Another Head Cold, Not My Own

August 31, 2006

*Edits! Below! Keeping you on your toes!

One of the challenging things about being a quote-unquote mommy blogger – a writer whose motherhood provides most of the grist for her writing mill – is the unpredictability of the mommy life. You can have neat little essays on the whys and wherefores of mothering – on the physicality of mother-love, on the experience of fear in motherhood, on the mystery of Whither the Tits? – all drafted and lined up for publishing (this one on Thursday, that one on Saturday, resting and blog-cruising on Friday…), and then wham. There’s a growth spurt or a sleep regression or sudden weaning or spontaneous dress rehearsals of your baby’s dance troupe and everything that you had planned on writing fades to grey against the bright messy colours of all this stuff that you must write about RIGHT NOW.

Tonight I was all prepared with my thoughts on my much-delayed post on the physicality of maternal love and had worked out my opening line (“I’ve never been at ease with my physical self…”) and planned on banging it out after dinner. But then WonderBaby’s little sniffle exploded into a nasty head cold at the same time as yet another tooth cut through her gums and our household exploded into a frenzy of pain and despair.

She shrieked and she wailed and she rubbed her sore, wet nose with her tiny fists. She clung to me and sniffled and choked back snotty sobs and then wailed some more. She rubbed her wet little face into my chest and was miserable. We were miserable.

There is no more terrible sound than the sound of your child in pain. There just isn’t. It doesn’t matter that you know that those cries are provoked by ordinary, everyday pains – stuffed nose, sore gums – those cries pierce you all the same, they cut right through you like so many knives, so many sharp, sharp knives. They hurt.

So you clasp your child to your chest and you whisper urgently that it’s okay, sshhh, it’ll be okay, and you press your lips against her wet cheeks and pull her as close as you can and you wish fervently that the beating of your heart will calm her, that somehow you will be able to will her pain away by holding her closer closer closer and warming her cheek with your breath. Because it must work both ways, mustn’t it? You can feel her pain as keenly as if it were your own. Shouldn’t she feel your strength, your calm – the calm that you are pulling, tugging, up from your very core for her - shouldn’t she feel that? Aren’t you, the two of you, one body?

You’re not. She cries, she hurts, and your heart breaks because you can’t make the hurt go away. So you just hold her, and stroke her hair while she sniffles and moans. And you sit there as long as you have to, until her crying slows and her head falls heavily against your chest. You sit there and hold her, cradling her little body and breathing her in. You sit there for a long time, for a very long time.

And then you carry her over to her crib and lean your body in as far as it can go, keeping her pressed against you as you lower her down, and you lay her down, and she uncurls her little fists and rolls onto her side and you stay, hunched over, listening to her breathe.

And then you pull away, and back quietly away, and leave her, alone, sleeping, in her crib.

And you think, we are not one.

We’re two. She will bear her pain, her pains, and her blisses, as her own. Apart from me.

It’s a terrible thing, and a wonderful thing. And I can’t think of anything else tonight.

*********
I didn’t forget about the Perfect Post awards. I dithered about how to select a post to award, because I wanted to award to it to, well, every single one of the Speaking a Joy Which Can’t Be Words posts, but a) they don’t let you do that (understandably) and, b), it could come off as just so much self-promotion (it being my own writing prompt and all.) So I dithered and dithered and dithered some more and then it was yesterday and WonderBaby got sick and things fell to shit and there you go.
So, to all of you who wrote those beautiful posts - I honour you (HBM curtsies deeply.) I think that you all are wonderful and that you are extraordinary writers and that your children are very, very lucky to have you as mothers. Anyone out there who is looking for some heart-tugging reading for this weekend – yes, you – go read each and every one of these posts. And then tell the author how wonderful she is.
Your posts were all perfect. Every one of them.
(And big thanks to the loverly Cheeky Lotus for deeming my original Joy post worthy of a Perfect Post Award. I’m honoured. Really. Thank you.)
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    { 44 comments }

    Mommy off the Record September 1, 2006 at 12:37 am

    Now that Little Guy is gaining a bit more independence at the ripe old age of 14 months, I am recognizing more and more that we are NOT one–we ARE two. Right now, that realization is quite scary to me. It’s like I want him to be forever molded into me in that monkey hug, and I want to believe that I can protect him from anything–even though I know I can’t.

    I hope that Wonder Baby feels better soon. And remember, even though you can’t take away all of her pain, you DO make her pain more tolerable.

    Angel Baby September 1, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Honestly, I can’t seem to admit the separation to myself. Annabelle spent her first HOUR in daycare yesterday. I couldn’t drop her off, I couldn’t stand to do it. So I made my husband do it.

    Of course she had a great time. I had to go spy on her to make sure for my own heart.

    And I still can’t decide if I am happy or hurt about what a terrific time she had with a bunch of strangers. Sigh.

    Rebecca September 1, 2006 at 1:29 am

    HMB, I’m glad you didn’t have anything else to write. What you composed tonight was perfect. I could FEEL the jammie clad cuteness of your daughter, hear her miserable sobs, and see her wet red nose. This was the perfect description of putting your babe (anyone’s babe) down for bed. I just got my son to sleep. Ahh…sweet late night internet time!

    lara September 1, 2006 at 1:41 am

    that was beautifully written, and understandable that it should be taking up so much of your brain space. i think in a way, you are one, and you’ll remain one. it’s why you feel her pain so deeply. and it will always be that way. i know when i call my mom and sob to her about my problems, i *know* she feels it in her heart, just as i do. and it comforts me to know she is with me through the hurting, through hundreds of miles and a telephone cord. in those moments, i think maybe we are still one.

    Jennifer September 1, 2006 at 1:49 am

    Beautiful words, sweet love and a gorgeous picture. What more can you ask for in a post?

    Krisco September 1, 2006 at 2:00 am

    That was beautiful. I’ve lived it and thought it, exactly that – that lowering her into the crib, holding her as long as possible to me – and all the rest – and it was lovely to see it described as I’ve lived it. Thanks.

    mrsmogul September 1, 2006 at 5:12 am

    I would lower my baby in the crib but it’s too small for him! (it’s a small swinging cradle). Nice photo :0

    metro mama September 1, 2006 at 6:12 am

    Hope she’s better soon.

    Waya September 1, 2006 at 8:40 am

    Oh, poor Wonderbaby. It’s so tough to see them go through pains like that. And there will be other booboos along the way. I think they are much braver than we, mothers, are.

    My son went to his first 11 stitches (trip to the ER twice) for his cut under his chin a month ago, and I felt like my own chin was cut. It was excrutiatingly painful and helpless to watch.

    penelopeto September 1, 2006 at 8:53 am

    poor little one. is it selfish to relish being needed like that?

    Kristen September 1, 2006 at 9:20 am

    I hate when Leah’s sick. I’m telling you, we’re all passing a cold through our blogs because Leah’s sick and I keep reading that everyone else is!

    Christy September 1, 2006 at 9:29 am

    We are so done with the baby thing-(post to come on that today?), but you make me long for my babies. Sick and all! Keep finding time to write- you are keeping my brain alive as I wait impatiently for school to start!

    Mother September 1, 2006 at 9:29 am

    I’m not sure there’s anything worse than a sick baby. I always have to slug the tylenol with her because I can barely take it.

    Mrs. Chicky September 1, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Poor Wonderbaby. I do hope she feels better soon.

    Lisa b September 1, 2006 at 9:48 am

    I love your writing. That is such a beautiful description of what is, for me at least, so trying. The need to help your child and be unable to do so is exhausting.
    I had to laugh at the end bc after all that crying I would lay mine down and she would start screaming again.
    I’m glad your story does not end that way
    Hope wonderbaby feels better soon

    Chase September 1, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Awwww, poor sweet Wonderbaby! Hugs and kisses to the little sniffles.

    Andrea September 1, 2006 at 10:01 am

    That comforting mothers do when their babies are sick must do something, because the first time I got sick in college and I had to *gasp* take care of myself, I felt an emptiness I didn’t understand until I picked up the phone to call my mom and tell her I needed her, that I was sick. Of course, three hundred miles between us meant she couldn’t just pop over to put her cool hand on my forehead. That made the emptiness more profound than ever.

    Now that I have my own child, I try to do the same comforting, because who doesn’t feel better when their mother’s there to make it better?

    mothergoosemouse September 1, 2006 at 10:03 am

    What an incredible description. I know every word of it well myself. And I love the picture of you two.

    I hope WB feels better soon. I would much rather be sick myself than see my girls sick.

    Mommygoth September 1, 2006 at 10:40 am

    I know just what you mean. The discovery that I wasn’t able to magically fix everything for Miss K – not a fun one. She WILL weather her own storms, but you will still be the umbrella that keeps most of the rain from her, and you’ll also be the blanket she wraps up in when it’s over. That’s the good part.

    bubandpie September 1, 2006 at 11:22 am

    The thing that always gets to me is the emotional content of a child’s physical pain. Pain is so new to them, and it’s shocking, surprising, and totally unacceptable. You can see their disillusionment – they had no idea that life could be like this.

    But Andrea is right – you never get too old to need mommy when you’re sick. A couple of years ago I caught a feverish flu from Bub, and my first symptom was the urge to lay my head on my mother’s shoulder (the chills and aches came later).

    Gabriella September 1, 2006 at 11:29 am

    You truly have a way with words, reading this I could feel your emotions. Hope Wonderbaby feels better soon.

    Laural Dawn September 1, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Poor Wonderbaby and Poor you :(
    My heart aches when my baby is sick too. I always feel helpless and sad. And, then I think that I wish there were more I could do for him.
    But love makes all the difference. (I still call my mom to tell her I’m sick cause the sympathy – so necessary).

    PS Have you tried popsicles? No pain medication worked, but I sware popsicles were the only thing that helps in our house.

    Petra September 1, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    I don’t know if you have these up here but try Hylands Teething Tablets. They have them in the US and they are seriously the miracle cure for ouchy gums. If that isn’t available you could try a couple of home remedies:
    rub hot sauce on her gums
    rub whisky on her gums (my Great grandmother did this to me and Mom was horrified…until I stopped crying that is)
    wrap an ice cube in a wash cloth and secure it VERY tightly with a rubber band, hair band, etc. let her gnaw to her heart’s content!
    Hope she feels better soon, I know how helpless it makes you feel having to watch her suffer! Hang in there.

    Dawn September 1, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    Last night Emily cried because a girl at her new school told her she couldn’t play, and I had to resist my urge to kick some Girl Child ass for making my baby cry.

    The circles only get bigger, and we get smaller. It is the fragilty of parenting.

    Rock the Cradle September 1, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    All we can to is hold them close. Hope this passes for you all quickly.

    I’m going to wipe my eyes now.

    urban-urchin September 1, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    When my little guy had to go to the hospital the last time, and they gave him a catheter and an IV, I wanted to die. The look on his face was one of betrayal and pain and fear and it was awful.

    This was a beautifully written post, to which I could completely relate. Well done.

    slackermommy September 1, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    I can so relate with this post today except I wrote about my hurts. I had no idea parenting would be this hard. Thankfully I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing.

    sweetney September 1, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    i know, i know. its like one day you stop and think: fuck, they are their own people.

    which is of course so obvious, right? but when another person has been, like, PHYSICALLY connected to you for so long — before and after birth — things get sort of, well, muddied.

    its hard. its wonderful. its a loss. its freedom.

    ah, bittersweet.

    Her Bad Mother September 1, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Whisky on the gums? Aaaah. Maybe whisky on MY gums.

    LOTS of whiskey.

    Bobita September 1, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    “…we are not one. We’re two.”

    I am weeping.

    Literally. Weeping.

    Oh, so beautiful.

    kittenpie September 1, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    Oh, I know exactly what you mean with the sick baby, exactly. If you could suck the sickness out of them and take it on and fight it with your own white blood cells, you would. And I keep trying to get a minute to sit and write about this week’s hell, but can’t find it, so the posts in reserve originally for this week are going up anyway, inappropriate to my real mood (grumpy as a goose) as they might be.

    Mother Bumper September 1, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    It tears me up that we are not one. I do not look forward to the next time that she reminds me that I cannot take her pain away, her fear away and all those things we parents try to shield them from. It makes life easier reading your post and remembering that I’m not alone in these feelings and that we are all muddling along together, doing the very best we can. It does make me feel better (oh so selfish!) and please give WB a little kiss and hug for me and Bumper – we know and feel the pain.

    Oh, The Joys September 1, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    I wish my “all i could think about tonight” was as great as this post!

    crazymumma September 1, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Oh your poor little bunny. teething is such an absolute misery, and to think I have one about to go into braces…
    I hope she feels better. Motrin or Tylenol…it’s all I can say….it will really help her, and you.
    Congrats on the perfect post I am off to read it.

    penelopeto September 1, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    beautiful post. when bumblebee is not feeling well, my heart near about explodes for her – but the cuddles she wants; oh, the cuddles.

    congratulations on the perfect post award; this month marked my first, and i see that i am in remarkable company.

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    something blue September 2, 2006 at 9:18 am

    Yes we are two but why is it that we can’t take away their pain, but we certainly feel it? A parent’s heart always remains connected to their child.

    I’m looking forward to rejoicing in their glee. Seeing their eyes light up with delight will surely make my heart swoon.

    Hope WonderBaby feels much, much better.

    cmhl September 2, 2006 at 10:04 am

    beautiful post. I distinctly recall that realization (we are two separate people) with both of my kids.

    tracey September 2, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Oh, the never ending push and pull of our children to us..back and forth…it’s so heartbreaking.

    We all know what it is you are feeling. We all go through it again and again.

    Thanks for saying it so well, as you always do!

    sunshine scribe September 2, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Its like a dance. And we are not alone.

    Such beautiful words.

    I hope sweet Wonderbaby is feeling better soon. Her boyfriend (Little Sunshine) sends well wishes and a silly face to cheer her up.

    Nancy September 2, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    I hope WonderBaby is feeling better soon. You are right, it’s such a difficult and wonderful thing to realize that you and your child are distinct. When they hurt, we hurt as mothers — yet, we are no longer one with them the way we were when our babies were in the womb.

    It’s an odd sensation, one which I never would have believed before I had my girls — being so connected with someone (two someones, in my case) that you are physically distinct from.

    Heather September 3, 2006 at 12:41 am

    You have this uncanny ability to write things that I think, but would never think to write. Thanks.

    chichimama September 3, 2006 at 6:35 am

    I hope she is recovered soon. This is such a beautiful post. Much better than my cranky whine would have been in the same situation…

    Brony September 7, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Great post. You’re right about having things all planned out and watching them change in just a single moment. It keeps us going.

    I love the way you describe your connection. You are a lucky mom. That connection is something I often find myself struggling with. Not because I don’t love my boys, but because at times I forget to love myself.

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