Nine Months Later

Elias is 9 months now. He is big and growing, with biceps of fat and hair that gets longer each day, especially in the back. I’ve given him two haircuts already. Of course, that is aside from the buzz he got from his father a few days after he was home from the hospital. He was born with hardly any hair on top, but had several strands of dark hair in the back. We are pretty self-conscious about our kid having a mullet—especially while we live in Bloomington, Ind., home of college kids and not-so-college kids (also known as mullet kids).

I can’t help but stare at Elias every moment I’m around him. I remember that infatuation “stage” right after he was born. He was like the day after Christmas … like my new favorite toy. I couldn’t get enough of him. He was like playing house when I was little, but this time I wasn’t playing with my anatomically correct little baby doll (a boy) that I had begged my mom to buy me off of the home shopping channel. No, this time I was holding and loving and nursing a real live baby. How quickly that newborn stage ended. I miss the times where he slept on our chests. I miss seeing his little naked boy body on my husband’s bare and hairy chest. A perfect contrast. A perfect fit. Yes, this is God this side of heaven. Yes, this is a miracle.

Well, that infatuation “stage,” as they call it, has not ended. While I am already battling his will, and he is consistently testing me to see if I’m “for real” when I say “no touch,” I can’t help but say that he is the most lovely, most loveable, most beautiful and peaceful and perfect little baby boy in the whole world. These are things I never thought I would say as a mother. I would be most humble, the most stern, and above all, I would never cut my hair and get a minivan, as I had seen virtually every new mother do.

I didn’t cut my hair.

As a photographer, I am able to capture so much. But what I am not able to capture—to grasp—are the moments that race by when one becomes a mother. I want to put Elias in a jar like a lightning bug, poke some air holes in it, and watch him, safe and sound, peaceful and undiluted. But every day he gets bigger, in a literal sense, and every day I am at a loss as to what it was like to be the mother of an infant, of a 6-month-old, and eventually, of a 9-month-old. Every day he falls and hits his head no less than 10 times it seems, and every day he does something so spectacular, so wonderful and new, that I am sure I will never forget that lovely moment. Oh, how I have forgotten so much.

One thing I will not forget is the way he sleeps. Like a puppy with its mom, he likes to sleep very close to my breast, with easy access any minute he would awake and want to just suck away. This however, has changed in the past week. I finally decided that he is a little boy and that he must be able to go to sleep on his own, without his “nourishment” acting as his little sleeping pill throughout the night. So for the past week, we have been waking in the middle of the night to a screaming boy in our bed (the bed issues are a whole other topic). I finally busted out the earplugs a few nights ago. They were packed away from when I lived in the dorm at I.U.

Anyhow, I failed miserably as a consistent mother, once again, last night. I struggle with grace for others, but more than anything, I lack in grace for myself, especially when it comes to mothering my baby. I’ve been through one too many “healing” classes and read one too many “brokenness” books whereby the root issues point back to mother and father. Yuck. I liked it better when I got to blame things on my parents. Now I’ll get to be the one blamed. Gives me a yucky feeling inside.

So anyway, last night he was screaming and screaming … and Thomas, the nurturing and compassionate husband and father that he is in the wee hours of the morning when the sun should not be up yet (it’s the middle of the summer, and it literally rises way too early—go back to bed, sun!), rolled over and growled, “Do something.”

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“What do you want me to do?” I retorted, angry and irrational, lacking any grace for the lack of sleep he was getting, lacking any grace for the nature of the male, but I won’t go into that.

“Give him the boob,” he said lightly, drifting back into sleep.

So I did it. I caved. I gave Elias what he was begging for and nodded back to sleep. So did Elias. So did Thomas. But I had that yucky feeling of failure, of messing with the poor kids’ future, of messing with some subconscious part of him that will one day be traced and pointed to when he’s dealing with insecurity, self-hatred, homosexuality … Nonetheless, I failed. I was inconsistent.

I guess there’s always tonight. And if not tonight, there are always those healing classes and healing books. He could even borrow them from me when he is 23.

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