Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Remembering Memories Never Had and Times Forgotten

So it is kind of a running joke among my family and friends that I take a ridiculous amount of photos of my baby. Yes my baby is cute, and yes I am a first time mom so naturally I'm going to get excited about every little thing she does, but this doesn't really get to the heart of why I take so many pictures. I live close to 200 miles away from my parents, my nearest relative. My husband's family is in San Jose, my brother lives in New York (though he was in Italy this past semester), I have uncles living in Maryland and Sacramento and Washington state. I have friends in Missouri and Texas and New York and none of them has ever met my baby. So in part I photograph for them. I want those closest to me to get to know my baby as best as they can given the distance and difficulty/ expense of travel. I want my cousins to be able to know her even if they can't hold her and I want my parents to see how much she grows even in the month between visits.

But mostly I don't photograph for other people. I photograph for myself. I photograph for myself because I worry that if I don't take pictures that the memories will pass me by. That I will forget how much she liked to eat her toes or how silly she looks when she kicks her legs to bounce herself in her bouncy seat. I need to capture that time she laughed or looked silly because I might never see it again. And I really might not. She used to be obsessed with making raspberry noises. She spent a full hour in the evening one time making raspberries and getting her self covered in saliva. It was adorable. Haven't seen it since. Does she do it all the time? Truthfully, I wouldn't know. I'm away from my baby 11 hours a day Monday-Thursday. I miss out on a vast majority of my child's life. On Mondays and Thursdays when i come home at 8:30 most of the time she is already asleep. I haven't seen her since I dropped her off at 9:45 that morning and I just get to nurse her in the middle of the night when she wakes up and play with her a bit in the morning before I have to drop her off at 7:40 the next day. The other day, day care sent home a picture of her holding hands with another baby. I don't know this baby's name. Apparently they play all the time, but its not one of the kids I see in the morning when I drop her off. She looks so happy in the picture. But I wasn't there. Now that she can sit up kinda, they tell me they like to sit her in this little toy corral they have and kind of prop her up with toys. She loves it. I've never seen it before. They don't have a picture. In the few minutes I have with her in the morning when I drop her off I don't have the opportunity to see her really interact with the other kids, and my husband is the one who picks her up. When I ask how she is, his frequent response is, "What do you what? She had a good day. She spit up on herself so she's in her change of clothes and they put her hair in pigtails." They put her hair in pigtails a lot. I love that they do it because its so cute, but I wish I was the first one to style my daughter's hair and not somebody else. I have done with my child what I frequently cannot do in the rest of my life: relinquish control. When my husband has her in the evenings before I get home from work he sometimes lets her cry herself to sleep when he knows she needs a nap instead of rocking her. He gave her applesauce without me being there. They have a game they play when he changes her diaper that I've never seen. He makes a face that makes her laugh but I can't copy it. At day care they played with bubbles the other day and she apparently really liked it a lot and I wasn't there to see the expression on her face. I wasn't there to remember it. And of course, my baby won't remember it when she's older either and she can't tell me how she felt when she saw the bubbles pop. It was a memory that just went away.

The common expression is: if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it make a sound? I guess a more appropriate expression in this case is: if a baby laughs and her mother isn't around, who will remember it. Her father will if its one of the times he's with her by himself, but he doesn't really take pictures of things like I do. The women at day care will for a time before new kids come along. But somehow I suspect that every little moment isn't quite as important to them. It is to me, though. Because those are moments that will never come again. Sure they will be replaced by new memories, but I still feel like something is lost. One day she genuinely laughed for me for the first time while I was changing her diaper. It was a real hearty chuckle not just a squeal. I don't know if that's the first time she laughed. I guess I'll never know. Sure if she rolled over for the first time at day care they would have told me (thankfully she saved that for me: even her dad was in the bathroom, it was just a moment between the two of us). But would they really know if that was the first time she laughed? You could say that it doesn't really matter, that she can do it now and first times are often forgotten. But it matters to me.

So I take pictures. I take probably a dozen pictures a week. Many more if we go on trips or visit with family. I take pictures of her in various poses, I take video of her making silly noises. I take picture after picture trying to hold on to the moments I do have with her before I have to go back to work and be away from her again. If I could be with her all the time, I think that I would miss the sense of satisfaction I get helping people at the library. But if only I could be with her MORE. Unfortunately, I can't. Right now working any less than I do isn't a financial possibility and now isn't exactly the time to turn down work. So I take pictures. And I look at them when I'm pumping milk in a storage closet. And I think about the memories I can make when I'm with her again on the Fridays I have off. And the memories my husband and I can make with her when we are all together on the weekend. And the memories my parents and family and friends can make with her when they see her too. And it makes those moments all the more precious.

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