I haven’t blogged in a while, so the pressure is kind of on. Plus, Howard has just put on Community, so I’m a little distracted. A good start.
I realised that one of the reasons I haven’t blogged in a while is because now I have readers. Now there are people I know read this. It’s hard not to have that in mind when I write something and it’s hard not to let that affect my attempt not to write things in a beautiful way. I say that as if it’s really hard to stop saying beautiful things, but I don’t mean that at all…I really mean it’s hard not to keep a sense of the aesthetics of a sentence, a paragraph, a whole entry, in mind. And maybe there’s no reason not to, but I was kind of hoping to write regularly, and usually, for me at least, quantity means inconsistent quality.
It’s easy to say that this blog isn’t about writing something beautiful, but the writer in me (however small that is now) finds it hard just to write without giving deliberate thought to the shape of these sentences. But sometimes I’d really like to write about poopy nappies and sore breasts.
A lot has happened in the past few weeks, but perhaps the most notable thing is that now I have mummy friends. This is great, really, truly great. Before I had Ava I didn’t actually think I would go to any baby groups or meet other new mums. Partly because I’m a little skeptical of social setups like that. I’ve never been a good group joiner. But a few weeks ago I started going to the local under 1’s group and met some lovely ladies – who also happened to have lovely little babies.
It’s good, and easy, to talk to people who know exactly what it’s like to be a new mum. There is less need to explain or make excuses. I suppose it’s a bit like being in AA. Hi, my name is Kendal, and I have a baby. (Audible gasps and nods of understanding around the room) Anyway, these ladies are clever and creative and kind and I feel rather lucky to have met them.
So this is a really good thing.
Some other good things: I read a fantastic book called The Continuum Concept which really helped me to clarify some of my views on parenting, and also made me question some things I would never have even thought about before.
Ava has learnt how to hold things and this means that everything she holds she tries to eat. Apart from being unbearably cute (imagine a baby bird with its beak wide open trying to eat the air) it also means that she can now explore things on her own. She has made the first step to investigating the world around her.
She’s also close to being able to sit up on her own. Babies’ muscles strengthen from the head downwards. She was born with a super strong head, so she’s always been able to hold it up, but now her shoulders and back are getting really strong too, so it’s more a case of learning how to balance.
Her smiles are now constant, and not a result of me or Howard being ridiculously silly and trying to coax one out of her. She smiles when she sees one of us, or when something amuses her. Tonight she smiled when Howard walked through the door – a really wide, gummy grin, whilst her body wriggled with excitement.
I also, finally, feel comfortable breastfeeding in public now. It only took a couple of times with Howard to make me realise how ridiculously big a thing I was making it. I’m glad I made myself do this because I really wanted to be a part of something that I believed in so much and that was so much bigger than me. I genuinely felt like I would be letting myself down if I didn’t get over it and just do it. I feel so strongly that women should be able to breastfeed whenever and wherever they’d like that I was dismayed by how flustered and self-conscious I became whenever I fed Ava in public, which once again exposed my inner-prude. I have, however, learned to beat that prude down with my liberal bat. Hooray.
This really illustrates how hard I can make things for myself. I sometimes put unnecessary pressure on myself to live up to a made up standard that I manage to convince myself of actually exists – and worse, that everyone else in the world can easily achieve. This sense of everyone else ‘getting it’ – the big cosmic secret – has always been a bit of a silly issue for me. Maybe for lots of people actually. But never before have I been so constantly challenged by this imagined standard.
In Ava’s first few weeks one of the most difficult things for me was not the constant feeding, but rather the feeling that everyone else managed to cope with the constant feeding whilst getting out and about and functioning in a ‘normal’ way. Of course, this is more or less nonsense, and since getting to know other mums I can see now that everyone feels this way and if I had just eased up on myself I might not have felt so anxious about that intense period.
This pressure for women to get back to normal is part of the problem too. It’s a part of this fashionable idea that babies are the enemy – to be overcome, defeated, silenced, controlled. Once you master how to do all these things, you’re meant to work on getting your figure ‘back’ and get back to your social life. In fact, it seems that you’re meant to try to act as much as possible as if this human being who now occupies the centre of everything for you is not that important and that you’re just the same person you always were.
My growing disillusionment aside, Ava is teaching me constantly that things take time. I am an impatient person who likes to do things quickly (See getting engaged, getting married and having a baby). This is one of the reasons I’ve never learnt a musical instrument. I need instant gratification in order to feel any sense of acheivement. Hence my love of food.
But now I feel a genuine sense of accomplishment whenever I do something new with Ava. It’s not so much that I feel back to normal, as I feel like I’m creating a new kind of normal. I’m fashioning up new routines and accepting that where I am at is okay. There’s no big rush to do anything in particular and there really is nothing I need to get back to.
Apart from all the obvious reasons as to why I am enjoying this time with Ava, I am also enjoying re-learning a lot of things I’ve forgotten. It’s kind of like what Freud says, about how the finding of an object is in fact the refinding of it. Being around a 4 month old baby, watching her learn the world she’s in, really hits home how important it is just to open yourself up to experience whatever situation you happen to be in.
I’m quite a fan of the past and of reflection, which I’ve made quite obvious by now. Years ago I read a book called The Power of Now which I liked a lot, and I started to practise this idea of being present, and whilst I think this is very important to do as much as possible, I know that this fascination with the past is too important to me, too much a part of who I am, to try and fight againt. It’s the kind of gritty human part of us that we spend a lot of time trying to overcome, when maybe we don’t really want to overcome it.
I love the transition from present to past because of its mysteries, its inevitably. The madness of things becoming past. My walls are covered in photographs because I love the fabric and texture of memories. The stories we write ourselves into.
I don’t have much time right now to reflect on anything. Even dreams have kind of fallen to the wayside for the time being – when I sleep now it’s much needed sleep that I wake from without knowing what on earth I have dreamt.
Being obsessed with the past is a very typical Cancerian quality. Perhaps this is why nearly every Cancerian I have ever met is a bit obsessed with clocks and photographs. And also why the most famous series of books ever written about the past (In Search of Lost Time) were written by my most favourite Cancerian – Proust – in his bed.
But being with Ava and focusing on the day to day small things (have a shower, feed Ava, wash the dishes, feed Ava, go for a walk, feed Ava, have lunch, feed Ava etc) has kind of shifted my perspective a little. I find myself unable to remember her clearly in younger, earlier states even though she’s only 17 weeks old – yet it’s impossible to remember when she was less than who she is now, or try to subtract something inextricable from the whole that is now Ava.
When I think of how much I love her, it seems unbearable. The kind of love I feel for her now, now that I know her, is very different to the automatic, instant love I felt when I first saw her. I genuinely love her. I love that she is pensive and rather serious. I love the way she evaluates things carefully. I love that her eyes smile and then she becomes bashful and sometimes hides her face. I love her babbling sentences, watching her mouth move as if she is forming actual words and hearing a variety of low and high pitched sounds run into one another. I love that when she talks, she pauses for me to say something, then smiles and continues to tell me whatever it is she is telling me (I think she may actually be a genius)
I am slowly (very slowly) coming to terms with the loss of control that having a baby brings – with not being able to predict another person’s actions or feel at ease instantly with all the new situations that I now find myself in. I just need to go slow into these unknown territories.
This should really have been about five blogs, and if it had been, they would probably have been better and prettier. Oh well. Another lesson to be learnt.