Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

With Your Own Face On

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image of With Your Own Face On

Although the song claims otherwise, having a baby is very often NOT a lovely way of saying how much you love someone. Quite often it is an accident, or an act of loneliness – the desire to be a family because that might make everything all right. It’s a push, a biological one, a cultural one, a family one. Lots of reasons which are usually complex and, for many, not really thought about.

The dictionary says a baby is an infant or very young child, but for many of us, a baby is much more than that. A baby is a carrier of dreams.

They have a curious start, our young, beginning in the dark and now seen often as ghostly images when the growing belly is scanned. Already we load expectations on the unborn and recognize bits of them – your nose! Grandad’s ears! We dream.

Who will this small person be who grows within you? Will he or she bring joy or sorrow? Will he or she carry on the family business, get a ‘good’ education, make you proud?

We used to think a baby was a clean slate, a blank canvas, a little human to make into the big human we imagine we want in our lives. Be assured that is only part of the story. You will have a lot to do with who this baby becomes but not all. The baby arrives with his or her own self already begun, a temperament, a way of being in the world. How you care for the child will act on this, moulding and shaping, creating the way the adult will be in relationship. That’s quite a responsibility, right there.

So I counsel you: if you are blessed with the opportunity and the means, consider carefully before you begin. Talk about the years ahead, about how you have thought of parenting, about what the baby will need from you…forever. This is not a part-time job with a fixed term contract. And babies thrive on connection – they need you to be there. Connection is the most important food.

And I counsel you more than anything else: be curious. Meet someone, don’t make up someone. Attend closely, love deeply, welcome whoever arrives.

Here is Sylvia Plath’s lovely poem: You’re

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,

Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,

Gilled like a fish. A common-sense

Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.

Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,

Trawling your dark as owls do.

Mute as a turnip from the Fourth

Of July to All Fools’ Day,

O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.

Farther off than Australia.

Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.

Snug as a bud and at home

Like a sprat in a pickle jug.

A creel of eels, all ripples.

Jumpy as a Mexican bean.

Right, like a well-done sum.

A clean slate, with your own face on.

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