Once, as a small child, I found an inchworm which inspired me to talk about the suitability of inchworms as pets for the remainder of the day. Not long after, during the presidential debates between the elder Bush and Bill Clinton, I informed my parents that the deciding factor was each candidate’s environmental position, especially concerning blue whale habitats. Most of my childhood memories are episodes related to animals I came across in the woods, had as pets, or saw on Wild America (hosted by Marty Stauffer, whose book I also read). I was sure I would be a veterinarian when I grew up…well that or an illustrator of children’s books, which would of course include animals. When, exactly, my animal fascination began to temper and ebb, I’m not sure, but at some point other interests and issues took a higher priority for my attention and time. Eventually I looked fondly back at my younger self, doubtful if I would ever return to that keen of an interest in animals as a general class.
Many years later, my friends and I found ourselves in the marrying stage of life, and as the last few of my unmarried friends found spouses, talk began to turn from finding the right person to the arrival of little people. “Baby fever” became a watch-word, one I did my best to distance myself from, even while I was pregnant. Since I’ve never had a compelling desire to hold a baby simply because it was a baby, I honestly wondered when my maternal self would emerge. Five months after Rowan’s birth, I occasionally still wondered. “I don’t know if I feel like a mother, whatever that’s supposed to feel like,” I told Jason after Rowan went down for the night one evening, “But then again, it took awhile to ‘feel’ married.”
And then this fawn found its way under or through the wire mesh fence separating our backyard from the forest-like stand of trees beyond it. As the fawn ran back and forth bleating for its mother, then sinking down into the grass as I approached, the little girl and the mother in me surged up together, amalgamating to create a deep desire to do whatever was needed to help this little one back to its own momma. At the same time that I saw Rowan’s helpless baby-ness in the fawn’s quiet curl and wide open eyes and wondered how long this tiny deer could survive on its own, I was trying to glean whatever wisdom remained in my memories of nature shows. Much of the rest of the day was spent speculating on the status of the fawn’s mother, as well as the best course of action to take.
I eventually contacted a wildlife rehabilitator, who directed us to scoot the fawn back under the fence, and wait for the mother to return to it. Over the following two days, Jason and I anxiously checked along the back fence, hoping to no longer see the curled up tawny form, since that would mean it had followed its mother away from our yard. When, yesterday afternoon, we saw the fawn had left, the sense of relief was surprising. It’s clear: becoming parents has already changed us, feelings or no–and (for me) that new self builds on the seemingly-past self.