Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flashbacks Pull Forward

There are moments when I am mothering Wesley that I have vivid flashbacks to my own childhood. As he gets older, they seem to be coming more frequently. They are not average memories, but visceral ones where sensation is vivid, as if being relived.

I pour cupfulls of water over his back in the bath. I can remember anticipating the warm water rolling over my shoulders, how it felt flooding over my back. I remember thinking that my parents were so good at keeping it out of my eyes as I leaned my head back to have my hair rinsed. Warm, soothing relaxation.

I stroke tiny wisps of hair around his ears. I am transported to Illinois, my Mom sitting on the side of my bed, stroking my hair to help me sleep. I feel how softly she brushes it, sometimes back, sometimes behind my ear, it feels like the touch of silk lulling me. I can remember the confusion of awakening after drifting off to sleep, shocked that my Mom is no longer at my side. Is this why Wesley screams when he awakens?

I carry him from the stroller after a jog. I have the vague awareness of my Dad lifting me from the car, sometimes a notion of going up stairs, and the feeling of knowing I was being taken care of.

Will Wesley remember these things? The tiny moments we parents may forget even happened get imprinted in the child's mind. Wesley notices the awnings flapping in the wind, the dog who is nearly out of sight, the string of loose carpet in the corner. He will likely remember parts of our daily routines, but he will also remember the little happenings, unexpected moments.

Did my parents love these moments? Did they feel as if they were showering me with adoration and security as they did it, or was the caring act enough in itself? They probably couldn't imagine the comfort I feel even now as I remember the events.

Being a parent sparks memories of our own childhoods, encourages us to revisit them. More than a simple act of remembering, I am connecting to a physical memory of childhood in a way I had rarely experienced before parenthood. It is as if the moments are imprinted in my body and are accessed through my mothering Wesley. 

These vivid memories connect Wesley to my childhood, to my parents who were nurtured when they were young, and to family members preceding them. Generations who have parented, who have kept their babies warm, who have carried their sleeping ones, who have played the same games and sung the same songs. Generations who in these acts, have imparted knowledge about how to be cared for, and thus, how to become a caretaker.
Is this how I know how to parent? Maybe the knowledge is stored in my body, in my memories, to access when I need it. I pour the cup of water over my baby's shoulder's to keep him warm just as my parents for me and their parents for them. Each act may not flash me back to childhood, but much of what I do may have its origins there.

Perhaps the acts of my parents, along with my own 28 years of growth and individuation, and a bit of biological instinct are what constitutes my motherly intuition. This idea draws me backwards in time. I feel a deepening connection to the generations of mothers who came before me.

Thank you Mom and Dad for the endless hours of love and support you have given me and which you continue to provide. Thank you for the influence you had in the formation of my motherly intuition which I trust so fully, which guides me daily. I love you.

Thank you Grandma for the love and support you showed my Mom as a child and which continue you show us all. My mom's amazing mothering skills and your incredible nurturing abilities are much of the reason I have such confidence in my mothering.

Thank you to Casey's parents for your part in the ease with which Casey fathers so well.

I do not mean to imply I never struggle as a mother, never question what to do or if I am doing the best I can, but rather, I wish to express that there is a quality of knowing how to mother for which I am grateful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Month 8

Month 8 flew by.
Except for the rough end with the scary sickness, Month 8 was a fun month. I was continually amazed at Wesley's quick increase in mobility and play/engagement.
The Fifteenth snuck up on me for the first time since Wesley's birth.

Wes has become proficient in crawling (fast) and pulling up (everywhere) and cruising. I love watching him hard at work as he pulls up on his little car, plays with the toys on it, and pulls and pushes it around. He's started pushing it as a walker, though he only pushes it a few steps forward at a time.

He loooves food. He likes to eat it and help with the spoon.

He understands no but often doesn't listen and increases speed in the banned direction, which is a new ability.

He has developed notable passion for the freedom brought by his new mobility. Sometimes he gets an idea on one side of the room, crawls across the room, out the room and in to the second bedroom to play with something he remembered. A new phase of exploration. It tickles me to see him adventuring into his independence in this fashion.

He has faces which he knows are funny, so he likes to make them. He crinkles his nose and inhales and exhales loudly through his nose when he's excited or thinks something is funny. When someone laughs he continues to ham it up. He has a tough little guy look sometimes.

He's getting even more vocal. Toward the end of the month he's started this sweet and heartbreaking little "da-da-da-da-ya-da-da-ga" thing when he's upset.

Our great friend and Wesley's Godfather, Steve, came and visited us from Fairfield, Iowa. It was amazing to have him here. Wesley of course loved him, and it did me good to see Steve again. I get fueled up and inspired when I talk with Steve, and seeing him was even better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Sickness

Wesley got sick.
We don't know how, but he did.
Was it the playdates?
Was it one of the many sick, coughing people we try to avoid on the street or in the stores?
Can I put him in a bubble to keep him safe?

After a day of discomfort, Wes woke last Friday night with a high fever. We gave him Tylenol and had a fitful night sleep. The next day, Wesley woke up sick. Casey went to work and Grandma D came over to help. I can't express the massive relief I felt when she said she'd come right away. It was so good have her there to help advise, reassure, and navigate the rough day that it was. It was a scary prospect to have to make decisions having never seen a baby illness before. Knowing that she had cared for babies with fevers was comforting.

We went to the doctor's office in the morning. Wes was feeling better due to Tylenol. They said he'd be fine. He was alert and less fussy than he had been earlier that morning. They said his rash was eczema. We kept checking in with the nurse throughout the day. She was concerned at his worsening condition. His fever went up again. We gave baths. Tylenol sort of worked, then seemed to not be working. We got a new thermometer, didn't know how to operate it and freaked when it said 104 degrees. We wondered if we needed to go to the ER. They said wait. We took another bath.

Casey came home. Wesley was relieved to be with him. We went on a walk and Wes got the only 20 minutes of sleep he'd had that day. Tired, sick baby. Maybe getting better? Grandma D went home.

Short nap, awakens with 103.7 temperature. Nurse tells us to go to the ER at 6pm on a Saturday night.

We go. Best ER visit ever. Very few people in the waiting room. Nicest staff imaginable. "treatment begins in 30 minutes or less" guarantee at our Hospital. And it was true. The doctor was informative, helpful, and reassuring. Wesley's temp had gone down by the time we arrived. The doctor said that because of some telltale signs (which he innumerated) he was pretty confident it was a virus which would run its course. We felt better, though still worried. Still a sick baby, but he fell asleep on the way home.

Fortunately, it was Casey's weekend. A couple days pass with an uncomfortable, restless baby. Poor, suffering baby. One rash fades and another appears. More stress about if it's the same sickness going away, if it is some other irritant, or some new thing, but Wes seems to be improving. He sleeps a lot, starts to feel better, and I rest with him. I was deeply exhausted.

Then, on St. Patrick's Day, our happy, healthy, playful, get-into-every corner of the house catch-me-if-you-can baby reemerged. My chest lifted in relief, in appreciation, in painfully exuberant joy that he is feeling better.

For a while I was in post-shock recovery. It was so intense being there, with Wesley, my baby who would scream the second I wasn't holding him and who would thrash restlessly in my arms. But the screams didn't bother me, I wished only to alleviate the pain. I'd be in the moment with him, then my mind would flicker to fears of what if the fever didn't go down, of the possible paths of the illness, of what the Tylenol was doing to his liver, of his poor little cells which were so hot, of if I should have kept him home instead of going to the grocery, if he's too little to play with others, though he adores it. But, it was easy to mostly stay present with him, to give the comfort and nurturing he so clearly needed.

Parenting is caring for another person's life--for their health and safety. A sick child throws that duty into new relief. The variables we cannot control, and those we can. The delicate nature of their bodies, and its robust ability to heal. The limits of their coping mechanisms and the power of just being present with them in discomfort. My limitations of not being able to help him, not just in little daily acts of reassurance, but in potentially life-threatening situations.

I don't consider myself an overprotective mom (though, the daughter of an infectious disease specialist, I aaaam borderline paranoid about germs), but during that fever we couldn't lower I felt very scared, very powerless. I understand the seductive quality of wanting to put your baby in a bubble. I retreat to that fantasy sometimes, but it quickly dissipates as unrealistic and undesirable.

Last Saturday was one of the most intense days in my life, even though throughout most of it, I was pretty sure he was going to be okay...

Now I watch him run around, so healthy and strong, and I feel so blissful...