On Motherhood I

Something must be said and yet I do not know how to say it. The impulse is there though, the inclination to tend to the page, and this alone feels like a small victory. It feels like myself. I once said that motherhood is an abstraction for anyone who has not yet ventured into this territory. I did not know at the time how true this statement was. There are some things in life that we simply cannot know until we are them. Like love, motherhood, cannot be measured or explained or accurately rendered in any art form, though I will live my life trying.

I was told once in a writing workshop that my work was filled with abstractions. I have always had the tendency to deal in the realm of ideas and have to work very hard to tether these big feelings to the concrete world. This though, is writing. This is our job. We reach from the abstract and we make it tangible and into something others can hold between their teeth. We try, even if we often fail, to bring the lofty abstractions of love, grief, time, and even motherhood, down to earth so we might understand them even for just a moment.

When I try and tell an old friend how it feels, how it’s going, how I’ve been; I say things like, it’s wild but it’s filled with love. Abstractions to explain the abstraction. These are just ideas, but I’d like to try and reach for more. It should be mentioned that this is my topography of motherhood and I have only ventured but inches with a flashlight, slowly, and barefooted into this world. It feels something like this…

At the base of my breast there is a space so tender it could have been lashed with a whip. If I roll over on it in the night it wakes me up and I cry out. Even in my sleep I muffle my own cries so as not to wake him. I see a photograph of myself naked in Australia on the internet and I have to wonder for a moment who that person is. I wish I could have loved myself back then the way I love her now looking at the image. There is a red mark on the back of his head beneath a perfect swirl of hair, it is either a birth mark or man made mark from the hands that pulled him from inside of me. I worry about all the marks that this world will leave on his body. An entirely new compartment of worry has opened in my mind, anxious but mostly unseen, like a frozen river in the winter that breaks open at a bend revealing the water still rushing beneath. Two hands at all times, I remind myself. I nearly dropped him the first week were home. Two hands, like a mantra I will never forget play in my mind every time I pick him up. I clean creases and wash bedsheets and fall asleep sitting up. There is an ache in my shoulders like a hot steal braid. And yet there is warmth in everything, even in the middle of the night when it hurts in my chest to wake up.

There is a warmth even though the coffee is always cold. There is a balance but I do not know it yet, and am not sure I ever will, of being here for him and being here for myself. I am halved and yet also twice as much. I do not know how anything is possible and yet the days tick by and become weeks and he grows between my hands like a dream I once had. It is similar to sorcery. I will never not wonder at my body making his body and my body feeding his body. Sometimes in the dark of night I tell him a story and I imagine one day we will write it down. I do now know how anyone does this other than the fact that they do. How can something be so precious and so strong at once. I do not know anything other than what I know. I am trying, I tell him. So am I, he tells me.

Image by Jenavieve

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