Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sleeping and Waking

I was planning an entry about how sweet and moving being a mother is...then, Ila was awake last night from 3:45 to well past 5 AM. It's hard for me, at some moments during times like these, to remember that Ila is not being "bad." She's just doing something I don't particularly want her to do. In this case, she's keeping her little mole eyes open and her little limbs thrashing. I tried last night to not be overwhelmed with frustration or anxiety that this is the first step down a long road of not sleeping. I just tried to be present - Kiyomi and I lying quietly in the dark, silently willing Ila to follow our lead while hearing her little piglet grunts and mousy squeaks and feeling her little legs doing mermaid kicks on the bed. But, it's hard to be present in a present you don't like.

I feel that, in general, I am a fairly relaxed first time mom (is that an oxymoron?). I mean, I didn't know what to expect - I didn't know if I would be anxious and worried all the time. Fortunately, I am not too much of a worrier. However - and I did not anticipate this at all - I feel guilty with great frequency. When I lie Ila down to coo and gurgle and bat at her little toys while I run out to get the laundry, bring it in, fold it and put it away, I feel I'm being wildly irresponsible and a terrible parent. I feel guilty that I don't hold her enough, talk to her enough, stimulate her enough. Yesterday, for instance, I had her lying on the front bedroom bed while I tidied up in that room. The chaos of that room was driving me crazy, but I felt guilty doing it, like I should just be lying on the bed with her the whole time talking and playing - which is a pretty tame form of playing at this point in her life, mainly consisting of trying to grab and pull anything and everything to her mouth. She's happy for quite a while lying on her own - especially if I'm in the same room...but I feel guilty that I'm not - I don't know - constantly in complete attendance.

Okay, the rational side of me understands (sort of) that it's good for her to be able to amuse herself - safely and with a parent close by - for increasing amounts of time. But, I obviously don't really believe that. Maybe I feel guilty because talking and playing with a 4 month old is a little boring for me, and I'm ashamed to want to say, fold laundry or sweep the floor as a diversion. I mean, for chores to be more engaging is sort of a sad statement, no? Anyway, the guilty continues...but at least I can tell myself that all these feelings are probably totally normal...without necessarily believing it. It reminds me of one of my favorite Lydia Davis stories: "But it is curious how you can believe an idea is absolutely true and correct and yet not believe it deeply enough to act on it."

(You should read the whole's three paragraphs; the last piece on this page)

Despite all the not sleeping and the guilt, there are profound moments of sweetness in being a mama. The entry I was dreaming up yesterday morning was very different than today's. I was nursing Ila, lying on the bed, after her morning nap. This is a sweet time anyway, but I was particularly attuned to the lovely tenderness of seeing her little sweet face and feeling the little flutterings of her soft hands against my arms and chest. It is breathtakingly wonderful to be her mother. I feel so attached to her that I, of course, find myself ruining these thoughts with flashes of her being hit by a car or being diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Fortunately, unlike my guilt, I can fairly easily tell myself that these worries are profitless and unnecessary...and I can more easily believe myself.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I was awash in deep love feelings for Ila and it made me think about the fact that my family is not so great at being tender. I'm including my extended family on both sides. I can actually think of instances of my father being tender, more so than other adults in my young life - I think he was a pretty affectionate person when I was little. I suppose, this doesn't quite balance out the fact that he left my brother and me when we were young. Still, his earlier, sweeter actions had their effect and were important, I think.

My mother was also very physically affectionate and tender...but it was easier for my father to verbally be tender and loving. I know my mother's family much better than my father's, and I can safely say that it is very difficult for them to be tender with each other. Some interactions of the family have, in fact, made me vow to let myself love the people in my life in an unguarded, open, and expressive way...which, I acknowledge, is not always easy. However, the moments of awkward vulnerability that come along with open and affectionate expressions of care are worth it. I have had enough interactions with my mother's family to think that a lot of us could use a little more tenderness and unequivocally supportive gestures from each other.

Perhaps this is not uncommon. It is uncomfortable sometimes to really open up to those vulnerable, gushy, soft feelings like tenderness. Most of us humans may be a bit hardened. Perhaps, my family is not unique in its awkward uncomfortableness in the face of sweet, loving feelings. Whatever the case, I want, very consciously, to create a family environment for Ila that does not require protection and hardening, that allows those softer feelings of love and affection to be voiced.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Laughin' and Lickin'

Ila laughed! Neither Kiyomi nor I made her laugh - it was all our friend Deb. Kiyomi claims that Ila likes Deb because she's very close to Ila's size, which is a slight exaggeration...but only slight. Ila's beefy 17 pound body was taxing for Deb to carry around.

Needless to say, Kiyomi and I have spent the last 12 hours trying to get her to laugh again. It hasn't worked. I even had the camera in my hand, but alas I didn't capture it. How can we know it was real, if I didn't get it on video???

Yesterday was a big day. In addition to chuckling, Ila also grabbed her toes for the first time. I have been putting her toes in her hands for a few days now. She is indifferent to this and releases her foot as soon as I take my hand away. However, yesterday she spontaneously grabbed her foot without assistance!

She is definitely making some serious leaps and bounds in skill level. Quite literally, actually: she can really jolly jump now...instead of simply dangling in the doorway and aimlessly fluttering her feet, she really kicks! When she grabs things, too, she is looking less like a terrible spinal cord injury victim learning - painfully - to use her limbs again. Still her most refined skill is licking. Anything that comes near her mouth gets jabbed with her tongue quickly and a little dog...or snake... As you can imagine, I am a gleaming and proud mama! Kiyomi loves to say she is so "advanced." And, perhaps in the slobbering department she is!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cha Cha Changes

It's hard to decide what to say today – everything is all jumbled up in my head. First, I want to acknowledge that our wonderful friend and landlord, Jack Dicey, has passed away of cancer. He was a truly lovely human; he spent much of his life working with homeless folks and veterans. He was also just a funny guy who loved people and enjoyed life. It's hard to comprehend – a year ago he was, seemingly, fine. A little over a year ago, we visited him in the hospital after his last major surgery. Around this time, we told him that I was pregnant – and he told us that the doctors gave him a year or less to live. It was bizarre and sad to see him when I was pregnant. I was so antsy for the future – the birth, the infancy, the youth – of my child. Yet, the same short time that I had to wait through with eagerness and anticipation was certainly the final chapter of his life. It is so alarming, at times, how disparate our experiences are – even when they are happening concurrently. I very much regret that we didn't get to see him one last time – with Ila, would have been nice. Though, I know this grief is really for me – he is beyond any concern in the matter – I certainly would have liked to see him and say goodbye.

Perhaps this has a hand in my brain's apparent obsession with death and endings. I am still having nightmares almost nightly Рusually including the death of someone I love or myself. To say, as a human, that I don't do well with change, is perhaps a clich̩ and not even worth expressing. But, it is true. And there is something truly dynamic about being with a child. While it is, in one way, the epitome of life to be with a little one who is discovering and growing every day, it is also to be constantly exposed to change, endings, even to death in some small, metaphorical sense. First, your notions of your own life must change and give way to others, then, every little stage of your child's life is so short.

In this vein, I wish, actually, that we had taken video earlier than we did. Ila is all about grabbing things now. She is not great with objects that are at an arm's reach away, but things that are held a little closer in, she generally successfully snatches up and brings them to her mouth. This means that I can basically hand her things now. This is so new and exciting! It's hard to remember when she wasn't even focused on objects, when she didn't gaze at you and smile, when she couldn't even bring her hands to her mouth, let alone things! It would be nice to have even just a little video from the very early weeks, just to see and remember what was, temporally, very recent and yet developmentally has completely been supplanted and erased.

As a result of being able to grab things, I think she is a bit easier to entertain...or to let her entertain herself even! We took a trip up to Flagstaff to see some of my family, and she was generally pretty happy in the car. I believe part of this is certainly related to the fact that she can suck on her own fingers or grab at her little pink pig and little bumble bee toys that hang in front of her in the car. Her sleep has been a little funny, though. She's woken up a couple times 2 or 3 times at night instead of her customary one. This too is all about change. I try not to get used or, or count on, her sleeping a certain amount or set of hours at night...yet, it is inevitable. Perhaps it is a growth spurt – perhaps even the monumental task of really being able to reach out and grab things is taxing her little system. Whatever is altering her sleep patterns, it is a lesson, once again, in how temporary and shifting everything is. I'm just not so fond of learning this lesson at midnight and then again at 2:30.