This was not what I’d had in mind. My vision was me sitting in a rocker, nursing my beautiful baby, my long hair shielding her little face from the moonlight, Joan Baez singing softly in the background. I thought having a baby would be mellow and sweet. Peaceful. Lovely. That’s what we all thought in 1973 – we would be earth mothers.
No. An earth mother didn’t spend hours each night trying to get her baby to sleep and keep her asleep by pushing her wicker bassinet back and forth across the hooked rug in her room.
My baby had colic – leg straightening, tummy tight as a coffee can lid, full O, little red lips, screaming colic. It made me crazy. The crying went on for hours, for days, it seemed. Sometimes I would have to put her in her bassinet and go sit on the front porch to keep from shaking her.
Once, so frustrated with her crying and so disappointed in how hard and unrewarding being her mother was, I found my husband’s fancy Nikon camera and took pictures of her laying on her back, her face red and mouth in full, brain crashing scream. I need to remind myself not to have any more children.
Like usual, and like every other mother on the face of the earth, I knew that everyone else could do a better job than me. Other people’s babies aren’t constantly screaming.
It was such a mistake for me to be a mother.
One night, in the dark of her room, I sat on the edge of the rocking chair pushing the bassinet back and forth across the hooked rug. I’d brought the kitchen radio upstairs so I could listen to the City Council meeting where my husband, the Director of City Development, was making a presentation and holding a public hearing on a controversial new urban renewal project. I could hear his voice as clear as if he was in the next room and I could see him in my mind – dressed in his best suit, nice shirt (one of the five I pressed each Sunday night), his wavy hair and neat beard. He was a guy people could trust, a straight shooter.
He meant me no harm. He’d no sooner oppress me than fly to the moon. He was only doing his job. And doing it well.
Better than me.
The bassinet by now had split the seams in the hooked rug. It was coming apart in several places so I had to aim just right to make a smooth back and forth. If I slowed down, she stirred. So I kept up the pace while I listened to people on the radio asking questions, heard my husband patiently answering them. I pushed harder and harder. Not angry. Just envious. I was nothing else except the person pushing the bassinet. I obsessed about that. I need to be a better mother. I need to be important like him. I need to do something important. What is that?
The front legs of the bassinet buckled.
I knew it was time for a new plan. Or a new attitude. Or both.