more on the mystery of motherhood (or things you can’t prepare for)

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I wasn’t prepared for the intense fleshiness and the intense poetics of it all.
For words witnessed by God and man, words of fidelity and love, to be made into the flesh of another human.
For body and soul to be crafted and to converge under my heart.

I wasn’t prepared to be assailed by a meteor shower of metaphors
for every flash of movement I felt within me,
for every red rippled mark that I found etched onto me,
for every glimpse I caught in reflection of that round and silent world I carried.

I wasn’t prepared to be struck dumb and made to submit a breathless fiat
as I was riven slowly and frighteningly.
But this sweet, damp, dark, purple thing emerged and I cradled him in my shudders and sobs and the room quieted in reverence.

And then I wasn’t prepared to have to learn to speak again,
because what words could I have found in the midst of such mysteries?
Conceiving and growing and birthing a child,
with sparks flying off the white hot welding of creation,
is, after all, close to something confoundedly divine.

But during the weeks of bathing in milk, in tears, in sweat, in blood,
and wanting so much to profanely kiss the scratched shower floor in gratefulness for the water that felt baptismal against my stretched skin and sore bones,
and during the weeks of awe over that small body hewn out of our bodies,
I remember how good it felt to say familiar, ancient words.
In that blurriness and bareness of newborn, new-mothering life,
They felt so whole, so nourishing
like daily bread.

more on the mystery of motherhood (or things you can’t prepare for)

For Father’s Day

Newborn fathers day

One morning, when little Léon was three or four days old, I woke up alone in our sunswept room and stumbled in my new fragile empty body out into the living room. There you two were calmly basking in the new light of the day listening to an adagio from Beethoven. And I cried and cried because how in the world is a postpartum mother supposed to deal with something so magnificent?

For Father’s Day

Seven month sweetness

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My little lion is seven months sweet and every time I touch his soft, tufted mane to my lips or am felled by his magnificent smile or hear a long string of onomatopoeias bubbling off his lips or watch him happily gagging himself on the legs of his best, his dearest friend, sophie the giraffe, I think I might die from joy. I love that we were all at one time seven months sweet.

 

Seven month sweetness

Words for a Second Anniversary

 

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Five years ago our evenings were filled with thick damp air as we prayed and talked and clasped hands on a bench before a thorny-rose-bush-encircled-stone labyrinth with all our dreams suspended sweetly and agonizingly in possibility.

After the minutes had gone too quickly by and you had to go back home and I had to go back to my dorm, I would happily tease you to kidnap me insisting that I would be the happiest hostage.

Then, on a wonderfully warm May afternoon, we spoke words that can never be undone by human tongues and gave one another rings. Blessed shackles. Sacramental links in a chain of love and suffering, grace and sacrifice.

We gave ourselves wholly and freely body and soul to have our humanity forged into divinity. In front of God and man, we said I do to one another.

I do to the nights of damn good French cooking and 90’s romcoms and sparkling cocktail-charged conversations. And I do to doing someone else’s sweaty gym laundry and to sitting behind stalled vehicles in the HOV lane on the long commute to a charmless job.

I do to the fear when that tiniest member of our little trinity wavered within me. I do to the joy as he broke forth triumphant and bloody under the resplendent fluorescent lights of the operating room.

I do to evening air thick with newborn wails and damp with breastmilk. And I do to the realization of our dreams in the rapturous blossoming of human life.

I do to all we cannot yet see: to the irritation and the tenderness and the thrill and the boredom and the joy and the grief and the roses and the thorns on this labyrinthine way to eternity.

Words for a Second Anniversary

To be a mother is to ache

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I wanted to be a mother.
I wanted soft skin to nibble on,
warm, small bodies to wear in lovely maternal wraps,
eager, young hearts to teach to love the true, the good, the beautiful.

I just didn’t want to be so achingly tired.
I didn’t want my dreams to be dashed.
I didn’t want my body to be irrevocably altered.
I didn’t want my time to be reduced to nothing.

I thought of woman after woman
surrendering their bodies and lives,
doing these common acts of
carrying and waiting;
most now buried and turned to dust;
their stories forgotten though
they bore and bear history forward.

When I looked at that plastic stick,
it’s two lines rechristening me:
mother,
I didn’t realize what giving my body for
the tiniest of lives would mean.

That to be a mother is to ache, to be dashed, irrevocably altered, and reduced to nothing.
But then to be remade.

Until I unworthily waited for and carried the weight of life,
I couldn’t fathom that for a person to be a whole universe for a person is to defy time and space.
To grow great and magnificently spherical with a wild changeling;
with a momentary rosebud, tadpole, whirlwind, pugilist but always
person fated to be an
immortal horror or everlasting splendor
is the most unbearable and beautiful
mystery.

To be a mother is to ache

The things they don’t tell you

 

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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.

The things they don’t tell you

On Good Friday and Lady Day

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Three o’ clock is marked by a sharp wooden clack in place of the processional bell, and the clergy enters in somber silence through a parted sea of black veils and mourning wear.

We’re having our own tiny passion in the pew as my son arches, flails, whinies, and whimpers. Finally quelled by milk, he lays peaceful and heavy in my burning arms. We make a sweaty pietà.

When I kiss the Holy Cross, I silently offer my child to his Father to do with what He wills. It is a prayer I make perhaps too freely. Too unconcerned that He might will pillars, crowns, and crosses as was willed for her Son on this holy, haloed day.

On Good Friday and Lady Day