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,
Every time I pick you up from daycare, one of the carers there always tells me that she thinks you're teething. Every time, for over two months. She does this by bringing my attention to the amount you dribble, and to the way you like to pull your dummy out and chew on its hard plastic front rather than the teat. I believed her at first and so for a while I blamed your bad nights on teething, but when a tooth didn't come through and the sleep didn't improve, I started to simply dismiss it. I began nodding and smiling at her sweetly when she would repeat her thoughts week after week after week.
Last week she said the same thing but prefaced it with a "I know I always say this but I really think it this time...". My reaction? I nodded and smiled and took you home.
But this week, on the day you turned exactly six months old, you did indeed cut your first tooth. This expression goes some way to describing exactly how rough and tough this was on you. In the 48 hours before that little jagged edge pushed through your gum, you had a fever, grew restless quickly and needed a lot more attention and cuddles than usual, especially in night hours. So much so I took you into bed with us for two nights - more out of exhaustion than anything else - and we got through those night wakings together with cuddles and cooing. On Tuesday morning I was just about to Google your symptoms when I thought I'd just check your gums, and that was when I felt the sharpness of your first tooth, barely out of the bed of your gum, but undeniably there. just above the surface. Within just a few hours you'd reverted back to your old self. I proudly told the daycare staff member about the tooth and she applauded you in Dutch, giving you nearly as many kisses and cuddles as I had when I first discovered it. As I walked out of the daycare building, I breathed out a sigh of relief and looked forward to a better night's sleep.
Until the next tooth pushes through... And the next, and the next, and the next.
That was my immediate reply to myself. I didn't even take a moment to enjoy the possibility of a good night's sleep. Why, oh why, oh why would I rain on my own parade like this?
I don't know the answer to that, little man, but what is interesting is that I'm not completely downhearted or despondent at the idea of your next tooth coming through. And the next, and the next, and the next. I'm not saying I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also not saying I'm NOT looking forward to it. Because I want it to happen. Of course, I do. I don't want you to be a one-toothed child. That would suck for you (no pun intended) as you wouldn't be able to eat or talk properly. No, I want all those little buggers to come out of their hiding places whenever they're ready and I want to be there for you when they do. And I want to be there for all the other shitty things that are going to happen to you. When you're starting to learn to walk and you fall over and cover your body in bruises, I want to be there to kiss them all better. When you first go to school and you feel scared or overwhelmed, I want to be there to tell you it's okay to feel like that and that things are rarely as scary as you think they are. When somebody hurts your feelings, I want to be there to make you feel better, even if I can't make you understand why they did what they did. And when you make mistakes - intentionally or otherwise - I want to be there to help you figure them out one way or the other. Even though some of these things will cut into me - just like the edge of your tooth sliced through your gum - I want to be there with you.
I want to be there.
Is this what being a parent is? Is this how a parent should feel? Is it more than a parent should feel? Or is it just the beginning of how being a parent feels? These are the questions I've been asking myself recently, repeatedly in fact on those nights when I was lying awake next to you, willing you to sleep longer than a few hours at a time, pain-free and peacefully.
The thing is, all that thinking doesn't give me the answers. It just brings me sleepless nights and more wrinkles on my increasingly furrowed brow.
But I do know one thing: I want to be there.
Which is just as well because last night you didn't settle at bedtime for two hours and I just touched your forehead and you're feeling a little warm... But don't worry Baby Bird, I'm here.
Your saliva-soaked, sleep-deprived, in-it-for-the-long-haul, crazy-in-love mother x