With babies on the brain, Mik and I have been looking at our own baby photos pretty frequently lately. It's a form of research, and we're scrutinizing these photos more closely than our own parents probably did, hoping to find clues as to what to expect: what size were we as newborns? Did either of us have hair? Did Mik have his chin dimple at birth?
We both had parents who were into photography, so there are reams of material, and a few themes emerge in the volumes of photos. First, you can't go two pages in Mik's photo albums without seeing a little willie. I think it's fantastic. He, his little brother, and any friends that might drop by seemed to run around all summer without a stitch of clothing. I, on the other hand, had a yellow bikini that I had to wear in my baby pool by age 10 months. Modesty was clearly the watchword in MY family. Around age 7, I remember really looking forward to playing at my friend Gina's, who had three little sisters, and who all got to run around the house just in their panties and nothing else. Even when I was already in college and visiting my mom's parents in Manila, my grandmother wouldn't let me out of the house in gym shorts (which she considered to be underwear), and by 1995 was barely at the point where she tolerated women wearing jeans. Crop tops, however, were unacceptable for a different reason. "Tuck your shirt in, you'll get gas if your tummy's exposed." Unless we have company (and sometimes even when we do), the first thing Mik does when he gets home is to strip down to his boxers. I'm jealous, but even these days when I seem to be constantly overheated, just can't bring myself to override those early years of conditioning.
The other thing that strikes me about the baby photos is how young our parents look. Although Mik's parents were about the same age as we are now, my folks were 25 when they had me, and my Papa looks about 16 with a newborn in his arms. When my mom sees a photo of herself with me as a small baby, she always sighs and calls it 'larawan ng kawalang-malay' ('a portrait of the really and truly clueless'). Come to think of it, I actually have no idea what she really means when she says that; it's probably a small private joke she has with herself. But it makes me think of the fact that even in 1975, new moms probably had to depend so much on their own grandmothers, mothers and aunts for information about pregnancy and babies, and just hope that enough current research was mixed in with the old wives' tales and apocryphal anecdotes. My mom actually studied child development in university, but before the Internet and the 1,001 pregnancy and baby books in the market today, how much opportunity for independent research did most women really have?
These days, it seems like the exact opposite is true: there's obviously an overwhelming number and variety of sources for information, opinions, and research on anything related to pregnancy and babies. At the same time, families are smaller and so much more spread out, that few of us are lucky enough to have that crazy clot of women relatives who'll give you the real nitty-gritty from actual experience. Girlfriends, classmates, and co-workers take the place of some of that, and when I do find myself talking to a preggy who's a few months ahead, or better yet, a brand-new mom, I hang on to every word. Maybe I'm in the minority in this, but I honestly do love hearing about other people's babies, how verbal/coordinated/amazing they are, what they're doing, how big they're getting. If she wants to talk about her baby's breastfeeding/colic/nasty projectile pooping, great, that's even more useful information I can file away for later. I only lose interest when the conversation leaves the realm of first-hand experience and becomes misquotes from latest research, or regurgitation of some new theory that I could just as well read myself, at which point I'm likely to wander off in search of the bathroom/color printer/dessert tray.
Speaking of wandering off, since getting back from Finland and Sweden last week, I've been a complete disaster with attention span and organized thought. It's as if my focus has turned into this blind, psychotic bumblebee, alighting on one thing for a few seconds and then deciding that it might enjoy that flower over there much more and then forgets where it was going mid-flight. Even just reading back over this entry, I have no idea how I ended up here, considering where I started. And there's still a paragraph left to this thing.
If there's such a thing as the polar opposite of the nesting instinct, this is it. I seem to have completely lost the ability to pick up after myself, and if it weren't for our very patient and hardworking ayi (housekeeper lady), we would be knee deep in dirty dishes and unfolded clothing. The problem is that with every new project I begin to think about, I crack out all the related equipment/books/materials and create localized pools of what Mik calls "Empi messes" all over the apartment. With nothing tangible resulting from those half-started projects and at the same time knowing that I have a backlog of "regular" work hanging over my head, I just feel grossly unproductive, which is one of the surest ways to drive me into an even deeper spiral of useless activity: I've spent hours on baby gear websites, researching everything from cloth diapers, breast pumps and bottles, to bunting bags and baby carriers of all kinds. In an extreme display of avoidance activity, I even went on a day-long laundry binge while watching the entire fifth season of The West Wing back-to-back. What kills me is that I know I will end up pulling a 12-hour stretch of work to get caught up sometime in the next week, but can't bring myself to just go ahead and get it over with before I get even further behind. I can't blame this on the pregnancy; it's just something that happens to me now and then. It tends to hit the worst after vacations and when I'm jetlagged, but hopefully I'll straighten out in a few days, and get back to my regular working-slacking cycles.
With that, I'll buzz off. This week I'll be gearing up for a trip home to Connecticut; gonna check to see if maybe I left my marbles over there.