Thursday, December 06, 2007

mothers

This morning at the Early Years Centre, I picked out a couple of Mothering magazines to read while Swee'pea headed straight for the trucks. I settled on the couch and not long after a woman came in and sat next to me, still in her winter coat. An older woman, her mother I guess, followed behind her carrying an infant carseat with a wee baby surrounded by pink fleece. I immediately asked how old the little one was (three and a half weeks -- oh the precision of those early days and hours) and added two and two.The woman had had a c-section. Otherwise she would have carried the baby and carseat herself.

A woman with a son near Swee'pea's age waxed nostalgic about how easy those newborn days were when you could just put the baby in the carseat and take them wherever you wanted without any wrestling. I thought this was a cruel comment. "Maybe physically it was easier," I said, "but," and the new mother interjected with considerable relief, "emotionally and mentally, it feels pretty hard."

The newborn started to cry, that delicious little newborn cry, and the mother crooned to her, then looked around a touch nervously, "Great. I brought the crying baby. Nobody likes a crying baby." We all jumped in with Oh jeez! Don't worry's. I don't think any parent of a young child hanging out at a free-play drop-in centre could possibly mind the gentle squawk of a newborn. The baby quieted on the breast.

I moved to make room for the grandma and sat on the floor with my magazine, watching Swee'pea out of the corner of my eye. He'd gotten to the dolls now, and was just sitting quietly, a doll cuddled close to him, his head slightly tilted with his chin on the doll's head. He sat like that for many minutes, still. Between the new baby in pink and my baby who was once as tiny as that little one cradling his own make-believe baby sent my ovaries aflutter (they've been doing that a lot lately and Swee'pea's tender fascination with dolls is not helping).

I wanted to talk to the new mother some more, to reassure her that it really does get easier, but I felt it would be intruding on her conversation with her mother. I felt a c-section kinship with her. I couldn't help but eavesdrop a little bit. She was here for the lactatation consultant, who had gone to find a room. The very same lactation consultant I had seen when Swee'pea had spinachy poops and who had helped us manage my overactive letdown.

Eventually the lactation consultant came back, and the mother introduced the grandma: her mother-in-law, I heard with some surprise. She'd treated the mother with such respect and kindness and warmth, I'd just assumed she must have been her mother. The mother's husband was away so grandma had come to help her out. She went on to remind the lactation consultant that she'd mentioned her mother-in-law before, that she'd had four kids. "Oh right," the lactation consultant remembered, "and you did a great job feeding them all. It's amazing you nursed them for so long in your generation, with no support of any kind, just because you knew it was the right thing to do." The grandma nodded, "And I loved it."

I know you can't judge a book by its cover or a relationship from the outside, I know it's wrong to covet your neighbour's mother-in-law. But before I knew what hit me, my eyes were hot with unshed tears and I had to catch my breath for a moment.

14 comments:

Aliki2006 said...

My heart was catching as I read this, too. I have such a dysfunctional relationship with my own mother, and my MIL has often stepped in, but in other ways she hasn't either--it's hard to crave that type of relationship.

It sounds like that young woman and her MIL are so lucky to have each other.

Mouse said...

My MIL is more likely to be the one with me than my own mother, though, along the lines of what Aliki said, it can never be a complete replacement.

But I'm not surprised your ovaries are aflutter--how cute that your little guy is being so sweet with dolls!

dawn224 said...

ohhhh....


I'd so sell my MIL cheap. Or free.

This is lovely.

Karen said...

this leaves me feeling very grateful. My mom-in-law and I have had our share of conflict, but she also always treated me with respect and admires my mothering. Thanks - am now more willing to not sweat the small stuff. Please remind me I said that when she serves dinner an hour past my kids bedtime.

Beck said...

A very few of my friends have relationships like that with their mother-in-laws... not me, though.

Bon said...

god, you do vignettes beautifully, and with such sensitivity to people's inner lives, and your own.

i know that catch of breath, of heart.

Bon said...

god, you do vignettes beautifully, and with such sensitivity to people's inner lives, and your own.

i know that catch of breath, of heart.

Bon said...

my computer always doubles on your site. a thousand pardons...again.

Mad Hatter said...

this was beautiful and heart-breaking, Sin. And, as bon says, you do vignettes so very well.

Don Mills Diva said...

That was a lovely post. I have that kind of relationshop with my mother-in-law and I am so grateful.

nomotherearth said...

I have great MILs but they wuoldn't want me to bf in front of them.

Morrigan said...

My eyes teared up as I read this. I had a difficult relationship with my mother and have essentially no relationship with my MIL, so I too covet that kind of close relationship.

Mimi said...

aww, sin ... i know how hard it is with your mother in law not being well. how sad it all is. but it's wonderful that you showed such empathy for that new mother. those days are raw.

crazymumma said...

I hear you on this one. But we are trying to right some wrongs.