Her Bad Mother

Friday, April 27, 2007

Love, Fear, Memory

Long before I ever got pregnant - long before I even knew that I would one day want a baby, desperately - one of my very, very dearest friends told me this:

When you have a baby, the one thing that you must never forget is that you WILL forget. You'll forget how scared you were, how anxious, how tired, how frustrated. But you'll also forget how tiny she was, and how she smelled, and what she sounded like and how she looked at you. So always, always - in each and every moment - try to commit what you're experiencing to memory. Remind yourself that you're going to forget the details, and that you will miss the details, desperately. Remember that no matter how tired or afraid you are, you are one day going to wish, hard, that you could have those moments back. Even the scariest moments, the hardest moments - you'll want them back. Never forget that. Try to cherish each and every one of those moments for what they are, and hold on to them as long as you can.

I've never forgotten that. Those words (which exist in my memory only in paraphrase) echoed through my mind and heart during all the long, wakeful nights of the first weeks and months with our new WonderBaby, during the first, excruciatingly painful and frustrating weeks of breastfeeding, during our first trip to the ER with our feverish infant, during the first bad fall, the first tears of anger, the first flailing of tiny, furious fists. During the depression. During the highs, and the lows, and all of the in-betweens, I remembered this: that I would, one day, forget, and that I would regret, to the bottom of my soul, that forgetting.

And so I struggled to commit everything to memory. Every sniff of her wee head in the dark of night, every sharp tug on a ravaged nipple, every bite, every giggle, every paralyzing moment of fear, every overwhelming instant of insecurity - I stopped there, in each of those moments, and tried to preserve them. I tried to really feel them, to really live them. So that I could remember them, all of them.

It didn't work, of course. As promised, I can no longer remember exactly what it felt like to be woken in the night by her plaintive cries. Nor can I remember the fresh new scent of her head, or what it felt like to have her mouth on my breast. But I can remember what I felt. I can remember that I paused, and that I let myself feel. I can remember thinking, and feeling, in the moments of my greatest fear or anxiety and in the periods of my darkest, most inexplicable sadness that these things bound me to her, and that they were woven tightly into the tapestry of my life with her, and that one day I would try to search out those threads, try to identify those threads and tease them out so that I could remember. I can remember thinking: you'll want these moments back. And I do.

But you can never get those moments back. You can only live them. And you only get to live them once, all of them, the good and the bad.

So love those moments. All of them. Don't be fearless: feel the fear and embrace the fear (and the anxiety and the sadness and the frustration) and pay attention as it weaves its way into the tapestry of this new, extraordinary life with this new, extraordinary love.

This, now, only echoes of a memory in my heart.

This post is dedicated to Liz and Christina and Tammie, on the occasion of their baby shower, and to fearless (or, better, consciously fearful) mothers everywhere.

Because you all know.

(Check out links to other dedicatory shower posts here, and the Mother-Talk Fearless round-up here. And read more about fearlessness here.)

(And prayers to Tammie, please, because she's started her tapestry already, and it's been difficult so far. Good wishes that there's not too much fear for her to embrace.)

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Blogger MsPrufrock said...

Thank you for this post. I'm all teary now!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Perfect! And that photo of WonderBaby is amazing.

6:50 PM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

On the other hand, Bossy wishes she were lovingly bathed with a sweet wash cloth on her head.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

This is so beautiful, thank you. It's such a good reminder. And because I didn't start a blog for six months after T was born, I've forgotten a lot of those details. At least there's one thing that #2 can feel like she had first.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Mommato2 said...

A wonderful post, and so very very true.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Aha! Yes. I feel at least like I'm trying -- now that Miss Baby is 10 months, it's all going so fast (and we washed her just tonight with that same polka dot cloth! Weird) and she gets bigger faster than I can process it.

I remember the effort of remembering and forger the experience. But I know that I'm living with open eyes, letting my heart get full every day.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Sarahviz said...

Simply beautiful words. And so perfectly true.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that face!

After 3+ years, I however, haven't forgotten. I haven't forgotten the fear and the crying and wanting to die. I'll never forget those moments...

Sorry to be a downer.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

That is the most adorable picture of Wonderbaby. Adorable!

It would be nice if we could freeze little moments in time and seal them up in a box to revisit.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Multi-tasking Mommy said...

What a well said post! I couldn't agree more--you do forget! I try to pass that advice on to my friends as well! Soak it all in while you can because they change so fast, sometimes so fast that you don't have time to soak it in.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I rememeber trying to preserve memories of Cordy when she was little, but those moments in time rarely imprinted into my long-term memory. I wrote a few things in her baby book, but it's never enough.

Like Liz, I didn't start blogging until Cordy was older, so I hope that this medium will help me to preserve some of those moments of anxiety, of love, of fear. Thank you for reminding me that even the moments of panic, frustration, and fear are worth remembering as much as the quiet, sweet moments.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautifully said, as always.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I love how you combined the two themes to make one lovely post about the details that eventually become fuzzy.

There are those moments I try to grab, try to sear the expressions of my children into my brain in those instants, or their words, or their touches, and it works for a while until something else comes along to take its place.

9:08 PM  
Blogger S said...

Lovely, as always.

And that photo is breathtaking. I want to hold that sweet, perfect baby.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Beautiful, beautiful!

I'd like to link this to one of my posts on fear. I hope you (and the moms for whom this baby shower is for won't mind)

11:09 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

*snorf* loud blowing into a tissue.

bigirl turns ten this summer.


I really have no words about trying to hold onto the little.

(but this morning...this morning she came to me and asked for a cuddle, in bed. And she curled around me, head in my shoulder my nose in her hair and I kissed her forehead.)

she is still little and way way deep inside I remember every moment.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've just made me want to wake up my kids and hug them, kiss them, and tell them how much I love them... that was a really inspirational post for me, especially since I've been having a hard time with my son and been silently cursing (with no lack of guilt) my daughter for not sleeping through the night yet. You've made me think about these things in a different way...

Sorry for the sappy comment, but thank you for that.

12:14 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

That's right.. the pause. Children the drink that refreshes..

I work with a lot of bossy women who have had kids.. they pounded this into me. I am so grateful to them for it.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received very similar advice, and am so glad I did!! I loved having the words in my head reminding me not to get so caught up in all the little things that needed to get done, or my sleep deprivation, or the many other distractions, and miss out on what was happening with my girls right in front of me. Thanks for the beautiful words and reminder again!!!

6:50 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful! I had similar advice, and though I didn't always cherish the memories I tried to appreciate all of it as best I could.
And, all of it, the good and the bad and the scary, it's made me a better person.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

So beautiful.

9:47 AM  
Blogger the mystic said...

That's a great reminder.

I did the same at the time -- trying to remember to appreciate each moment for what it was -- but I failed miserably most of the time.

I regret that I didn't discover blogging until my youngest was 2. A friend had told me when I was pregnant the first time, "... and when it all gets too difficult, just write it all down..." How I wish I had taken that advice. You have a great record of Wonder Baby's beginning.

I have a photo album at least though! ;)

2:46 PM  
Blogger Karla Zamora, Digital Analyst said...

A beautiful post and so absolutely true. When you are a new mom trying to learn your new job at an accelerated speed, it is so easy to not stop and really take it all in. I think that I did not learn this until Isa was at least 4 months old, and like you say, you do forget.

Now I stop and really take in everything that she is doing and saying. They are just incredible little people.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

It is a bit astonishing how much I've forgotten, even though I know I said, 'remember this, remember this' over and over again. Even now, my oldest will turn her face to me and I'll think, 'who is this girl? where did my baby go?' Even my last 'baby' is now 2 1/2 and has the walk of a little boy. No babies anymore. Sigh.

Thank you for a beautiful post and a gorgeous photo.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Thank you for this.

When you're in the moment it can be really easy to focus on what's going wrong. Much better to remember what's going right.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Erin M said...

damn it you made me all teary-like.. i have to go snuggle my boy now.. youve made me teary and insane.. he cried all day and now I have to hold him again even though he's quiet..

everyone makes fun of me for how much I sniff his head..

12:49 AM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Must go sniff now...please tell me that we will remember more as time passes?

Altogether unrelated...shopping cart is not a bad thing...really. I can understand your concern, but I promise pretend food and a place to put it is tame...you just wait.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Miss D Mom(MDM) said...

Fantastic post !!! You said it in words,what every mother goes through,but does not know its happening.I feel like reading it all over again.I have a 13 month old daughter and I hope I can recall all the memories when I want:-)


12:36 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thanks for the reminder. It came at the right time...I needed that.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading about loving mommies and memories.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Look at those eyes! This is one reason I blog - to create a little diary of everything. Thanks for the very important reminder. This week - the baby book gets started (6 months late, albeit.)

10:43 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

A lovely post...and good advice. I have to admit, though, that there are times when I think, "Whew! Can't wait to forget THIS moment!"

1:43 AM  
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6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh catherine what a beautiful post.i've remembered things and forgotten things but i know in those moments i took the time to cherish enjoy contemplate all those feelings.and the moments of fear when i was praying for better and it came makes me appreciate more the good.LAVENDULA

10:00 PM  
Blogger modmom said...

what a sweety!
that's a huge ice cream!
my daughter would eat that whole thing.

please send me your blog button + for my mother's day blogroll + enter my giveaways :)

1:26 PM  
Blogger Haute Mama said...

Beautiful blog. You have a gift of expressing yourself. Thanks for the reminder. You're right, babyhood blinks by. Teenhood on the other hand is like a turtle in peanut butter!

11:20 PM  

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