small mother

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.

 

birth

Reading about drugs

LSD
and that people re-experience the terrible trauma of birth

but wait: terrible trauma…

I had the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching babies, new and slippery and surprised
for nineteen years

they do not arrive traumatized

an older obstetrician
always gentle
when I would ask for help
deep calm and sometimes
he would wait for the newborn
and not rush us to the operating room

and if the child emerged
he would say “girl ears”
or “boy ears”
he always guessed
frequently wrong
his small tickle of humor
and the mother too busy at that moment
to notice at all
except that his voice was calm

I think of the one forming
in the womb
the sounds of mother’s heart and guts
dark and sounds
of father brother sister other

the first time I see
the new baby in clinic
I imitate the sound of the doppler
swish swish swish
and the newborn alerts, and knows my voice too

I think of the one forming
in the womb
and my daughter
who tried to come early
confining me to bed for three months
and adrenaline-like terbutaline
continuously
my hands tremble
my heart rate at one hundred
I knit to channel the figdets
six sweaters
and my daughter is worth it

I think of the one forming
in the womb
out of room
the space is too tight
can no longer stretch or kick
head down
ready

I think of the one forming
in the womb
saying now
I need more room
now and the cascade starts

we don’t know what starts labor
the baby or the mother
or both

now
I need more room
and the infant pushes towards the door
towards more room

and I have had
the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching them
slick and messy and bloody
as they emerge
into the light

open their eyes
and breathe
startled
at light and room and air

The introverted thinker walks away

We go to our first parent teacher conference for our daughter. Kindergarten.

“Your daughter is unusual.” says the teacher.

“Mmmm.” I say.

“She is unusual on the playground. At recess. She will play with the other girls. But not if they are mean to someone. Not if they start ganging up. And it doesn’t matter who it is. She will walk away and play by herself.”

“Good.” I say.

“The other kids are realizing that she won’t tolerate any mean talk or ganging up.”

We make appropriate appreciative parental noises.

“She is influencing them. She doesn’t argue, she doesn’t say anything, she just walks away.”

small child

my small child was locked under rock for years

she came out shy reluctant distrustful

you are special, the first adult in whom
she recognized another small child
locked in and called you
out to play

and we played hard

now she stomps her foot at me
“He does not play fair! He won’t come to my house!
He makes all the rules! He doesn’t listen!”

yes, bear, I know

time to go home, small child
you have had your first playmate
since you were locked away
but he is still locked in a dungeon
of monsters and zombies
you unlocked him for a little while
just a tiny bit

but he has decided not to play
he is locked down

come, small child

she is in my arms, head on my shoulder
sucking her thumb, crying
until she is too tired
and falls asleep

she will always love you, you know

anything, to have someone to play with
she let you make all the rules
for a long time

but now she wants
someone who will play fair
and share the rules
and love her back

 

12/2015