Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Gift

New links are being added to the Great Mommy Blogger Love-In daily. Keep checking out those posts (I'll put a permanent link in my sidebar, soonish). And keep sending them in, if you haven't already done so. No deadline. Each Friday, I'll be doing a post about these posts, a few at a time, so that they can be properly celebrated, until we've gone through them all. Enjoy.


Since WonderBaby was born, I have been keeping a journal about her. Not this one; a proper, bound paper journal with ink-smeared pages. It began as a poo diary (how many poos today? what color? runny? yes my friends the life of a mother dazzles with its glamor), but it quickly evolved into a detailed record of the minutiae of WonderBaby's existence. When does she sleep? For how long? When does she nurse? How long? Which breast? Did I read to her? What books? Did she smile/laugh/roll-over/grasp objects/sit up? Everything.

This detailed note-taking has not wholly been an exercise in record-keeping (every notable moment has been recorded in every conceivable medium - notebook, baby book, digital photo, digital video - short of ass tattoo. And that may still be coming. That? That's graphic representation in ink of my daughter's ass on a toilet. Commemorating the moment of liberation from the tyranny of the poo bag. 'Cause that'll be huge.) Instead, it has been, for the most part, anthropological research. Detailed note-keeping as part of an embedded participant-observation case study. Subject: WonderBaby.

When she arrived - November 14, 2005 - and was placed in my arms, it felt as though she had always been there. It felt as though the weight of her - the delicate, delicate weight of her - was and always had been part of me. That I would always need to feel that weight to feel complete.
But she was a stranger. She was new. She was part of me - my body ached with yearning for her if we were separated for more than a moment - but she was still unknown.

So I set about getting to know her. Primally, we acquainted ourselves through our bodies: tit to hungry mouth, hand to shit-smeared bottom, kisses kisses kisses to beautiful little head, and the constant embrace, skin to skin. This stretched and strengthened my soul, coming to know this other being so physically, this other being who is herself the creation of the most intimate physical knowing, this being who is both of my body and of her father's and so bound, always, physically, to both of us. But my mind struggled to keep up. Who is she who is she who is she who is she?

The poo provided no answers. Consistently mustardy, arriving with appropriate frequency, sometimes with inappropriate force and volume. But the record-keeping... ah. That appealed to the academic in me. I could know her by studying her habits, by taking careful notes (and, not incidentally, checking those notes against so-called Expert Texts, a practice that I abandoned early on, once I realized that they were all full of shit - and not the benign breastmilk kind - and that the very idea of baby expertise is absurd.) So I kept careful notes. I studied my baby. I satisfied my mind's desire to understand her in rational, quantifiable terms. Naps two hours once a day if swaddled and put down in dark room. Nurses every three hours. Resists afternoon naps except in stroller. Responds to nightly ritual: dinner bath cuddle nurse cuddle bed. Sleeps seven hours. Growth spurt? Five hours. Everything that my heart and body told me about her, I double-checked against my notes. But that was the thing: every note that I took, every behaviour that I observed, every conclusion that I arrived at, had already been viscerally noted and imprinted. I already knew her.

I realized this some time ago. But I clung to my book. It served me well; it was something to cling to when I felt confused or out of my depth, which was often.

WonderBaby turned 6 months old this weekend. Yesterday, she had her six month well-checkup. When I took out The Book to note her weight and other particulars, I realized that I hadn't recorded the morning's routine beyond the time of her rising. Nor had I done so for the last two days. I had been mothering beyond the book. I no longer needed my notes. I knew WonderBaby through my flesh, through my bones, through my blood.

So yesterday, after recording the details of the visit with the doctor, I put the book away.

But before I close the book entirely, I thought that I should post its last, incomplete entry here, for posterity.

6:20 Up and nursing.

Dawn, and we hear her happy voice, cooing matins with her bunny. Daddy goes to greet her good morning, and to bring her into bed. In she comes, smile as wide as sunflowers, arms outspread. Down to the breast; she suckles and snuggles and then turns to reach for her Da. Chest hairs are plucked, groins are kicked, fingers probe eyes, noses, mouths. We play, we cuddle, we doze...

2:20 Down in carseat. To doctor; 1 dropper Infant Tylenol 30 min. before shots.

Clutching sides of carseat as it is swung into car; eyes wide as saucers but smiling always smiling.

Doctor's Appointment. Weight: 16.5 lbs.

Chubby little legs that kick and push. Soft round belly and proud high chest.

Length: 27.5 inches

Tall like her Da. Long, long legs that stretch, stretch, stretch. Straining to stand, to bounce. Striving for her height, reaching for the sky, the stars, our embrace.

Head circumference: 17.75 inches

Noble baby head, big and round and full of firing brain. Sparsely haired, built for hats and for sniffing and for kisses for kisses for endless kisses.

Developing well. Sat up early. Babbling. Responds to name. Taking solids.

Growing, learning, living and loved, so loved.

And that was all. That is all.

That's all that matters. She is loved, beyond all measure, with every fibre of her parents' beings. She is loved. And, so, she is known.

I know her. She's my baby.

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Blogger bunmaster said...

So sweet.

I feel like every time I think I know my baby, she changes just a little bit more & I have to sort of get to know her all over again. Change, adapt, change, adapt. And yet, she is such a part of me I know that I know her way deep down in my soul. And knowing her I know myself.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Lindsay said...

she is adorable!!!
I love all the changes, they make life as a new momma a little more fun! Each day is a new adventure.. in more ways then one!

12:05 AM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

Even your obsessive recording is poetic. My mom recorded my meals, poops, etc in an effort to find out what made me sleep longer (she never found a pattern). Her notes are a lot less evocative, but then they were recorded by an economist who believed (and does still) that the data will show the way. Good for you, moving past the security of the data.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is awesome that you are mothering beyond the book. I was pretty obsessive recording everything...then I moved on to blogging...

Your baby is soo beautiful!

12:56 AM  
Blogger jdg said...

great post; she is so beautiful.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Granny said...


1:29 AM  
Blogger Virenda said...

Not only is your daughter beautiful but that was a really great post. I wish I had done more of that because time flies by so quickly. My daughter will be starting 2nd grade soon and my middle daughter will be starting kindergarten. `sigh~

I know everyone says the same thing but, "Where DID the time go?!".

I'm glad you can put the book down because you KNOW that the most important thing is that she is loved.


1:39 AM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

They just don't stay babies very long. I'm so grateful for videos of my son. I just don't remember him doing things like crawling or learning to stand up since he was at those stages for such a brief time.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful. I've been reading your blog for the last couple of weeks, and I love it. But, this one made me cry (and I'm at work - I should read this at night).
Congrats on getting to 6 months with a happy, healthy baby!!!
My baby is 2 and the new stuff still amazes me every day.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was really sweet. Funny how your note-taking differed from my own - yours was poetic and stress-reducing, mine was compulsive and clinic and stress-inducing.

Congrats to Wonder Baby, and to you and her Da too!

10:01 AM  
Blogger The City Gal said...

I cried.

For some time, I have yearned to know what it means to be a mother, but this was beyond miracle.

God Bless your hearts.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Bea said...

Oooh, commenting! Now that I've started I just can't stop (new to the blogosphere, this is only my second comment).

My son was born Nov. 12, '03. November's a hard month to have a baby: so dark and grim, as if the sun has gone out. And then spring comes, just as the baby is starting to awaken to the glory all around, and a mother's feet start to remember what freedom feels like.

Love the sunflower simile. A happy baby in the morning is a Good Thing.

10:21 AM  
Blogger DD said...

Sometimes when I read a "new" mommy's blog, I regret not having anything outside of pictures, the standard baby book, etc. to remember moments like what you had with yours now that my son is almost 4 1/2. But I remind myself that all those memories will be there to find if I want to, but for now I appreciate that the accumulation of all those memories, tho faint now, are infinite.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

thanks for making me all the more excited about the little one in utero now. Can't wait to experience it all again--this time with the knowledge that *I can handle it.*

11:01 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

Beautiful post. Beautiful baby. You make me miss mine. Sigh...

11:07 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Oh, man. What T said.
And also, I cried. You are quite a writer.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Having just unpacked my own baby book, with lots of interesting minutiae that my mom recorded, I say Yay for the journaling and record-keeping. But also Yay for realizing it's time to set it aside and trust yourself. Save it for her for when she is grown up!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

I never followed through with baby books and sometimes I wish I had. Good intentions when I first had the babies but we all know what the road to perdition is paved with.

12:59 PM  
Blogger The Domesticator said...

That was a very sweet post. I am sure she will be thrilled when she is able to read this book for herself someday.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That is sweet. And I'm so jelouse that you did that and I didn't. =\ But hey at least I have my blog. Now I just have t figure out how to save all the entries. LOL

Anyway, you sound like Her GOOD Mother to me =)

1:52 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Please stop making me cry at work!

What a wonderful family.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you're taking me back to when my 2 year old was that little. That's such a precious time. I'm glad you've recorded it. But it's also good to know you trust yourself that you don't need the records anymore.

She'll get a kick out of it when she reads it later!

Andrea (www.littlebalddoctors.blogspot.com) (blogger comment screen messing up)

2:09 PM  
Blogger Cristina said...

I just got chills. Good chills. That was so beautiful. I especially loved the end where you added your thoughts to her "statistics". Bea-utiful!

2:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Again, everyone is making me cry today. Seriously beautiful post. Making me miss Leah's baby months- even though she's only 13 months old!

2:21 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Only you could make meticulous record keeping eloquent and moving.

My uterus felt that seriously. You made me long for the baby days again.

And yes, she does know you. You're one great mom. Her mom.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's apparent in every word you breathe that you love that wonderbaby with all that you are and all that you have.

And there's no way in hell that she doesn't get that. It's pure beauty.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

*sigh* I could read you all day. Will you stop it with the amazing essays already? Some of us have work to do here.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

Just. Beautiful.

6:58 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

What a wonderful tribute to such a milestone. Thank you for another inspiring post.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

How beautiful. And I admire you for keeping a journal like that for that long. I barely updated her baby book.

Which reminds me, I need to update it...

9:26 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

She's a lucky baby and you're a lucky mama.

I also admire you for being able to keep a journal. I'm with Christina, I've hardly been able to update my daughter's baby book. But that's why I blog.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Mothering beyond the book... Wonderful insight!

Loved the post. Will be back!


10:57 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

That was beautiful.

You know, I've been feeling a bit disconnected during this pregnancy, and the realization that there is going to be a new baby here in two months keeps wandering-in with surprise each time. It seems so long ago. Will I know what to do again?

You post, this post...yes, I can't wait. I can't wait for the detailed days, the moment it all becomes as familiar as a song.

Again. Beatiful post.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just beautiful.

Proud to be a Liliputian.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really lovely- that moment when you learn to trust eachother is so freeing and so beautiful. Congrats on reaching phase II of your relationship!

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. You made me cry.


10:15 AM  
Blogger jess said...

love the newborn photo- she was such a little peanut!

2:48 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

6 months? Oh, this is where the fun starts! When they start sucking up everything around them and reflecting some of it back. When their physical abilities and will to push themselves for more becomes amazing. Personalities start getting so much stronger and more obvious. I am not impressed by the first 5 or 6 months, but after that, I am all in.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I remember when I moved beyond the poo/feeding/daily journal book with each of my girls -- as you did, I just suddenly realized one evening that I hadn't recorded anything that day. I had just gotten into the rhythm of caring for them, understanding them. Knowing them. I cherish those notes now, it brings me back in time to when they were such little tiny girls.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm back to check your blog again and you just keep the great posts coming! Do you know of any great websites that sell baby shower. I've seen a few good ones but I think www.diapergifts.com make the best I have seen. You have got a great blog and I will be back to check it out.

2:10 PM  

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