It’s the beginning of September. Yesterday was the first day in months that the high has been below 70, and today is the same. I love, love, LOVE this weather, especially after the heat of summer, but if the highs were in the 60s year-round, that would be my idea of the perfect climate. Handknit shawls and long sleeves, my favorite clothes.
The sudden coolness is filling my head with memories of last year, shortly after I entered the hospital with a huge belly on a summer night and left with a baby on an autumn afternoon. Going out for brief periods with the baby in her car seat, unable to walk too far or stand for too long before my crotch began to ache, but being so enamored with the baby that I didn’t really mind. It was an excuse to sit down, though it was sometimes frustrating to have to, but I had my baby and I was utterly smitten. Now I “just” love her, and though I have the instinct to throw myself between her and danger without even thinking — and there’s no one else I’d do that for — I do wish I still had that intoxicating, soul-completing, impossibly mind-blowing infatuation. I felt like an eagle in flight.
I admit that sometimes I want another baby just to feel that way again.
The last time I felt infatuation at all was in the beginning of my relationship with my husband, and that was tempered by the constant fear that I was, once again, ignoring multiple flaming red flags due to said emotion. The fact that there didn’t appear to be any did not ease my anxiety, but rather added to it. Where were they?! It seemed that every relationship I’d ever had started off with tons of flags, and I knew well the feeling of almost intentionally blowing past them while the Little Voice in the back of my head warned, “you’re going to regret ignoring that…and that…that too.” But this time there was no Little Voice and no red flags, and he seemed far too good to be true. He shared my axioms, the base assumptions on which I built the way I saw the world and the judgments I made, and I had never, to my knowledge, met anybody else who felt so strongly about objective reality and ethics, how to determine truth from falsehood and right from wrong, how to make a relationship work. No wonder I had always felt so isolated!
But my infatuation with my daughter was completely different. There was no fear, no anxiety. I stressed about breastfeeding and sleep and being unable to clean the goddamned kitchen or unpack from our recent move, but my love was untouched by those concerns. I stared at her constantly, held her all the time, ventured out of the house with her just to be out in the world with my new baby and fill myself with the strangeness of it, especially against the background strangeness of the suddenly cooler temperatures. I reveled in the depth of my love for her, unable to really believe that I was capable of feeling something so strong.
Now, I just love her. More than anything in the world, more than my own life…but compared to those first few months, my love for her seems inadequate. I question it; I reassure myself by reciting my instinctive reactions to tiny threats — a bee, a stiff breeze, a bicyclist that didn’t cling to the far edge of the path — reminding myself that even though this seems so natural as to be a given, I would never have done such a thing for anyone else. See? I love her. No need to feel like my emotion is slipping through my hands. I have proof — look! I have proof of my love! — to stave off the guilt.
But I don’t stare at her while she sleeps (much); I read Reddit instead, or type out a blog post, or play a game, and sometimes I even set her down to go do something else — and when I do, the feeling is suspiciously like relief. I don’t feel bereft when I leave her, even though she cries. Shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I cry when she does, shouldn’t I at least feel bad when I go off to knit, instead of looking forward to riding my bike and chatting with other women? Don’t I love her like I did before?
And that’s what bothers me, the answer to that question. No, I don’t love her like I did at first. I love her more than my own life, but I am no longer smitten. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay: it’s the way it should be. It’s not good for either of us for me to give up my own needs and happiness and spend all my time with the baby. So I argue with the mom guilt.
It makes me angry sometimes. I did not have a kid so that I could feel this way, certainly not as often as I do. Every moment I feel like I should be doing something with her: she doesn’t really play nursery games because I don’t play them with her; I’m bored of reading board books; I can’t seem to remember to do the baby signs; I hate sitting in the grass where ants crawl on me. But she needs the experience!
Well bugger all of that! She will develop fine without playing Patty Cake! She will learn language without baby signs! She will have plenty of time to play in the dirt! Shut UP, guilt! She is going to be fine!
I never thought I’d have this problem…and you know what? I’m not having it any more. I’m taking Babble.com and BabyCenter, and even Free Range Kids, kellymom, and the entertaining mommy blogs off my bookmarks list, and I’m never clicking on a link to another parenting article. I’m not reading any more about how hard parenting is and how modern parents are made to feel guilty for doing or not doing. I’m done with negativity. I’m done reading parenting “tips”. I’ve done my research and I know what I intend to do, what I’m going for, and how to do it.
It’s time to stop letting in the guilt.