Her Bad Mother

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Heartbreaking List Of Staggering Awesomeness

Because I am still sleep-deprived, and because I am still stressing out about this, and also because this weekend is Tree Decorating, Gift Shopping and Santa Picture Taking Weekend - the prospect of which exhausts me - all I can offer you today is a compendium of the week's goodness and other miscellany from wherever and whenever. For example:

1) When Mattel asked everyone to share their Barbie memories, this isn't what they had in mind.

2) Or this.

3) You should read this story. I'm not saying that because she's one of my very bestest real life friends (which she is), but because it's a story that will grip your heart and shake it up a whole lot. If she ever finishes writing it, that is ;)

4) Other heart-shaking stories: on monsters and evil exes (which is to say, monsters) and the ick of facing quarterlife. (From the Basement. You should go.)

5) And because I am all about tears and angst this week - this made me cry. Hard.

6) I've gone off the rails with all the sad and the mope, haven't I? It's totally accidental, I swear. But while we're on the subject of sad: it's December 6 tomorrow. If you don't know what that means, you should read this.

7) And just to wash all that sad out of your mouth, let's give the last word to science. No, wait! To Santa:


Labels: ,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Story, Not My Own (Lost Boy, Part II)

I have not yet found my brother.

My heart hurts about this. It hurts more than I expected it to. I started this search on behalf of my mother; I agreed to do it because she wanted it, because she wanted to know how his life had unfolded after she lost him, because she wanted to know this without putting her own heart at risk. I agreed to do it because I didn't want her to put her heart at risk. I offered up my own, thinking that it would not be so vulnerable. I thought that, because this was not my story, my own story, that my heart would be safe.

It was not safe. It was not safe at all.

I have put notices in newspapers. I have explored alumni associations. I have researched the extended family of his natural father. I have followed all of the leads sent to me by caring and concerned readers. I have found nothing. That I have found nothing is a source of some significant frustration, but it's not the sole reason that my heart is hurting. My heart is hurting because it does not know what it wants. Or, more truthfully, because it doesn't know whether it is right to want what it wants.

My mother does not know what her heart wants. I've known this from the beginning. It's the reason that I'm looking for her son, my brother, the brother I have never known, on her behalf. She's afraid of what she would discover. She's afraid of discovering that he wants nothing to do with her. She's afraid of discovering that he's dead. She's afraid because she's not sure which of these represents the worst outcome.

She's afraid because she would be looking for a window onto a future that she gave up. She's afraid of what she might see, looking through that window. I assumed that I would face no such fear - that future, that hypothetical, long-rejected future, has, or had, nothing to do with me. This child - now a man - was her child; this child was part of a life that she lived long before I came along. His existence matters to me only inasmuch as he shares my blood, and inasmuch as he once had claim upon my mother's heart. My interest, here, has only been to do something that might put my mother's heart at rest, to help her find what the paperback self-help books have long called 'closure.' I wanted to help her find some conclusion - happy or otherwise - to this long cliff-hung story. So I have only ever said: my heart wants what is best for my mom.

When I visited my family back home some weeks ago, I told my father what I was doing.

So, I said, as he drove me to the airport. So. I'm helping Mom find the boy she gave up for adoption.

- Oh?

Yeah. She told me all about it. And I told her I'd help her. She doesn't want to do it herself. So I'm doing it.


I don't think it'll be that difficult. The Internet, you know.

- What does your mom think of this?

She asked me, so. I shrugged.


- You remember when I found my father?

I did remember. I was seventeen years old at the time, and we made a special trip to St. Catherine's to see him. He was an old man, and unpleasant. At the time, I put my distaste down to the fact that I was seventeen and he was old and smelled bad and said creepy things like give me some sugar.

- It was terrible. He was terrible. Your mother wouldn't let him near you.

I had a vague memory of being hurried out of the house and taken to the mall. At the time, it seemed an entirely reasonable thing. I liked malls. But I remembered, too, my father's distress after that visit, and the depression that he sunk into, and the damage that caused to my parent's marriage...

- I wish I hadn't found him.

We both stared out the front window. The road was wet, slick from rain.

- I just hope... I would just hope that your mother, that she isn't disappointed. That she doesn't get hurt. He glanced in my direction. This could hurt her.

When I arrived home, I called my mother. Are you sure you want me to do this? Because, I won't do it if you're not sure.

She paused. I'm sure.

Okay, I said. Okay. My father's cautions could be set aside, if she wanted this. Well, remember what we talked about? If I have a copy of your birth certificate, I can make an application to Vital Statistics to find out his name. It'll be pretty straightforward then.

I'll send it this week.

That was weeks ago.

I've reminded her, now and again, to send the birth certificate; I've told her about my efforts with newspaper ads and search engines and she makes supportive noises and when I say but once I send in the request for his name from Vital Statistics, the search will be much easier, she clucks and says of course and I'll get it in the mail this week. But she never does.

I know that she's ambivalent. I know that her heart is torn. I know that she aches to know what became of that tiny baby in the blue blanket - the baby she refused to hold for fear that she would never let go - but that she recoils at the prospect of gaining knowledge that would bring her pain. I know that she's afraid of getting hurt. And if I were a good daughter, if I were a sensitive daughter, I would hold to her pace. I would stand back and allow her to test the water and decide whether she dares to take the step that will plunge her into the unknown. If I were a good daughter, if I were a selfless daughter, I would not prod and nag.

But I am not selfless. I do prod and nag. Gently, of course, but still. I can't leave it alone. Because my heart is in this now, and although it wavers when I think of my mother's ambivalence and my father's fears, it wants this. It wants to find that baby boy, my brother. It wants to know how this story ends. It claims that story, if only in part, as its own. As my own.

And so my heart aches that my efforts have been for naught. My heart aches - my spirit aches - for this story to move forward so that I can find my brother and know my brother - whatever that looks like - and piece together the missing chapters of our lives.

But however much I try to convince myself that this is my story, it is not my story - or, if it is, it is only tangentially my story - and the person to whom this story belongs is, I think, unnerved by its unfolding. Even if she cannot bring herself to admit it, even if she does not demand -even if she does not wish to demand - that we close these pages, this story frightens her. I know this. And so, and so...

I don't know how to go on. Do I follow my own heart, or do I concern myself first and only with protecting hers? Can I do both?

Labels: ,

Monday, December 1, 2008


Stop me if you've heard this one before: I haven't slept in days.

Jasper is six months old. He doesn't so much sleep at night as he does snooze and hang out between bouts of crying for mommy. He invariably ends up in bed with me, which is in some ways great, because he is as soft and snuggly as a cashmere pillow stuffed with kittens and dusted with baby powder and fairy farts, but also, in some very important ways, not great, because he inevitably kicks me in the boobs a few dozen times. I don't sleep when he's tucked up against me. I haven't slept in days. Weeks even. I've lost track.

I have the dim sense that this is not quite right, that this is sub-optimal, that things really shouldn't be this way. Emilia slept in her crib, swaddle-free, through the night, from about five months of age (of course, she didn't sleep a wink during the day, but at least our nights were restful.) For the life of me, I have not been able to recall how or why she did this. I don't remember doing anything special. Except for, you know, a little bit of crying it out now and again.


It finally sunk in last night - late, late last night - that we had been willing to let Emilia cry, a bit, at bedtime or during night wakings. Not very much, and not for very long - you could hardly call it Ferberizing; more like Ferber lite - but on those occasions when it seemed that she needed to fuss herself down and when it was clear that her cries were fussy tired cries and not desperate needy cries, we'd let her cry it out for a minutes on her own. And it worked, and she was fine, and we all slept, and it was good.

But I can't bring myself to do it this time around, and I'm not even sure why. All of Jasper's cries sound desperate to me; every whimper out of his throat yanks at my heart and rakes across my nerves. His sobs and shouts and grumbles ring in my ears - he needs me! My baby NEEDS me! - and every moment of tears passes like an eternity. My heart lodges itself in my throat and my blood thrums in my ears and my whole body tenses. I cannot let him cry.

And sure enough, when I hold him, he stops, and herein lays the problem, I think: he does need me. He needs me in a way that my spirited, independent baby girl never did. She never cried to be held or to be snuggled: she cried (as she still does) to be free, to stand alone, to have her way. She cried in resistance to shutting her eyes against the fascinations of the day; she cried from the exhaustion of having rolled/crawled/climbed/raced her way through every moment of her wee existence. She cried and raged against boredom, against constraint; she cried with the fury and spirit of a tiny Beat poet, shouting her rhythms into the shadows and demanding that world give way to her presence. Jasper, on the other hand, only cries for boobies and hugs and - in the event of an epic shit - a clean diaper. Those, I can provide. And so I do.

So it is that I cannot let him cry. I cannot let him cry because I know that it is within my power to soothe his cries. I cannot let him cry because he cries for me. Such is the vanity of motherhood, that I am weakened by his need for me, that I am weakened by any such need, that the needing - the feeling that I am necessary, that I am fundamentally necessary, in any given moment, that I am the only being in this world that can provide the desired comfort - becomes the focal point of all my motivation: gratify his need (indeed, their need, for my daughter knows well that she can have me wrapped around her finger only by uttering the words I need you, Mommy.) So it is that his need, my need, our need for sleep become secondary to the need that is articulated - that he articulates - most forcefully: the immediate need for comfort, the need to be held, the need for a hush to be wrapped in love.

But love cannot sustain the sleep-deprived mother, and the sleep-deprived mother is an impaired mother and all the hugs in the world aren't going to help anyone if I'm passed out on the floor and the children have to crawl over my body and forage for sustenance.

So do I do this? Do I let him cry and hope that sleep comes and that my heart doesn't explode? Or do I forge ahead on the fuel of love and hugs?


Toronto-area peeps - if you're interested in joining me at a breastfeeding demonstration (to save breastfeeding clinics in Ontario) on Wednesday, let me know. Details are at this post; leave a comment or e-mail me if you wanna go. UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can't go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Bad Mother Home Companion

For any of you who might still be laboring under the misapprehension that mine is a household characterized by order, sophistication and grace, I offer you this:

The Sunday Morning Music Show, produced and directed by the Girl Formerly Known As Wonderbaby and starring the Girl Formerly Known As Wonderbaby, with guest appearances by Her Bad Father and Her Bad Baby Brother. Note the following:

1) That her father's signature tune is a bastardized blues version of the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies;

2) That the performance requires the wearing of nighties, pajamas and oversized slippers, and must be staged in a badly messed dining room;

3) That Her Bad Mother is in no wise required for the staging of the performance;

4) That the baby plays a mean banjo.

All of which sums up life here pretty neatly, I think.

As you were.


Hey, Toronto peeps: there's a nurse-in at the Ontario provincial legislature this coming Wednesday, to protest the imminent closure of Dr. Jack Newman's breastfeeding clinic and to demand that the province do more to promote and protect breastfeeding rights and support. Anyone care to join me? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you with details.

UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can't go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)