Motherlove


I was going to do things differently when Scarlett was born.  I was going to make her a little more independent, a little sooner.  I was going to start pumping right away and get her on a bottle, imagining the relative freedom I would have if she easily went back and forth DSC_0051between breast and bottle.  I was going to let her sleep with me only during the immediate postpartum period, while I recovered from giving birth.  After a week or two of sleeping with me, I imagined, I would then have her sleep in her bassinet, and from there, she would easily transition to a crib after a few months (I imagined).

But things didn’t go as I planned.  She turned out to be a temperamental baby, and I had a much rougher time after she was born – physically and emotionally – than I had planned for.  I never did start pumping;  it just ended up being a task that I didn’t feel able to add to my already overflowing plate.  Consequently, she’s never taken a bottle and I can’t be away from her for more than two or three hours at a stretch.  Although for a short time as an infant she did nap in her bassinet, I never did try to make her sleep there at night; six+ months later, she’s still sleeping with me every night.  She’ll only nap in her swing now, and her bassinet sits in our bedroom, a convenient place to toss her blankets.

I don’t regret it, though.  That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes get frustrated – it would be nice to get up and go (like Michael can) without having to carefully plan my outings to coincide with when Scarlett will most likely sleep for a couple of hours (or, alternatively, taking her with me, which can put a damper on dinner out with my girlfriends, for instance).  But I find myself so attached to her – this beautiful gift that I never expected.

There is something about curling up with her in bed, her warm little body snuggled upDSC_0076 against mine.  She nuzzles me and latches on and grunts and hums in delirious contentment, and I stroke her head and murmur silly sweet nothings to her.  I want her to feel how much she is loved in every fiber of her being.  I want her to know how cherished she is.

Sometimes I wonder what a difference that would have made for me.

They say that when we are infants and babies, the quality of our attachments will impact us for the rest of our lives.  Babies who do not experience love and tender nurturing will suffer because of that all their lives with trouble forming and maintaining loving relationships, difficulty with trust and letting their guard down, and poor self-esteem.  My mother didn’t want me.  I don’t have any memories of a deprived infancy, but I grew up being told by my mother that she didn’t want me when I was born, and it wasn’t until an incident when I was two years old and when she stopped herself from putting her hands around my throat to strangle me that she accepted me and realized that she loved me.  I know it was difficult for her – I came a mere ten and a half months after my brother, I was apparently a very temperamental baby, and she was only 21 when I was born, already in an abusive, difficult marriage.  I get it, although what I’ve never understood is her need to tell me things I would have been better off not knowing about.  I suppose in her way, she was conveying to me that somehow she managed to rise above some really difficult circumstances and actually love her child.

DSC_0101In any event, whatever tenderness I was deprived of as a baby, compounded by continued emotional deprivation and mistreatment all through my growing up has definitely left scars on me.

And so I am mindful.  Which is not to say that I don’t screw up with my own kids, or even that they won’t one day find themselves in a therapist’s office pouring out anger, disappointment and hurt over my motherly failings.  But I often think that my own longing for children for all those years was rooted in a wish to rewrite my own story.  To give the unadulterated love I didn’t receive, to show what that could do, the difference it could make.

And so I coddle Scarlett, I love her unabashedly and purposefully, as I have all my babies, wholly and completely.

 

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13 Comments on “Motherlove”

  1. Alyson
    January 7, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    She is so truly gorgeous Lisa!
    Why do it differently, you do what works. As you know it goes by so painfully fast. Everything you are saying makes sense in regards to you and your mother. It really just plain sucks that she has never been able to own up to her mistakes with you and have learned and changed for the better.
    It makes all that you do that much more inspirational to me because you do it without your Mom to turn to,for advice,to just listen or bring you comfort. Love you Lisa. You keep it all so raw,real and honest.<3

    • Lisa
      January 8, 2013 at 12:06 am #

      Thanks, friend 🙂

  2. Michele R.
    January 8, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    First, Scarlett is so darn cute.
    Second, I have read your blog for a few months and wanted you to know I understand about your words about your mom. I never mention mine on my blog but I do anonymously on other blogs that have a theme about moms who have a narcissistic personality disorder. My mom fits almost all of the description for that, and some items you have mentioned, such as how she said things inappropriate for a child, are very typical. It is also typical to cause strife amongst siblings and for one to be a golden child. My mom may say she loves me but she is not capable of having empathy and to her I am really just an extension of her. She truly has not been able to accept that I grew up and got married at age 24 and have my own life. I am several years older than you but she still talks about money she spent on me when I was a teen. As in she mentioned this last summer to neighbors of hers in front of me. Not to mention how she doesn’t know my kids at all, and rarely visited when they were young. She seems to think that they will one day not want to talk to me, like today I don’t choose to talk to her much at all. But like you, I am very, very different to mine. In fact, it was after having children and having them get a little older that I have realized so many things about my childhood.
    Anyway, I get understand the C-mas stress but also the peace in just having the holiday with my own children and husband.

    • Lisa
      January 8, 2013 at 4:25 am #

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother has some diagnosable personality disorder.

      • Sue
        January 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

        I am convinced that my mother also has narcissistic personality disorder. She was also extremely depressed while we were kids, to the point of not being able to get out of bed to care for us at times. She still struggles with depression even with modern meds, blames me for the fact that we don’t have a close relationship despite the fact that she is MY MOTHER, and acts oddly around my kids (she’s too clingy, like she’s trying to have a ‘do-over’ it pushes them away. which is my fault, of course.). I don’t know how this translates to my parenting exactly, but I do know that my kids are being raised in a much healthier environment than I was. I also think it has given me the following perspective–family members don’t get your love just because they are FAMILY, you have to deserve it. A view that is none too popular with my mother to be sure. I believe that my children don’t “owe” me anything because I bore them and raised them, that was my choice. I do hope that we end up being part of each other’s lives as adults, though, not because we’re FAMILY, but because we have shared interests and mutual affection. I read the book “mothering without a road map” after my first son was born. I remember thinking it was interesting.

      • Lisa
        January 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

        Sue, I can relate to so much of what you’ve written here. Thank you.

      • Sue
        January 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

        A good friend of mine who knows my mother and is also a clinical psychologist commented, “I think it’s a really good thing that you had two boys.” I think the mother-daughter relationship is so absurdly romanticized, at least in this country. Do you find yourself musing on mother issues more w/r/t parenting your daughters v. sons? I have no basis for comparison.

      • Lisa
        January 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

        Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I know that for years, I was very scared of the idea of having a daughter myself. I had no positive mother-daughter relationship to draw from, so I was scared to have a daughter myself. I remember being so relieved when I found out I was carrying a boy the first time, and then the second time as well. And then BAM! I was pregnant with TWINS, and both girls to boot!

        I do think that mother-daughter relationships – at least mine – tend to be . . . fraught? in different ways than mother-son relationships. Just like father-son relationships have a very different dynamic than mother-son relationships. I want so much to be a good role model for my girls, to help them grow up believing in themselves and having enough self-esteem and self-respect that they never get involved in adult relationships that demean or degrade them. And I don’t know if I’m succeeding at that. My girls and I butt heads on a very emotional level which is somewhat different from how my boys and I butt heads.

        It’s all complicated. And I spend a lot of time musing on my relationships with all of my kids.

  3. Asha
    January 8, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    “There is something about curling up with her in bed, her warm little body snuggled up against mine. She nuzzles me and latches on and grunts and hums in delirious contentment, […]”
    That was beautiful. It has always been my favorite time with any of my babies, the intimate nursing session where, I imagine, the baby feels so safe, so blissful… I love how you described it!

    I also agree that Scarlett is absolutely gorgeous, must be the prettiest baby I have ever seen. It is breathtaking.

    As for your mom, how can she blame you for coming so soon after your brother and “complicating” things??? As an adult, she should have dealt with the hardship of having “Irish twins” ( as many others before her and after her, have), but never should have been resentful of you!! It seems like she never matured, b/c her attitude didn’t really change. She still didn’t wholly apologized for her mistakes, she merely boasted that she “survived” difficult times and found love for the child that “came too soon”…
    Is she asking for an ovation??
    Kids need love, but they also need nurturing. I strongly believe that coddling babies is what nature intended all along. It is like building up some reserve for them, when they are on their own, the reserve of love that they will be able to tap from to keep them feeling safe and loved.

  4. Isabella
    January 8, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Lisa, I am sorry that you had to listen from your own mother that she didn’t want you…
    So happy to read how much you enjoy motherhood and how healing it’s been for you.
    And I totally agree with Alyson, you do what feels right for you.
    Love, love your blog.

  5. Lessons From Tractor Man
    January 9, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    I have never left a message but I wanted to say, that I really respect your blog and writing. I pretty much stalk your blog daily and love everthing you discuss. You always make me think in a different way and challenge what I thought I knew. Specifically I think I have loved your posts about God the most. While I am a Christian, and we may not believe the same, I totally agree that Christians dont understand what they believe. Youre writing has challengede me not only in what I think is right, but how I think. So thank you very much for that!! Ive learned so much from your blog too about what you share about Finn. I work with children with Autism and other disabilities, and I try to educate myself at how I can best understand a parent’s point of view. Sometimes I just want to smack my staff and say “this is someones child! Their precious son or daughter!” when they see them as just another student. Your posts about Finns speech therapy gave me insight that I had never thought of before. I hope one day I am blessed to have children. I hope too that I can be half the mom you are. You and your husband are doing a great job.

    • Lisa
      January 9, 2013 at 2:19 am #

      Thank you so much for the kind words!

  6. Maureen
    January 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    Scarlett is beautiful. You are right to just enjoy this time with her.

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