Since WonderBaby was born, I have been keeping a journal about her. Not this one; a proper, bound paper journal with ink-smeared pages. It began as a poo diary (how many poos today? what color? runny? yes my friends the life of a mother dazzles with its glamor), but it quickly evolved into a detailed record of the minutiae of WonderBaby’s existence. When does she sleep? For how long? When does she nurse? How long? Which breast? Did I read to her? What books? Did she smile/laugh/roll-over/grasp objects/sit up? Everything.
This detailed note-taking has not wholly been an exercise in record-keeping (every notable moment has been recorded in every conceivable medium – notebook, baby book, digital photo, digital video – short of ass tattoo. And that may still be coming. That? That’s graphic representation in ink of my daughter’s ass on a toilet. Commemorating the moment of liberation from the tyranny of the poo bag. ‘Cause that’ll be huge.) Instead, it has been, for the most part, anthropological research. Detailed note-keeping as part of an embedded participant-observation case study. Subject: WonderBaby.
When she arrived – November 14, 2005 – and was placed in my arms, it felt as though she had always been there. It felt as though the weight of her – the delicate, delicate weight of her – was and always had been part of me. That I would always need to feel that weight to feel complete.
But she was a stranger. She was new. She was part of me – my body ached with yearning for her if we were separated for more than a moment – but she was still unknown.
So I set about getting to know her. Primally, we acquainted ourselves through our bodies: tit to hungry mouth, hand to shit-smeared bottom, kisses kisses kisses to beautiful little head, and the constant embrace, skin to skin. This stretched and strengthened my soul, coming to know this other being so physically, this other being who is herself the creation of the most intimate physical knowing, this being who is both of my body and of her father’s and so bound, always, physically, to both of us. But my mind struggled to keep up. Who is she who is she who is she who is she?
The poo provided no answers. Consistently mustardy, arriving with appropriate frequency, sometimes with inappropriate force and volume. But the record-keeping… ah. That appealed to the academic in me. I could know her by studying her habits, by taking careful notes (and, not incidentally, checking those notes against so-called Expert Texts, a practice that I abandoned early on, once I realized that they were all full of shit – and not the benign breastmilk kind – and that the very idea of baby expertise is absurd.) So I kept careful notes. I studied my baby. I satisfied my mind’s desire to understand her in rational, quantifiable terms. Naps two hours once a day if swaddled and put down in dark room. Nurses every three hours. Resists afternoon naps except in stroller. Responds to nightly ritual: dinner bath cuddle nurse cuddle bed. Sleeps seven hours. Growth spurt? Five hours. Everything that my heart and body told me about her, I double-checked against my notes. But that was the thing: every note that I took, every behaviour that I observed, every conclusion that I arrived at, had already been viscerally noted and imprinted. I already knew her.
I realized this some time ago. But I clung to my book. It served me well; it was something to cling to when I felt confused or out of my depth, which was often.
WonderBaby turned 6 months old this weekend. Yesterday, she had her six month well-checkup. When I took out The Book to note her weight and other particulars, I realized that I hadn’t recorded the morning’s routine beyond the time of her rising. Nor had I done so for the last two days. I had been mothering beyond the book. I no longer needed my notes. I knew WonderBaby through my flesh, through my bones, through my blood.
So yesterday, after recording the details of the visit with the doctor, I put the book away.
But before I close the book entirely, I thought that I should post its last, incomplete entry here, for posterity.
6:20 Up and nursing.
Dawn, and we hear her happy voice, cooing matins with her bunny. Daddy goes to greet her good morning, and to bring her into bed. In she comes, smile as wide as sunflowers, arms outspread. Down to the breast; she suckles and snuggles and then turns to reach for her Da. Chest hairs are plucked, groins are kicked, fingers probe eyes, noses, mouths. We play, we cuddle, we doze…
2:20 Down in carseat. To doctor; 1 dropper Infant Tylenol 30 min. before shots.
Clutching sides of carseat as it is swung into car; eyes wide as saucers but smiling always smiling.
Doctor’s Appointment. Weight: 16.5 lbs.
Chubby little legs that kick and push. Soft round belly and proud high chest.
Length: 27.5 inches
Tall like her Da. Long, long legs that stretch, stretch, stretch. Straining to stand, to bounce. Striving for her height, reaching for the sky, the stars, our embrace.
Head circumference: 17.75 inches
Noble baby head, big and round and full of firing brain. Sparsely haired, built for hats and for sniffing and for kisses for kisses for endless kisses.
Developing well. Sat up early. Babbling. Responds to name. Taking solids.
Growing, learning, living and loved, so loved.
And that was all. That is all.
That’s all that matters. She is loved, beyond all measure, with every fibre of her parents’ beings. She is loved. And, so, she is known.
I know her. She’s my baby.