My Little Love,
Six months ago I called your father at 3 a.m. and gave him the news. It was time. We had suspected it was approaching, given I had lost what I affectionately refer to as my “jelly center” the day prior, but my mom had assured me that it can take up to a week for labor to start after that, so we weren’t holding our breath.
When your father answered the phone, the cadence of his voice instantly changed. At once we both knew our lives were about to make a hard left into uncharted territory and we, like all new parents, were vastly unprepared.
I was deep into labor and contractions by the time they got me to the O.R. for surgery. I had to be put under, thanks to what you will someday realize is a very gammy spine. I would miss your first few minutes on earth, but that had never been a concern to me. There would be hundreds of thousands of minutes after that I would get to share with you. The first few ought to be dedicated to making sure you are safe and healthy; that you had the appropriate number of digits on the recommended number of limbs.
You came out with nearly a full head of hair; the darkest brown, almost black, like your father’s. It has lightened since then, looks more like mine, with the same wave and curls that have a mind of their own most of the time. I’ve already had to cut it three or four times, first around your ears, then your forehead, and just the other day, the baby-fine rat tail which I told people you were growing out for the playoffs. I don’t even know when playoffs start. Or if they’ve already happened. We aren’t a sporty household.
You went from looking like your dad to looking like me (even those solidly in your grandparents camp agree.) It is the cheeks, I think, and the eyes, though they move from blue to grey, there is a slight ring of brown to them. You may have your father’s eyes yet.
You are good-natured, almost to the point of disbelief. You only cry when you are hungry or the odd moment when you get a bump. you sing the song of your people, a guttural ‘guhh’ sound, while you try to force your favorite rattle, a soft, rubbery dragon, into your mouth. Monkey, a gift from your Irish relatives, is your best friend in the whole world, and you love to hold him by the tail. Your smile is pure, and your laughter is music to my ears.
You’re learning to give kisses. You put your hands on my cheeks and pull me forward, mouth agape like a hung-over fish, and plant your mouth on my cheek. It is a work in progress, but the show of affection warms my heart.
Every day we go for a long walk around the pond. We listen to the birds, and have a greeting for each of them. Good morning, Sergeant Magpie; Hello, Brother Sparrow; Keep Bobbin’, Mr. Robin. But you like the chickadees the most. They conglomerate in the choke cherry bushes and flit about, and if you are sleeping you will smile at the sound. If you are awake, though, you crane your body as hard as you can to try and see them.
You have an abundance of dinosaur clothes, and I hope you like them when you are a little older. I loved them as a child. The birthday cake I brought in to my grade one class was a dinosaur cake taken from a DK baking book. I will try to find it and recreate it for you.
The cats are unsure of you, although surprisingly it is Vivi who has taken to you, who seems to have the most patience. Beemo doesn’t seem to care for your flailing and laughing, but he’ll warm up to you in time. We are learning to be gentle, gentle when touching animals, and when holding mommy’s hair.
When you are sad, we sing to you. The Baby Wiggle Dance, or Banana Kiss, both original compositions that seem to make you smile.
Today you tried butternut squash. It was highly overrated, but the squishing noise and the ability to make it splatter brought you plenty of joy.
You laugh and giggle and smile and your face lights up when you see daddy come home. You chitter and talk and tell me stories that I don’t yet understand, though I am trying my best. Every day is a new learning experience.
It is difficult at times, my little love, to remind myself to trust my instincts. To remember that at least for now I know you better than anyone, and all well-meaning advice should come with a heavy heaping of salt. It is a challenge, because every who has raised a baby thinks they know best. You will be too cold without socks. You will be too warm with that hat. You are munching your hand because you are hungry. You are kicking your legs because you are ready to crawl. In reality, you hate socks and shoes because they are too warm; you enjoy wearing hats as long as they don’t cover your eyes. You are munching your hand because you are teeth (it is coming in at the top, on your right hand side). You are kicking because you need to be changed. I know you better than anyone else right now. I know you love little dances when you feel sad. I know pressing monkey up against your face is a surefire way to make you content. I know all these things and more about you and I hold each piece of information, each daily change, close to my heart and treasure it dearly.
The days are long, exhausting. You father works especially hard, and sacrifices a lot of potential time with you to ensure that we want for nothing. The trade off is a sense of loneliness that I cannot wrap my mind around at times. You are there, always. Twenty-four/seven. Attached to my hip. I feed you and change you and put you to bed. I wake up with you and walk with you, I bathe you and dry you. What need is there for loneliness when the only moments of privacy I experience now are the ten minutes in the shower in the morning? (If I should be so lucky.) At times I wonder if I crave conversation or emotional support for like-minded mothers. I suppose I do. That need is in me, somewhere, but for the time being I am content in the relative silence, filled by your burbling and babbling. If the need ever arises in a sudden and heavy way, I can seek out solace with other young mum’s at the local playground. We can talk about how much we adore coffee and need a wine break. About how our husbands bonded with their offspring. About how we need some time to ourselves, just a moment to catch our breath and cry a little.
There is no room for weakness in motherhood, but there should be. There should be time and space to let it all come tumbling down; to let ourselves be vulnerable and show the world that we are struggling. That we cook and clean and maintain our own sanity while keeping the foundation of the home secure. And we should acknowledge how funny it is that the world seems to want to talk about how strong mothers are, and how much they do, without actually doing a thing to relieve that pressure. Imagine what we might be capable of if someone bothered to act on those ridiculous “Strong Mother” memes. But no, people are content to continue sharing them without acting upon them. People are content to sit around agreeing with each other. Oh yes, they do so much. They are the heart of the house. Without taking that single step further to act upon and relieve that insurmountable strain.
Being a mother to you, my Little Love, is the most rewarding thing I have done. But it also paints a stark image of what must be endured in silence. Because there are no words, not really. You can never adequately express how isolating it is, or how frustrating it can be. You can find synonyms galore and they still don’t quite create a vivid enough picture.
You are six months old today, Little Love, and there is still a long way to go. I will be there beside you, silently memorizing the shifts in your personality and the new developments as they take over. I will watch with trepidation as you grow and move from me, into the greater world.
You are so precious to me, now and for always.