I learned this song when Kathleen was a baby, maybe four months old, from my friend Carol, who hosted an informal music class at her house. Every week we'd go and sit in a circle in her living room and she'd teach us songs and lead us in songs we had already learned. Kathleen was one of several babies in the group made up mostly of slightly older kids. There was a mom I had met at baby group and another I had met at Carol's support group.
I smiled and sang and changed diapers and gave bottles and and talked to the other moms. I thought I was doing fine. I thought I was comfortable as a mom, not overly worried or sad or nervous. And I suspect for who I was at that time, I was doing great.
Looking back I see that me so differently.
Carol is again hosting a music "class" at her house. We went last week for the first one, me and Kathleen and Elizabeth. I smiled and sang and changed diapers and gave bottles and talked to the other moms. And it felt completely different.
Three years ago, I was still really struggling to figure out how to talk with other moms. To be able to talk about being Kathleen's mom, I needed to talk about being Henry's mom and I was never quite sure how to do that. Even there, even in that house where pictures of a much loved daughter who never took a breath line the walls. Even there where more than one person knew my story.
I thought I was relaxed, comfortable in my parenting, but I think I was more anxious than I knew, wanting, needing to do it right. Believing very much that everything was different this time around, but too aware of what it really meant if things went wrong. I was defensive about how I gave birth even as I truly believe that the outcome, the healthy living baby is what matters. I was defensive about bottle feeding, even though I truly believe I did the best I could.
A lot of what I was going through was typical new mom kind of stuff. Even though Henry lived six months, and we were still within that timeframe for Kathleen, I was a brand new mom in so many ways.
So last week we went back to music, me and Kathleen and Elizabeth. I was relaxed enough that Elizabeth crawled into the other room before I realized she was missing. I handled Kathleen's near meltdown because the toy kitchen she remembered wasn't there. I gratefully accepted a pretzel for the ride home to keep her happy, and I laughed about something as I said my goodbye to Carol and ushered Kathleen out with Elizabeth on my hip. And as I got into the car, I noticed how very different it felt from those days when I buckled Kathleen into the baby seat.