Avalon’s asleep in her room on her stomach. She slept like this for two hours the other afternoon. I think this might be the way she likes to sleep, so I’ll just leave it at that for now. Talking about parenting approaches sometimes seems like talking about politics at a dinner party, but at the risk of saying too much, I will note in this journal that she is back to sleeping through the night in her room after insulating it, drywall repair, re-painting the whole thing and a night accented with a few bouts of crying and loud thumb sucking. But, maybe most surprising of all, is the fact that I slept through the night for the first time in over four and a half months last week. I really missed dreaming. The other night I dreamt that I was riding down an enormous dirt hill on the balls of my bare feet with the enthusiasm of a Disney character, just hooting and hollering and launching off little jumps made of branches.
Avalon is really getting the hang of rolling over. It makes her seem so much more human somehow, and less and less like someone who once fit inside of me and couldn’t hold up her own head. She maneuvers herself near toys and then chooses, through her own freewill, whether she will play with these toys while laying on her stomach or her back. When I used to place her down for “tummy time” she was absolutely hysterical about it, like I had asked her to lay on hot coals or wear a dirty diaper forever. Now she lays on her tummy and practically swims across the floor. She even sits in a little highchair in the kitchen and eats avocado. She bobs her head like one of those dashboard decorations and squeals for more, slapping her hands on the counter like a drunk at a bar, demanding another round. She laughs and lunges at the spoon and when I tell her I love her and stare at her adoringly she smiles back, but then looks away as if she’s too humble to acknowledge how obsessed I am with her.
When I clap to music she can’t help but blink at each clap in the beginning, but she loves jazz hands the most. Sometimes I walk her around the house kissing her cheeks and looking at her face in the mirrors. Her skin is like velvet or new wetsuit neoprene and I want to breathe in all of her babyness so these memories of her will come back to me. She wears jeans now and sometimes pigtails. I remember in the beginning of her life, telling my mom that I felt actual fear when I heard her waking up because I wasn’t sure I’d know what to do. I asked my cousin if the newborn days were a mess of not sleeping, of both mother and baby crying, and she said she couldn’t remember. I thought I would never be able to forget that fifth week of Avalon’s life when I cried for what felt like the entire night and begged Scott to stay home on a Thursday. I thought the feeling of those postpartum blues that try to convince you, you are not good enough to be someone’s mother would haunt me until she graduated, but those days actually do seem very separate from the ones we are living now. Some part of me felt broken forever after she was born, but now I feel put back together and stronger than ever, kind of like a tree whose roots found water even deeper.
I used to think there was almost nothing remarkable about a mother walking through the neighborhood with her baby in tow. I’ve seen this scene play out thousands of times, but now that I’ve been through almost five months of motherhood and nine months of carrying a child, I look differently at each person I see pass; at people making their way in the world, or just down the street.
The other week I sat in my parent’s big arm chair and declared that I wasn’t sure I liked weddings. Maybe I just said it for dramatic appeal because everyone, who was sleepily watching Notting Hill, seemed roused by the statement. Of course it’s fun to see how each couple takes this rather common big life event and puts their own spin on it, but my mom said she likes weddings because she loves that people, over and over again, keep believing in love. I think this is the reason I have started to regard the sight of a mother pushing a stroller as something marvelous.
Lately, whenever I check myself for breast cancer I always expect to find a lump. The family history is not good. I have to get a colonoscopy after I’m done breastfeeding, or perhaps at the end of January. I can’t even think about it. I feel at the same time certain I am cancer free and also that I probably have stage four colon cancer and that Avalon will be raised without a biological mother. I am trying to live more in the now, though, or at least to put this all out of my mind; maybe to become numb to it from time to time so that I can carry on, enjoying the now.
The other day I nursed her in the hammock under the palm trees. Everything smelled so clean and blue and I was thinking about how big the world is and how someday she would understand that too, but see it in completely her own way; how she already sees it in her own way, even if this means spending ten minutes dislodging a board book from the side of her bouncy chair and then reading it upside down. I was thinking about how easy it is to get her to smile; I barely have to work for it. I was thinking about how she looks at me in this trusting way and how I’ll do anything I can to get her to keep seeing me that way. I was thinking about life and that quote about how no one gets out alive; and then I was thinking about how when Avalon wakes up after naps, crying, I rush to her and hold her immediately and tell her “It’s ok. You’re not alone!” and how this statement seems to have gotten me through everything so far.