Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Her Bad Birthday: A Love Song

I don't like to write posts that purport to be letters to my child, to be read in the future. I have written them, a few of them, but always with a sense of unease. Unease at sharing thoughts that I would present to my child as a private gift - as something that I mean to pass from my heart to hers - with an audience. Of course, everything that I write here is meant, someday, to be given to her, shared with her - to help her to understand me, and my journey as her mother, a little better, and to help her, perhaps, to understand herself a little better, to know a little bit of who she was in the hours and days and weeks and months that will always remain beyond the reach of her memory. So the form of the letter is tempting, because it allows me the pretense of speaking directly to her, of reaching through time - of imagining a reach through time - to share my voice, this voice, the voice of her mother in the time of her extreme youth, with her.

Still, I'm not going to write a letter to her today. Today is her birthday, but I'm not going to write her a letter. I'm not going to write her a letter because the letter that I would write today would be entirely self-indulgent (though aren't they all?). It would be all about me, and it would be all apology and hand-wringing. It would be about my anxieties, these days, that I am being a truly terrible mother, that I have not been nearly as attentive and involved as I should be, that the ongoing distraction of nausea and other sickness and the whatnots and wherefores of day-to-day life have gotten in the way of mothering and that I feel guilty for having done so much of my loving and caring for her from arm's length, from the corner of the room, from my prone position on the couch or the bed or the floor, issued forth only in whispers and weak hugs.

It would be about feeling guilty, and anxious, that these days are slipping by and I cannot participate fully in them. That I cannot participate fully in her. That these are the last days - the last weeks, the last months - that she and I have as mother and only child, mother and only daughter, that we have as a duo, as a pair. Next year our family will have grown, gods willing, and she will be one of two. No longer my only child, the only child of my heart.

I know, I know: I will love her no less when her sibling comes; my heart will expand and the love of two will be infinitely bigger than I could ever imagine. But still: I lay awake, sometimes, at night, in the quiet, and although I do not cry, I can feel my heart constrict and a pressing damp at the corner of my eyes as I think, this will all change. It will all be different. We will no longer be two, she and I, me and she. I will no longer be able to say, I love you most of all, you are my very dearest child and the best and brightest light of my heart. She will no longer be one. She will be one of two.

She will be no less special for that, no less loved. She will, I think, be more special, more loved. I'm not sure why or how, but I imagine that the expansion of our family means an expansion of love that spreads in all directions and reaches beyond all depths and heights. It will all be more. But it will all be different.

So I want her to know this, on her second birthday, on her last birthday as an only child: that I feel this impending change, deeply, and that - for all of the immeasurable joy that lays before us - this time, this time of us, this first time, this first experience of what it means to hold my heart outside of my self and cling to the throbbing mess of it will be held deeply and tightly in the place where my dearest memories are held. That she will always be my first.

That I love her, deeply, desperately, even - especially - in those moments when I can barely hold my head up, even - especially - when it seems that I am lost in my own miseries and distractions. That there is not and will never be another her, and that I will always be grateful, beyond grateful, to God and nature and the universe for the miracle that is her.

Happy birthday, baby girl, big girl, my girl. Happy birthday.


Blogger flutter said...

Happy birthday, little, special one

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(ohmygod i'm totally bawling now)

happy birthday wonderGIRL. and happy birth day to her wonderMAMA.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Happy Birthday, and congrats to the whole Wonderfamily!

I hope you start to feel better soon. I actually had a healthy day today, so fingers crossed for tomorrow.

1:41 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Happy birthday, beautiful little girl.

2:28 AM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Happy, happy birthday!

I know exactly how you feel because I felt that way alot near the end of my pregnancy. Now that the Little Guy is out, and he takes so much attention and focus, I still feel bad. Still feel like I'm not paying enough attention to the Boy. I only hope the Boy knows that I had the Little Guy in part BECAUSE I love the Boy so much.

3:05 AM  
Blogger modmom said...

congratulations on your baby in your tummy + your little girl's birthday!
get well soon!

3:44 AM  
Blogger Veronica Foale said...

Happy Happy Birthday little one!

4:42 AM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

Happy birthday to you both.
My friend is warning me to brace myself against the tide of emotion - love, guilt, amazement, whatever - that will be directed towards Bee once the baby arrives.

5:53 AM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

happy happy birthday Miss WB

7:05 AM  
Blogger ms blue said...

Happy second Birthday to your beauty. I hope that you feel well enough to give her big hugs today.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To both you and NoMotherEarth,

Sometimes, when the second one is tiny, you will feel you are giving more to the baby and loving the baby more. You will feel your connection to your first loosening and weakening. You will feel distant from your demanding older child and just want to focus on the baby. You will feel guilty.

As the baby gets a little older, you will worry that you have irreparably damaged your beautiful relationship with your first born. Nothing seems right between you anymore, perhaps.

I tell you this so that, when it happens, you will remember these words I send you from the other side. By the time the baby is a year old, you will have a new, stronger, more intense relationship with your first born than you could ever have imagined. Out of the guilt and the doubts will grow a beautiful relationship, in part what you had before but in part grown from together loving that baby.

I want you to know this. No one told me how hard it would feel, that my baby would seem to be slipping away. I wish I had been prepared, but I also wish I had known how amazing our relationship would be by the time his little brother was one. I want you to know that what feels like stretching and tearing is actually growing pains. You are not destroying what you had together -- you are deepening and strengthening it.

How's that for going on and on...?

7:20 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

C -
She'll always be your sunshine.

Happy Birthday to your lovely girl!

7:26 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

Feliz cumpleaños, Wonder Girl!

7:41 AM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

Happy Birthday Wonder Girl! Beautiful post Her Bad Mother. Now where did I put, sniff, those damn kleenex, sniff...?

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put your guilty feelings away, the greatest gift you could give your Wonderbaby is a sibling. One day when you are gone, Wonderbaby will have someone to remember Mom with.

Happy *Birth*day, HBM

8:33 AM  
Blogger Brittani said...

What a beautiful post! Happy birthday to your little one!

8:35 AM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Happy birthday, WonderBaby. (Are we moving to WonderGirl now?)

This was beautiful, Catherine. This is exactly how it feels...that flux time when the time of One is ending, but not quite gone.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emily said it better then I ever could. I know exactly how you are feeling, because I felt the same way before The Baby was born. It was accentuated for me by the fact that I am an only child, and have no real comprehension of siblings. I worried, like you, how it would affect my baby, the big boy.

Now that The Baby is 1, it is so different. My older son and I have a bond stronger then ever. ANd he has a bond with his brother that I can only watch in amazement.

You aren't taking her mother away. You are giving her more people to love, and to love her.

Happy birthday to your little one!

9:24 AM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

Happy birthday, wonderbaby.

Happy birth day, wondermama.

My wish for you both is health and happiness, so that you may enjoy this last time together, just the two of you.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Avalon said...

Happy, happy birthday Wonderbaby! May you have decades more joy to share.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Christy P said...

i understand and live what it is to have one's heart expand enough to love more than one child. practice your breathing now, your eating, your digesting, your crying, because the size of your growing heart will pale in comparison to the expansion of your beautiful belly and you will wonder how there is possibly room for anything else inside of you.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

No matter how many people tell you that everything will be fine and that your love expands, etc, you will still feel guilty...until baby arrives and you see for yourself.

It's wonderful to have more than one child. So wonderful, in fact, that I'm having a third!

Happy Birthday Wondergirl!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beutifully heart-wrenchingly put HBM.i remember the angst of wondering how could i love another as much as the one before...but the heart has an amazing capacity for love it grows and blooms and expands to allow even more love.when i was pregnant with #3 and my breasts were making milk my body produced its own blue-veined heart shaped tatoo on my right breast which remained until a couple of months ago.she that babe is now 7 and has a 3 year old sister...LAVANDULA

10:57 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

You're making me cry. Happy Birthday Wonderbaby. It only gets better from here.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wait a minute. strike that. reverse it." (in reference to my comment above.) i clearly have not had enough coffee today.

11:27 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

happy birthday wondah-bebe!!!
(and congrats on selling your house, C. ORRsome!)

11:31 AM  
Blogger Moments Of Mom said...

That was a wonderful sentiment to your daughter.

Happy Birthday to your little one.

12:24 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Well, you may not be a sobbing mess, but now I am... So lovely, and so true. I agree that love multiplies, not divides, but I also hate that when I tell Pumpkinpie I love her the most, I know that if I get my way, that won't always be something I can say honestly, and I won't say it dishonestly, and I'd hate for her to notice me not saying it any longer. But she will never be less special, and neither will your WonderBaby. And she is a Wonder, truly.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Happy 2nd birthday WonderBaby.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Bon said...

happy birthday to your beautiful girl.

i lie awake wondering about change too. but mine has never truly been my one and only, never my first, and thus it's weirdly easier to believe that we are simply growing, rather than losing something that is, nonetheless, infinitely precious.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Aww, happy birthday!

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Precious Wonderful Birthday, Wonder Girl, from the entire FishFamily, who think you are just lovely, and are witnesses to just how much your mama loves you.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

Every mother I've known has worried about this during her second pregnancy - but I've not known a single woman to worry about it AFTER her second pregnancy, really. There's more then enough love, magically enough.
Happy birthday to your big girl.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

That was incredibly sweet. They will BOTH be very lucky to have you has a mother.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love posts like these because, as a not-yet-mother but first-born child and daughter, I understand a little of what it was like for my own mother to have loved me so singularly, so desperately, especially in the months up to my baby brother's birth. Thanks, C, and Happy Birthday, wonderful Wonderbaby!

4:48 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

Happy birthday, sweet child!

Happy birthday, beautiful Mommy!

No words of wisdom from me.

You have wisdom to spare for all of us.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

In those dark hours I cry. I know exactly what place you're coming from.

Happy Birthday, Wonderbaby. Stop growing so fast and let mama catch up.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, precious girl. Beautiful tribute.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Different - you're right on.

Happy birthday to WonderBaby, and congratulations to you and Her Bad Father.

8:26 PM  
Blogger S said...

how could she be two?

and yet -- she's all that and more.

happy birthday, lovely girl.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Wonderbaby! Next year, you will be Wonder Big Sis.

Congrats, HBM. This is a gorgeous post. And I know exactly how you feel, having been in my second tri-mester with Bun when Monkey turned two.

And although I am a big fat lurker on your site, I tagged you for a meme. I know that things are a little rough in your world, so I understand if it's not right at the top of your to-do list!

Here, just in case you have the energy.


8:56 PM  
Blogger Lisa Dunick said...

What a heartbreakingly beautiful post. You put so many of my own fears about having another child into better words than I could ever find.

9:16 PM  
Blogger ninjapoodles said...

This is so beautiful, and may just possibly be the first time I've read a post concerning the addition of a second child without feeling that gnawing self-pity that I can't have one. Thank you.

10:57 PM  
Blogger kellypea said...

That was lovely. I wrote to my youngest (who is now 15) in a journal -- mostly about what he was learning to do, what his interests were, and how he was changing. I wrote for eight years, and he knows I have the book, but I haven't given it to him to read yet. I think moms like you who have places like this to put down your thoughts and love are very fortunate, and that your children will appreciate what you've saved for them. They grow up so very, very fast. Happy Birthday to your little one.

11:13 PM  
Blogger moosh in indy. said...

One of the biggest reasons I'm so wary about getting pregnant again, not only will I be worthless to society, I will be worthless to my first born during our last few months as "us".
Glad I'm not alone.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Creative-Type Dad said...

Very nice...

Happy birthday little one

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, I want to greet the birthday girl... Happy Birthday & God Bless...

I don't know yet the feeling of having a second baby. But what I do know is it will be a different story to tell.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Happy birthday, WB!

I had so many of those same fears when pregnant with Mira. I'm only 6 months in now, but I can tell you that yes, your heart does grow in all directions.

I was an only child, so I don't have any reference to say what it's like to have a sibling. You have a sister though, right? Did you ever feel less loved by your parents because you weren't the only one? I doubt it, and I know the same will hold true for WB.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, Christina - such an interesting question. Because no, I never felt truly less loved, but I did - at times - feel compromised in that love. I would never have wished to be an only child, but there were times that my mother's concern for my sister came at the expense of concern for me, and I felt it keenly.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

God - now that I've said that - it doesn't change anything of course. There were moments of feeling less loved - how many times did I scream 'you love her more!', in anger? Too many - but I still wouldn't change anything. Having a sister was a great gift.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

What a beautiful tribute to your special relationship with WB. I hope the day was wonderful.

2:35 PM  
Blogger pnutsmama said...

i just wanted to thank you for putting into words what i have been feeling and panicking about so much since finding out that we too are expecting #2...

i'm crying b/c all of it is true, and as much as i expect the love to multiply, i still can't help freaking out over knowing that she'll only be an only for a little while longer. and of course as much as we want her to have a sibling (or two), there really is something about us as a twosome right now that i know will never be replicated with the next one, and just how very different it will all be come summertime, how much i'll miss it being "just us"- how it will effect her, how i always want to shield her from hurting.

then i spend time beating myself up over what all that negative energy could imply for the future of this new baby, how awful i'd feel if something were to happen, how we really know she'll love having a sibling through the years- ugh, sometimes these hormones are just too much already.

thanks for this beautiful beautiful post, and for giving me a really good cry when i needed it. happiest birthday to you both. thank you.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

What a beautiful post. Happy birthday to your beautiful girl.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Gry said...

Dude.. Way to turn the faucet on for me today.

Hope she had a good one :)

2:38 AM  
Blogger Mommato2 said...

That was beautiful....Happy Birthday to your sweet sweet girl.

7:56 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

I feel the same way about the letters.

Great, great pics HBM.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree about letters to our children. They are always so sappy and apologetic, as though we wish we could be better mothers.
Well, damnit, we are the best mothers for our own children, and I think what you posted here, along with those awesomely cute photos, say it best.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Oh this is so lovely. And I feel this bittersweet pang in reading words that I might have written (less eloquently) only 6 months ago.

Sometimes one of two is greater than one of one.

You'll see.

9:35 PM  
Blogger iheartchocolate said...

I want to share with you a few things.

This is beautifully written.

This feeling, this guilt or being there, but not really present right now, will most definately pass. You probably won't even remember it.

When your second arrives, there will be a period of confusion in the house as the order returns and conforms to another human you also adore, now there.
Once this period has passed, you will barely remember it.

My daughter was 14 months when Drew was born in March. I was so desperately ill with pregnancy, I literally missed probably 6 months of intimate involvement with her play. I was barely there for the bare necessities. The time wore on and eventually faded from my memory. It was VERY difficult though, I did feel insanely guilty. Once Drew was born, she had nothing to do with me for 2 weeks. I eventually was able to take care of both with ease. Now, she is nearly 2 and he is 9 months, it couldn't be better. They love each other and I love being their mother.

10:09 PM  
Blogger iheartchocolate said...

I am sorry how disjointed that all sounded, I have had some wine. :)

10:10 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Not disjointed - lovely.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Kayris said...

Before I had my second child, I grieved for the relationship with my first that would never be the same once the baby was born. I feared that I would be so involved with my daughter that my son would get pushed to the side. Not exactly ignored, but how would I be able to give my undivided attention to my first born when a needy baby came into the household?

As it turned out, I was worried about the wrong things. The baby slept plenty and I had more than enough time with my son. *He* was the needy one, so much that some days I felt like if I didn't have to feed my daughter, she wouldn't have been held that day. She spent much more time strapped into a swing or a bouncy seat than her brother ever did, and I will always wonder what it would have been like to have endless hours to just hold my daughter and stroke her hair and talk to her. Hours that I didn't have because she was my second baby and life was so much more chaotic.

She will be one on Thanksgiving Day, and the past year has been filled with more joy and more self doubt than I could ever have predicted. We're a family with two children now and while it's different than being a family with one child, it's been worth every single moment. Watching my older child be a big brother is AMAZING and seeing my baby respond to her brother makes my heart sing.

You'll see. There will always be things you will wonder about, things you wish could have been different. Just enjoy the last days you have as a parent of one and get ready for a wild, fantastic ride.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Karen MEG said...

Oh, I can't believe I missed this wonderful post! Can you tell I just started working from home and am terribly disorganized, and missing a lot of my favourite blogs?
Happy belated birthday to Wonderbaby, and happy celebration to you HBM. You are so right, there is nothing quite as special as your first baby. She will know that; she won't forget that.
My girlie is demanding for sure, and it makes me feel all sorts of guilty when it seems that her wishes take precedent over her big brother's. But he returns every smile, hug and kiss with such fervor that I know he is very aware that there's a special place in my heart for him. Just as there's a special place in his heart for his little sister.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know how you feel, as I felt that exact same way. I came across this poem and it brought me such comfort and joy. I hope you enjoy it

Loving Two

I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship. Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me that our time alone is limited. And I wonder: how could I ever love another child as I love you?

Then he is born, and I watch you. I watch the pain you feel at having to share me as you've never shared me before.

I hear you telling me in your own way, Please love only me. And I hear myself telling you in mine, I can't, knowing, in fact, that I never can again.

You cry. I cry with you. I almost see our new baby as an intruder on the precious relationship we once shared. A relationship we can never quite have again.

But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I'm afraid to let you see me enjoying him as though I am betraying you.

But then I notice your resentment change, first to curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine affection.

More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine. The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast.

But something else is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just we two. There are new times only now, we are three. I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at each other, touch each other.

I watch how he adores you as I have for so long. I see how excited you are by each of his new accomplishments. And I begin to realize that I haven't taken something from you, I've given something to you. I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you. I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are, but equally strong. And my question is finally answered, to my amazement. Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you only differently.

And although I realize that you may have to share my time, I now know you'll never share my love. Theres enough of that for both of you, you each have your own supply.

I love you both. And I thank you both for blessing my life.”Author Unknown

3:58 PM  
Blogger Laura McIntyre said...

I feel the same about writting letters on the blog, Happy Birthday to your baby

5:54 AM  

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