*Edits! Below! Keeping you on your toes!
One of the challenging things about being a quote-unquote mommy blogger – a writer whose motherhood provides most of the grist for her writing mill – is the unpredictability of the mommy life. You can have neat little essays on the whys and wherefores of mothering – on the physicality of mother-love, on the experience of fear in motherhood, on the mystery of Whither the Tits? – all drafted and lined up for publishing (this one on Thursday, that one on Saturday, resting and blog-cruising on Friday…), and then wham. There’s a growth spurt or a sleep regression or sudden weaning or spontaneous dress rehearsals of your baby’s dance troupe and everything that you had planned on writing fades to grey against the bright messy colours of all this stuff that you must write about RIGHT NOW.
Tonight I was all prepared with my thoughts on my much-delayed post on the physicality of maternal love and had worked out my opening line (“I’ve never been at ease with my physical self…”) and planned on banging it out after dinner. But then WonderBaby’s little sniffle exploded into a nasty head cold at the same time as yet another tooth cut through her gums and our household exploded into a frenzy of pain and despair.
She shrieked and she wailed and she rubbed her sore, wet nose with her tiny fists. She clung to me and sniffled and choked back snotty sobs and then wailed some more. She rubbed her wet little face into my chest and was miserable. We were miserable.
There is no more terrible sound than the sound of your child in pain. There just isn’t. It doesn’t matter that you know that those cries are provoked by ordinary, everyday pains – stuffed nose, sore gums – those cries pierce you all the same, they cut right through you like so many knives, so many sharp, sharp knives. They hurt.
So you clasp your child to your chest and you whisper urgently that it’s okay, sshhh, it’ll be okay, and you press your lips against her wet cheeks and pull her as close as you can and you wish fervently that the beating of your heart will calm her, that somehow you will be able to will her pain away by holding her closer closer closer and warming her cheek with your breath. Because it must work both ways, mustn’t it? You can feel her pain as keenly as if it were your own. Shouldn’t she feel your strength, your calm – the calm that you are pulling, tugging, up from your very core for her - shouldn’t she feel that? Aren’t you, the two of you, one body?
You’re not. She cries, she hurts, and your heart breaks because you can’t make the hurt go away. So you just hold her, and stroke her hair while she sniffles and moans. And you sit there as long as you have to, until her crying slows and her head falls heavily against your chest. You sit there and hold her, cradling her little body and breathing her in. You sit there for a long time, for a very long time.
And then you carry her over to her crib and lean your body in as far as it can go, keeping her pressed against you as you lower her down, and you lay her down, and she uncurls her little fists and rolls onto her side and you stay, hunched over, listening to her breathe.
And then you pull away, and back quietly away, and leave her, alone, sleeping, in her crib.
And you think, we are not one.
We’re two. She will bear her pain, her pains, and her blisses, as her own. Apart from me.
It’s a terrible thing, and a wonderful thing. And I can’t think of anything else tonight.