Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forever Young

I've lost count of how many times in the last two and three-quarter years I've heard these words: they grow up so fast. I've heard it a lot. As of today, I've heard it a lot plus one. Today, I heard it again. A neighbor leaned over Jasper as I pushed him along in his stroller and uttered the familiar refrain. My, they grow up so fast.

Jasper is not quite four months old. There are foodstuffs forgotten at the back of our freezer that are older than he is. To look at him and think, my, how fast they grow! is extraordinary. But it's true. He's almost doubled in size since he was born. He bears no more resemblance to the squawling newborn that he was four months ago than he does to his any of his sister's toy dolls. He's a completely different child. That thrills and terrifies me.

It thrills me, obviously, because it's exciting to watch them grow, to see them unfurl from their fetal huddle and open, like fat little flowers unfolding toward the sun. It's thrilling to watch as their fingers begin to grab and clutch, to listen as their gurgles turn into giggles and coos. It's amazing to watch them turn into little people. But it's terrifying, too. It's terrifying because with every passing moment of growth and transformation, with every step taken toward the person who will be, I lose the baby that was.

I look at baby Jasper and thrill at his adorable baby-ness; the curve of his cheek, the soft pout of his smile, the way that his eyes crinkle when he's snuggled in at the breast and tries to grin with a mouthful of boob. I look at baby Jasper and I wonder, what ever became of that other baby, that first baby, the baby that I snuggled and rocked and nursed two years ago? Whatever became of the baby Emilia, my Wonderbaby? Why can I not remember her perfectly, when I tried so hard to commit every curve and roll and fold of her baby self to memory, so that I wouldn't forget? Why is the memory of that baby so utterly obliterated by the force of her two-and-three-quarter year old self?

I look at Jasper and I miss Emilia. I look at him and miss her, even though she sits not two feet away from me, nursing her own baby, telling her own stories. I look at him and even though I can see something of her there, even though I can remember something of what it felt like to hold her just this way, to stroke her cheek just like that, those memories remain just out of reach and that child, the baby-child that she once was, remains lost.

The force of that loss feels all the stronger, having recently visited my sixteen-year-old nephew on his sickbed and been confronted by both the fact of his undeniable teenageness and the fact of the diminishment of that teenageness through illness: there he was, all six-feet-something of him swaddled in hospital blankets like a baby and all I could think was, where has he gone? The teenager replaced the baby boy in him and the sick child replaced the teenage boy and I was left there, just holding his hand, missing him, willing him to open his big green eyes so that I could see his heart, the thing that is constant in him, the thing that is constant in all these children that we love, these beings who will grow and change and leave their littler selves behind. The heart, after all, remains the same, even as they grow and change or - gods forbid - become ill and diminished in illness. And so we mouth platitudes about clinging to their hearts.

It is their hearts - Emilia's heart, Jasper's heart - that hold me, that bind me to them, that keep me rooted to their sides, loving them and watching them grow. But the little bodies that contain those hearts... aaaah, those I love, and have loved, too. And I miss them as they pass into memory. Their tiny hands, their tiny feet, their wee proud bellies cresting above bloated diapers as they lay giggling on the floor, squirming away from me as I blow wet raspberry kisses and make silly faces and clutch at their fat, ticklish legs. That was Emilia then, that is Jasper now, that will all soon be memory, fragile memory, the kind that lingers just out of reach, like smoke or mist, dissipating in the very moment that you reach out to touch it. Dissipating, disappearing.

I look at him and I miss her; I look at him and I miss him, because I know that he'll be gone soon, the little him who I clutch in my arms, nuzzle and nurse, to be replaced by a bigger, faster, sturdier him who will race away from me, faster, further. Just like her.

I miss them, my children. I miss them even though I hold them close.

Is this why a parent's love always dances on the razor's edge of heartbreak?


Still no word from WestJet. No word at all. So much for customer service.

The CBC video of my interview is now online and posted over at BlogHers Act Canada. Also check out Defining Someday's Breastfeeding Without Blankets Blog Carnival - she's rounded up a bunch of posts on this topic (let her know if you have one to add). And if you have a look at the trackbacks on both of my breastfeeding posts, you'll see links to more really awesome posts on the subject. Do check them out - and let me know if you write your own.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how you put these feelings into such perfect beautiful words, but I'm really glad you do.

Thank you for sharing.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

I could have written this myself about my 11 mo old and 2.5 year old. While I know it's wonderful to watch them grow and thrive, it's also so crushing to know they will never again be those babes in arms. I'm making my husband read this - he thinks I'm crazy and you put it all so much more eloquently than I ever could!

12:43 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I am a first time mom and my son will be nine months old this sunday. I love him so much and I am sad right now that he is ALREADY nine months old but I am loving him more each day as he is becoming himself.
Parenting emotions are razor sharp.
This was a beautiful post.

1:02 AM  
Blogger Crazed Nitwit said...

You nailed it! I know the feeling well.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Jill Arnold said...

Beautifully written. "...see them unfurl from their fetal huddle and open, like fat little flowers unfolding toward the sun."

Love it.

1:20 AM  
Blogger flutter said...

The are so beautiful. Just so precious and so beautiful

1:26 AM  
Blogger hoppytoddle said...

I loved that little, "Oh! You're watching me on the boobie! Sweet! Heh-heh!" The smile that made me not even mind the inevitable trickle of milk onto my belly.

Getting to love you, HBM. I was doing the same things looking through my old pics for posts to my blog. Just love where you are.

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gorgeous post, gorgeous children.

I've heard "they grow so fast" about as many times as I've heard "you've got your hands full, there!"

2:14 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Hell, yes, razor's edge indeed. Pumpkinpie's long limbs are breaking my heart these days, even as they make me proud. I miss her toddler self - I am sure this is why I was so wanting another girl, so I didn't lose that so fast, so totally.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a beautiful post. I have a 4 week old and I'm already wanting to freeze her in time so I don't have to miss the sweet moments and miss how amazing she is right now... not that she won't be amazing in the future, but... gah, why do they have to grow up??

2:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an amazing post! Beautifully written, and so true. My youngest is almost 5 months old and my oldest is 2 1/2 years old, and I have these exact thoughts and feelings every day. You just put it into words in such a wonderful way. I have followed your posts recently, and have prayed for you and for your family. I hope many blessings and answers will come your way soon.

3:00 AM  
Blogger Tatiana Franey said...

i've been reading you for a while, silently praying for your nephew while i read your beautiful words.
this post is just so, so beautiful i wanted to leave a note here to say just this: beautiful.


4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe it is... :-)

6:17 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

They dance on our hearts, these babies of ours...

My youngest is going to be four in a few weeks. I look at old pictures of her, pictures before she was this long-limbed colt of a girl, and it all seems so hazy...
Beautiful, C. Beautiful.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why i shouldn't read blogs first thing in the morning, and then emerge adn go to work, showing up at the office with red swollen eyes and clutching kleenex.

You captured that feeling beautifully. *sigh*

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Too true!

7:37 AM  
Blogger linda said...

Yes, yes, yes. All these things. And it's all the more poignant when one is the parent of an only -- just one chance to commit it to memory, to experience it, to savour it.

Lovely post.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. and oh so very true. :)

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. I am reading this with tears in my eyes because I look at my 5 month old playing on the rug at my feet, looking so independent, and I realise that I don't remember all those things I wanted to. I look back at the photos, taken just a few weeks ago in the big scheme of things, and there I am, holding this tiny, skinny little infant, all floppy in the palm of my hand, and I don't remember how it felt. I feel cheated, somehow...

7:50 AM  
Blogger Goldfish said...

Before I was a mom, I never knew that loving someone so much could hurt so badly. It's a beautiful thing....

7:55 AM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

Yep. You nailed it. I still sometimes look at my grown-up babies, adults all now and I think, "Who came and took my babies? Where did they go?"
I can't bear to watch old home movies. It jerks my heart out.

7:57 AM  
Blogger K said...

The absolute truth! I see it in Max as he toddles around, the glimpses of Matt, now a senior in high school. It's thrilling and heartbreaking all at once.

Beautiful post!

8:05 AM  
Blogger Tracey said...

stop making me cry, goddammit.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AAAAAAAWWWWWWWWW. Now I'm gonna go home for lunch and see the boys and I'm gonna know that they're not my little babies anymore and you're breaking my heart...ok, you're not breaking it, but they definately are. Breaking it and making it whole again all in one fell swoop. I love your writing. You say it so much more beautifully than I do. Thank you for that.

9:32 AM  
Blogger danisteg said...

Everything you said, exactly. Thanks for putting it into words, and reminding me Im not the only who feels this, who is saddened by how much Ive forgotten about what it felt like to hold my son as an infant, but is so overjoyed to watch him blossom in toddlerhood. Bittersweet is the word I always use.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Melancholy must be going around... Absolutely beautiful post, and gorgeous pics!
Need tissue now.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

I look at pictures of the Little Guy from the hospital, and I don't even recognize him. It looks like we took home a different baby. (I'm a bit worried, actually.) And then I look at the Boy and wonder, will the Little Guy someday be like that? I know he will, but it's so hard to imagine.

You make cute babies! So similar in the young photos, yet so different.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel what you're saying, sister!
Within my sight right now: a large portrait of my daughters, at ages 1 month and 2.1 years, another of them at 6 months and 2.6 years, yet another taken when they were 4 and 6. The most recent is a beautiful pastel by an artist done at Disney World this past May: 8.5 and 10.5 years old. Sigh.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catherine that was beautifully written...i have different memories of each of mine that i hold close to my heart.too many to list here but thanks for taking me back in time...
glad that zach is doing so much better.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for expressing something so true so beautifully. I think we forget who they were as newborns because our babies are such powerful beings that they force us to live in the NOW. They exist so strongly as they "are", that it pushes who they "were" into oblivion. My little one (10 months) is teaching me to live in the moment, at last!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Maria Melee said...

I feel what you're saying so acutely. My son is almost two-and-a-half and his baby brother is due to be born in a couple of months.

Every day is so bittersweet right now.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

That's it, exactly. I was just getting teary last night watching D as she nursed. Time is going so fast.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

You put to words what every mother feels and yet seems unable to express. Somehow you found the words. Thank you.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Aidan Elizabeth's Updates said...

Beautifully written and ever so true. I only have one child that I get to watch grow up, loving her so completely and wondering what our son would have grown to be had he had the chance. I know my love dances on the razor's edge of heartbreak every day and wouldn't trade it for the world. Thank you for sharing yourself and what is in the hearts of so many parents.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Janet said...


I am feeling so very melancholic this fall about my growing children. Last night at the dinner table my husband noted that, in ten years, our eldest will be 19. As my boy, my little boy, sat puffed up proud and how he is growing, I blinked back tears.

Gorgeous, luscious post.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read every post you write but never comment, what can I say that hasnt already been said?

Today, you have me weeping! My Nate turns 1 in 3 weeks and the way you descirbe your child and the love and of trying so hard to remember is exactly how I am feeling. I miss my boy, I miss him when I am holding him, I miss him. Where has my baby gone, who is this kid in my living room? As fast as they grow, somehow my heart manages to keep up.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Cheryl R. said...

"Is this why a parent's love always dances on the razor's edge of heartbreak?"

I think this sums it up exactly! And mama, what a beautiful post. Thank you for putting into words the extreme levels of love, melancholy & joy I feel in each moment I'm able to breathe in the life force & sweet baby smells of my now 2 year old daughter. I miss her and I love her, precisely.


11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just last night I tearfully told my husband that I missed Simone--this while she was sleeping a foot away. This post is what I meant. I am missing her in advance.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Maggie, Dammit said...

"I look at Jasper and I miss Emilia."

Ohhh, how I remember that feeling when my second was born. I was never able to put it into words. Once again, you've spoken my heart.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tears burn the back of my throat reading that post. You speak the the truth of the heart so well.

My boys aren't little anymore. 4 and 2 1/2 and I find myself staring at their pictures and wondering how can I not fully remember. How is it possible that I can't still feel the fuzz of their head on my cheek. They squirm in my arms and tell me "Mommy I'm not a baby anymore", I correct them each and everytime. They will always be my baby. Even if only a gohst of my memory.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

Truer words have never been spoken. Perfect. Simply perfectly put.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We only have them like this once an when it's gone, it's gone... they'll never be this age again!

These are words I tell my husband often. Partly to remind him that even when there are frustrating days when we're too tired to read even one more book or give yet another redirection, we should enjoy every second of it; and partly I say this to him in order to remind myself. I too study my youngest (8 months) face, his movements, his noises in an attempt to burn these young years into my memory. It seems the memories of this same age for my other two is hazed already.

I already miss them all too!

11:46 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful.
You said what I've been thinking but couldn't put into words.
It's weird because my son just started school, and I wheel my baby every day with him (obviously) and I can't help but know the next few years will go by so quickly.
When my son was this size I just couldn't comprehend the fact that he would one day be a child.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

That was absolutley beautiful. I have goose bumps. Goose Bumps. Beautiful.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

On the plane back from Vegas with FIn in my lap a man leaned over and said, "When it's over you'll be sorry." This was after moments in which he clearly traveled back and took root in a memory, a chamber filled with laughter and kisses, fat rolls and bottles. I wept with sorrow and relief, knowing that yes it does go fast, but that there are moments that allow us to slip back in, to see our children through another.

11:57 AM  
Blogger CP said...

That was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.

My youngest (of 3) is now 7 and in first grade. Where did that baby go?

12:22 PM  
Blogger Mammatalk said...

Could somebody pass the Kleenex? Thanks for putting words to such fragile emotions.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often wish I didn't rush through the baby years with my daughter. It wasn't necessarily by choice, mind you, but more so that they were so hard, I just wanted them to end.

I don't remember much - the little moments the coos the smiles the everythings that we get so tired of seeing as mothers because we see them all the time.

But I am reminded of her moments, through my son, and hopefully it will be the same for my new daughter as well.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

Beautifully written. It bothers me sometimes that I seem to have replaces so many memories of my first son with my second. All those moments I thought I would remember for ever, and therefore not write down!, I have a hard time recalling. All that being said, my aunt has just the most wonderful relationship with her adult daughters. When I asked her about it at one point she said it's because she always wanted to focus on where her girls were at the present moment and where they were going; not on the past. She said that if she could pick, she prefers her kids as adults and not as babies because in her words her daughters "knock her socks off!"

1:06 PM  
Blogger Nicole Linn said...

Thank you. You took how I have been feeling and said it so gracefully. My 2nd child was born about 2 weeks after Jasper and your blog has been wonderful for me to read as I went through many of the same new baby issues. My 1st baby is almost 9 now, and is so very grown up, yet still my baby in many ways.

Thanks again for sharing with us.

1:18 PM  
Blogger cathy said...

I think that you just spoke for every mother with this post. Going to give my 2 yr old raspberries on her belly now while I still can...

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have felt this so many times. I look at my four-year-old and it's like she is a completely separate entity from the baby that I used to hold in my arms. You've captured that bittersweet feeling so perfectly, and so beautifully, here.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That last line made me cry.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Liz Miller said...


3:05 PM  
Blogger Booba Juice said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I have experienced the same thing, and its enough to break your heart. It is so hard to think that one day, I will be greatful to just talk to my girls on the phone several times a week. But for now I will focus on the now, the beautiful little things that they are. And enjoy!!!

5:00 PM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

Your children are so beautiful, and look gloriously happy. This post is everything I had in my heart when I sat holding my firstborn, committing him to memory as he was then, completely unable to see that as clearly now that he's 11, wishing he'd stand still long enough for me to commit this point into my soul.

Thank you for this...

5:04 PM  
Blogger lisa {milkshake} said...

Oh, yes.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was so beautiful and made me bawl. My 18 year old just left a couple of days ago to join the Air Force. I didn't want to let him go. All I could think was "this happened way too soon! where did my baby boy go?"


10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we not all a composite of all of our former selves? Is not a part you still that eleven year old girl? Do we not all need to be comforted like a small nuzzling child sometimes? The good thing is that we are still all of those people but even better, we get to be who we are including all of those layers of former selves. Our job as parents is tough, we have to encourage the next more independant level in our children at the same time as balancing the caring, supportive, nurturance of the younger child within them. They will always need our love and support; even when they don't look like they need it; even when they don't know that they need. When they are 35 and hurting, we can nurture themm the same way we did when they were a very young child; briefly though, because we have raised them to be functional independant adults and soon they will pull themselves together and make the decisions they need to make and get on with the next step in their life. How we achieve the balance act of supporting and nurturing all of the ages and stages within our children while supportingly promoting them to the next level of independence is an art. A mom in our circle of friends used to tell her eleven year old boy "you are growing up so fast". She meant it with love, as an observation. But he took it completely the wrong way...he told his grandmother "my mother doesn't want me to grow up". He felt his mothers comments like a burden or like a disappointment. He didn't want to disappoint her...but he was growing up just fine and was enjoying doing so until he felt it was at odds with how his mother felt about him growing up. Wow, innocent comments made with love, made about simple observations but with such an unintended heart heavy burden. Fortunately, Grandma told the mom and the mom and the boy talked about it and got it all straigtened out. She loved him, she wanted him to continue to grow up and be the person he was going to be next and then next and then next but she missed the baby he was.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, all so true. But if they don't grow up, if they are frozen in babyhood forever in your memory because they didn't get that chance...

...that is truly unbearable.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Crohn's is my bitch said...

Last night my 8 (!) year old son said, "Mama, I think the time has come when I'm done being cuddled at bedtime."

8 years already of constant changing, and one day even this momentous change will seem like something from his smallest, freshest years.

It's awesome, and scary, and sweet. Thanks for reminding me about the boob smile. I loved that!

11:27 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

on the propensity of swingsets to evoke maternal melancholy?


11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to stop blogging all together and just direct everyone over here.

You say it so much better than I ever could.


2:12 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Yesterday a friend with a 4 month old looked at my nearly 10 month old and said that mine wasn't really a baby anymore :( And she is right. It just goes way way way too fast.

3:42 PM  
Blogger reynolda said...

Amazing how you put it all into words, those feelings that are so bittersweet and hard to quantify... I type with one hand. my 13 month old daughter asleep nursing in my lap and my eyes filled with tears. Thanks.

6:10 PM  
Blogger mrs shortcake said...

beautiful and heartbreaking

6:14 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Theresa - GAH. 10 months is so still a baby. It better be. ;)

6:39 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

You always know how to put such complicated feelings into words. LOVE this post. And what a great picture at the end. Says it all: the fleeting and whimsical moments of youth and you caught one at 1/60 of a second.

9:40 PM  
Blogger {sue} said...

Yes! Exactly!

10:47 PM  
Blogger Anissa Mayhew said...

My babies are 10, 7 and about to turn 5. I go through their pictures, hoping to recapture a bit of that baby and you're so right, I miss it. I don't know if my arms remember what they felt like those many months I nursed, but I do remember how my heart felt.

11:17 PM  
Blogger SM said...

Well, I do see why you look at him and miss her - they look so much alike! You expressed this beautifully. Oh is he a gorgeous baby!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Meemo said...

So many of your posts bring tears to my eyes, this one especially. I love those little hands. I remember when my son who is now 10 years old started to loose the little dimples on his knuckles, I knew I was loosing my baby forever. Now that I have an almost 3 month old, I want him to stay little, but he defys me and grows every day.

1:33 AM  
Blogger 04kids said...

A mother always remembers, no matter how many years go by, the laughing baby, the small determined toddler, the little boy with his backpack on his way to Beaver's, the young man that loved soccer, and that is what makes it so painful when you see that child now grown when he is so ill, so consumed by addiction that his life is like a death every time you see him. You see through the ravaged face to the face of the little boy, those blue eyes that stared into yours, the once rounded body, so thin now it hurts to hug him, his blonde hair that once stood out like a halo on his head, now matted and dirty. Everyone else sees another dirty, homeless addict, and you see that newborn, that little boy, the young man, and his lost life, and your heart hurts each day, like a death that happens over and over. This is a mothers love and her memories that tie her child to her and keep the hope alive. Please pray for my son, to find that beautiful person inside that I see still.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Issa said...

Beautiful as always Catherine. Jasper and Emilia are both luck to have you.

Funny, I look at the pictures and remember her at that age, because I think it was about the time I started reading. But two is still little. I think the second time around we enjoy each baby moment more, because we know how quickly it does pass. Now if mine would just be born, I could get on with the baby love.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...


Here's my little bit.

2:29 PM  

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