Monday, April 18, 2005

While thumbing through an article about Asian American writer Iris Chang's suicide in the Sunday Chronicle magazine, I came across a photo of her and her son -- at his first birthday party, in 2003.

It was one of those punched-in-the-gut moments, to see with my own eyes that the mother of a beautiful 3-year-old child could take her own life. Not only did she willingly abandon her son in this world that obviously she had found to be a tough place herself, but she left him here damaged. The child of a suicide, someone who will spend so many hours in therapists' offices being told it wasn't his fault. Would he even remember her?

Every day since having Nutmeg, I've had a heightened sense of distress when hearing about hurt children. It's natural; other moms tell me they feel the same way, especially when breastfeeding is causing our brains to be bathed in mommy hormones. But seeing Iris Chang and her little boy bothered me more, because it told me something I didn't want to be true.

Love is not necessarily powerful enough to protect your children from yourself.

Whenever my own demons get the best of me, and I fight with my husband and take advantage of his gentleness and hurt him, I tell myself that I will not be this way with Nutmeg. And when I get scared that I will be that way with her -- that I'll nag her and have unrealistic expectations of her and take out my anxieties on her in the form of anger -- I resolve not to.

Obviously, I don't think I'm just like Iris Chang. The woman was an undermedicated sufferer of bipolar disorder, according to the article, and I'm just neurotic like everybody else is. But her story made me face some facts: One, I'm never going to get through life without hurting my daughter. If anyone ever tells you he was never hurt by his mother, that person probably didn't know his mother. And even then he probably won't say he was never hurt by her. But two, if I want to give Nutmeg the kind of quality mothering I'd like to, I can't just rely on my instincts and my love. I have to work at it, whether that means just doing the healthy things I know I'm supposed to do, like not bitching at her father all the time, or going to a counselor, or what, I have to do it. If I think I can spend hundreds of hours obsessing over what kind of education she's going to get, and zero hours thinking about what kind of mothering she's going to get, well, you get the idea.

In other news, grandparents will be descending -- literally -- on the Bay Area in four days, and most plans are go for the first birthday extravaganza. I have already confessed to my party shopping excesses, after deciding to make the decor and baby entertainment and keep it simple. Nutmeg, oblivious to the coming event, is wrapped up in another growth spurt/developmental leap. According to our bathroom scale, she jumped from 18 lbs 5 ounces a month ago to 20 pounds. And she has become much more tuned in to the world around her in recent days. She requests her favorite song on the stereo, and we play it, and play it, and play it. When we sing the lyrics to her, we stop when we get to the two words she can say, and she fills them in. Epu discovered she can do this, of course, because it's the kind of thing that only he would believe an almost-1-year-old could do. Tonight we tried on her birthday party dress -- it's a little loose but will be fine -- and she loved it! It's got a crinoline skirt, and she fluffed it in her hands, and stared in the mirror and grinned and said as best she could, "pretty!" Something about the fluffy skirt inspires her to take steps while holding my hands, so who knows -- maybe she really will take those first unassisted steps at her party. This is, after all, a baby who was born on her due date, never strays from the 50th percentile in weight, and is, as Dr. Wright said, "a textbook baby." Of course she'll walk on her first birthday.

1 comment:

Bert said...

sweetie, the fact that you even wrote this blog entry shows that you'll be a fantastic mother throughout her life. you're already thinking about it... pondering what will work. you rock. and if you find yourselves in trouble later on... well, i'll cut you a deal and go sliding scale on therapy. -b :)