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July 5, 2013

One Whole Month of Iris

IMG_20130705_153356When I wrote “Love is a Let-Down”, the point was not to say that new motherhood is necessarily a terrible experience, but instead to underline how different it is for everyone. That for many of us, the experience didn’t align with the greeting card slogans. We’re not over-the-moon but instead completely overwhelmed by a world that has been shattered into pieces and put back together in a still-broken state. And now I worry that in my current state of mind I’m letting down the team a little bit, undermining the message of those who’ve dared to speak honestly about what it is to become a mother. But then again, I’m really not undermining it at all, but instead underlining my main point which is that every woman comes to motherhood in her own way. Because this time, with my second baby, the experience has been everything it wasn’t first time around. I’ve become a walking greeting-card slogan myself—“Everything is going really well!” If I wasn’t living it, I’d be convinced I was lying.

IMG_20130703_110453Of course, anyone who’s ever had a second baby will tell you that this is what happens. They told me, actually, but I didn’t believe them, or else I certainly didn’t believe that it could be possible for someone like me who was so notoriously terrible at new motherhood. That this time you know what you’re doing, you learn to ride the chaos instead of thinking you’re doing it wrong, that it all goes by faster and you really do try to enjoy every minute.

IMG_20130705_131230It is a different experience altogether. That first baby requires “becoming a mother”, which comes less naturally to some of us than others. I’m reminded of the trauma undergone by astronauts when they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere–my experience was the emotional equivalent of that. But this time, I’m a mother already and there is no becoming necessary. There is none of the shattering, the loss of self that was so terrifying to experience. I am fundamentally unchanged by the birth of Iris, except that our family is a different shape and the world is just a little bit bigger.

IMG_20130703_114555Motherhood is a storm, is the quote by Laurie Colwin that I seized on, the metaphor that so clearly articulated what I was going through. But it’s not been stormy this time. Instead, I’d say it’s been like a summer’s day, albeit one sometimes experienced from my bed but with the patio door wide open and the sun pouring in. The baby is screaming, her face so red that I’m reminded of a cartoon character with smoke coming out its ears, but this is funny instead of traumatic. I’ve got living proof asleep in a bedroom downstairs that this wretched, squalling foetal creature is in fact going to grow into an actual human being. And so that’s how one becomes a greeting-card slogan, all consumed by how fast the days are flying by and by the smell of the baby’s head.

It has been a good month. My husband has been a huge part of this. Whereas the early days of Harriet challenged our relationship like nothing else, we have been so kind to one another since Iris arrived. That he is able to be on parental leave means that the hardships weigh more equally on both of our shoulders. He has taken extraordinarily good care of me during my recovery. And as I’ve recovered, we have had fun together, with Harriet too when she wasn’t yelling at us. (We now understand why people enroll their children in camp all summer long.) And now that I am nearly recovered, a brilliant summer lies before us. It’s all more graspable than I dared to imagine it was.

We went out for lunch today (of course) to celebrate a month of Iris, and to toast to the three of us for so successfully weathering the last few weeks. And now Harriet’s asleep and Iris is squawking downstairs, so I must go down to feed her, but while I do, we’ll be watching The Hour, which is so so good, and this nightly television thing is the most excellent ritual. Previously, we’d both worked in the evenings and TV was a treat saved for Friday nights (with wine) but now every night is Friday night, and how can you fault a life like that? It might as well be July. And it actually is.

Iris is gorgeous when she sleeps, slightly weird looking awake, and entirely beloved by every member of her family. Her most remarkable attribute was that she was born with a tooth. We are curious about who she’s going to grow to be, but we love her already. She looks a bit like her sister, but more like her self, and a little bit like me who also had ginger eyebrows as a baby. She is usually asleep or calm when people meet her, undermining her reputation as a miserable person. She likes to sleep in my bed in my armpit, which is a bit counter to what the safe-sleep advocates say, but I guess we like to sleep dangerous. I think we’re safe though, because she doesn’t really sleep that much. She took a soother once, and I was overjoyed, but hasn’t done it after. Since her birth a month ago, she’s gained two whole pounds, which is amazing. She gazes at Harriet like she looks at no one else, though I’ve gazed at Harriet myself so I can’t say I blame her. Her mouth is beautiful. She also likes to fall asleep on people’s chests, and she’s not yet discriminating about whose. Her belly button is shaped like an @ sign. She screams a lot and hates most things, but still manages to be adorable. And there is not really much else one can say when describing someone her age, but we’re so excited to get to know more and more about her.

4 thoughts on “One Whole Month of Iris”

    1. Kerry says:

      Thank you, Clare!

  1. melanie says:

    Oh Kerry. This post was truly perfect.

  2. AK says:

    Wow a tooth. That’s mega-impressive! Not least because a few teeth are still missing in action in my nearly 14 yr old’s beak. Excavations are planned. Funded by book prize.

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