About the car

Remember how we discussed whether to get a family car? So far, we haven’t felt any need.

Laurel had her first BART ride when she was about a week old — to go to the Department of Public Health to apply for her birth certificate. She was remarkably unfazed. Since then, she’s ridden BART at least twice a week, and buses at least once a week. She’s been on some of San Francisco’s most notorious bus/trolley lines, including the 38, the 22, the 44, the N Judah, the 14 and the 49. So far, she’s liked them all. Her uncle Tyler says Laurel has ridden the bus more times in her life than he has in his many years of living in San Francisco.

Lately, Laurel loves staring at people on the bus, which is OK when you’re four months old and have huge, glowing blue eyes. (We’ll teach her about staring and politeness later.) On long trips, she stares and smiles at people for ages, and then the swaying/swerving/wallowing motion one associates with San Francisco buses — and their kamikaze drivers — eventually lulls her to sleep. Last week, she fell so deeply asleep that her neck totally relaxed and I had to hold her head; it looked a bit like she was broken.

I’ve taken her twice in our Del Sol when I had to make a long drive to a medical appointment on the Peninsula. And she’s been in cars we borrowed from carshare a few times, mainly for long trips to see her grandparents in Sonoma County. Once, we rode in a minivan with another couple and their baby. She sleeps in her car seat at freeway speeds and tends to wake up and watch out the window when we’re on surface streets. But, for the most part, her babyhood has been a low-car existence.

It’s important to add that we’re not using a stroller yet. When she goes out with us on public transit, she’s either in the Moby wrap with me or the sling with Devin. So we’re taking up very little space, relatively speaking. I’m usually able to fit myself, Laurel, and our bag (and often a shopping bag!) all into one seat on the bus or subway, which is a point of pride, considering how many people hog two seats.

I do, occasionally, worry that we’ll be in a bus or trolley that happens to collide with … something. BART hasn’t had any crashes in its history that I’m aware of, so I’m comfortable standing when we ride the subway. When we’re on the bus or trolley, though, I sit down and hold on.

Meanwhile, our car has been driven so little that one night when I had to go to the ER for a sudden infection, we had to jump the battery because it had run down. Seriously, it has made zero sense so far for us to buy a car. We’ve made the right decision, so far.

— Beth

Learning curves

It’s funny, but I never thought much about what kind of mother I would be. Once I discovered that I was about to be SOME kind of mother, I tried to clear my mind — as best I could — of preconceived notions, hoping that I (and we) could let our child show us the kind of parents we needed to be. Sure, we had some ideas in mind: we wanted to be loving and encouraging, not let her off too easily, try to avoid too much mass advertising or junk food (and educate her as to why), that sort of thing. But, I don’t know yet whether I will be one of those moms who’s deeply involved in her child’s school, for example, or how I will frame my willingness to listen as she copes with emotional and social problems as she gets older. I’m trying to keep an open mind.

This week in yoga, the teacher reminded us at the beginning of class to bring our thoughts to the present moment. She said, “Babies are really good at teaching us to do this — to forget everything else and just be here in the moment.” That got me thinking about what Laurel’s been teaching me so far (and what I’ve been struggling to learn, by following her lead):

1. Patience (I’m terrible at this one)
2. Letting her struggle to figure something out on her own
3. Not taking it personally, or thinking it’s my fault, when she’s upset
4. Being present
5. To keep working away at something, even though it’s frustrating, because once you master it you feel really good (nursing her was like this for me)

After a few months of exhaustedly wondering who I’d become since Laurel’s birth, a lot of things feel like they’ve come together for me in the past few weeks. I’m starting to have physical energy again, which helps immensely. With that has come mental energy. I’m having ideas for writing projects again, also a huge relief — and helps me feel more like “myself” again. But I’m not the same old self anymore; a big part of my focus is on mothering, and on learning what kind of mother I am.

Right now, I’m applying myself more to various parenting projects, such as Project Figuring Out How To Get Laurel To Nap and Project Nursing In Public (both of which have been really difficult lately). Historically, I haven’t been at all good at plugging away at something when it’s not going well, but somehow with these I’m undaunted — maybe because they’re things I have to figure out how to do. This willingness to persevere is new for me; it feels a little like an alien part of my personality, but I accept that I’m going to feel that way as I shift into this new role.

At the same time, I’m treading into some difficult emotional territory by reading Hope Edelman’s “Motherless Mothers: How Mother Loss Shapes The Parents We Become.” So far, she has confirmed my suspicion that having a midwife helped me overcome that need for a knowing maternal presence during pregnancy and childbirth. She also writes about a specific kind of body memory in a way that was very comforting for me:

According to psychoanalysts such as Melanie Klein and Nancy Chodorow, the memory of being lovingly cared for as a newborn — assuming one was lovingly cared for as a newborn — remains encoded inside us all until our own children are born, when it’s then summoned up and transferred into action. … “We remember in so many different ways, not just in words and images,” Maxine Harris explains. “We also remember with our bodies. If your child squirms and you lean into her and cuddle her a certain way, that bodily expression is actually a memory. You can feel tremendously comforted by a sensation that really is a connection to a mother you may have only known for a couple of years.”

Granted, mothering is still relatively easy at this stage — I don’t have to decide how to discipline her for sneaking too many cookies or figure out how to talk to her about sex. And, for the most part, I haven’t had to make any sudden mothering moves; I’ve had time to think before I act. I’ll be curious to see what skills and traits emerge when I have to act quickly.

Devin can speak for himself (or not) on this topic, but so far he has been a wonderful father, more than I could have imagined him to be. He’s so loving and compassionate with her, but also encourages her to work hard when she’s trying to learn something. I’m learning from him, too, because he’s set a great example so far. I feel lucky to have two such good teachers as my core family, and I’m trying to take as many notes as possible.

— Beth