There is no time to write, but if I don’t write I will never write!
Here are the updates: We drove for ten hours through the driving (never has the adjective been more apt) rain. We rocked the baby to sleep in the bathroom of an Applebee’s in Angola, Indiana. We arrived at a our half-way point at 4am and spent a lovely, tired day with loved ones. We drove through eight more hours of driving rain and arrived at our destination at 1am. We slept on the living room floor with our baby with nothing but a twin futon, one pillow, and a comforter for one night. All of this was fun and also the worst, like giving birth. An adventure.
Amidst this, I developed a case of sciatica that made one out of every four steps onto my left foot excruciating. While boxes and chaos threatened to engulf us, I had to rest and do nothing. My partner had to do everything. She is a hero. I knew this before, but now I really know. Faced with a major interruption in my ability to function, it became all the more clear how critical my functioning is. A) I need to start residency so that we can eat and pay rent and B) taking care of a six-month old involves uncountable acts of bending and lifting. When these are impossible, parenting is reduced to baby talk and back pats and these do not go very far against hunger, boredom, frustration, or fear.
Then E turned six months old. I am so in love with her, it feels like my whole being is a pile of wood that is aglow with the warmest campfire ever. But in a good way, like in the Bible when the bush burned but was not consumed. Sometimes I still cannot believe she is! She has mastered sitting, and growling like a bear, and using a toy to knock down other toys.
I had to take steroids for my back, so I’ve had to dump down the drain every drop of pumped milk for five days. Without her nursing, the milk is dwindling, which makes me sad.
I’m feeling better. We’re half unpacked and certain corners of the house look great. We’ve had visits from two dear friends. It’s good to be back to a coast where people you love might pass through your city. Tomorrow is my last free day before residency.
Here is the thing I want to especially take note of: There is a new emotion. It is the excited melancholy that accompanies the baby’s growth. As I watch her sit and scoot and go about the newly busy business of her day, I am ecstatic — for her because her world is exploding and she is so much more the master of it, for me because caring for her is such hard work and these milestones bring the promise of freedom from that work. At the same time, I grieve. Where is my little baby? I miss the intensity of our initial intimacy, the way she felt in different positions against my body in her smaller form. I realize that the process of birth and growth can only serve to increase the distance between us. Our starting point was a perfect intimacy — her fingers played the crests of my hip bones in the night and my heart beat was her thunder. Now she lunges from my arms to her grandfather’s arm, towards a shiny object on the floor, towards her other parent. As I give her over to her desired target, I both ache and am relieved.
Suddenly I am aware that as a mother I am working myself out of a job. See above re: bittersweet. Sadsweet. Sadsad. Sweetweet. Rinse. Repeat.
Because of my back, I can’t rock E to sleep anymore, so she has learned to put herself to sleep. As I watch her on the monitor make her several turns in the bed before settling, part of me is cheering her on, part of me is so grateful for the extra thirty minutes of time in the evening, and part of me, irrational and dysfunctional though it may be, is wishing that she will cry out for me so I can rush in, curl my body around hers, and sing her to sleep. But instead she babbles to herself a few times more, curls into her favorite position, and falls asleep.
Ahhhh…. such a great post. A good start to my morning. I just wrote a similar letter to Anna as she turns 5 months old and is starting to sleep through the night in her own crib. People say “Oh that’s great!” And yes, I am thankful for the sleep, but in a crazy way I miss her litle cry of neediness for me in the night, and her snuggled up next to me in the dark, nursing her way back into dreamland, just the two of us. I am SO sorry you are going through all the issues with your back! And OH THE AGONY of dumping that milk. Thoughts are with you mama. Keep writing. You’re good stuff.
Good to hear from you Aimee–thanks for the encouragement! Someone should do a study of the secret psychology of motherhood. It would be fascinating and terrifying. I hope you, Alan, and Anna are doing well–happy to hear of your move to part-time. Here’s to bringing in a little less bacon and a little more milk!
This was beautifully written, and I’m sure will stick with me for a long time. It raises a point I had never considered; that as we do our jobs as well as we are able, the “reward” is that our children slip further and further away from us. This realization may finally make me crazy.
I am am delighted and impressed by your ability to be so introspective, all while pursing a career that requires so much from you, both emotionally and physically. I look forward to reading more. Thanks M.
Thanks for reading, Malcolm. Yours and Jillian’s fun chronicles of life in Mexico/Maine/at table were part of what inspired me to become a public chronicler of my own life, in part to share experiences with others and in part to understand them myself. And to remember them, because parenting = premature Alzheimer’s.
Yes, our daughters’ slow march toward separation (perhaps more charitably described as independence) is crazy-making, but we will one day be able to sleep past 7am and that will be the silver lining….
Thanks again and all my best to you and yours!
I also say “am am” when I get excited.
I once had an interesting linguistic adventure trying to explain to a friend from France why we don’t say “I can do.” Since then, I say it often. I think “am am” should be similarly elevated.