11 months, artist as mommy, attachment parenting, audio, babies, baby, balance, banana, becoming, beginning, being, birth, black mothers, blessings, bloom, body, boys, change, choice, clock, communication, courage, create, creative, emotions, family, familymaking, feelings, freedom, ground, growth, heart, hesitant, humanity, imagination, journey, learn, lemon, life, livelihood, mama, mommy writes, mother, motherbaby, motherhood, mothering, mothering artist, mothering body, mothers, movement, natural, new, new mommies, new mommy, newborn, parenting, patience, present, sacred, share, slavery, slow mothering, space, story, teach, tell, telling, thoughts, tide, time, tired, together, transitions, value, vision, vital, voice, void, wall, Wednesday, wednesday's bloom, wheels, whole mother, wisdom, woman, wonder, words, work, world
48 weeks | This is motherhood | no. 0042
Last night I came face to face with motherhood in a way that was unremarkable. Congested, tired, and headachy, I lay on my back while the munchkin used me as his personal moonbounce. He squealed in delight, his hands, feet, arms, and head colliding gleefully with my face and belly. This life is a wonderful thing. In his eyes I understood how perfect this moment was for him. Each time he dove into me, some part of his body landed just shy of my teeth. The munchkin’s happiness made me smile in spite of feeling so worn out. He babbled “mamamamamama” loudly into the growing darkness. The sun continued setting even though dinner was not made.
I wondered if I stayed in that position long enough if someone would call and say, “Hey, I’m on my way with food for you all, and it’ll be enough for leftovers tomorrow!” Ironically, the phone did ring and it was my mother telling me she was picking up food for her house. I briefly lamented the fact that our place was not on her way home, and also that I had yet to figure out how to teleport us there in a blink of an eye.
I thought about the brown rice in the cabinet. The unwashed greens in the refrigerator. The steadfast beans, still plentiful after having been consumed for three prior meals, only needing to be warmed up. Somehow I came to terms with the fact that they would not prepare themselves. I rolled on my side, wrapped my arms around the munchkin so that he wouldn’t fall off the bed while flinging himself all over. Then I closed my eyes and considered this very truth: Motherhood is that uncomfortable space between two imperfect choices. A thin, nearly-imperceptible line between what I don’t want to do, and what I don’t want to do. Stay in this bed with a baby who is not tired and will not let you fully rest. Or drag your exhausted self into the kitchen and make a meal out of your last few staples so that you can eat and your partner can pack a lunch for work tomorrow.
This is my life, I heard my inner voice saying over and over as I eventually made my way out of the bed for the greater good of my family’s nutritional needs. I set the munchkin up with his toys. I pulled the blinds up that he loves to yank on. I chopped the onion and garlic as quickly as possible so that when he grew bored with his legos and bucket in a few minutes, and it came time to grab him up from the radio he wants to knock to the floor, my hands wouldn’t be covered with bits of food.
I listen to audio books (just like my mother!) when I’m cooking. Fortunately, the conclusion to an interesting suspense novel assisted me through this late night, reluctant, do-the-right-thing dinner situation. Of course, because I had lost good time contemplating a way out of having to get up and make food, I was now past the threshold of the munchkin’s peaceful bedtime process. My rice was boiling, and since I’m not the best at rice, I wanted it to finish before I got him into a fresh diaper and pajamas. He wasn’t having it, so I rocked him in my arms for a little while until I could turn the pot off. It would be good enough for a sleepy chef, I decided.
While nursing him to sleep, I listened to my story play. It was nearing the end. More frustrating than the fact that I had a messy kitchen and incomplete meal awaiting me upon my return to the kitchen, was that this was my last fast-paced story. A sliver of panic coursed through me as I thought about having to go through the next day without some wild plot to add some color and adventure to my unseen workload. Changing diapers while chasing villains, doing laundry in the middle of a legal twister, prepping a soup and dough for baking bread when some family of an author’s imagination realizes they have forgotten how to love each other.
Motherhood is this constant weaving work. This delicate, but imperative, art of making space for your needs where there is often so little room. This practice is what makes even the most frustrating days feel wholly purposeful. Those fleeting, blissful moments when in the middle of doing for others, you managed to do something for yourself. However small, everything counts when you’re a mother.
Motherhood is also patience. There is always a good reason to wait, a worthy sacrifice for your time that comes in the form of a small and mighty being you grew inside your womb. This is what I find myself explaining to a friend who is unsure if she’s ready to have children. Without overthinking it, I tell her the first thing that comes to mind: “As long as you’re okay with the change a baby will bring, you’ll be fine.” I don’t know how to say that “you’ll be fine” is code word for “things will shift dramatically and you will wonder if you’re losing your mind, but after a while you’ll see that being a mother is not about being steady. It’s about being present with the tide as it tosses you about.” I think another way to say all that is, “you’ll learn how to just be in the water without worrying that every turbulent occasion means you’re going to drown.”
Mostly though I was referring to the natural rhythm that slows something down. The day becomes a measure of subtle successes, so much so that many people will not see any movement at all and will mistakenly assume you “do nothing” at home with your child. Even pregnant women who think they have slowed down often have no idea that they are still going too fast. They can’t help it though, because they’re still in the luxury of sharing one body. And so when they greet life on the other side of birth, they are momentarily stunned at how the pace of the world is painfully incompatible for a new mother and newborn. This is not everyone, but this was me in those early months.
Motherhood is accepting the parts that don’t add up, that were never going to add up. I am working on my memoir about being and becoming a mother. I have been reflecting a lot on past relationships with people that obviously didn’t work out. When I think about the unhappy parts of those journeys I have yet to find language for all those stories. I look at my perfect, beautiful, awesome baby, and I think, wow, if I had not gone through those hells, how would I have my son. He is this divine culmination of an infinite series of choices, some good, some less than good. Sometimes I think, oh, I would do that over if I had the chance. But then, I end up taking it back. Because I wouldn’t really undo anything that led up to the reality that is my munchkin. Mothering is teaching me that my complex feelings about something will never line up neatly and fit into a box. Life will mostly be emotionally asymmetrical. Everything will not reconcile itself, but the sun will rise again tomorrow anyway.
Motherhood is the clock ticking. The minutes escaping by until my munchkin starts stirring and needs me to put down what I am doing and care for him. Motherhood is the urgency with which I must put these sentences together because I am working on borrowed time. Motherhood is the stealth maneuver to slip down off the bed without making a noise so as not to wake my sleeping baby when I am desperate to finish this post before Wednesday’s end. Motherhood is the pressure to squeeze my ritual into the bottom of a fading day.
Motherhood is this repetitive willingness to let go of my place at the center. To allow someone else to become the heart of the matter. I think this is what so many are afraid to do. It is scary to give up that which you can never retrieve. But motherhood is the wisdom that the things we leave behind only clear the way for our power to create more joys ahead. An eternal knowing that we possess the ability to bring new and abundant life into a sacred center we once occupied alone.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.