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36 weeks | Get up, stand up baby | no. 0029
It’s moving too fast. Now the munchkin spends all of his time trying to stand up. We’re pretty sure he’ll be walking tomorrow.
I put the toy he used to be entertained with for a good three minutes in front of him. He chucks it after a few solid licks and is back to standing practice again. Any and everything is fair game to push off against. The wall corner, a chair leg, the door hinge, some stacked books, my own face. He focuses his infant strength on mastering this very human need. To get up and hold his own in any space. What am I going to do now?
In him, I am studying the anatomy of determination. Ever since reading about what Daniel Coyle calls “the sweet spot”**–that small gap that exists for everyone between the thing we know so well and the next skill that we’ve yet to learn– I have been seeing this theory in action in my munchkin. I watch him try, fail, and try again. Every attempt more courageous than the one before it. I see his leading edge is that he has no cause to believe in defeat.
I wonder what this means for me. And for our non-babyproofed space. The munchkin works hard to discover possibility through the art of touch. His fingers slide, and twist, and grasp for the crevices we’ve overlooked, or just have no way to practically seal off. Whenever he secures himself to such an opening, he pulls up, grins proudly. This is it, though. The total sum of his journey, a measured trek from bended knee to two firm feet. This is what he strives for in the bulk of his waking hours. To elevate himself. And each time he succeeds, I am happy and sad.
All week I have been meditating on this dichotomy of the mothering heart. The duality of joy and lamentation you feel because your baby is constantly moving away from needing you. Even though it’s incremental (THANK GOD!), every new skill your baby learns feels like the Big Bang, but without the ensuing billion years or so to gradually recover and integrate said change. A large, irretrievable gap inevitably widens for mother and child. You know your job is to help them do this work, this living. But still, it can be so agonizing to accept that there is no going back. You are always just only able to be right here, right now.
This constant demand to be so grounded in the present moment has me naturally peering deeply into the past. Could there be something I missed? I find I am thinking so much about the munchkin’s birth. It feels like many lifetimes have come and gone in these relatively short 8 months of his life. I just keep seeing the progression of the miracle, a sequence of happenings that had no true beginning or ending. My pre-labor walk around the cathedral, the phone call I was on when I felt my first contraction, my breath as I rode each contraction as conscientiously as possible– I wanted to feel everything– the water on my back when I kneeled in the shower to help relax me, the absence of all sense of time, the sounds I made, the hands that held me, the definite cry that life had arrived, the sure sense of recognition when I finally saw his face, the smiles that greeted new mommy and baby boy, the surreality of holding a whole human to my breast who had just recently been a protruding, internal wonder.
So many different details flood through me right now. I wonder if it’s because in a just a couple of more weeks we’ll reach a pivotal mark. He’ll soon officially have been on Earth for the same amount of time that he was in my womb. In that first month with him, I had fleeting expectations of what life would look like for us when we got “this far.” This is still just the beginning of the beginning. I can see I mostly had no idea how things would be and was wrong about what would really be important to me. Much of our rhythm as mommy and munchkin has evolved through a deep commitment to listening to my intuition. There’s no way I could have planned all of this before living through my feelings.
Still though, I realize I am already making these “decisions” about what I’ll do differently next time. It’s like my brain is equally devoted to functioning in the future too. I have been pondering how the next time I give birth I will try harder to enjoy everything that is happening. I see now how badly I miss those first days. I hold all the memories as precious, tender folds of time that can at least live on through my words and stories. And it’s not even that I wasn’t acknowledging the sacredness of our newborn season then, but I didn’t know how it would feel to one day be so removed from that initial postpartum frequency. As wild as it sounds, I miss the odd, sleep-depraved state, where day and night merged into one delirious, never-ending blob of dark and light hours for like 8 straight weeks. I miss how small my baby was, how he could sleep on my chest for hours at a time, how I could lay him on his back and he could not move! I miss so much, even as I am overwhelmed at all the amazing, new things I experience with him today. You will miss these days too.
So the standing phenomenon is just the latest in an epic saga of transitions. No sooner had I gotten acclimated to his crawling maneuvers than he started this intense study of standing independently. Also going on is more teeth breaking the gum line, the root squeals of a first word, and his newfound audacity to venture around corners and out of mommy’s sight!
Every minute is steeped with anticipation. Something great is about to happen. I think this is the gift of parenting. The front row seat you have to witness the subtle majesties of the life force. A beautiful knowing experienced through the persistent, vibrant heart of a little one who believes there is nothing too small or mundane for celebration. Each day with your child– even the long, funky, poop-stained, dreary ones– gives you ample opportunity to ask profound questions about what it means to be alive. And to be thoroughly and joyfully surprised by the answer.
**Chapter 1: “The Sweet Spot“, The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t grown. It’s born. Here’s How by Daniel Coyle, 2012
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.