The asymmetry is there from before they are born. They formed in my body. I birthed them. I fed them from my body, inside and then outside the womb. For nine months they were never apart from me; then for nine months again, I am almost always there. I remember how strange it felt the first time, living with the burden of primacy. There is one person they know who doesn’t come and go, one person who is there 95% of the time, and that person is preferred even when others are around. It felt hard being that person. Hard too, for the others in their lives, hard for my husband knowing that no matter what he did at 3am, the baby would cry because I wasn’t there. While it was hard for him, it was also freeing. While it was hard for me, it was also affirming. We each got something out of it, but different things, and it was hard navigating that difference.
Slowly, the children start to become more aware of other people. I start to leave them for longer periods. One day soon the baby will walk. One day he will be ready to stay overnight at his grandparents’ house. One day he will no longer breastfeed. Already the older one asks for time away from me – is it a Nana house night tonight? When I sleep on the mattress? Will it be a Nana house night soon?
Just over a month ago my mother-in-law visited and picked the little dude up from creche after lunch on Friday, birthday treat, took him to Chipmunks. For a long time it felt like each visit he was getting reacquainted, and only just warming up at the end of the visit. Not anymore. Six weeks since the previous time we saw her – a remembering distance now, not a forgetting distance.
When we went to Auckland two weeks ago, he was excited to see relatives he hadn’t seen in months, he remembered them. My Nana is down this weekend for bub’s first birthday and the little dude said “oh yes, you see Ben, dat is what happens for birthdays, people fyy down on an aewopane fom Autdand betause it is special to have a birthday, and dey yove you Ben.”
The first year is almost over, and with it, the overwhelming mother-centred phase of caregiving. Bub is so big and bonny and so delightfully charming. He’s starting to assert himself and I can beam with pride at building that baby, taking his spot as a person of importance now, about to celebrate his anniversary. And I can sit down, and have a piece of cake (ordered for us by my mother in law, thanks!!!), and think, phew his first year is over and I don’t have to relive those days! And look – I didn’t just make a baby, I added a person to our family!