It’s been a long time since I posted any of my own work here, and since I’m feeling super lazy today, it’s the perfect time. I’ve written many, many poems about motherhood, but it’s a tough needle to thread. There are so many opposing forces: cynicism and hope, exhaustion and joy, and the ever present precipice of cheesiness. But this is one of my favorites, I hope you enjoy it too.
Mama is in the kitchen
slicing two pounds of grapes in half
on a lazy Sunday afternoon
Mama is weeding the side yard
As the moon rises high
with a sleeping baby on her back
Mama is in the nursery
rocking a sighing sick baby
in the small hours of night
Mama is cradling a cold cup of coffee
scouring the internet for ten minutes of adult thoughts
before nap time draws to a close
Mama is tapping her foot
under a cafe sidewalk table
trying to listen to a saddened friend
and calculate the hours she’s been gone
Mama is playing London bridge with her feet
laughing at toddler squeals
wrist deep in dishwater
apologizing to the bank man
she’s got on speaker phone
Mama is staying up late to fold laundry
sneaking under soft baby snores
to deliver clean clothes to squeaky drawers
Mama is speaking prayers
over a silky, wiggling head
dodging yogurt slimed hands
Asking for peace
and also that this wiggling head will know
that with every move and sleepless night
with multitasking tired fingers
with long slow breaths amid shrill screams
with a heart wrung out and ever full
Mama is blessing her
I got very lucky with my baby. I was worried before giving birth that I wouldn’t be able to be around another person all the time, much less a demanding baby. Pearl is relatively easy to be around, and creates much more joy than inconvenience.
It’s easy to feel like we’re just lucky, like it is by sheer chance that Pearl is so happy. It’s more politically correct to view the situation that way. It would be judgmental of me to say that Pearl is happy because I’m such an amazing mom, or because I breastfeed, or because we used this or that sleep training program. And if I say that Pearl is this way because God intentionally chose to bless us with this happy person in our lives, what does that say about women who have more challenging infants?
The problem with viewing Pearl as luck is that luck is so easily broken. Because of my continuing cancer treatment, I’ll have to stop nursing Pearl in a few months. What upsets me most about this development is that I’m afraid it will upset our balance. If I can’t nurse Pearl, maybe she’ll stop being so happy. Maybe without that comfort, I won’t be able to get her to sleep at night anymore. Maybe our bonding will fade and she’ll feel unsettled and frightened. Maybe our luck will break.
As controversial as it may be, I choose to believe that Pearl and her happiness are blessings from God. A blessing doesn’t break so easily. If God intended our lives to be peaceful and happy, that peace and happiness will endure the weather. If it is God’s doing that has brought my life to this moment, I can continue to ask him for what I need or want and hope that he will hear and respond. I can hope that God means to bless my life, and that those blessings will endure beyond any curse, even cancer. I can believe that light will make the darkness flee, even at sunset.
That pesky cancer thing is still kind of going on, so I have to have surgery on Tuesday to remove my thyroid. I’ve never had surgery before, and I’ve been advised by those who have to not think about what it actually is. Because if you think too long about someone, even a surgeon, cutting into your throat, the floor directly beneath you starts to sink. Granted, this is a relatively minor surgery, I’m in great hands, and I’ll have lots of help from my cute husband and my mom.
And yet, there are not completely illogical reasons to worry. I’m a breastfeeding mom, and the arrangements to make sure I can continue nursing after the surgery has required five phone calls in the last four days. I have a friend who was in a coma for two days after having this same surgery. I had another friend who died during a relatively minor surgery. All of that is pretty concerning, but I think I would be okay if it was just me.
I know within myself that if tragedy strikes, I can get through it. I’ve been through a great deal in my life and I know I can trust God to take care of me. It is much, much harder to trust God to take care of my family, especially my helpless two-month-old daughter. At this point, and possibly forever after, a tragedy for me has the potential to be an even greater tragedy for her. If I were to get really sick or die, Pearl’s life would be more effected than mine. While I can be concerned or even worried for myself, that thought sends me into out-and-out panic.
After Pearl was born, I felt that God gave me a new mantra, a phrase I can repeat to quiet and focus my mind while I meditate. Now, while I meditate, I repeat the phrase “I trust you with my daughter’s life.” I find that repeating this phrase releases tension I didn’t realize I was holding. There is a piece of the mother-baby connection that can turn sour and strangling; repeating that phrase unwinds that connection. I am telling God that I am willing to hand over the responsibility I feel for Pearl’s life. I am surrendering the idea that I can control or shape her, that I can protect her from all harm, that I am anything more than a mere mortal in her life. I am telling God that I trust him with the most precious and delicate thing I have ever held in my hands. And truly, if I can trust God with my daughter’s life, what else is left to worry for?
My husband’s skin is kind of magical. It’s not a sex thing, exactly. It’s not even a familiarity thing, because I’ve felt that about him before we were even officially dating. It feels like home. When I have contact with his skin, there’s a small spiritual confirmation that this is my partner. Long before we made the very grown-up decision to get married, I think the knowledge of our life long love was already in my sensory hairs.
Pearl has that too. She was asleep in my lap, just finished her early-morning feeding, and I got that same feeling. Like beyond the cognitive knowledge that she is my baby, my arms and hands whisper that this child is forever set apart from all others because this child is my daughter. This one has my eyes, she has my blood, she is sustained by my body. This one has my partner’s magic skin.