Mama, Forgive Yourself
I cuddled the tiny baby in my arms and watched her suck hungrily on the bottle of formula I held. Her chubby cheeks moved up and down with each graceful gulp, and I smiled. I remembered bottle-feeding my own daughter not so long ago.
This temporary charge of mine suddenly wrinkled up her 4-month old face and fussed. She couldn’t be done, could she? She had barely finished 3 ounces. Suddenly my brow creased, as I wondered to myself, “How much did my little girl eat at a feeding?” I couldn’t remember. Wait a minute! It had only been 14 months! How could I not remember? My head started swirling. What else couldn’t I remember about the sweet, smiling toddler I had at home? When did she switch to formula? How often did I burp her? When did she start eating cereal? Did I put cereal in her bottle? How much? How many times a night did she wake up to eat? My mind was blank.
I tried to convince myself it was because I was out of my element, out of practice. I justified my temporary memory loss with the idea that 14 months actually is a long time. I told myself I was simply babysitting this little one for a couple hours, so of course I couldn’t know everything about her routine. But the salve of excuses I applied to my wounded “mother” ego did nothing to assuage my self-concocted guilt. As a mother, shouldn’t I recall all these things? What was wrong with me? I vaguely remembered someone telling me about “maternal memory loss,” and the thought comforted me, momentarily.
A tiny cry brought me abruptly back to the task at hand. I gently picked the baby up and placed her over my shoulder. A couple burps later, and we were both quietly satisfied, although for entirely different reasons. I gently turned the sated sweetheart around and lightly bounced her on my knee. After a few minutes, I looked down, only to see a precious pair of eyelashes resting comfortably on two downy-soft cheeks. My maternal heart swelled. Maybe I know what I’m doing after all, I thought. Maybe I haven’t forgotten, at least the important things. And my childish insecurities drifted off as quickly as the babe in front of me.