Thursday, January 3, 2013

Love You Forever

I do not often feel the feelings that people tell you are generally felt about a specific set of circumstances. I was a little terrified when I got engaged, I was not giddy or nervous or very affectionate when I got married. I did not feel immediate love or even much of a bond when I first had Ishmael, and I do not feel exhausted or overwhelmed (yet?) or euphoric at raising a son. Pregnancy amazed me, because for the first time that I can remember, I felt what I was told I would feel, albeit mostly physiological rather than emotional. I threw up on cue, but I'm not sure I could have honestly told you that I loved my fetus in a very real way, other than for a handful of rare and fleeting instances in which I realized the wonder of a child, despite not knowing them at all. I guess I could say that I've felt what others have described when falling in love and in marriage in general, but those are more prolonged experiences rather than important moments. I don't know if I delay my feelings out of concern that I'll feel too strongly in the moment and not know how to deal with that or if I have a weak sense of correlation (realizing that I'm feeling a certain way because of a certain thing).

Two (or 12, depending on how you count) months in, I'm thinking motherhood is 10% immediate instinct (the way they say you'll feel) and 90% eternal learning. It's mind-boggling to me that I could quietly adore someone so much, with only rare moments of intense feeling (mostly in mama-bear defense rather than fuzzy feelings), and for that to be both core-shaking love and the knowledge that I have in my care this person who needs getting-to-be-known, like any other person. I couldn't love any harder, but I have so far to travel in my love. That love at volume 10 can be so hushed.

Just as I couldn't imagine what it would be like to feel literally uncontrollable love (the 10%) before Ishmael, I can't imagine loving another child as much. But isn't it incredible that when you have a family, your love grows rather than becomes divided? I loved my husband with as much as I could love when it was just us, then I loved him even more and loved a whole new person on top of it when Ishmael was born. I think that's like 250% love.

Some of the best child-rearing advice I've gotten so far (and one I call to mind most frequently, perhaps) are my mom's words, "you are your child's greatest advocate." As someone who will go out of her way not to embarrass a stranger, I often remind myself that I can and should make a scene if my child's rights or dignity or tender heart is at risk. I have to confess just such an instance, even though it was passive aggressive rather than out right and really more like my pride that was hurt. I call it, "adventures in parenting." We visited a different pediatrician than usual (regular guy was on vacation) for Ishmael's 2 month check-up and he really chewed me out and brow beat me for wanting to do an alternate schedule of vaccinating. He said parents who did that were stupid and harming their children and that he could "guarantee" me there was no medical evidence to suggest waiting (upon looking into things more when I got home, it's less about waiting and more about not getting a ton of vaccines at once). I smiled and nodded and held my ground, but was ruffled inside. After the doctor left the room, Ishmael had a bunch of snot coming out of his nose. I cleaned it off his nose (which I was going to do anyway) and flicked it on to the side of the counter (not the counter top, so please only banish me to the first level of purgatory). The conversation in my head went like this, "Karissa, that is disgusting. / But I'm not going to feel bad about it. / But this isn't really getting back at the Dr. since he doesn't have to clean it up, and it's making the environment dirtier for some other person's kid. / Excellent logic, let's get out of here before I mature and am defeated by the Dr.'s rudeness." And I totally left it there. [If my life were a movie, the chorus to King Charles' "Polar Bear" would have played: "she's got the hot blood of a polar bear, the cool head of a crocodile" and I would have fished out my sunglasses from the bottom of my bag, but I didn't.] May not have been what my mom had in mind, but in my heart, I know I was appropriately indignant about someone suggesting I didn't love my child. I guess that's what you can expect of me if I think you're trash talking me or my kid. Boogers. Lots and lots of boogers.

I catch myself wondering what he will be like when he's older, which prompts me to survey what I know of him already. My son wakes up happy, but his favorite part of the day is when his Dad gets home from work. He has a flare for the dramatic, acting as if I'm choking him to death if I so much as touch his lips with the pacifier when he'd rather me know how upset he is. His best color so far is navy blue, and he likes to be sung to. He would always rather be on the move than stationary (and if not moving, at least held rather than set down), and he doesn't like his ears cleaned, but doesn't mind his nose cleaned. The bridge of his nose wrinkles up when he smiles the biggest, and he makes a bunch of noise in his sleep. He has his dad's eyelashes, eyebrows and nose (indeed, looks like Jonas in general), my tendency to frown as a default expression (how I love him for it) and my chameleon eyes (though not the same shade), and red in his hair from us both, complete with warring cowlicks that make the back of his head look like eddies of water. He likes to watch me cook, and grimaces when you kiss him. He's begun to blow bubbles. It is one of my greatest joys (and rarely have I felt more loved) when Ishmael recognizes me when I walk into a room and follows me with his eyes or I find him staring at me when I look over at him. What immeasurable blessing to be loved in return by one you've given your heart to (or cemented to without your express consent :)). Isn't that what falling in love is like, after all?

Friends and family showered us with wonderful children's books after Ishmael was born. Miraculously, I think I only received 3 duplicates out of 100+. One of them was "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. I had it growing up, but hadn't read it in years. The ladies at one of the showers all said, "awww!" when I opened that book, and "it will make you cry." I probably rolled my eyes inwardly. But then, about 2 weeks ago when I pulled it off the shelf to read to Ishmael, I made it 75% through the book (thinking, "am I that heartless?") and got to the part where the Mama says, "come pick me up, I'm too sick," and my throat got awfully sore. [image]

I started writing all of this because I go back to work in a little less than a week, and I had an urge to record my heartache over it. I never imagined wanting to be a stay at home mom. I'm grateful for my job (which I need to support my son, for now) and I genuinely like the people I work with, but suddenly it feels almost a sin to spend any time away from him that I could spend with him. I guess that is how some say it will be, and I feel it deep down, even when I'm crying in frustration over Ishmael being a total pill. It tortures me to know that I'll have to miss some of our morning giggle-howling like wolves-sessions now, and as convenient as it may be to start pumping breast milk and letting Jonas feed Ishmael if I can't, I'm jealous of that time spent with him, clutching my shirt and desperately needing me. Even when he refuses to be comforted, I always want to be the one who will always come for him. For this season, I would cherish your prayers.

I think I started to write this post as a cry for comfort over anxiety about going back to work and some sort of quest to unravel those feelings of somehow not feeling much like an automatic parent upon having a kid, but I think I ended up with a love letter - however strange - to my son, instead. Ishmael, I'll love you forever, and like you for always. And I guess that is kind of what they say parenting will be like.

the booger flinging mama polar bear. 

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