Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Mothering after a loss can be such a frantic journey.
I say this especially when I am doing it for the third time, because the things that make me most anxious and pent-up are the things that are in actual fact making my life easier.
Take, for example, the mere concept of somebody else holding my baby. She is four months old now, nearly four and a half, and Fiona is now actually a little miniature child, in truth, rather than a helpless newborn. She holds onto things, sucks her thumb, laughs, smiles, frowns when she's worried. She relishes the attention of her siblings, of her father, and of the numerous family and friends who frequent our house, often with the explicit purpose of getting their hands on her. I am grateful, in theory, for the opportunity to have both hands free to get my hands back onto my other two babies, my Liam and Aoife, who although not babies in body still crave the physical attention they deserve. I want to be able to give it to them, and each day, I somehow make my way to be able to do so. If another adult is around, be it their dad, or another person, this liberates me to do this without an ounce of finagling. I can simply attend to them, I can massage them, hug them, chase them, dress them, play dolls or dress up or knights. But my head keeps flicking to the side, eyes on the baby whose body shape I can still feel pressed into my chest, whose drool still wets my shoulder, whose milk fills my breasts every time I think about her in the slightest. I fear not having her on me, the separation hurts me, and this hurts me more because I feel myself being somewhat less than fully present for everyone else if she's not with me.
I was at a seminar the other day with a group of women I know well and adore, all of them, and we were doing a writing exercise. Fiona is the only baby there and the women are all aching to get their hands on her, and I do indulge them from time to time. An exceptionally wonderful woman came over and asked if she could take her from me, this would allow me the hands I needed to write. I consented, and she took Fiona to the back of the room. I watched as Fiona's eyes never left me, her head turning as the woman walked, rooted to her mother home. She didn't fuss, and was quite content as the woman walked her in the back of the space as I wrote. The woman next to me said, "It must be nice to have a break." These words came oddly to me, as my insides churned at the very sight of my baby on the other side of the room. I was, in a sense, happy to have given the other woman a chance to hold her, I was glad to be, in theory, free to write unincumbered. But my brain was so distracted with her away from me I could hardly write anyway, so I didn't even feel much like I was having a break. A break? Who wants a break from their baby?
Most normal people, I think, yes. The intensity of newborn care (or even care of an older child)does make one long for a break, and I have felt this, indeed, I have. Every day, perhaps! I do want a break, I want to be able to take a shower by myself and just stand there with the hot water pouring down my body, breathing in the steam, surrounded by silence. I want to have pockets where I am responsible for no one but myself. I want this; yet when I get it, the pull of the babe and the churn of my stomach render me unable to fully enjoy this time. I want it, but I really don't want it. I want it all, and I want none of it.
In the course of my everyday separation from Fiona is now coming in the form of naps. My baby, unlike my last one, enjoys taking long naps. She's always been a good sleeper, she used to log hours in the Moby wrap snoozing as I went about my day. But then, when the fourth trimester ended and she came out of her shell, she had a period of being quite overtired because she could no longer sleep through it all. She still needed the sleep, but she could only do it if I walked around, always moving, and stayed in a quiet space. Needless to say this was difficult to accomplish, nearly impossible, and so I experimented one day with putting her down to sleep in my bed and she slept for two hours. And now, this is what my baby likes to do every day, in the morning, she likes to go into her own bed and sleep for two hours, by herself, and there isn't much of a way around it. She likes the sleep, she needs the sleep, and she needs to do it there. She does it in the morning, and then again in the afternoon for another hour or even two. Sometimes she'll take 3 naps in one day, even 4 if they are less lengthy. And she likes her little bed. She won't take a long nap anywhere else, and while I rock her to sleep in my arms and usually hold her for 15 minutes or so while I read after she falls asleep, she will begin to stir and awaken after awhile from the turning of the pages. And so now, here I am, liberated arms and all, writing my blog with a cup of tea, and I feel..... conflicted? Conflicted because I now have two hours to myself? Sometimes a few times a day? This is madness! This is what I craved when Aoife was a baby, sleeping in 20 minute bursts. I wanted a textbook angel baby, content to snooze, a thumb-sucker who is not afraid of her own bed, who will wake up, yawn, look out the window for a few minutes, pop in her thumb and drift back to sleep. There should be no conflict.
I should say, though, that the existence of conflict does not mean that I am necessarily ruffled. I just acknowledge it, I realized it is there. I know that I wish I could be holding her, but I also know that she is doing what's best for her and in truth what is good for me, too. If she gets into a rhythm of sleeping well during the day, it means she never has to be patient with me while I fold laundry, or pick up the kitchen. It can all be done while she rests. I am freed then to lie on the floor with her, rolling jingly balls and playing this-little-piggy and singing songs. This is all good. This good sleeping, which also translates into a nice stretch from about 6 at night until I go to bed (and obviously snatch her out of the co-sleeper and nestle her into my body, thus ending her nice long stretch of deep sleep) means that I can facilitate my support group again, and take care of the grieving mother inside of me, and I am everly so grateful for this.
And speaking of the grieving mother, did you know it's almost April? And after April comes... May. The dreaded May. I just started planning this years 4th annual Mother's Day walk, which actually comes the day before Mother's day, which is on paper the walk to benefit the support group that I run, but to me is really Charlotte's birthday party. I held back from calling it Charlotte's walk, because I want it to be for all the babies... but the timing works especially well for me. Perhaps if you live within driving distance you'd like to join the walk, to increase the number in the throng that will allow other people to see that (GASP!) babies die and parents still love them, they remember them and they acknowledge their grief and HERE THEY ARE, walking with friends who are willing to support them. It's going to be at 11 AM on May 8, at Look Park in Northampton, MA. Mark your calendar. It'll be a good time. Maybe we'll have a cake for Charlotte.