There are no photos in this post

I had another blog, a long long time ago.  Maybe two or three. This latest, ragepotter, is an attempt to keep sane while I’m taking time off to be with baby M.  The blogging world then was much different to the blogging world now.

Then, nearly everybody was anonymous. People guarded their privacy and rarely used their full names or posted photos.  Now it seems to be the norm to be completely open about every aspect of life.

What used to be periphery is now front and center. Photos and videos for every post. You need to tweet stuff at readers, like stuff on Facebook, tag stuff on Instagram. Engage with people everywhere.  The side columns on the right of blog pages go on and on — mailing lists, brand endorsements, widgets for this and that. You can no longer just have words on a blank page. Unless they are very short words.

My old blog used to be a graveyard for the longest time, until I put effort into promoting it. No one ever stumbled over it by accident, or even when they tried.  I remember having to work hard for my first visitor, my first comment, my first follower.  It was comforting. Just my secret corner of the internet that no reader cared to find.

But here on ragepotter, you were here from the fourth post. I certainly didn’t expect you to find me here so quickly. I thought I could hide, that little bit longer. But if you are here, dear reader, whoever you are, however you got here, welcome my old friend.

It’s okay if you don’t stay. I don’t expect you to, no. There is so much else out there, and anyway you probably don’t have the attention span to stay for more than two posts.  I get it.  It’s so shiny over there. And it’s not flashy here. There are no photos of me and baby M walking the dog into the sunset. We don’t leave footprints on Facebook posts, or swap faces on Snapchat. Here, there are no faces, no names.

What’s in a diaper bag?

dsc07800The last bag I had was a backpack that I used for seven years straight through my post grad degree and several overseas field trips. I even left it on a train once and it traveled unaccompanied from Waterloo to Kingston upon Thames. But it came back to me, and it was more precious than ever.

Now that I’m a parent, I’ve become gripped by an intense need to search for the right diaper bag. The diaper bag, and what to pack in it, seem to be that part of being a new parent that I still have any control over. Between the 3 a.m. feedings, the mystery rashes, the diaper changes on restaurant floors, and uncertainty over whether the baby is eating enough or pooping enough, everything has become ambiguous. When will he nap, when will he wake up again — it’s been two hours, three, four and a half now — when do I get to nap, shower, or even to pay the bills? All the time management skills, self-discipline, meticulous schedule and control that I mastered in my career went out the window the moment this mass of being exploded out of me.

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If I have to go anywhere with this unpredictable ball of butter then the only thing I can do, I must do, is to be prepared for all possibilities. Diapers, five different types of wipes, hand sanitizer sprays, blankets of all shapes, a change of clothing just in case he has a diaper explosion — let’s make that two sets — sunscreen, band-aids, and lots of tissues.  I need pockets for each of these, and they need to be accessible, like, you know, zero to sixty in 3 seconds.

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Some of this stuff I carry is ridiculous, I know, but at least I haven’t packed a thermometer yet. I draw my line at that.  You know, a fever doesn’t just jump up and attach itself to your baby between Target and the gas station.  I am also not going to carry around nail clippers. Or scissors. Or special pouches to store the special cases to store the special wipes that already come in a pack.

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I just want a bag that helps me stay organized, retain that little sense of control that I so crave.  Something with enough space for me to throw in random things as I go about my day.  In this mad quest for the right diaper bag, I have lost much precious M-is-sleeping-so-I-should-sleep time. I have read numerous reviews and watched more YouTube videos than I care to admit.  I have also bought my fair share of them. Some have been too small, some too bulky, and a couple of others just perplexing. Some have come close to being perfect, but I haven’t found the one yet. And as long as baby M keeps growing and becoming a different person everyday, I’m not sure I ever will.

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Not the smallest baby in the room

img_20161102_114447When M was not yet one month old, we went to a cafe for brunch.  It was one of our first outings as a family. I felt proud to be out and about already, as much as was possible given the physical and emotional exhaustion.

It was a little French cafe complete with bistro tables and little porcelain teacups. We squeezed our stroller through the sea of legs and settled next to a table of older white Democratic women talking politics. This was pre-Trump times so the conversation was less than interesting. I ordered something sweet, probably.  I was marveling at how M could sleep through the bustle of a busy brunch crowd when a woman stopped at our table and broke our exhausted reverie.  My husband and I smiled and nodded at the ooh and aahs, and tried not to roll our eyes at each other while secretly loving the attention. Then she said,

“And soon he won’t be the smallest baby in the room!”

That comment has stayed with me ever since that day almost a year ago. At every restaurant, or coffee shop, or doctors office, I look around hoping not to find babies younger than M, wishing to hold onto these early moments of him, still tiny, fresh, and a stranger in this world. As much as it brings me joy every time a new tooth breaks through, or he makes a new random sound that means nothing at all–yes, as exciting and happy that is–I always come back to this thought. He’s growing up so fast, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I thought of the comment again today, when I was picking out clothes the next size up for M. The clothes look enormous, and my heart stung a little.

I remind myself to only think, at least at this moment, in my lap, he still is the youngest, smallest baby in the room.

Waves and Sand

Our hotel window looks out onto a 180 degree view of the ocean. At night, whenever the noisy air conditioner switches itself off, I hear the waves crashing. The sound of waves builds to a crescendo, a loud bang, and then it dissipates as the salt water settles into the sand. What follows is a silence. In that silence, when I’m waiting for the rhythmic next wave, I start to worry a little, this silence seemingly dragging on forever. In that void, a low ebbing panic creeps in, and I start to wonder if all this is real.  Maybe I’ve imagined my life here, dreamed up this baby sleeping in the travel cot, conjured up this man snoring next to me. I hold my breath — half expecting to jolt awake to the realization that this has been some mistake — until the next thunderous crash comes and shakes the foundation of the building.

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***

hand-on-sand

Sitting on the beach, M is playing with sand for the first time. He takes to it the same way he approached grass for the first time. He is tentative, letting his hand hover above as if to feel the energy of the sand, then he pats it gently, surprised by the warmth of it from the sun. Now he’s pinching grains; now he’s searching out bits of debris. When Baba half buries a lid from a drink bottle, he finds it. Again and over. But when Baba buries the whole thing in the sand, it disappears for M, as if it was never there.

***

Baba takes M to the water, and they crouch there, watching the waves. M digs his uncertain feet into the wet sand. The wind lifts wisps of his hair. His fists are clenched so tight that they shake a little. His shoulders are hunched and his entire body is stiff.  It’s the first time he sees this big expanse. Blue sky meets chocolate sea, as far as his little eyes can see. It must have been daunting.  But Baba’s right here, I say, right behind and won’t let you go. He just wants to get your tiny feet to experience the waves, this mass of water that covers more than half of this cold fragile earth.

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Strawberry boy

Strawberry

I watch him on the monitor and wonder how long he’s been awake. He chews on his sleep sack.

I knock on the door and say his name softly. He cries out as if he’s being rescued.

I try to nurse him but he doesn’t eat. He wiggles away to play.

I give him a strawberry with his lunch. He squishes it in his hands instead.

I put him in his playpen and sneak away to make coffee. He watches me like a hawk.

I hug him against me for his afternoon nap. He crosses his legs one on top of another.

I unbutton his overalls to change his diaper. He rolls over to his left, then again, and again.

I brush his teeth and wash his face. He tries to kick off his sleep sack.

I put him down in his crib. He scrunches up his face but he can’t fight sleep.

I lean in for a kiss. He lifts his hands to me, and they still smell of strawberries.

My favourite time of day

IMG_20150808_093527It’s my favourite time of day, when the sun is about to set, and the light streaming in through the window is golden. Before M, I relished afternoon siestas, or reading in bed. I could laze around for ages in this light.

I had forgotten about this. Since my days are now filled with M, the thought of afternoon siestas or reading anywhere just does not enter my mind at all. It’s always one thing after another — diapers then snacks then singing then reading then snacks again — and generally being manager, welfare officer, event planner, entertainer.

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But today, as I was sitting in the middle of the play area surrounded by toys, I saw that golden light through the window again. Even though there was no afternoon siesta on offer, nor was there any fictional book in sight, I felt at peace. We had filled our day with laughter — and some crying too — but M had slept in my lap with his mouth gaping open, had smiled at me from across the room, had gingerly stretched out his legs to stand from crouching, had cruised along the length of the sofa to grab my phone, and we had even gone out for a coffee and a stroll.  With golden streaks of light flooding in, I watched him experiment with coloured cubes and a bouncy dinosaur, and all was right in the world.

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What is ragepotter, you ask

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What is ragepotter, you ask.

The only hobby I had growing up was learning to play the piano when I was around six. I remember the smell of the studio, the stickers my teacher used to place on the corners of music books, and the crispness of the pages as she turned them one by one.

As soon as she started me on the left hand, I quit.  Life, for a six-year-old, was too short to use my left hand for anything other than picking my nose.

When a friend encouraged me to pick up a hobby to escape my perpetual depressive state when I was in my early twenties, I picked pottery instead. It was hard work and took a lot of discipline, not to mention physical energy. I would sweat just wedging, kneading big chunks of clay by hand to knock out all the air, slamming it on the bench, and wedging it again and again with the arms, the elbows, leaning my body into it. I would get lost in the rhythmic motion, heaving back and forth, knocking out all the toxic pockets of self-loathing and doubt.

No sooner had you shaped the clay into a ball, as round as you can, than you smashed the ball onto the wheel, as hard as you can. Take a breath and splash water over it, step on the pedal to spin the wheel, and watch this shapeless but bumpy mass spin out of control. You have to use all your might to hold the spinning lump of wet clay, hold it steady, guiding its rise and fall. You channel your hurt into all this, like a madman, emptying the dark, grunting and cursing — becoming the ragepotter — until the clay is centered, until it’s perfectly round, and moulds to your hands as you encircle it.  Maybe that’s what zen people mean when they talk about being centered. When the room is still, when all your energy is spent, and all that’s left is the murmurs of the studio behind and to the left of you.

I used to sit there and admire the little dome of round clay, anticipating dipping my thumb in the middle to open up its center, and steadying myself in the stillness to pull up the wall, heady with the possibilities of all that it could be.

I hardly have time for this anymore, and anyway I don’t have as much rage as I used to. Before M was born, I had countless appointments with my therapist talking through what postpartum depression would look like, what signs to look out for. I even had to drag the husband to some of these meetings so he could be schooled on what to do or say, and what not to do or say. Now I’m blessed with this bundle of cheeks, I am more calm than I’ve been for a long time. My doctor even joked that M cured me.

I am no longer a potter who rages, but the name kinda stuck. I let it be a reminder of what I no longer want to be.