Saturday, August 26, 2006

Physical Love

Posted By AngelBaby (who wants to make her thoughts - inspired by these posts - public but doesn't want to cause any discomfort for certain people who read her blog.)

As always, if you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal (or paternal!) mind, anonymously or otherwise, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement...


I have realized that I love my daughter and her body in the same sort of physical way that I love my own body. Except that I think I love her more than I love myself. I have an intimacy with her body that I don't have with anyone else. I have shared skin contact with her more than I have with anyone else. I have washed every single inch of her naked body in the tub every night for the last sixteen months. Physical love must grow out of physical contact, right? It seems thateven in the absence of breastfeeding and bathing that my husbandshares a physical intimacy with her just as a product of changing herdiaper a couple times a day.

When I attempted this conversation with my husband he gave me a sternlook and in a skeptical voice said, "What do you mean?" Gosh, aren't men so conditioned to believe that physical love is expressed solely in one direction?

I explained to him that he kisses her and loves her and hugs her and pats her butt and LOVES naked baby time right before the bath andteases her tummy and plays with her "meat thighs" and blows rasberries on her belly button. And that's the short list. I told him that these are things he would never consider doing with his guy friends. He that he shares for our daughter. He nodded. But his love for her IS physical. He said he understood and changed the subject.

And so I have reflected on MY love for her. We spent the weekend at my in-laws and my mother-in-law has been DYING to change her diaper. I have never really let go enough to let her, but finally this past weekend I relaxed and let her go do it on her own. Of course, after areasonable amount of time I grabbed my daughter and hauled her upstairs to inspect how well my MIL did at cleaning up a poopy diaper. (The instances of my MIL's desperation to change a diaper and also my interest in checking out the cleanliness of my daughter's butt/vulvas both physical intimacies are not lost on me.) When I removed the diaper I noticed that my MIL had done a fine job of cleaning her butt.But there was poop all in the crevice between her thighs and vulva andeven more up inside her vulva, making for one very nasty rash scenario if not cleaned up immediately. I plopped my girl down in the bath toclean her up right.

Now, I have come to understand/believe that my MIL is awfully sexually repressed. She has told me things that lead me to believe that she is uncomfortable with her own sexuality and that of other people too. Sexual repression has never ever ever been a concern of mine. Maybe that's why I'm comfortable with my daughter's body and it has never crossed my mind that where/how I touch her might be improper? Simply because it isn't. I pretty much clean her up exactly like I clean up my own body. With a couple kisses here and there. (For her, not me!) And so my MIL couldn't quite bring herself to touch my daughter THERE even though it was required. When I confronted her on her shoddy cleanup job SHE EVEN ADMITTED that she didn't do a very good clean up job because "it was all dirty up 'there' and I just didn't, well, you
know, I wanted to ask, I just..." And so at the next poopy diaper I called her over and got the wipes and cleaned her up properly while instructing my MIL about how to open her legs up, cleaning her up THERE, etc.

And the beautiful thing about that experience was that I truly believe that it was through my comfort with my intimacy with my daughter that made two more things happen: First, I believe that my MIL became a little tiny bit less repressed because I demonstrated, without judgement, how to be absolutely 100% comfortable with one's private parts withoutovert sexualization. I believe I demonstrated normalization that she couldn't attach to my feminism or politics. And second, I believe that through the intimacy I have with my daughter's body it helped create intimacy between me and my MIL. The next time she changed a diaper she did just great. It took only exposing her to normal intimacy ONCE for her to get comfortable enough to do it. And after that second time she actually asked me if I had checked and what I thought!! Excellent all the way around!

I'm sorry if this is rambling on a little too long, but I have one more thing to say: I am a touchy person. Not overly so, but definitely with people that are close to me. (With strangers I appreciate a healthy distance.) But on Sunday my best friend came over and we werel aying on the couch together. She was rubbing my feet. Our legs were intertwined. During conversation she would touch my shoulder, I would touch her face. It was comfortable. Perhaps this contributes to my feeling like my physical love for my daughter is normal? For further example, if I met someone at work I would shake their hand. But if I met someone else, perhaps you, I would definitely offer a hug with a smile. That's just me.


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post and very eloquent. I had the same feelings when my boys were babies. The only time I had issues with any physicality was in cleaning the penises, 'cause I was sure I was doing it wrong (I didn't have one, you see.) My husband instructed me, and then it was fine. HOWEVER - I'm now having problems with certain intimacy. My boys are 4 & 6. If there is an emergency I obviously deal with it, but if it's just a regular bath, or making sure the butt is wiped properly, I make my husband do it. Both boys have a tendency to touch my butt or look if they catch me changing, or touching my breasts by accident - and I back away. I believe that it stems from the abuse I suffered from the age of 4 to the age of 14. It started around their age. Don't get me wrong - I'm affectionate. There are lots of hugs. But I'm afraid that I've been permanently damaged. I'm making a concerted effort to not be obvious to my boys - but I'm worried they'll think I don't want to touch them. That's not it. I don't want them to touch me and I can never ever let them know that.

nonlineargirl said...

It is important for kids to understand the difference between 'good touch' and 'bad touch'. Experiencing a normal physical interaction is good not only because oy! the diaper rash if you didn't do it, but also because from infancy she is learning normal good touch. As she gets older she can understand what is shared and what is private, but at such a young age your touch is key. And how great that you could have a positive impact on your mother in law!

Anonymous said...

I think that it can be very difficult for people who are not comfortable with themselves physically to be comfortable with others physically - even, maybe their children. Kudos to you for sharing your physical comfort with your MIL.

AngelHawk said...

I wanted to leave a comment -but instead it became my blog topic- it was soo long- I love this post and all posts that show how much a parent loves thier child!

Lil said...

You have put into words what I have been feeling about my physical connection with my daughter - thank you so very much! It's a beautiful post, and one I think only a child's mother can understand!

Gina said...

That is awesome that you confronted and taught your MIL like you did. I have tried to change my sister's baby girl a couple times, and it's just so difficult compared to my boy. Well done in taking that opportunity to teach.

Great post, Ally.