Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ah Guilt, My Old Friend

It's true. The cloak of guilt and moms. I think it's a bit like Tolkien's characterization of the Bagginses and the ring. You don't set out to succumb to the darkness, but something pulls you. Some otherworldly force lures you and before you know it the you that your friends and family know, the you that you understand, is eclipsed by an altered being. Gone are the light and spirit of hope you normally carry. Gone too are the ability to recognize anything other than failure or the knowledge that the future holds anything but more failure. You become dark and grim.
This is not some sort of postpartum plea for help. Avery is nearly seven months old, Avery is sprinting past 2 and Sean and I are happier than ever. This is the inevitable acknowledgment that I cannot provide for Avery the identical experience that Briar had. Hallelujah, I say.
"Avery, mommy won't be scooping you up in your car seat while you are unbuckled, only to have you roll out as I start to lift it off the ground. Lucky second baby, yeah!"
Avery is having a different experience. She is central to my world, but she is not, cannot be, my sole focus. And yet, here I am, gargantuan lump in my throat as I type these words. Briar certainly never had the mom who put the stickers on the calendar as each milestone was reached. Hell, I didn't get the damn calendar until she was 3 months old. And even then, I replaced it a month later. So it's not like as a first child Avery would have had that. But I sat with Briar. I wept at the sight of her. Day after day, hour after hour. She was my entire world. I didn't bathe. Ok, I did, but it wasn't as often or as at such great length. I took 20 pictures. An hour. Sean would leave for work and some days it would feel like he was back within minutes, even though 12 hours had passed.
Through my pregnancy with Avery there was guilt. Was it fair? Was I rushing? Was Briar going to be deprived of something? Then the guilt was the other way. Was it fair to the life growing inside of me? Was I short changing the baby in my belly by tending to the child in my lap? Then guilt took another form. Was nursing Briar hurting Avery? Would weaning devestate Briar? Was it ok to want to have two weeks of not nursing anyone? God, did that one make me feel hateful!
Now the guilt is about balancing. My maternity leave with Avery was smattered with little things, a meeting to go over copy with the EDC, an email for the Chamber here and there, copy for Sean, blogging. You name it. I balanced her on my knees, but it was to research something on the computer, not to coo and snap pictures.
I set out to write this entry knowing full well the direction of my message but it still pierces my core to type the words, to see the truth stare me back in the face.
So let me get back to the slightly lighter message. Pictures. Sean and I come down on opposite sides of the fence on this one and I hang it all on that damn cloak. Sean thinks we should keep only the best pictures. Pare the library down to the images that most clearly, or poignantly, represent moment's in time. That sounds so good, looks so logical. I have sat down plenty of times to do a culling of the vast catalogue of photosographs and video I/we (mostly me) have taken of the girls.
"How'd you do?" he'll say.
"Awesome, babe. I must have deleted like 100M." I'll gush.
"That's it?"
"What do you mean that's it?"
"Man, I'd be happy if you took that out of each folder. Talk to me when you have 10 times that gone."
I feel like he is taking a giant boot and lowering it down on the girls.
Roar. Grrr. Hy-yaaaah! Take that you weak, insignificant little things. Be gone. FOREVER!
Something happens to me when I sit at the computer and ponder deleting. I look at their facesand I can't do it. I can'tpress the button.

"This is good Amanda. This picture shows how weirded out she was by the people, and how she was your little health nut that didn't want to eat cake. "
"Thanks honey. I thought it would be a good one to keep."

"Why are you keeping this one?"
"Because she's doing the flirty shoulder thing."

"Ok, why are you keeping that one?"
"Well, I kind of thought that if you ever wanted to use a picture of a kid in one of your pieces that it might work because it's an unusual angle."

"How about this one? What was your thinking here?"
"I don't know. I guess I kind of thought that it was a cool sort of positive/negative, um, kind of effect, that sort of shows a different picture."

"How about Avery?"
"Right here"
"Oh, that's sweet. I like that."
"Me too. I think it's my favorite."

"Oh. That's cute. Kind of like the first one, but just not as much of her face."
"Exactly. A different angle."

"And here, Manda? What'sgoing on here?"
"Well, there you have, ah,well it's a different picture with her faced turned like that. And if you'll notice, there is less nose in this shot."

"Manda, honey? Sweetie, it's ok. You have to let some of these go. Keep the really good ones. It's like Emma said with our wedding photos, if it doesn't make you cry, if you don't want to grab it, it's not the one."

"But I want them to know how much I loved them.
I don't want them to have to wonder. I want them to be sure."
"Manda Bear, look at you. Look at your girls. They know."

We know. We all know. Your girls will remember. They won't need thousands of extra pictures to know. They'll know because you are an incredible mom."

I'll just tuck the cloak way in the back of the closet. I don't feel I need it just now.

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