When Baby was still in my belly, I called him The Fraggle. For months and months, I silently wished for my little fraggle to be healthy and happy (and sometimes, I would add wise to the list). I think I kept my wishes simple in the hope that, if the Universe were to hear them, they might more easily come true.
Baby is now four months old. My wishes are the same, but now I have an alarming array of metrics by which I can judge Baby's health and happiness. First, the numbers: weight in pounds, length in inches, and head circumference in centimeters. Then, the developmental milestones: smiles, coos, giggles, opening hands, holding head up, rolling, sitting, and so on and so forth (forever).
At the heart of all of this evaluation is comparison. From the very beginning, we mommas-in-training learn how our babies' length and weight compare through that beguiling statistic known as The Percentile. Then, we ourselves engage, often unintentionally, in the game of Baby Comparing. Mommas want and need to share their experiences, which necessarily means that they talk about their babies. While it feels so reassuring to hear the similarities, the differences often present opportunities for false pride or, worse, unfounded guilt.
I admit to having complimented myself for Baby's accomplishments, and I confess to having blamed myself for challenges, e.g. The Great Eczema Battle of 2010 (a story for another day as the battle wages on). In fact, there have been days when I questioned just about every aspect of my Momma-hood qualifications.
Should I eat more fish and walnuts to help Baby's brain grow? Is my body producing enough milk for Baby? How many times did Baby smile today? Am I holding Baby enough? Am I holding Baby too much so that I am depriving him of his opportunity to learn to roll, sit, or crawl? Why can't I remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk well enough to tell it to Baby?
The earthquake in Haiti quickly snapped me out of wallowing in the swamp of self-doubt. But just in case an entire country's devastation failed to provide some perspective, last week, my brother-in-law was at our apartment and said that a man-hole cover next to his building had just exploded, shooting flames and electricity into the air.
I do not have control over many things. I did not choose where I was born; I cannot avert natural disaster; and I cannot predict where or when a man-hole cover will explode. But I know that Baby is healthy and happy, and I am entirely thankful for it.