It’s a strange thing, to be a mother without having your own mother to talk to. My eldest child was 5 years old when she passed away but I often wonder how she did things or what she’d think of the way I do them.
I remember when I couldn’t breastfeed my eldest. She asked if I wanted to try again a couple of days after we’d gotten home from hospital. When I told her about the tongue tie my daughter had and how no one would listen or help me in the hospital, she didn’t push it. She just said that formula was pretty good these days.
I remember advice on what kind of foods to try her on, what to bathe her in for her mild eczema, how to treat a cold, how to get her to use the potty and other small, inconsequential things like that. Those 5 years a blur for me; I had a lot going on. Separation, moving around, career change, re-partnering and gaining step-kids. I didn’t know, of course, that Mum wouldn’t be around after that, so I never really sat down and talked to her about parenting. Everything I gleaned from her was in snippets, as things came up. I imagine that’s how it is for most people.
By the time my second baby was on the horizon, things had changed quite a bit. Mum had been gone for years. My job had changed again, I had gotten married, moved quite a few times. Our 3 children were much older. My ideas on being a parent were less rigid than they were at 21, when I had my first and thought I had to do everything the books said and constantly felt I was getting it wrong. Ten years into that and I’d realised my kid was pretty awesome, in spite of me not getting it “right” all the time. She survived full time day care while I worked. She thrived at school and made friends. She was happy and healthy. She still is.
Now, I have a three year old as well. This three year old is still breastfeeding. This three year old has only slept in her own room for a matter of months. She has spent much of her three years in a baby carrier or sling.
It’s this one, named for the Nanny she won’t ever meet, that has made me wonder how I was parented. I remember the usual bits and pieces of childhood and much more of being a teenager- but how was I cared for as a baby? I remember mum saying she couldn’t take much time off work and I think I was bottle fed early on for that reason. Did I co sleep? Or was I in my own room? Was I cuddled to sleep? Did she read to me? How was I mothered, when I was tiny? It’s hard not being able to ask my Mum these questions. I think who we are as parents, especially as mothers, is often due to how we were parented ourselves.
I don’t know. My Dad might remember some things, though he likes to recount the funny stories more than the other stuff. One thing I do have is pictures. My albums full of baby pictures. I looked at one of them recently after not opening them for years. It’s not the same as talking to my mum, but it’s no small thing, either. I had a bouncer and a cot. I had bottles, toys and a walker. But the coolest picture I found was this one, snuggled up against my mum’s chest in my baby carrier.
I don’t know if she used it once or a hundred times; the fact that she had one for me, that the idea of keeping me close and snug was something she felt was important enough that she invested in a carrier, amazed me. We’d never discussed babywearing that I can remember. Maybe the instinct to keep your baby close like you do in a carrier is genetic or an evolutionary trait. Maybe it’s nothing more than a coincidence. I don’t know.
I think I’m doing okay at this mum stuff. The way I parent isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. It works for us. And I think, looking back on these pictures, that my Mum might well agree with me. I don’t know why it surprised me so much to see her wearing me in a carrier. We had similar tastes in music, in food and drinks, in books and in movies. Why not similar ideas on mothering?
Seeing that my mother wore me in a carrier, like I’ve worn my own little one so many times, gave me a little connection to my Mum that I haven’t had in years. I’m so grateful for that.
#IBOT @ Essentially Jess.