Fleeting Moments Of Babyhood

12 Aug

On my way home from work a couple of days ago, I saw a young woman nursing her baby on the subway. The baby’s father had his arm placed protectively over the mother’s shoulders, and his body was angled in a way that provided mom and baby with some privacy. Both parents were looking at their baby with absolute love and tenderness.

As I sat gazing at this perfect picture, the mom looked up and met my eye. She gave me a beatific smile, and then turned her attention back to her baby.

I went back to reading my book. I felt that I had been given the privilege of witnessing a beautiful family moment, but I did not want to outstay my welcome. I sensed that continuing to watch them would have been intrusive.

I was not able to concentrate on my book, though. Instead, I found myself daydreaming about my first few months of motherhood, almost eight years ago.

When my older son was a baby, I felt that same sense of peace and contentment that I saw in that family on the subway. There were baby blues, to be sure, and I went through the same sleep deprivation common to most new parents. But the baby blues passed, and behind the haze of exhaustion I was happy.

Thanks to Canadian maternity leave provisions, I got to enjoy a full year at home with my baby. Back then, my husband and I each had our own car, so while my husband was off at work, I would load the baby into my car and we’d go out.

Sometimes we would go to the park, and I’d spread out a blanket for us. I would nurse the baby if he was hungry, and then I would drink my coffee and talk to him about the clouds and the trees and the birds.

Other times we would go to the bookstore to browse. I would pick out a book from the bargain shelves and pay for it, and then we would go to the coffee shop. I would take the baby out of his stroller, and he would doze off in my embrace while I lazily read my book.

We went on excursions to the mall, to stores, and to mom-and-baby groups. From time to time, I would strap my son into the baby-jogger and we would go running together. We would walk to the coffee shop down the road, I would buy myself lunch and nurse the baby, and then we would take a long, circuitous route back home.

I loved those early days of parenting. They were exhausting yet idyllic. I knew absolutely nothing about being a mother, but I was happy to find my way with this beautiful boy in my arms.

When my younger son came along, everything was so different. Financial pressure had forced us to give up one of the cars, so while my husband was working, I was stuck at home with both kids. I felt a sense of entrapment that I only started to get some relief from when a friend very generously sent me a double stroller that she no longer needed. Even though it was the middle of winter, I would put the boys in the stroller and go trudging through the snow, so desperate was I to get out.

At around this time, we were starting to get the sense that there was something wrong with my older son, and I felt crushed under the worry that came with that. And to top it all off, I struggled with post-partum depression that was undiagnosed for almost a year.

When my firstborn was a baby I felt bliss. With my secondborn, I felt desperation. And to this day, I feel intense guilt over the fact that I did not do all of the babyhood things with my younger son that I had so enjoyed with my older son. I am doing my best to provide them with childhood years filled with joy, and judging by their smiles, laughter and hugs, I am doing OK in that department. But I cannot help feeling as if I missed out on a part of my younger child’s life that can never be recaptured.

Going back to the family on the subway that started off this whole train of thought, I wish them all of the joy in the world. I hope they savour that period of babyhood that is all too fleeting.

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One Response to “Fleeting Moments Of Babyhood”

  1. Alex@LateEnough August 13, 2011 at 9:20 PM #

    I worry about the moments, due to things outside my children’s control, that forced me to be much less consistent and ideal than I ever wanted to be and sometimes for longer stretches of time than I care to consider but if my children’s lives are made up of so many more joyful moments, I think that they’ll be okay. Now I just have to let go of the guilt that I seemed to have birthed with my kids.

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