For me, one of the hardest things about being a mother is my overdeveloped sense of guilt. It's a gift I received long ago from my own mother and it's one that, try as I might, I just can't get rid of. I might misplace it once in awhile, but it always turns up.
When I miscarried before Hannah, I was devastated and the little voice in the back of my head didn't help much, constantly looking for something that I did or didn't do to cause it. And now when, at nineteen months, Charlotte is not yet walking on her own or talking, that little voice has become a true nag:
"You didn't know you were pregnant and you drank at that wedding, didn't you?"
"Maybe it really isn't safe to have a little wine."
"How about all of the medications they put you on to stop the labor? All those -ines and -isiums. Were they really safe?"
"You did get out of bed a few times."
"Why couldn't you keep her in longer?"
"Do you spend enough time with her?"
My OB told me I was ridiculous (in ever so slightly more professional terms). Thomas told me I was ridiculous. And it truly is ridiculous, but there are nights when I lie awake with the Melanie Guilt Show looping in my brain, vaguely wondering why makeup didn't do my hair and nails.
Since December, Charlotte has been progressing slowly but steadily. She is really fast crawling and walking on her knees. She'll walk upright holding on to furniture, walls, the dog or our hands. She gives long, complicated speeches in German and Chinese. She'll use the sign for "bath" and occasionally one for "more." But to be on the safe side, her pediatrician recommended that we schedule an appointment to have her evaluated for occupational and speech therapies.
As soon as I scheduled the appointment, it seemed that Charlotte decided to speed things up. (Kind of like having all of your symptoms disappear upon entering the doctor's office.) She's making more of an effort to stand on her own. She's started saying "dada" and actually meaning Thomas. She says what sounds like "Hannah" and she once said "eat."
But today. Today she came into the kitchen as I was making lunch, wrapped her arms tight around my legs, looked up at me and said "Mama." And even though the tears were prickling, I could still see well enough to know that it wasn't just a sound. She hugged me. She called me mama.
I think we're going to be alright.
Now if I can just make sure that guilt doesn't become a family heirloom.