Breaking (a meditation on motherhood)

Motherhood is a constant extending of the boundaries of the self, a constant process of becoming someone else. To paraphrase the poet Andrea Gibson (who was talking about their dog, Squash), it’s having your heart walk around outside your body. It’s a constant breaking down. Daily, at some point, I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Daily, my heart breaks open even more.

Tomorrow is her “equinox” – she will have been outside for the same amount of time that she was inside. Every day up until tomorrow, she has been inside longer than she was outside. But from Thursday onward, she will have been outside longer than she was inside.

It’s such a funny thought to me. It feels monumental, somehow. That this little creature who started as a clump of cells who is now, 41 weeks and 6 days later, walking, dancing, laughing, clapping, blowing kisses, and so many other things. It’s mindboggling, really. So much can happen in 84 weeks, a year and a half. 

Maybe there’s a bittersweetness to it. She was in me longer than she has been out of me, and that will no longer be true. It was true every day until tomorrow, but starting tomorrow, she will have been in the world longer, she will know the outside longer, she will forget that she was inside me. She will not (does not?) remember.

I will always remember. I will always know what it felt like to have her living inside of me. The kicks, the flutters, her little baby booty resting against my diaphragm. The hiccups. 

My body will never be the same. Hers will continue to grow.

She has an outie belly button. It’s where we were connected. For 41 weeks and 6 days, I nourished here through the tube that entered her body there. I still nourish her outside, with breastfeeding, but now that she is older this includes purees of fruits and vegetables and cereals, too. 

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt the impulse to protect this life growing inside me with every fiber of my being. It was utterly terrifying, because there are things you can do, and so much you cannot do. I remember sharing this fear with a dear friend, who told me to trust, which became my mantra, especially in those early days of pregnancy.

Now that she is an “outside baby,” almost a year old, this fear feels almost like a low-key anxiety that is running at all times, but is also not unwarranted. It’s the low hum of knowing she can get into something WHILE I AM WATCHING and I still cannot protect her. Just this week, she burned her fingers on the brake pad of a tire and caught her fingers in a door hinge as the door was closing, both while I was watching her. And I don’t mean “while I turned my back for a second” – my eyes were literally on her. The drive to protect is real, biological, and the dangers are real, everywhere. And the anxiety feels less like a neuroses and more like the hypervigilance necessary to keep tiny humans alive. 

As I reflect on the first year of motherhood, I am aware of the powerful love that keeps us all alive. I’m aware of the sacrifices mothers make – that my own mother continues to make for her 40-year old daughter. 

She sleeps next to me as I write (the only time I can get writing done lol), her tiny belly breathing softly, he beautiful long chubby legs splayed out. She is perfection. She made me a mother.