Archive for November, 2006

More Fun Than A Barrel Of…

November 28, 2006

Parenthood is a messy enterprise. A really messy enterprise. The spit, the shit, the snot, the generally cruddiness of it all – I knew this going in. It was gonna get ugly. I knew this. I was ready.

I was prepared for the meconium poo. I went to the prenatal classes, I gasped out loud with everyone else when showed the video and it flashed past that picture of a newborn’s diaper filled with a black, tar-like paste. I was ready for it when it came to a diaper near me.

I was ready for the breastmilk shits that looked liked runny spoiled condiments of the seedy Grey Poupon variety (must. resist. pun.) I’d read about them. I’d seen pictures. I was ready.

I was ready for the dribbly spit-up and the upchuck spit-up and the projectile spit-up and I laughed, laughed, whenever anyone commented on the spit-up with words to the effect of my, that was a big spit-up because ha ha ha they had never really seen serious spit-up, the kind that ends up down the front of your tattered nursing bra and the back of your stretched-out yoga pants, all in one go. I’d seen and felt the worst of the spit-up. I was ready for it.

I was ready for the ever-running rivers of snot.

I was ready for the transformation of the poo that occurred when solids were introduced. I was ready for the increase in volume, and for the substantial intensification of pungency of odour.

I was even ready for the tub dump, even though I didn’t have to deal with that myself. (OK, so maybe that one doesn’t count. Still, I would have been ready, if it had been me attending to that particular bath. I might have gagged a little, but I knew that babies pooped in the tub sometimes. I would have been ready for it.)

Hope is not the only thing that floats.

The interesting thing about that new-parent condition of constant readiness is this: you experience each moment of readiness-met – each experience of having felt prepared for some discomfiting aspect of new parenthood – as an accomplishment that brings you one step closer to the moment when you will no longer need to be ready. You spend the first year of parenthood being ever at-the-ready, secure in the unspoken-but-ever-present-assumption that one day you will be able to relax your guard, that one day, the spit will stop and the shits will end up in a toilet and the snot will not be your responsibility. You forge ahead, believing that things will get easier and cleaner. The children will get bigger and more self-reliant and the days of spit and shit and snot and mess will fade into the background behind you, lost in the mists of recorded (what, you didn’t keep a record of the newborn shits?) and unrecorded family history.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? RIGHT?

Because this morning I got up and waded through the knee-deep lake of books and blocks and stuffies and DVD cases that has overtaken our living room and tripped over not one, not two, but three half-eaten mandarin oranges. After picking up the oranges, I tried to give WonderBaby some breakfast, and was rewarded for my efforts by being pelted in the head by a handful of corn puffs and half of a partially-masticated banana, which remained in my hair while I pleaded with my tiny monster to eat please eat some breakfast, a plea that might – might – have elicited a response were it not for the sudden arrival of the morning poo, heralded by a series of distinctly indelicate grunts. Which required, of course, that I interrupt the tossing of the corn puffs and mashing of the fruit to remove her from her chair, during which process I was smeared with the other half of the partially-masticated banana, which she had decided to store in the back of her pajama bottoms for later consumption. By the time I had removed the banana carnage from her pants and readied her for her diaper change, WonderBaby had had enough and decided to remove herself from her change pad mid-change, leaving me with a handful of shitty diaper, which had to be disposed of one-handed so that the other, clean hand could retain its grip on the shit-smeared Wonderbaby who was now determined to head into the cluttered living room and spread fecal matter across all manner of unwashable objects.

At which point it hit me: this is my life. This is it: this messy, shit-smeared existence is not a grotty way-station en route to some more ordered destination, some permanent condition of tidy domestic balance. It is my life. I am going to remain smeared with shit and/or snot and/or vomit and/or food for a very, very long time to come. It is going to be years before I can relax my Yuck Preparedness System, before I can let my guard down and begin each day without the expectation that I will be confronted by something icky or yucky or messy or some combination of all three.

No, oranges and lemons aren’t yucky. Until they’re chewed up and left in pieces for Mommy to step on.

There’s at least one more year of shitty diapers, after which is the no-doubt messy process of encouraging the redirection of the poo toward receptacles involving plumbing. There will be snot and vomit for as many years as I bear primary responsibility for nursing her through illness. There will be clutter and mess indefinitely. And although I assume that WonderBaby will someday overcome the habit of throwing her food on the floor, I imagine that she will continue to derive enjoyment from dumping bowls full of oranges on the floor and frolicking in fruit for some years to come.

There’s no end in sight.

I’m right, aren’t I? I have, in choosing motherhood, embarked upon a project that is not entirely unlike the care and feeding of the Lopburi monkeys in Thailand. My life is just one big Monkey Festival and there is nothing that I can do about it.

This is pretty much what it looks like underneath WonderBaby’s high chair. Citrus fruits, discarded pop cans, Macaque monkeys and all.

It’s a good thing I like monkeys.


Thanks, so much, all of you, for your supportive comments on my decision to withdraw from the finals of the Canadian Blog Awards. It was gratifying to me that so many of you understood.


If I haven’t been visiting very much, it’s not that I don’t still love you all. I’m just a little bit tired and overwhelmed by life these days, and needing to do a bit of cocooning. I’m trying to get caught up as we speak, but my energy is a bit slow to pick up. In the meantime, I’m lurking. I’ll be back up to speed soon.

Do They Give Awards For Long, Self-Obsessed Speeches?

November 24, 2006
Type-A. Alpha Female. Perfectionist. Competitive. Bitch.

I’ve been called all of these things. And, with the exception of that last term – which I think was more expressive of the ressentiment of the speaker than aptly descriptive of yours truly – I think that all of these terms describe me fairly accurately. I am a perfectionist, I do aim at accomplishment, I am tremendously self-critical, I do have high-expectations of myself. And, I am competitive.

Mostly, I compete against myself. As I’ve said before, I often feel that I am in a race with myself, that I have set myself against my own expectations of myself and have applied myself to the lifelong challenge of defeating and exceeding those expectations. As I have also said here, this is exhausting: it’s a race that doesn’t end, no matter how fast you run.

One of the great gifts of motherhood has been that it has forced me to become more reasonable in my expectations of myself. It has forced me to move the finish line, to reimagine the finish line. I’ve been compelled to recognize that so far as parenting goes, the only ‘finish lines’ that matter are those that you cross in each and every beautiful/vexing/heart-wrenching moment: those ‘finish line’ moments that come when you have made it through a difficult night, when you finally get that latch, when you have convinced your husband to attend to a shitty diaper change, when you manage to get pajamas on your squirmy baby, when that baby finally takes a nap, when that baby wraps her arms around your neck and nuzzles her cheek against yours, when that baby smiles at you, coos at you, says mama. These are the moments of winning. These are the moments that I live for, now.

One of the things that I love and have loved most about my participation in the parent corner of the blogosphere is that it has provided ongoing comfort and reassurance in my struggle to appreciate those moments for what they are. It has provided me with the space and opportunity to really become self-reflective as a parent, and, not incidentally, as a writer. It has given me the space and opportunity and encouragement to make my experience of motherhood self-reflective, and honest, and creative. It has encouraged me – in a way that no book or expert or public-health authority could – to view being a mother as an act of creativity, as an exercise of my heart and my brain, as a work of art that cannot, ultimately, be judged according to any objective standards (other than those imposed by such obvious concerns as the health and welfare of my child.) It has helped me to let go (perhaps not entirely, but substantially) of my concern with winning. It has taught me that there is no such thing as Mother of the Year, it has taught me that there are only ever just Mothers, and that there is glory in that. It has taught me – you have taught me – that my satisfaction with myself as ‘Mother’ has far, far less to do with standards of performance, whatever those might be, than with how enriched I am by every moment of this great (sometimes fun, sometimes harrowing) adventure.

Writing in the blogosphere, being part of this community, has taught me these things in large part because it has allowed me and encouraged me to really understand what it means to write a life and to live a life, and the difference between these. Because it exposed me to other parents doing the same thing: parenting and living and writing and writing and living and parenting and exulting in the messy mix of these things. Embracing not being Parents of the Year. Just being parents, and writing parenthood, and inspiring each other with the artistry – the wonderful, messy, beautiful artistry – of their lives as these are splattered upon the virtual page.

The idea that any of these works of art could be identified as ‘Best’ seems to me to run against the grain of what these works – the work of living, parenting, put into words – really are. They are brilliant in their uniqueness, they are brilliant for their honesty, they are brilliant – in the literal sense of shining, producing and reflecting light – because they are (like the lives that they recount) works of love. They are, for these reasons, incomparable.

There are some that I love more than others. There are some that I think are funnier than others, some that I think are better written than others, some that I relate to more personally than others, some that reach deeper into my soul or down to my funny-bone or press more heavily upon my brain. But I couldn’t name any one of them Best, or Blog of the Year, or even My Favourite Blog. And I wouldn’t want to: because to subject these works to some measurement, to some method of evaluation that would separate and deconstruct and rank them, would be to attack the very thing that makes them special. It would be like naming Best Work of Art in History. Best Poem. Best Composition of Music. How do you measure? Is it even possible to measure? Why measure?

I don’t think that you can measure. I don’t think that you can quantify what makes a blog good or great or resonant. Some blogs get more traffic, more comments, more linkage, more advertising (all of which I am in favour of, by the way) – but these aren’t necessarily the best blogs – not necessarily the best written or the funniest or the most touching or the most anything. They’re popular, so they obviously appeal, but beyond that what can we say? They’re popular. Britney Spears is popular; opera and experimental jazz are not. But these are not comparable.

(I am not arguing that popular things have no merit beyond mass appeal. I’m just noting, for the self-reflective record, that popularity does not necessarily equal greatness, or even mere quality, in any measure. I like popularity, because I like being liked, but I’m well aware that what might make me popular is not necessarily what is the best of me, and that being popular is not a reason for self-congratulation.)

All of this is a very long-winded, convoluted way for me to say this: I’m removing my name from the list of finalists for the Canadian Blog Awards.

I’ve been uncomfortable with this whole exercise since it began, and so I’ve decided to forego further participation. I didn’t, and don’t, want to lobby my readers to check off my name on some dubious shortlist of Good Blogs (highly dubious. So very many amazing blogs are missing from these lists.) I don’t want to get sucked into the mudtrap of measuring the value of this blog – my blog, my creative space – according to the standards of a vote and a list. And I don’t want to try to convince you that my blog is better than any other blog on that (again, wholly unrepresentative) list.

I like my blog, I think that it is good, and I hope that the exercise that it represents in terms of my writing yields other opportunities (even if only in allowing me a space to practice my writing.) I like that it is well-visited, and that so many thoughtful people respond to it. But it is what it is – just one blog among a great many wonderful, inspiring blogs. If you like it, I hope that you’ll read it. But that’s all that I want you to do – read it, and, if you’re so inspired, talk to me about it or carry on the conversation at your own blog or around your dining table or wherever.

So. That two minutes that you might have spent on voting? Use that time to leave a comment telling me that I’m deluded or insightful or that I’m obviously engaging in some lame attempt to boost my own popularity. Or use that time to go discover another blog that might inspire you. Go tell someone that you like their blog, or that you like what they had to say today or that you disagree with what they said today or whatever. BLOG. Find some way to remind yourself how and why it is that you love blogs.

You don’t need a vote to do that. I don’t need a vote to do that.

‘Nuff said.

WonderBaby tried to train a clutch of monkeys to overwhelm the CBAs with random votes but she didn’t have enough bananas and they mutinied. They’re out there, somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, holding up produce stores and looking for an open wireless connection.

*I remain really, really grateful to those who nominated me and voted for me and put me in the finals. Really – I loves me the flattery, and this was truly flattering. So, thank you.

**I am in no way maligning any blogger who embraces these awards and who does lobby for votes. I’ll certainly continue cheering on some of my favourite bloggers, because I’d love to see them acquire some bloggy bling and get the good linkage that comes with an award like this. I’ve made this decision for me; I’m not insisting that it’s what everybody should do. This isn’t a boycott.


November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, all you south-o’-the Canadian-border types.

Hug your babies, and everyone that you love, and maybe some random strangers, just for fun.


November 21, 2006
The other morning I awoke to hear WonderBaby chortling in her crib. I lay, listening, letting the sweet sound fill the room and herald the morning, the warble of our very own songbird.

And then I realized that she wasn’t warbling, or chortling or chirping or babbling. As I lay there, listening through the cottony muffs of sleepiness in my ears, her sounds started to take shape. She was calling. She was calling a name.




Daddy. Daddy, who usually rises and plucks her, giggling, from her crib each morning, was still sleeping, deeply. So I rose and went to her room.



I picked her up and drew her to me and toted her back to our room, to our bed, to Daaah-y, who sat up and sang her name back to her and we fell upon him and tangled ourselves into the blankets and we whispered each other’s names, over and over and over again…

WonderBaby has been fumbling toward speech for some time, and she fumbles still. But it is nonetheless exciting – it is immeasurably exciting – to hear her efforts in such moments, when the word bursts forward with delicious force, when she realizes that she has made herself understood, or when, as with her Daddy-Morning-Song, she plays with the words and gives them rhythm, makes them her own. They’re rudimentary, these words, but they are, still, words; she hesitates, stumbles, drops consonants, but still they come, the words… hi, bye, cah (cat), Daah-y, Ma, all-oh (hello)…

Sometimes, very rarely, the words come with surprising clarity and self-assurance – a ‘hello’ comes out clear as a bell, or a prompted ‘thank you’ bursts forth as a confident tank oo – and I am stunned, speechless. Did she really say that? Did she really speak so clearly? I goggle at her, and she smiles back, and I whisper, urgently, say it again, and she gurgles and giggles and babbles, keeping her words a secret. In these moments, I am convinced that her power of speech is already fully formed but withheld from me, guarded as a secret power, one that she holds in reserve, saving it for moments of maximum impact. I am convinced, in these moments, that one day, I will ask her, rhetorically, what do you have to say today, sweet baby, and she will look me in the eye and solemnly reply, hermeneutics.

The ancient Greek word logos means both reason and speech. Human beings reason through speech, they make meaning through words, use words to give form to meaning, to share meaning. Watching a baby begin to form words, to experiment with speech, to move from the rudimentary attachment of sounds to things – hoot! = ball, hoot! = cat – to a manipulation of sound for the purposes of making simple meaning – Ma! Da! Ba! – to the manipulation of sounds for the purposes of commanding meaning, playing with meaning – Da to Daah-y to Daaah-y DAAAH-Y Daaah-y sung in repetition as a playful, plaintive, lyrical command.

Watching her, listening to her, hearing her voice begin to take shape, hearing her give voice to the meaning that she is making of this strange, wonderful world, my heart pounds with love and pride and panic. For months, now, a year, I have been her voice, I have made voices for her, I have fabricated meaning on her behalf and wrapped it in my own sounds (these sounds, according to my husband, approximating closely the sound of the South Park character Cartman, perhaps made more feminine.) Now, she is beginning to make her own meaning, and to give that meaning shape with her own sound. Her own voice.

Her own, sweet voice.

OK, so tomorrow I’ll shut up about her birthday already…

November 19, 2006
But, really, how could I NOT post this picture?

Girl meets cake. Girl LIKES cake.

Also, I have this to say on the general subject of birthdays: you never enjoy a birthday quite so much as when it is your child’s birthday that you are celebrating. Not only because there is no joy sweeter than seeing your child’s face smeared with cake – obviously – but because there is something just inexpressibly heart-swelling about that moment, or that series of moments, somewhere around the anniversary of the day of the birth of your child, when you realize that this is your day, your celebration, the anniversary of the moment that you gave life to her, and she gave new life to you.



Also, it has to be said that, as much she likes cake, WonderBaby would have been just as happy with a block of cheese. In fact, when faced with the dual temptations of candlelit birthday cake and hunk of sharp cheddar, she went for the cheddar.

A cake made entirely of a block of sharp cheddar sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t hold up well to candles…


Also, about birthdays? They seem a good reason to throw a party. You know what parties require?

1.) Tidy house.

2.) Tidy house.

3.) Tidy house.

4.) Tidy child.

5.) Tidy self.

6.) Drink wine.

Numbers 1 through 5 can be a challenge, I tell you, especially when child learns the unique pleasure of tossing clothing – hers and yours – and hairbrushes – yours – in toilet. Number 6 smooths out the rough edges, if you can remember where you set down your wine glass amid the (admittedly wonderful) fray of a dozen knee-biters jacked-up on cake.

But I don’t need to tell you that it was all worth it. More than worth it.


Footnote to last post’s discussion of the Canadian Blog Awards: someone snarked at me about writing about not wanting to campaign for votes, claiming that to do so was just a sneakier way of campaigning. To which I can only say – if some petty Canadian blog award (in which anybody can nominate themselves and vote for themselves, every day, for the fooking love of Elbridge Gerry) provokes such Machiavellian suspicions, then there is something seriously wrong with the world. Sure, I’d like votes. But that post was about my sincere discomfort at the prospect of making a pitch for votes against my friends and their excellent blogs. I don’t want the votes that badly.

If that rings false to you, well, then, bite me.

Her Bad Mother would never, ever exploit her child for the purposes of punctuating a political point. Nor would she employ sloppy alliteration.

And, just to prove that I am not above a little bit of crass self-promotion: if you really, really like this blog, then do go vote for me. But if you do, do, for the love of all that is orange, also click around and acquaint yourself with some other blogs, and maybe spread the votey love around a bit, too.

Canadian Blog Awards


Twp more things… there’s someone in the Basement sharing their own story of muscular dystrophy, a variation on the disorder that my nephew has. Please go listen. She’s speaking the words that I have trouble speaking.

And Sunshine Scribe is pushing the karma over at MommyBlogsToronto, and you know that you want some of that.

Thursday Miscellany – Bigger, Longer and Uncut!

November 17, 2006
Edited, below*… and then again**! Cuz there’s always more to say!
1. So, there’s this Canadian Blog Awards thing going on, right? And, like, a whole bunch of the Canadian bloggers that I love are nominated. So, as it happens, am I.
Canadian Blog Awards
You see the problem, right? It’s not so much that I’m nominated against some of my favourite people (I have no problem voting for someone other than myself), but that they’re all nominated against each other. Who do I vote for? One can vote every day, so I could simply vote for different people in different categories, except that that really just undermines the whole exercise, if I’m just scattering votes around in a frenzy of desperate love. And if I’m not just going to parcel out my votes on some vague principle of amicable equity, how do I choose who to vote for? What does ‘best’ really mean, anyway, when applied to blogs? Funniest? Best pictures? Most tear-jerking? Most prolific? Most likely to buy me presents?

Head. Hurting.

Then there’s the whole problem of being nominated in two categories myself. There’s a reason why I’m a political theorist, and not a politician: I can’t do it, politics-on-the-ground. Hate it. LOATHE it. I simply cannot campaign for myself. Which is exactly what they expect you to do with these awards: ask people to vote for you. Ask people to vote for you EVERY DAY. Ask your friends, blog-neighbours and total strangers to go to the site, place some votes, and then come back and do it again every day until voting ends.

This makes me very uncomfortable. In part because, as I said above, there are so many other great bloggers that you should also be voting for, should you feel inclined to wander over to the voting area. And in part because I can’t really give you any good reason to vote for me (beyond appealing to your pity, that is. What if I were to end up the sorry blogger with ONE VOTE – my own, lodged on the one day that it occured to me to go vote for myself?) (I want no backtalk on this in comments, do you hear?) There is just so much wonderful, wonderful writing out there, and such variety, in our humble Canadian corner of the blogosphere, that it seems impossible, to me, that I could make any claim to being ‘best.’ Seriously. So, having no platform to campaign upon, I will simply abstain from campaigning.

(HBM has no formal affiliation with Mothers Against Canada And Awards That Give Her Bad Mother A Headache, aka MACAATGHBMAH, and does not approve this message.)

I will, however, encourage you to go and visit the site and tour the great Canadian blogs that they have listed there. Click around, check out the landscape, quaff some virtual maple syrup. You’ll like it, I promise. We’re good people, we Canadians. Check us out.*

2. Speaking of checking out Canada, why not visit the newly refurbished MommyBlogsToronto site? I warn you, though – it’s gonna make you want to move here.

3. Hey! Have I mentioned this week that WonderBaby turned one?!?!?

4. Oh, yeah, I did. But! Did you hear the one about how she came out of my hoo-hah?

5. If touring the Canadian blogosphere or reading sappy labour stories doesn’t appeal to you, you could always go turn yourself into a South Park character.

Blame WonderBaby.

(WonderBaby, as imagined by Her Bad Mother after two sleepless nights and three extra-strength Tylenol washed down with Sleepytime Tea.)

(Her Bad Mother, as imagined by Her Bad Mother after two sleepless nights and three extra-strength Tylenol washed down with Sleepytime Tea.)


*If you do decide that voting is fun, you don’t have to be Canadian to participate. Hell, you don’t even need to know where Canada is! You can vote every day! You can vote while drunk! This is democracy AT ITS FINEST.

**Or, you could get drunk and write a nasty letter to the mother-hating anti-boob fascists at Delta. Or, if you are too drunk to write a coherent letter, just go sign this. It’s probably a better use of your political energies than the Canadian Blog Awards.

OK. You can now go back to making South Park caricatures of yourself…

To WonderGirl, On Her 18th Birthday

November 14, 2006
(To be opened November 14, 2023)

My dear, dear WonderGirl,

Once upon a time, not too long ago, sweet girl, you were WonderBaby. You were my WonderBaby.

When you turned one year old, you stood 32 inches tall. Your head was big and round with tufts of yellow hair, and your eyes were big and blue and sparkling with curiosity. You held that sweet round head high, your shoulders always back, your proud chest thrust out to meet the world. You marched through life, on two steady feet, belly-forward. You were as self-assured as a much older child, and yet, you were still my baby.

You loved Mandarin oranges, and tofu, and cheese.

You taught yourself to walk (and roll and climb) at the first opportunity, and by your first birthday, you were running and clambering and exploring this big wonderful world as quickly and thoroughly as you could. You were as sure-footed as a child many times your age, but you were still my baby.

Your first recognizable words were Mama and Dada, but you very quickly added Hi, Bye, Book (buk) and Cat (ka) to your arsenal of words, which you always held in reserve until the moment that each would have its most devastating, heart-melting effect.

You loved to explore, and to learn, and by the time you turned one year old, you had figured out how to get past baby gates and how to open doors and you made it clear, with every step, that nothing would hold you back. You were always looking for new faces, new things, new landscapes, but you always kept one eye on the whereabouts of your Mommy, or your Da. You delighted at encountering both the familiar and the strange. You were fearless, but you were, always, my baby.

On your first birthday, you started the day with a squeal of delight, and spent the morning racing about the house, chasing cats and pulling books from the shelf and refusing breakfast because everything was just too interesting and there were just too many things to do and I looked at you and I thought, what a powerful, powerful little person my baby is. Such a little person. But still my baby.

I looked at you and I was astounded: my baby, turning into a little girl. My heart pounded and swelled and broke, just a little bit, as it expanded to contain the flood of love and the flood of hope and the flood of fear. You were growing, as I watched. You were becoming you, ever more you, and, so, ever less me. The time and distance from your birth, one year prior, was so great that for a moment I thought that, if I were to look back, really, I would not be able to see across that distance. At the moment of your birth, you were still part of me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. As I looked at you on your first birthday, I saw – and thrilled and wept for seeing – that you were so rapidly becoming you.

And now, so many years, you are you. I know this, without having yet seen it.

I don’t know you – the grown-up you, the you of your future, of my future – yet. I’m writing this on the occasion of your first birthday: there are many years still to come before I know the grown-up you, the you who will read this letter and wonder at her mother’s sentimentality. I’m only just starting to know you, even though, in so many respects, I already know you better than I do any other being, and even though it will be many, many years before another human being knows you as well as I do. As remarkable as it seems to say so, I am only just now – in this, your first year – starting to know you. It is my hope, my wish, my intention that I will always strive to know you, to understand you. It is my wish, my hope – however misguided it may turn out to be, at times – that you will always let me.

I don’t know what will happen (what has happened, if we are truly looking backward, from the vantage of your 18th year) between your first and your eighteenth birthdays. I don’t know, yet, the stages that you will go through. I know that there will be much joy, much laughter, many smiles. I know that there will be much love, and many hugs. I know that we will have shared all of these things, in spades, by the time you read this letter.

I know, too, that we will have shared many tears. We will have shared pain. I’m certain that there will have been misunderstandings, resentments, confusion between us. I’m certain that there will have been many, many times that you will have felt such a great distance from me – and I from you – that the fact of our closeness, the fact of the bond of flesh and blood and heart between us, will have been forgotten, lost somewhere over the horizon of the space between us, mother and daughter.

But that fact – the fact that you are my flesh, my blood, my soul, my heart – will, always, remain. For as much as you grow and live and live and grow and become you – wonderful, brilliant, beautiful you; sure-footed, self-assured, fearless you – you will always be mine, you will always be my heart.

You will always, always be my baby.

I love you.

November 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby. Happy Birthday.

One Year, Less Some Hours, Mercifully Forgotten

November 14, 2006

One year ago tonight, I was in labour. I had been in labour for, oh, 18 hours or thereabouts. I would remain in labour for another 18 hours.

Thankfully, I’ve blanked most of it out.

30+ hours BEFORE arrival of the WonderBaby. Note ginormousness. Also note deluded smile, unique to women who mistakenly believe that it will all be over soon, and that effort of pushing a being the size of a prize-winning pumpkin through nether regions will be entirely manageable.

Tomorrow… tomorrow is for remembering the joy.

(That is – after a very exciting blogradio debate on feminism with Julie, hosted by Kristen!

blog radio

After that joy, the birthday joy will be indulged.)

Who me? Worry?

November 12, 2006
So, in the comments to my last post, somebody took me to task for my hand-wringing. ‘Where is your confidence? Guilt, inadequacy, overwhelming, deprive, missing… these are your words?’ The fingers were practically wagging through the screen, and my immediate impulse was to phone my mother and chastise her for commenting anonymously.

But then I thought twice, and realized that my mother would never take me to task for my hand-wringing. Not because my hand-wringing doesn’t exasperate her, but because she long ago reconciled herself to the fact that I am – in her words – a worrier.

And because she knows that she (with a little bit of help from the Catholic Church) made me what I am: a type-A, overfunctioning worrier who is driven by guilt and fear of disappointing significant others and persons of authority. I’ve been well-trained in the arts of worry and hand-wringing, having learned early on that my parents and others had Very High Expectations of me and that I should have Very High Expectations of myself and that there was – is – no more terrible fate than Disappointing anyone with such expectations (not least, myself). I have always been expected to Do Well, and so I have spent a lifetime endeavouring to make good on that expectation. And, of course, worrying that I might fail in that endeavour.

It’s exhausting, sometimes, but it’s what I do. I could no more stop worrying than I could stop breathing. (OK. I could stop myself from breathing, but then my face would go red and I would eventually lose consciousness. Which is probably pretty much what would happen if I stopped worrying.)

Which means that this blog is often more a chronicle of my angst as a new mother (and as a wife, an academic, a feminist, etc., etc.) than it is a diary of my days with the WonderBaby. And that’s fine with me. When I’m not strutting my worries upon the (virtual) page, I’m reflecting and working out ideas and figuring out my – our – story as I go. Being able to reflect upon my worrying here, with you, goes a long way toward keeping it from interfering with my day-to-day life. And as I have said many a time, you all play such an important part in this exercise, wherein I figure out, in words, how to be a good mother – or, more to the point, how to be completely comfortable being the best kind of bad mother.

So thank you. Thank you so much.

It’d be pretty lonely, otherwise.

(Seriously, people. Your comments on my post about not being able to write about Tanner actually helped me to SLEEP last week. And the many, many supportive comments and helpful stories that you shared in response to my last post, on being ambivalent about whether to have more than one child… I can’t even tell you what a tremendous, tremendous difference that it all made to my state of mind. It made me less intimidated by own expectations of myself as a mother. It made me think, for a few moments here and there and now, that I’ll be fine, regardless of the number of children that we have. That’s huge. HUGE.

I love you.)

What The Heart Doesn’t Know

November 9, 2006

(Hey, guess what? More hand-wringing! More guilt! More angst! Huzzah! Never gets old!)

(Um, if these things bore you? Just scroll down through the pictures.)

Some months back, I had a pregnancy scare. Except that it wasn’t really a scare, because I was convinced that I was pregnant and discovered, in my conviction, a real desire to be pregnant. When the pregnancy turned out not to be, I was disappointed. Deeply disappointed. Sad. But I consoled myself with the fact that I had learned something through the experience: I had learned that I wanted to be pregnant. That I was ready for a second child. I rejoiced in this discovery. I was ready.

But that was then. This is now. And now, I’m ambivalent. Is it weird that I might have changed my mind?

I think about having a second child all the time. I feel the clock ticking, I see WonderBaby getting bigger, I feel the proximity of our future as a family and I think, what about Baby Number Two? Is it time to start to sorting out the details of B#2’s invitation into these world? Do I want to start sorting out those details?

Do I want a B#2?

My response to these hypothetical questions is, always, this: a big, fat, resounding I don’t know.

I can barely keep up with one WonderBaby. Or, rather – it’s a good day if I can keep up with WonderBaby at all. Most days, I’m laying trampled by the roadside, inhaling WonderBaby’s dust, before the day has even really started. As I’ve faithfully recounted in these virtual pages, I often feel like a bad mother, an inadequate mother, a mother who cannot keep up, simply because keeping charge of such a powerful, willful little being has proven and continues to prove to be such an overwhelming challenge for me. Much more challenging than I ever imagined it would be.

And here’s a further confession, one that causes me some shame: I feel this way, even though I have ample support in caring for WonderBaby. The Husband, as I have said before, is a powerfully supportive partner. And – and this is a huge and – I have the aid of an extraordinary child-caregiver. Ever since I went back to teaching part-time, we have employed a part-time nanny, who I have come to depend upon like oxygen. She cares for WonderBaby when I am at school, and when I am writing and preparing lectures and marking. She takes WonderBaby to playgroups and library programs and drop-in centres and the park and indulges all of WonderBaby’s energetic impulses. Three days a week, she does the hard work: the chasing, the wrestling, and the wrangling of the baby who never sleeps and never stops moving. She takes charge, and I am free to catch my breath and charge my batteries and take care of all of the other exigencies of our day-to-day lives. Why, then, with all of this support, do I continue to feel challenged? And what does this have to do with the decision to have another child?

I feel guilty about the fact that I hand WonderBaby off to another person a few times a week. I feel guilty that I feel liberated in doing so. I feel guilty that I so relish the time that I have to myself. I miss WonderBaby when she’s not with me, of course, but it’s the sort of ‘missing’ that is made keener by the guilt that I feel for needing the absence. The guilt that I feel for, sometimes, relishing the absence. (Oh, dear god, am terrible mother for even allowing the sliver of such a heresy into my heart!)

Such is the guilt I feel that I fall over all over her when we are reunited at the end of the day. Such is the guilt that I clutch at our hours together, insisting that they be filled with the closest togetherness, that every minute of those hours, every second of those hours, be filled with hugs and laughter and whispered stories and shrieks of joy. Such is the guilt that I cannot, in those moments, imagine dividing those hours, that I cannot imagine giving up even a second of those hours to another child.

My loyalties as a parent, as these pertain to time and attention, are already divided. How could I choose to divide them further? And they would become further divided. Every moment devoted to the care and nurture of a second child – in utero or out – would be a moment not devoted to WonderBaby. If I already feel guilty about the time and energy that are drained away from WonderBaby by other things, how much further will that guilt deepen if the well of time and energy becomes even shallower?

(I know, I KNOW. Enough already with the guilt.)

If I’m not happy with how I’m managing one child, what business do I have having a second?

The Husband says that I am being much too hard on myself. He tells me that I am a wonderful mother, a mother who gives her child more than any child could ever hope for. He tells me that there is plenty of love to go around, that WonderBaby would in no way be deprived by the addition of another being to love in our family. He’s right, of course. Love is not a zero-sum game.

Time, however, only comes in finite, and so zero-sum, quantities. As does energy. And attention. Whatever time and energy and attention I put in one direction is that much less time and energy and attention that I can put in another. Having another child will tax the available reserves. Having another child will deprive WonderBaby of some of the time and energy and attention that I might otherwise give her.

And yet, and yet… having another child will give WonderBaby something that I certainly can never provide to her on my own: someone else to love, and be loved by. Someone, other than me, for her to play with, conspire with, imagine with, fight with. Someone to grow up with. Someone with whom to muddle through the wonder and weirdness of family.

Having another child might also accomplish something else: it might force me to recognize that love is the best thing that I have to offer my children, and that love is something that I hold in infinite reserve. It might force me to recognize that I will never have as much time and energy as I would like to have, to devote to those I love, but that that, perhaps, doesn’t matter so much as the love itself. It might force me to recognize that I am limited, but that I am not necessarily any less of a mother for it. It might, in other words, knock some emotional sense into me. Or knock the overfunctioning stuffing out of me. Either would be good, I imagine.

In any case, I am (we are) still undecided. What it will have to come down to is whether we want another child – not whether it would be good for WonderBaby or good for my psyche or whatever. It will come down to what we – what I – want.

And I still don’t know what that is.

(SINCERE QUESTION THAT ALSO SERVES AS SHAMELESS COMMENT SOLICITATION: Did you know? Did you plan Number Two – or Three or Four, for that matter? Did you fret over your ability to manage, to cope, to love? I know that parents with more than one child thrive and love and wouldn’t have things any different – but did you always know that it would be thus?)