They tell you it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. They tell you how mundane and unfulfilling it will be to be a mother at a tossed-away age of twenty-three.
But they fail to tell you about those wondrous, fleeting gifts you will be given:
How his earliest self will seem almost otherworldly as he moves in frail slow motion and stares with calm contemplative eyes.
How his newborn cries will sound like the bleating of a lamb and how his hair will remind you of a baby bird’s feathers.
How when you bring his tiny body up against you to burp, he’ll start suckling innocently and delightfully on your shoulder.
And for all the trials you are set to face, they tell you “this too shall pass”, but they don’t tell you how many things must pass before you understand that to be true.
The waves of tears and nightmares. The anxiety that pulls you in a hazy half-asleep panic to find him and touch him and make sure he is alive.
The excruciating cries in the early morning as air works through the tight maze of his intestines.
The frantic fearfulness you feel each night as you descend into a deep sleepless abyss.
The agony of latching him, tiny-mouthed and tired onto your raw, red breast.
They tell you that your life will never be the same again. That it’s monotonous and messy. They offer these words sympathetically as if you are willingly choosing a promethean fate.
And perhaps you are.
To have the ever-growing weight of another person attached to your chest and to clean his soiled self again and again as a consequence for bringing his eternal soul into the world might be appropriately likened to being chained to a cliff side and having a vulture come peck at your liver over and over again as a consequence for bringing Olympian fire into the world.
They tell you to pursue your dreams and live your life first. As though it will be extinguished rather than transfigured.
They are right, though, in implying that birth is a death.
At an hour unknown, a cleaving of bodies and the emergence of a little soul out of the dark into unbearable brightness.
A day that stands as a door to daily death for your once sleepy self. A day, a door to newborn, new-found life as someone’s, some whole person’s mother.