Archive for the ‘siblings’ Category

You’ve Got Mail

January 10, 2009

From: Her Bad Father
To: Her Bad Mother
Date: Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 1:59 PM
Subject: Dude…

we’re done.

xoxoxo

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Hush

December 1, 2008

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I haven’t slept in days.

Jasper is six months old. He doesn’t so much sleep at night as he does snooze and hang out between bouts of crying for mommy. He invariably ends up in bed with me, which is in some ways great, because he is as soft and snuggly as a cashmere pillow stuffed with kittens and dusted with baby powder and fairy farts, but also, in some very important ways, not great, because he inevitably kicks me in the boobs a few dozen times. I don’t sleep when he’s tucked up against me. I haven’t slept in days. Weeks even. I’ve lost track.

I have the dim sense that this is not quite right, that this is sub-optimal, that things really shouldn’t be this way. Emilia slept in her crib, swaddle-free, through the night, from about five months of age (of course, she didn’t sleep a wink during the day, but at least our nights were restful.) For the life of me, I have not been able to recall how or why she did this. I don’t remember doing anything special. Except for, you know, a little bit of crying it out now and again.

Ah.

It finally sunk in last night – late, late last night – that we had been willing to let Emilia cry, a bit, at bedtime or during night wakings. Not very much, and not for very long – you could hardly call it Ferberizing; more like Ferber lite – but on those occasions when it seemed that she needed to fuss herself down and when it was clear that her cries were fussy tired cries and not desperate needy cries, we’d let her cry it out for a minutes on her own. And it worked, and she was fine, and we all slept, and it was good.

But I can’t bring myself to do it this time around, and I’m not even sure why. All of Jasper’s cries sound desperate to me; every whimper out of his throat yanks at my heart and rakes across my nerves. His sobs and shouts and grumbles ring in my ears – he needs me! My baby NEEDS me! – and every moment of tears passes like an eternity. My heart lodges itself in my throat and my blood thrums in my ears and my whole body tenses. I cannot let him cry.

And sure enough, when I hold him, he stops, and herein lays the problem, I think: he does need me. He needs me in a way that my spirited, independent baby girl never did. She never cried to be held or to be snuggled: she cried (as she still does) to be free, to stand alone, to have her way. She cried in resistance to shutting her eyes against the fascinations of the day; she cried from the exhaustion of having rolled/crawled/climbed/raced her way through every moment of her wee existence. She cried and raged against boredom, against constraint; she cried with the fury and spirit of a tiny Beat poet, shouting her rhythms into the shadows and demanding that world give way to her presence. Jasper, on the other hand, only cries for boobies and hugs and – in the event of an epic shit – a clean diaper. Those, I can provide. And so I do.

So it is that I cannot let him cry. I cannot let him cry because I know that it is within my power to soothe his cries. I cannot let him cry because he cries for me. Such is the vanity of motherhood, that I am weakened by his need for me, that I am weakened by any such need, that the needing – the feeling that I am necessary, that I am fundamentally necessary, in any given moment, that I am the only being in this world that can provide the desired comfort – becomes the focal point of all my motivation: gratify his need (indeed, their need, for my daughter knows well that she can have me wrapped around her finger only by uttering the words I need you, Mommy.) So it is that his need, my need, our need for sleep become secondary to the need that is articulated – that he articulates – most forcefully: the immediate need for comfort, the need to be held, the need for a hush to be wrapped in love.

But love cannot sustain the sleep-deprived mother, and the sleep-deprived mother is an impaired mother and all the hugs in the world aren’t going to help anyone if I’m passed out on the floor and the children have to crawl over my body and forage for sustenance.

So do I do this? Do I let him cry and hope that sleep comes and that my heart doesn’t explode? Or do I forge ahead on the fuel of love and hugs?

******

Toronto-area peeps – if you’re interested in joining me at a breastfeeding demonstration (to save breastfeeding clinics in Ontario) on Wednesday, let me know. Details are at this post; leave a comment or e-mail me if you wanna go. UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can’t go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)


The Future By Thirds

November 3, 2008

“What would you think,” my husband asked, “if I got a vasectomy?”

I put down my magazine and stared out the window. “I think,” I said carefully, “that I wouldn’t know what to think.”

“We’re done, though, right?”

“I think so.”

“But you don’t want to get pregnant again, right?”

“I don’t want to be pregnant again, no. Or at least, I don’t think so. I think. No. I don’t know.”

That wasn’t entirely true. I do know. I don’t want to be pregnant again. And I certainly don’t want to go through childbirth again. And I could do without ever going through another exhausted-depressed-anxious-boobchafed tour-de-newborn again. But do I want to ensure that I never get pregnant again, that I never have another child? I don’t know. I don’t think that those questions are the same. Do you want (or not want) to go through the process of having another child? is a different question from do you want (or not want) to have another child? in the same way that do you like the work of motherhood? is a different question from do you like being a mother? or do you love being mother to your children?

I don’t like pregnancy. I don’t like childbirth. I’m not super crazy about the work of motherhood, and I’m especially not crazy about the 24-7 boot camp nightmare that is the work of being a brand new mother to a brand new baby who stays up all night and chomps boobs and shits everywhere. But I love my children. I adore my children. They are the most precious, most delightful, most amazing things in my life. So if you ask me, do I want more mother-work, the fast and firm answer is no. But if you were to ask me whether I’d want another one of these incredible little beings, I would say that I can’t bring myself to say, firmly and finally, no. And if you were to ask me whether I’d accept further burden of mother-work in order to have another one of these little beings, I’d have to say, I just don’t know. I don’t think so, but I don’t know.

All I know is that I don’t want to say no. Not with any kind of finality. Not in a way that closes off any possibility of yes. Or even, oops. (Because oops is a yes of a sort, is it not?)

(yes is a world/and in this world of/yes live/(skilfully curled)/all worlds)

(feel free to roll your eyes at me here)

My hands are full. Emilia is hell on wheels, a brilliant and beautiful tempest that blasts her way through every day, wreaking full havoc and leaving us, her parents, stunned and enchanted and weary in her wake. Jasper is a great, hulking, grinning cherub of a baby, big and strong and determined to catch up to his speedster-demon of a sister. They thrill and delight and exhaust me. I adore them more than I thought it possible to adore any other living beings, but they keep me at the very razor’s edge of my wits. I don’t know that it would be humanly possible for me to manage another child. Ever.

But the idea of closing off any possibility of that third child… that seems, somehow, inexplicably, wrong. I’m not a big believer in destiny – that is, I don’t think that I am – but if there’s a future for us in which a third child figures, do I want to refuse that future? I think of those friends of mine for whom the third (or fourth) was unexpected, a shock even, and I know that if they had it to do over, they would not want to turn back the clock and refuse. But turning back the clock to change the past, and settling upon certain choices for the future are two different things, of course. I have already made innumerable choices that have closed off innumerable futures; I do not, for the most part, mourn the loss of these futures. They just simply are not to be.

Am I ready, though, to close off entirely the possibility of this future, of a future in which our two are our three, in which we four who once were we three become we five?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

(How did you know? DO you know?)

Seconds

April 21, 2008

In four weeks, give or take some days, I will give birth. To a baby. Another one.

At this point in my first pregnancy, I was totally prepared for the arrival of the baby and for any and all potential natural disasters and had already moved on to alphabetizing the boxes of teas in the tea cupboard. I had purchased and assembled (okay, had husband assemble) a stroller (carefully selected after extensive research) and a crib (examined and re-examined and re-examined again for possible defects and potential baby-head-mangling gaps.) I had outfitted the crib in organic cotton linens and stocked the dresser with impossibly tiny onesies and receiving blankets and diapers and diaper ointment and baby jammies and wee socks and booties and even some of those creepy little fingerless cotton mittens that I never did use. I had stocked the bookshelves with baby books, and put pictures up on the walls, and put little stuffed toys on the daybed. If that baby came early, I was ready. If that baby came late, I was ready. If a tornado hit and shut down the city and we were suddenly faced with an extreme diaper cream shortage? I was ready. If the ice caps melted and the streets flooded and we were suddenly forced to float south on a crib made bouyant by a thousand Pampers Swaddlers and some teething rings? I. WAS. READY.

This time? I am not ready. Not even close.

I have one new onesie for this child – one – and that was a gift. I haven’t even gone through Wonderbaby’s baby things – the stuff that I didn’t give away in the weeks and months during which I was convinced that I would never go through that new child thing again, HELL NO – to see if there is, by chance, one or two onesies or pajama sets that are not a) pink, or b) irretrievably shit-stained. The bassinet is in storage, as is the infant car seat. The BabyBjorn was given away, loooong ago, after Wonderbaby rejected it. And the nursery? Looks like this:


Those are bins of laundry – washed, yes, but unfolded, because who has time for that? – in the foreground. And a vacuum cleaner. And while there are books and magazines on the bookshelf, they’re all old New Yorker magazines, Penguin Classics paperbacks and Martin Amis novels. Not a single work of Margaret Wise Brown to be found.

I tell myself that it doesn’t mean anything, my inattention to the details of preparing for the arrival of this child. I tell myself that I’m slacking because I learned from the last one that all the organic cotton onesies and stocks of diaper cream in the world can’t prepare you for the onslaught of mess and noise and love that a baby brings. I tell myself that what’s different this time is that I know that money can’t buy me baby-love. Or peace, or quiet, or security from fear. I tell myself that I’m not nesting, that I’m not feathering the nest, because I know that the feathers don’t matter. That only my love, and his father’s love, and his sister’s love matter.

But still I worry. Isn’t there a fine line between acknowledging what doesn’t matter, and not caring? Mightn’t I be perched on the slippery slope of devoting less care and attention to this child? This second child?

When I first found out that I was pregnant this time around, I was gripped – along with the joy – with fear and anxiety and ambivalence. I worried that while I was providing Wonderbaby with a wonderful, wonderful gift in a new sibling, I might also be depriving her of me – my love, my devotion, my attention, all of these things, undivided. I don’t worry about that anymore. She has been and will always will be given enough love and attention and adoration to last lifetimes. Now, instead, I worry that I am bringing her brother into a life where everything that he is offered – love, attention, adoration, onesies – is divided. Handed down. Seconds. Even if what he is being handed down – even if what is divided – is in quantities that can only be measured by infinities, doesn’t it matter that these are still seconds? That whatever he has – kisses, hugs, baby socks – will have been had by his sister, literally or figuratively, first?

That my love for him – although perhaps more the sweeter for coming from a calmer, more mature place – will not be my first, most intense love?

I will love him – DO love him – to the height and depth and breadth my soul can reach, etc. There will be no gaps or shortages in that love; there will be no further distance that that love could travel, no greater height that love could climb. It is, and will be, complete.

But it will always be the love that came second.

Does that matter?

Sprout

November 19, 2007

Finally, finally, some evidence – for my own eyes – that this pregnancy is more than just nausea and vomiting and unremitting fatigue. Proof that there’s a there in there, and that there is occupied:


That’s Super Sprout, and from the way that he or she is kicking my ass, Sprout is going to have a lot in common with the Wonderbaby.