I was already a mother when I became a mother. Long before I had my son. I just didn’t know it.
I became a mother at three. My mother had tuberculosis when I was born. Luckily she coughed blood a month before, otherwise I would not be here. I was born in a tuberculosis sanatorium, the first baby there in 25 years. My mother said that the staff was hugely excited about a baby. She was drugged to the gills while reading about the French Revolution and hallucinated Marie-Antonette’s head on a pole and the guillotine. She joked that she could never read about the French Revolution again. I was born, she kissed me, and I was swept away so that I would not get tuberculosis.
I was with my father and father’s family and then with my maternal grandparents. I came home to my parents at nine months. Adults kept handing me to other adults. I concluded that they were loving but stupid and couldn’t be trusted for a moment.
My sister was born five days before I turned three. My mother said that I met guests at the door and said, “Come see my baby.” Mine, because these adults don’t understand the needs of a baby, and I want her to feel loved and safe. No one will give my baby away!
Later my mother would tell a story about my sister worrying about Kindergarten. My mother could not reassure her. Neither could my father. I spoke up: “All you learn is colors, numbers and ABC and you already know those. I taught you.” My mother claimed that my sister was instantly reassured. I don’t remember: these are my mother’s stories and she is gone. But I have collected mother daughter pictures and small statues, just a few, all my life. And I wanted to have children. I liked surgery and obstetrics, but I chose family medicine, because I want to have children and to see them and be a mother too.
Health and joy and safety and comfort to all mothers and fathers and children everywhere.
How often do you feel innocent as an adult? And how often did you as a child?
My memory has painted this picture of my daughter as messier than the actual picture. I give her a chunk of banana for the first time and let her feed herself. She holds the banana and squeezes it through her fist and puts her fist to her mouth and waves her hands with joy! She is only a few months old and not sitting unsupported. The thumb and finger pincer grip develops at around 9 months. Before that, it is a sweeping fist that soon goes to the mouth. And the fists are not terribly well under control at first. But, she manages to get more than half the banana chunk into her mouth bit by sticky bit, and the rest all over her. She is tired in this picture and very satisfied. She is innocent of feeding herself and decorating herself with banana before this day.
After she fed herself she goes straight to the bath, a tired and happy baby.
This is not a perfect photograph…. and yet, at the same time, it is for me. My daughter was home last week for spring break. She had a haircut and sent her hair to Locks of Love. The background is cluttered with the cupboard open and counter, but her concentration and quiet is a contrast to that. And anyhow, I am biased, right? We love even terrible photos of those we love.
I drove my daughter back to school in Bellingham on Friday. On the way back I hike at Deception Pass and then stop in Coupeville before going to the ferry. In Coupeville, I found friends for Mordechai, my clinic skeleton. This is a sea lion and there is a whale and a dolphin, all skeletons hanging from the ceiling. I suspect that they are real skeletons and not plastic, as Mordechai is.
My daughter says, “Mordechai was not alive before.”
“I could argue that she was. She is made from plastic, which is made from oil, which is formed over millennia from plants fallen and slowly changing.”
I am here in the warm.
Sometimes it is fast.
I am in the warm.
The loud swish thing.
I kick it.
Loud place, I kick.
I am running out of room.
I have no room and now it is squeezing!
Stop squeezing! Pushing me! I want room! Room!
Noisy! No warm! Cold!
Things touch me! Room! But no warm!
I am warm but not wet.
Here is thumper.
I cough. No wet, something else. Air.
I want. Oh, thumper. Oh, mouth on warm, milk.
Here is room.
Thumper and others.
I know others. They are fast.
They are noisy.
That one is the one that held the swish thing. I kick.
Thumper and those are big.
These two are small, I am smaller.
Noisy! I like them.
I am getting used to light and dark.
More room. Milk. Air.
I know names. I have hands like others.
I can chew my hand.
My hands don’t work like theirs.
My noise doesn’t work either.
Not like brothers. Thumper is mom.
Other big is father.
Other bigs come and go.
I want my noise and hands to work!
I keep practicing.
I keep practicing
I took the photograph of my daughter in 1998. This is scanned. I may try with another scanner….