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Pickle Me This

April 1, 2013

On being that innocent again.

elements of styleI took myself out for lunch on Saturday, with Wendy Wasserstein’s The Elements of Style for company. I haven’t eaten alone in a restaurant for a long time (and in fact, I rarely get to eat in restaurants without the company of someone who is ever in danger of knocking over her water glass and ever requires ketchup and grubby crayons as a garnish), but learning the pleasures of doing so was once upon a time one of the greatest lessons in my education of being a grown-up woman. So when the prospect of a free Saturday afternoon presented itself to me, a solo lunch date was at the top of my agenda. A brand new baby is scheduled to explode into my life in about 8 weeks, and who knows when I’ll ever get to be alone again?

IMG_0441I did enjoy this blog post by a writer who is about to give birth to her second child and contemplating the distance she’s travelled since she was waiting to birth her first. She writes about the loss of self that transpires when a woman becomes a mother, and looks forward to this new birth because it will occur without that loss. I feel similarly. Harriet made me a mother, which was a difficult, nearly traumatic, absolutely not natural for me experience. When she was born, I did not know how to love a child as a mother does, and I had to grow into that love. I tell her all the time how I did not know how to be a mother before her, and how she taught me, and how excited I am to meet her sibling because I know how to do it now. The love I have for our new baby already comes via my love for Harriet, as though Harriet is the connection between us. Harriet, of course, sees nothing unusual about being a linchpin. She is quite sure that she is the centre of the universe after all.

IMG_0428There is something different about going over the edge of a cliff when you’ve been over the cliff before. I spent my entire pregnancy with Harriet in a state of disbelief, really, not remotely convinced that there would be a baby at the end of it. There had never been a baby more unfathomable than Harriet, I supposed, so even my birth preparations were half-hearted, and I never allowed myself to imagine beyond it. This time, however, I’m going over the cliff and recognizing all the landmarks. I know even that the cliff itself is not the point, and that the journey beyond goes on and on. I have a concrete awareness of my own limits as well, which were pretty much the greatest lessons I took away from new motherhood, and I’m not going to deny them. This is why my husband will be spending the summer at home with us as we settle into life as a family of four. This is why we’ve bought a queen-sized bed. This is why I will unabashedly read through breastfeeding marathons instead of staring into my baby’s goopy eyes. This is why I’m going to hate having a baby sometimes and I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I will not enjoy every minute. This is why I’m not going to push myself to recreate ordinary life right away as the dust settles from our new baby’s arrival. This time, I know that ordinary life will come back without me even trying. That the trying is the hardest part, and I just have to be patient instead. I just have to get a little bit better at being patient.

I also have to avoid the inclination to try to get it right this time. There really is no getting it right. This is not a do-over. New motherhood is a mad fumble, no matter what you do, and one way or another, I’m going to end up crying on the floor without clothes on. But I will not be surprised when it happens this time, and that is really something.

I never thought I could be this open-eyed excited about having another child. When Harriet was small, I looked back at the end of my pregnancy with the saddest nostalgia. “We’ll never be that innocent again,” I remember thinking after bringing our small baby over to visit friends whose own baby’s birth was imminent. But somehow, we’ve unlearned reality and I’m excited again. Maybe I’ve become wise enough to know we’ll get through the hard times, that they’re worth it. Or maybe I’m a fool and the return to innocence is just a survival mechanism.

A bit of both, perhaps. I guess we’ll have to see what I have to say about it all once I’m back there crying on the floor.

2 thoughts on “On being that innocent again.”

  1. alexis says:

    I have recently embarked on a new relationship! I just took this man home to meet my parents over Easter weekend. This was the first man who has met my parents in over 10 years. (It went well and everyone liked each other)

    Your post reminds me of some of what I was saying to him about my cautions and the way I need to go slowly into this.

    I loved once, and it hurt when it ended and I will never be that innocent or that open again at the beginning. I need to go slow.

    But it’s wonderful, really!

  2. alexis says:

    I guess my point is that I understand, even though I’m not having a baby. 🙂

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