Babies everywhere

February 11, 2011

I thought I had overcome my problems with babies, but lately I’ve been overwhelmed by sheer quantity. In the past year, about 80% of the reproductive-aged women I know have either gotten pregnant or given birth. Adults are disappearing from my facebook page, replaced by ghostly ultrasounds and squishy newborn faces.

Now, individually, each of these babies is a miracle and a blessing. I really do enjoy meeting them and hearing about them, and sometimes I even like flipping through their pictures. But collectively, these babies are an emotional burden. You see, newborns, and the trappings of newborns, trigger nothing but bad memories for me.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Chloe’s first year was an unrelenting nightmare of anxiety, pain and disappointment, and baby artifacts will always remind me of that. I can’t look at an infant carrier without remembering those three hour drives to Children’s Hospital, Chloe crying all the way, knowing that at the end of the journey we’d be facing more tests and more bad news. Baby toys are loaded with unmet expectations–every colorful invitation to grab, pull and bite was an invitation that Chloe, paralyzed by her brain injury, could not accept. And I don’t even want to talk about bottles or baby food.

Of course, life with Chloe these days is anything but a nightmare, but babies are also reminders of all the skills she still doesn’t have. By six months, most babies are starting to sit up, eat solid food and crawl, and the speed at which this happens seems cruel to a parent of a disabled kid.

And then there’s the envy. I always assumed, even before Chloe was born, that having any newborn baby was no fun at all, that it was something you just had to endure. Apparently that’s not exactly true, and every glowing facebook post from a new mother or father is a little reminder of what I have missed. A friend of mine said the other day that the first thought she had on seeing her son was “Wow, I like that baby!” My first thought on seeing Chloe: What if she dies?

Like I said earlier, these babies, on an individual basis, are great. I really do enjoy seeing them, holding them, hearing their parents’ concerns about binkies and spit up. But if I seem less than properly sentimental at the next baby shower, or if my eyes start to glaze over while hearing about the wonder of birth or the joy of nursing, well, now you know why.


7 Responses to “Babies everywhere”

  1. Sara Says:

    A brave post, Camilla. Thanks for your candor.

    Love you.

  2. Grandma Says:

    Camilla, I don’t think everyone will understand this. Doesn’t matter. I’m glad you wrote it with such bare honesty. It touches some of my own feelings, which I’ve never really tried to voice (or write).

  3. yanna Says:

    My sweetheart — I am so proud of you for posting this honest account of the feelings that babies arouse in you, and I am equally proud of how you have allowed others to share Chloe so that she can be stimulated by regular school, and you can reach the career you deserve. Even sharing Chloe’s infancy from a grandmother’s distance was the most painful experience of my life. I also know that the experience has enriched my own life in so many ways, and the miracle of the “Chloe effect” is a gift I treasure, as do all who love her. Another thing I have learned in life is that loving, generous energy you share with others has a way of coming back at you like a boomerang, often from unexpected places. The unswerving love you have shared with Chloe plus all that you have shared for other mothers with challenged kids will come back to you “sevenfold” over your whole lifetime. Pain, yes there is plenty of it, but if you can do whatever it takes to avoid bitterness, you are destined for deep joy, who knows where it will come from. Be watching for it! I am honored to have you as my daughter, and I am blessed by Chloe’s life. As the song goes “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good” for the joy you both bring me.

    • Grandma Says:

      Thank you, too, Yanna, for your wise and lovely words. I’m so glad that we are getting to share this Grandmother thing with Chloe!!

  4. Lisa Says:

    I remember when Corey and I were almost at the end of our second year of trying–and failing–to have a baby. I was giving myself shots in the belly and going to the doctor for ovary checks or IUIs during my lunch break. I had to go on Zoloft; I had to see a counselor. I got invited to more baby showers during that time than I have ever been invited to since. At first it was exciting: Maybe it will be MY baby shower next! I would secretly hope. And then by baby shower #142, when over half of the attendees were either also pregnant or nursing their newborns, I cracked. I especially dreaded the, “Gee, I’m so sorry you’re not pregnant yet, but you really should be super happy for me b/c aren’t I just glowing!” looks some of the ladies would inevitably give me. I started crying in the car before I could go in to the parties and then crying after I left. Of course I was happy for my friends, but I just plain couldn’t help being jealous– and then felt guilty because I was so jealous. There was this huge empty spot inside me. I even started wearing tight dresses to the soirees b/c at least I still had my figure (that’ll show ’em). So, I understand your point that baby showers can be full of happiness and sweet anticipation for some and full of unbearable longing or painful memories for others. How I felt during that time is still fresh—even two babies later. I think that almost every mother at some point recognizes the miracle of life and its fragility and that like Forest’s box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” And if nothing can prepare you for the “easiest”—delirious days of feeding/changing/trying to get the baby to sleep, repeat—then certainly nothing can prepare you for the hardest, worrying whether your child will even live and what kind of life she’ll have.

    We all experienced our own heartbreak and silent fear during Chloe’s first year, especially, but we’ve all come to terms with it in one way or another and have found a level of understanding and empathy and joy that we would never have known otherwise. I am so glad you are in a place where you can get your memories of that time out. It’s cathartic for you and important for the rest of us to hear and get to share our own thoughts and experiences. I’m proud of you for being able to even attend these baby showers and for always being truly happy for your family and friends despite the hurt you’re feeling inside. Time definitely helps—and seeing how happy and smart and opinionated Chloe is surely does too. But you will always have a special sensitivity and understanding from what you’ve experienced and continue to experience, and I’m so glad you’re sharing it with all of us.

  5. Heather Says:

    Hi Camilla,

    Thank you for sharing your truth with us. Your experience with Chloe as a baby is palpable. You have taught me something here…

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