The baby of the family wanted to look at her baby book yesterday. She always wants to look at her baby book. It has become a chore. Dragging the behemoth book off the shelf, finding a place where it can lay supported across our laps, turning the pages for her so they don’t get bent. Like so many things in life lately, it’s a task I don’t want my child/children to do because I have to do it with them. I don’t have the energy or desire to do so. I have other things I’d like to be doing. I have other things I should be doing.
We sat yesterday, wedged side to side in the rocking chair I used to nurse her in, with the book stretched between us. I flipped through the pages with her as I usually did: answering random questions with half my attention. I’d seen all this a hundred times. I’d lived it, though it seemed like an alternate reality, eons ago in a fog.
There was a time, a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to create this baby book of hers. I couldn’t peer into the thin nylon parting gift of a bag from the hospital that held all the paperwork and memorabilia. Perhaps opening it up would release the demons I’d stuffed deep inside. Or that I’d carried home from the hospital.
I remember that bag as a turning point. It taunted me as it hung listless from the closet doorknob of the nursery. It twisted and banged against the door as we opened and closed it. It loomed in my eyesight as I sat in that rocker and nursed.
I think I finally emptied the bag because I was so sick of looking at it and its reminders.
Now all those reminders are bound up in that baby book.
That she forced me to look at yesterday.
I maintained psychic distance until I looked closely at the pages of her actual birth. I still search her face for signs of sibling similarity. I still try to pinpoint the moment between the pictures where they lost her bracelets in the nursery. From that point on, is there still sibling similarity?
It’s a tired routine. It’s not as fresh and real as the anguished feelings that drove it in the first place. But I still look. When I force myself to really see, I still look.
I never want to look at the pictures again. I want to box them up and send them with her when she’s grown and going out on her own. I love her as she is. I don’t want to become the person I was when she was born. Looking at pictures of her from that time, brings that me back.
Ironically enough, I bonded with this baby of mine. We share the most loveable, profound moments. I never wanted to hurt her or give her away or wish her out of existence. But somewhere in that hospital room, I split in two. Thankfully, one half was the loving mother who was able to give her what she needed. The other half? That’s not so easy to define. That’s me. Inside out, soft underbelly exposed to the harsh world. Quivering. Questioning. Knowing that she was screwed as the first labor pains hit because, even at the end of nine months of burgeoning, she still hadn’t prepared herself for this birth.
And as much I liked to think it was behind me, it came crawling back in as I looked at those pictures. Maybe that’s why it’s such a chore to drag that book out.
Will I always cringe to remember that time? Will it always elicit the same feelings, years, decades, lifetimes passed?