Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I do it every night now. When it's dark, when the rest of the house is asleep, or almost, I untangle my tiny newborn bundle from my arms and lay him down in his nest and ease my birth-battered body from our bed. I make my way - gingerly, gingerly - around the bed, supporting myself on furniture, against the walls, down the hallway, to her door.

I open it slowly, holding my breath against the creaks, and slip inside. There, in the dark, is she, my first baby. Rumpled and tangled in her blankets, her breathing slow and deep, strands of fluffy blonde hair stuck to her damp, pink cheeks, she is every inch the baby. A big baby, but still. A baby, my baby. In the quiet, in repose, she is no longer toddler, no longer little girl, no longer big sister - she is just she, my first born, my first baby, always a baby, always soft and vulnerable and in need of me, always in need of me.

I bend over the rail of her bed, and kiss her cheek, and stroke her hair and whisper nothing, everything, about how I love her so, how I adore her, how I miss her. How every nuzzle of her brother's cheek brings a memory of her; how every clutch and suck and moment of skin pressed against newborn skin makes my heart burst for him and yearn for her; how my love for him has made my love for her grow and stretch and strain and ache.

How I love her, how I love her.

In the morning she will wake, and run past me, blowing a kiss as she clambers into Daddy's arms, waving gaily as she embarks upon the great adventure of a new day, while I sit, constrained, restrained, by the injuries of childbirth and new motherhood (shredded nethers, ravaged nips), my new love in my arms, my new love demanding everything of me and yielding himself to me, pressing himself to me, in return. I will drink up his love, bathe in his love, as she speeds away, leaving me in her wake, grasping at droplets, holding back tears.

But it doesn't matter, because, always, she will stop again, however briefly, and rest, and she will allow me to bend over her bed, in the dark, and stroke her cheek and tell her how I love her, my first, my girl.

How I love her.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Guest Posts Are Better Than Ice Packs And Percocet: Meet Petite Anglaise

Recovery isn't going as well as I'd like, nor is breastfeeding - it's actually all going sorta badly (let's just say, there are icepacks on every sensitive area of my body, and they're not helping) - and I'm struggling physically and emotionally...

So a guest post is more than timely. Meet the blogger known as Petite Anglaise, who just released her first book, a memoir about blogging through some profound changes in her life, and who has much to say on the subject that was plaguing me last month - being accused of exploiting her family, and especially her child, for her 'craft'...

It's still very much on my mind, that issue, because - after much deliberation - I revealed my children's names when my son was born last week. Am I pushing the exploitation envelope by sharing so much of my babies, and my self? Is it enough to say, as Petite does below, that these are my stories? Stories that are my property?

I think so, but as I replace the ice-packs on my boobs and think about how to write about the heartache of pulling my baby off of my ravaged breast, I do - for the most fleeting moment - think twice.


One of the most surreal things I had to do as part of my whirlwind publicity tour for the UK release of petite anglaise was a local radio interview marathon. Sitting in a tiny studio at BBC Broadcasting House, headphones clamped to my ears and a cup of coffee within easy reach, I gave twenty five-minute interviews in quick succession. My memory of those two hours is, for the most part, a blur.

One exchange did stick in my mind, however, as from the outset the line of questioning was unusually aggressive and confrontational. ‘Don’t you worry about how your daughter will feel when she is old enough to read your blog and your book?’ said the disembodied voice in my headset. ‘Do you really think it’s fair to use your interactions with her, and the breakdown of your relationship with her father as material?’

Catherine’s recent post about the Globe and Mail article brought that interviewers’ words back to me with a vengeance. It seems there are many people outside the blogging community who feel that there is something unsavoury – even unethical – about writing an unashamedly honest personal blog detailing the author’s experience of parenthood and relationships. Where should a writer – whether it be a journalist writing a first person column, a blogger, or a memoirist – draw the line? To what extent are stories plucked from our own daily lives our property, to do with as we will?

Petite Anglaise started life in 2004 as an anonymous expat blog, morphing gradually, over time, into something more personal. It seemed only natural to me that I should mine my daily life as a working mother for material. Natural too that the main ‘characters’ populating my posts should be my daughter Tadpole (then one, now approaching her fifth birthday) and her father, Mr Frog. I may not have been able to preserve my own anonymity, but I’ve succeeded, until now, in keeping Mr Frog and Tadpole out of the limelight. There are no full-face pictures of my daughter on the blog, either, as Mr Frog is dead set against it.

When I’d finished re-writing my blog as a memoir, every (adult) main ‘character’ received a copy of the book and a document issued by my publisher, effectively asking them to sign off on my portrayal of their private lives. I’d discussed the book with each and every one of them beforehand, allowing them to choose a pseudonym, for example, if they felt the need. But seeing these documents brought home to me for the first time that my first person account was not considered my sole property. My ‘characters’ had rights too.

In discussions about a possible film, I was told, yet again, that such a project would only get a green light if every ‘character’ were wholeheartedly on board.

I stand by everything I’ve written as petite anglaise and still feel, very strongly, that the stories I chose to share with readers of my blog and book were mine to tell. And while the blog will remain my personal forum, in any future books I plan to channel my personal experiences into works of fiction. That way I’ll be able to carry on doing what I love – telling stories – without submitting them to my main characters for approval. They will be my property, and my property alone.