Her Bad Mother
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Let Me Know When I Am Done
I think that, maybe, I am done having children.
Very possibly almost certainly.
I've been thinking about this for weeks. I've been thinking about the fact that our family of four comprises a tidy little unit. I've been thinking about the fact that my daughter and my son make such a lovely pair, and about the fact that even though he is still so small they are becoming fast friends and about the fact - the fact - that this is just so lovely. I've been thinking that our happy little foursome is so balanced. There is something about us, it seems - it seems - that is complete.
And that completeness is bittersweet. Bittersweet because, I don't know, who's to say that we wouldn't be even more complete with another member to love? I can imagine - albeit in only the vaguest, fuzziest outlines - a future that includes someone else, another girl or another boy who would throw her or his weight into our tidy little apple cart and knock our happy unit delightfully off-kilter, out of balance, wonderfully, joyfully askew.
But then I look at my boy and my girl and my husband - I look at us - and feel something that I imagine is a feeling of completeness and I ask myself, isn't this enough?
Of course it is enough. Of course.
I don't want to go through pregnancy and childbirth again. That is, at least, I think that I don't. Bringing Jasper into the world scarred me, literally and figuratively. You don't want to go through that again, says my mother when I say - ill-advisedly - that I'm not one-hundred percent sure that we're done. You can't go through that again. You just can't. But she's wrong, in part. I could go through that again. I don't want to, but I could. If you'd told me before Jasper came along that his gestation and birth would be so difficult, so emotionally and physically difficult, I would certainly have said that I didn't want to do it. But were I then to grasp Jasper in my arms and press his soft, chunky self against my chest and feel his little hands explore my hair, my neck, my cheeks, feel his breath on my face, hear his giggle, his coos, I would say to you, I would do it all again. I would not hesitate to do it all again.
And I would not. Hesitate, that is.
But I wonder: do I lie to myself, when I tell myself that I do not want to close off the possibility of a different future, a future with a third? Do I lie to myself when I concoct stories of some hypothetical child, some ghost child, some spirit waiting to be given life and welcomed into our family in a future that I cannot yet comprehend but am loathe to disavow? Do I hold out the possibility of that third child as a means of forestalling my own future, a future that I've lost touch with in this, my tenure as a new mom times two? Am I stuck in this identity - this identity that I both love and resent - as a mommy, to the extent that I am compelled to suggest to myself, over and over and over again, that this is who I am, all that I am, all that I can do? By which I mean: am I holding out for the possibility of a third child for the simple reason that there is some part of me - some deep and vital part of me - that is afraid to let go of the mantle of Mommy and march forward in life as me first, Mommy second?
Obviously, I haven't lost my sense of myself as Catherine - I do identify myself beyond 'Mommy;' I do have (fragments) of a life that is not defined by my care of and love for two small children - but my 'mommyness' has been a lodestone for me. It has been the thing that directs the compass of my life, that which points here, there, hither, yon and tells me where I am and where I should be headed (building a life with and for my children; building a future with and for my children; changing a diaper; looking for diapers; shopping for diapers). What will I do when I am no longer essential in meeting the minute-by-minute needs of these creatures? What will I be?
There are things that I want to do, versions of myself that I want be, all of which have little or nothing to do with being a mom. It is possible that I am afraid of leaping headlong toward these things, unencumbered by diaper bags and swaddle blankets and slings. It is possible that I am afraid of trying. It is possible that these diaper bags and swaddles blankets and slings are so much security for me: I cannot jump, see, because my hands are full. I would jump, but I can't. Oh well. C'est la vie.
(It is possible that this is what happens when you go without sleep for over half a year. You start to believe that there are no other worlds beyond this one. You start to fear that you could not not survive in any world outside of this one. You start to go a little - what's the word? - crazy, and you become attached to your own craziness. Maybe.)
I have a seven and a half month old baby and a three year old girl. I'm going to be 'Mommy' for a while yet. It is silly to be nostalgic for this stage of my life, this stage of their lives, when we are still so very much in it. And it is, very possibly, sillier still to fetishize the idea of more children as a means of clinging to this stage. I will, we will, have to be done with it sometime. I can't be Mommy forever.
So, am I done? I think so. I don't know.
How do you ever know?
Still hoping for contributions to this. It won't save my nephew, but it will, someday, save some other child, some other nephew, some other mother's son, and that will make all the difference.
Also, if you're so inclined, I wouldn't - as I explained here - object to nominations for one of these. If you're so inclined.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Last night, I curled up in bed with my little girl. She lay her head against my arm and gripped my fingers with her tiny hand and whispered, I want you to stay here, Mommy.
Yes, I said. I want you to stay here, too.
And then I rested my cheek against the crown of her head and closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet, soapy smell of baby shampoo, felt the silk of her hair, heard the whisper of her breath and I thought, I want you to stay here, like this, always, curled against me, warm, safe. And I thought, I want you to stay here, like this, for years and years to come, until the days when you and I no longer fit together in this wee bed, when you are grown and I am old and your arms are the stronger. When we will still find comfort in each other. When you will still be my baby, only grown.
I thought these things, and I looked up at the clock atop her dresser and watched as the minute hand took one deliberate click forward. I looked up at the clock and I wondered, how would it feel if I were counting these minutes? These hours? These days?
It is not possible to hold a child too close, or for too long.
A family lost a child this week. Maybe it was the famous family, the one that we are all reading about it and talking about. Or perhaps it was another family, a family unknown to us, a family in Burma or Kinshasa or the Gaza Strip or Oshawa, Ontario or Saguenay, Quebec. Perhaps it was many families; perhaps it was many children. We lose count; we stop paying attention. We stop paying attention, unless the child is lost to someone that we know, someone that we know of. Then we remember. Every hour of every day, somewhere, someone suffers what we fear most. What I fear most.
My family is losing a child. Our loss is not sudden; it will not be unexpected. It's a slow loss, but an inevitable loss; the hands of the clock tick forward slowly, deliberately, inexorably. We count on those hands ticking slowly; we measure their movements carefully, reassuring ourselves that the pace holds steady, that there is no leap forward, that this particular clock never advances an unnecessary hour, that our days hold ample daylight. It's a slow loss, but an inevitable one.
We are better off, of course, for the trickling pace of this loss. We have many days, many hours, with this child. Not near as many as we would like, but still: we have time to spend and cherish, time to postpone our goodbyes and to pretend that their place on the horizon will hold its distance. My sister can wrap her body around Tanner's and feel the beat of his heart and the warmth of his breath; she can brush her hand across his forehead and whisper in his ear and assert her love for him in the now and know, as surely as his hand tightens around hers, that he hears her, that he knows. But the clock ticks over her head - over his - and she counts these hours, these minutes, these seconds. Every movement of the minute-hand is a movement lost, a moment lost, one minute less in a cherished life that is measured by the clock.
My mother called on Christmas Eve, a thick edge to her voice, the edge of a third glass of wine, the edge of regret seeking reassurance. I miss you so much, she said. I miss Emilia, and Jasper. I'll bet Emilia's so excited for Santa. She laughed, uncertainly. I wish we could be together. I wish I could be there, I would move there in a heartbeat, but I can't be there, because I need to be here, with Tanner. A pause. He's really gone downhill. He's declining really quickly. He's not going to last more than another few years, maybe. Another pause; the clink of a glass. After he's gone...
- I know.
After he's gone...
- I know.
After Tanner is gone, time will stop, and then it will start again, without him. I don't like thinking about this. I was upset with my mother for reminding me of this on a night that I wanted to spend in thrall to the optimism of Christmas - fear not, for behold: I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people - and to the sweet prospect of waking up to tiny pajamaed children filled with glee. I wanted my own now, free of sadness, free of the prospect of death, free of fear of that black hole of timelessness opening up and swallowing us all. I wanted to not walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I resented my mother for pulling me alongside her in her stroll. And that was wrong.
It was wrong because I am so, so fortunate to be able live my life with my own children, free of the clock, free of the incessant clang of the tolling bell, free of the the hourglass, the blind sands - free, at least, in my ignorance of, my deafness to, the tick, the clang, the passage of the sands that mark the time that passes for each of us. It was wrong because I am so fortunate, and I need to remain mindful of, and grateful for, that fortune. I can hold my daughter or my son and not think, here passes one more moment, here we move one step closer to death, here is one less embrace that we will share. I have a life with them, a now with them, that is free of visible shadows. I am blessed. And I am insufficiently appreciative of this blessing.
I pay little mind to the time that passes with my own children, apart from vague reflections upon the pace of their growth and the fleeting beauty of their babyhood. I mark Tanner's time, I count it on my fingers and toes, I spend hours, awake at night, calculating how many more visits we have, how we shall spend those visits, how best we might use our time, how we might take time and wrest timelessness from it, in the form of memory. But I forget to mark the rest of time; I forget that I do not have infinite stores of time to spend with my children; I forget that the bell tolls as much for us as it does for Tanner, the only difference being that we do not know when its tolling will stop.
I do not pause often enough; I do not often enough stop and hold my children, just for the sake of holding on. I do not take as much time as I should to just hold them and listen to their hearts beat and feel their breath upon my cheek and their hands warm within my own and hear the tick of the clock - feel the tick of the clock - and be grateful for every. single. second. In ignoring time, I am doomed to lose it. I need to take time, take measure of time, give thanks for time, for whatever stocks of time that I am blessed to have. With Tanner, with Jasper, with Emilia, with all whom I love and with whom I wish to have more time, always more time.
My sister, Chrissie, will be running, this weekend, in a marathon to raise money for Duchenne's research. There's no cure for Duchenne's, but there's always hope, and Chrissie is running, as always, for this hope. With my words, I can cheer her on, and I can ask others to cheer, and to help by cheering and to cheer by helping.
You can donate in Tanner's name HERE. It probably won't change the ending to this story, but it will help the narrative maintain a recurring theme of hope. And that, right now, is all.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Sunday Morning Music Show: Comedy Edition
It takes the baby a minute to get the joke, but when he does, he falls out of his seat laughing. I'm that way about fruit jokes, too.
(Sunday Morning Music Show: Music Editions are on indefinite hold until the girl retires the burlesque, no-pants version of her show, which is entirely NSFW. Nude comedy, on the other hand, can be shot waist up, so.)