On the surface, there is so much beauty in motherhood: tiny socks, pearl overall buttons, single-tooth smiles, and curious eyes that examine wildflowers for the first time.
And yet, being a parent feels like I’ve been severed from my elbow or kneecap or some other body part I rarely thought of before. Every day, I watch my severed elbow flail about, interacting with a world it’s not meant to inhabit alone. How do I exist without my elbow, and how does my elbow exist without me? And how do you teach something like a screaming, severed, flailing elbow to be an independent, functioning adult? It will take at least 20 years, I imagine.
Until then, it feels like my own life has been severed into segments of the day that either last an eternity or evaporate with the blink of an eye. Bad times feel like bouncing a screaming baby in one arm while pushing a loaded stroller uphill with the other; but best times the view of Snowpea’s dreaming, fluttering eyes and the breath in her chest as she sleeps.
In the minutes when her lids are softly sealed and the space is silent, I dance with joy, throwing my pent-up passion into baking brownies or massaging my feet or writing a poem or learning a language or starting a novel or whatever my ambition at that moment tells me I can squeeze into the space of her catnap – and let go of when she begins to stir (my sweet Snowpea, just 5 more hours please…).
My nascent experience with parenthood is colored by the pandemic. Caring for Eira alone for her first 9 months of life was not my original plan, but an “easy pregnancy” and an “empowering birth” provided a false sense of security in myself and my capacity as a mother. And in retrospect, as two parents juggling remote work and a baby while secluded within the four walls of our riverside apartment, we did alright.
But no one deserves the pressure of parenting alone. If it takes a village to raise a child, my heart aches for the one I’ve never known. I long for mom groups, playdates, and outings to people-watch at neighborhood cafes where the man behind the counter will say, “My she’s grown since last week!”
I want the world to share in both the anguish of public temper tantrums and in the joy of watching a tiny baby progress through her first year.
Nine months, we decided, was enough of an eternity to live through alone. So, in April, when the cherry blossoms had just begun to bloom in Cambridge, we packed up our car and drove overnight to Carbondale, Illinois. Amidst the sea blue walls of my childhood room, I sit under a floral quilt, listening to the hum of my dad’s borrowed espresso machine, the mourning doves from outdoors, and the soft breath of my napping child. And for once, I’m not in a rush for Eira to stay asleep.