The great Catherine Newman

I’ve been poking through my archives today, leafing through old posts and reading quotations that I want to post again.  These are all by Catherine Newman, who is without a doubt one of my favorite writers – her book Waiting for Birdy is fantastic, and I miss the blog she used to write for babycenter.  Hers is one of the voices I hear in my head, one of the perspectives I hold most dear.


“In the deep of night, I am inclined towards heartbreak. I lie awake the muscle in my chest beating like a metronome, ticking away the rhythm of life’s passing, while outside the cicadas answer with their own clicking, also like a metronome, like a bike shifting gears, like a person in Greek mythology doomed to clip their toenails forever.  I regret every time I’ve spoken sharply to the children, every time I’ve answered curiosity with distractedness, met need with impatience, countered gentle trust with self-importance.  In the night, these occasions spook around me like the ghosts of Bad Behavior Past, hauntingly distorted.

I’m not being hard on myself, not exactly.  I don’t expect perfection.  I know that I have appreciated this journey; inhaled the children’s hair and smiles, crouched down to listen, lay down to comfort.  Every day I have gathered handfuls of my own gratitude and flung them skyward, exalted; I have knelt down in gratitude to press my humble face to its grit.  But oh, I have taken so much for granted.”


“Another person is like a geode lined with hidden glittering.”


“And I’m remembering an email my friend Brian wrote me a couple of years ago, about his sons: “There WILL be a day when they don’t want to be carried up the stairs … But the idea that the last time will go unmarked and slip away without being cherished just made me so sad.”

I’m trying to hold this in mind when Ben wants me to put his socks on or carry him in from the car when he’s actually still awake or stay with him and Birdy while they fall asleep at night. I feel the familiar ripping-away impulse — the same impulse you might have if, say, a baby had been stapled to your bosom — and sometimes I act on it, whispering, “I’ll check on you guys in a few minutes,” and unwinding the arms that are boa-constrictored around my neck, loosening the very claws of love from the hem of my shirt, trotting out before the poor lonely bed-goers can make their emphatic case for my company. But sometimes I just lie there. Let there not be a last time, I think — a last time that slips away without being cherished.”


“I don’t know what to say about this — the way I incline towards sadness, latch on to it as it floats past, ride up into its currents. But it keeps me grounded somehow, however paradoxical that may sound…Looking into the face of loss is like a bell of mindfulness for me. This very heart that pounds sometimes with anxiety — this heart is beating! These very noisy children who make me want to fill my ears with rubber cement — they are vibrantly alive! This very full-to-bursting life — well, it’s life, life itself. “


“Sure, there are recurring themes: anxiety and impatience; my chaotic efforts at peace or the way I lumber after gratitude.”


“I am still confused sometimes about what it means to be a parent — how much you advise, how much you leave alone. They are yours but also their own. They reflect me and surpass me. I am their trusted shepherd, and it is a privilege to have them in my flock. Love and grief, holding hands and skipping down the lane of my crazy heart. When my eyes fill with tears in the car, it’s joy, yes, but I don’t think it counts. It’s way too bittersweet.”

12 thoughts on “The great Catherine Newman”

  1. i agree, your writing is a like a cousin to hers – distant in its differences with an inescapable can’t-put-my-finger-on-it similarity. reflective. applicably reflective, aware, present.

  2. The realization that the last time (being carried out of the car, being helped with the toothbrushing, being kissed one more time at bedtime…) will go unmarked made me so sad. Thank you. I need to remember this.

  3. “But the idea that the last time will go unmarked and slip away without being cherished just made me so sad.”

    That sentence reminds me of the feelings I had about weaning my son. With her own kids my mother-in-law always wanted the last nursing to slip away unnoticed like that so she “wouldn’t have to be sad.”

    But I need to know when things end. I want that pang of finality. Even if it hurts, I need to know.

  4. Yes, Aidan, Jeanne, and Kitch are right: Catherine Newman is certainly your writerly relation. Thank you for sharing her words, and for giving me the name of another author to add to my growing queue of must-reads.

  5. I first heard of Catherine Newman when I became a mommy for the first time and she was doing weekly journals on babycenter. I enjoyed it so much I often printed her entries. Here is one of my favorites- a little long, but completely worth it:

    ” I experienced that thing again tonight — that thing where I was putting the kids to bed and I had to stop myself from wishing the time away. You know that feeling? Where you’re practically jiggling your knee with impatience, thinking, “Come on, come on,” while you watch the baby toss and turn. And maybe you try to sneak away and her eyes snap open, and she grabs you — her fingers closing around your arm the way a cop’s might — and you think, “Shoot,” because you are so busted.

    And then you lie there, staring at her face in the gray light of the evening — just to pass the time until you can finally sneak off to check your e-mail and eat a stack of Lorna Doone cookies. You study the dark crescents of her eyelashes, the valentine of her mouth. You listen to the birds sing to each other from the trees. Maybe you inhale the baby’s milk-shakey breath, because really you have nothing better to do while you wait.

    And then, if you’re lucky, a tiny something calls you to consciousness — a lone star rising up in the blue of your window, maybe, or the sound of your older child sighing in his sleep — and you remember that this is it. This moment. The moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life.

    Which is still no reason to deprive yourself of the Lorna Doones afterward. But I will say this: I seem to have fallen even harder for that Birdy baby. I thought I’d already reached the tippy top of love, but I was wrong. Maybe this is it, now — the apex of passion, so high up that when you look down, your stomach swoops with vertigo.”

  6. I haven’t read Waiting for Birdy but it’s on my “to read” list.

    Inspirational quotes, girl. Pure life and inspiration (as I type this through tears, good tears).

    I was talking my 6 yr old son the other day about twirling him. That the day will come that I won’t be able to heft up his weight and twirl around with him until we fall giggling to the carpet. And when that day comes, it will be his turn to twirl me.

  7. I haven’t been around these parts long enough to chime in on your writerly relation to Catherine Newman (though the comment evidence seems heavily tipped toward the proof of that hypothesis).
    I do feel, after reading these excerpts, like this author has been rummaging around in my brain, articulating beautifully what I could never myself describe.

  8. Once again, I’m teary eyed reading this! Thank you so much for posting this.

    I have not read Catherine Newman before this. Wow. I am just speechless. The way she describes those feelings about our children…

    Crying again, just thinking about the words.


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