This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travel, writing, freelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.
Dear Baby Bird,
I can't remember exactly when it happened but a few months after you were born and you had a little strength in your neck and a lot of curiosity in your forever roaming eyes, your father turned to me and said "I think he's finally happier outside than he was inside you. I don't think he wants to be back there anymore."
It was a very astute observation because really that's exactly what the early weeks and even months are like for babies, it's like they wish they were back in the womb, surrounded by warmth, the lights on low and a gentle wave of muted sounds playing in the background. And who can blame them? It sounds like a spa treatment room. Well, today marks the day you've officially been living on the outside of my body for as long as you were on the inside. And I can state with 100% certainty that there is no way you want to go back in.
You really do seem to enjoy life and the world around you. You now have the mobility that those searching eyes longed for for so long and there's no stopping you if you are plopped on the ground free to crawl your way to whatever you choose to focus on. You grab, you pull, and you pop whatever you find into your mouth. You chew, you drool, you drop it to one side, soggy and disheveled, and you move onto the next. This was all well and good when you were happy to discover the toys we left in your way but as soon as you discovered the things you weren't supposed to - plug sockets, some skirting board level light features, the volume button on our stereo - we quickly had to accept that our baby proofing wasn't enough and we recently bought a playpen. Now you have your own little zone filled with all the safe things you can grab, shake, throw or chow down on. It's taken you a little while to get used to the limited space - our home is very open plan whereas the playpen is not... at all - and it's certainly helped that most evenings your dad climbs in there with you and you climb up and over his belly likes it a peak to be conquered.
I have always loved your curiosity, but recently I have started to really notice and value your confidence too. While it took you a while to discover the benefits of rolling over, crawling and now pulling yourself up to kneeling and almost standing has all happened very quickly and I can see that each new movement learned is the boost you need to try the next, and the next, and the next. It's almost happening too quickly for me to document, though I try to by noting down little events in my diary, or writing about them here.
However, you are not immune to vulnerability and this week has reminded us both of that. After nearly five months of thinking daycare was the best place in your little world, this week for the first time you cried each morning I left you there. It came as quite a shock to me, and made leaving you there hard again, just after I'd gotten used to walking away, my inner auto-pilot chant of "he's happy there, he's happy there" reassuring me. However, when I could still hear you crying through the door, it wasn't so easy to push away those feelings of guilt and doubt and walk outside. But what else could I do? To go back, to pick you up, take you home would be to not let you learn that you are fine and happy and loved even when I'm not by your side, because you are. I think my guilt is multiplied by the fact that I don't really have to work. Your father earns enough to support me staying at home with you all day, every day; I choose to work because it's important to me, and because I'm not the best version of myself when my sole task is looking after you. Does that make me a terrible mother? A terrible person? Unworthy of you? On my darker days I think yes, and I see this as me choosing work over you, a horrible crime. But on my brighter days I see this as me doing exactly what I have to do - and am lucky enough to be able to do - to be balanced and happy. I see it as me also ensuring you are learning social skills and the language of the country you live in. So many other people don't have the luxury to choose such a lifestyle and they have to fight battles every week to get enough time on their own to work or pursue creative goals. I am even luckier that we found wonderful team of daycare staff who clearly love you very much and they fill your days with lots of activities that would be only a fraction of the fun if it was just you and me.
Besides, the afternoons this week when I picked you up from daycare, worrying how long you cried for me, concerned that it haunted you all day, well... when I got there you looked at me with raised eyebrows and startled eyes as if to say "What? You're here already? But I don't want to go home yet..." and that reassured me that your brilliant sense of curiosity and your ever-growing confidence got you through the day. That and plenty of hugs from your carers who kindly told me that it's always harder for the parents when kids cry in the morning...
I'm starting to think that that's fair to say about a lot of these small but briefly significant moments. They do seem to hit me harder than you; indeed, you'll have no living memory of crying while watching me walk away, while that image is one I can instantly conjure and it's as hurtful to do so as when it originally happened. I think I need to start learning from you. I need to use the new confidence I get from getting through these bumps as a boost to push on through the next and the next and the next. And I need to have faith in my sense of curiosity too, because I am so very curious about what the future holds for us both... and so very happy and lucky that all being well we will find out with you in my arms, then by my side, holding my hand, taking one wobbly step after another...
Your turning-up-the-volume-on-her-inner-auto-pilot, hoping-you-don't-start-walking-too-soon-because-I-kinda-like-your-funny-little-crawl, laughing-at-your-dad-getting-kicked-in-the-balls-a-few-times-during-your-climbing-sessions, crazy-in-love mother x
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.