was going to step on my child again, so I placed both of my hands squarely on her shoulder and pushed as hard as I could in the opposite direction. As I grabbed Hazel up from the floor I heard a bland, banal voice saying, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry," then my voice saying "It's okay, it's okay." But it wasn't. I was only being "nice," cloaking how upset I was with that generic we're-all-still-friends-here response often used when in a public place and you don't want to get into it with a stranger or when you are trying to convince yourself of something. It was a little chant to soothe my jangled nerves, to assuage my tired mama worry with the assurance that I had rescued my baby and all would be well. It was a little chant to help silence the inner bear no longer snoozing through a long winter but aroused, vigilant, and ready to knock the shit out of anyone who might hurt her cub.

The side of Hazel's face was red where she'd hit the floor; she was frightened and crying. I could barely look at the nanny.  I think when I pushed her, she was holding on to the little girl she looked after but I'm not certain.  Honestly, In the moment I didn't care.  All I could think about was that this rather large person was going to crush my baby unless I stopped her.  

We moved into the singing portion of the class and as soon as Old McDonald's cow became the focus, Hazel was smiling again.  My adrenaline rush subsided and I felt slightly more empathetic towards the nanny. She seemed to be avoiding eye contact with me. It occurred to me that perhaps I should apologize for pushing her. But as I sat there listening to "This Little Light of Mine," I knew I wouldn't do it.  I wasn't sorry. Then I thought maybe I should at least explain why. Shouldn't I address what just passed between us? Shouldn't I make sure she knows that my actions were in no way inspired by nastiness or aggression only terror over the possibility that my baby was about to be trampled? But I didn't do that either.  I've grown weary of explaining myself to people.  It requires more emotional energy than I possess most days.  Call it laziness, call it a short cut, call it whatever you want. To someone like me who tends to explain more often than needed, remain loyal longer than many deserve, initiate communication more times than what is reciprocated, it felt liberating to let my actions speak louder than my words this time.

So, in the end I neither offered an apology or an explanation. I decided to trust that the "why" was understood.  I was just "mama bear," doing what she sometimes gotta do.  I embraced that wonderful surge of wild, primal protective love that propelled me forward into the "nanny body slam" that rescued my tiny human.  Any self-doubt or guilty feelings quickly melted away.  Because in the words of Sweet Brown, one time You Tube sensation:  "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

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