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.

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