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15 Aug

Of a Joy Which Can’t Be Words*

Yesterday, WonderBaby turned 9 months old.

Nine calendar months is roughly the period of time that she spent in my womb. (41 weeks to the day, to be precise, which, counting from November 14, puts us pretty near to today. Yes, I counted. On my fingers. At 3am.) She has now, then, been out in this world for as long as she was in the cozy little world of the womb, where she grew from the tiniest microscopic speck to the eight and half pound miracle that somehow managed to work its way out into the world through the most unlikely – in my view – of passages. And: I have been a mother, now, for the same amount of time that I was pregnant and dreaming of becoming a mother.

I thought about marking this day, these days, with some reflection upon my evolution as a mother. I thought about writing my post about fear, about how fearful my experience of motherhood has been at times and what I am learning about this fear, to mark the passing of these first nine months. I also thought about writing that promised post about why and how parenthood really is, in some respects, like a secret club. I thought about all variety of musings on motherhood, all of which seemed particularly appropriate as reflections upon these first nine months, the first nine months of our life together, here in this big bright world.

But none of these musings and reflections could capture, perfectly, the extraordinariness of this experience, of these nine months and the nine months that preceded them.

So I decided to try to write the post that I’ve been struggling to write for some time now, a post that I have sat with and worried over and laboured over. A post that I was not sure I could tend to with the proper care, a post that I was not sure that I was qualified to write. A post that I have wanted, desperately, to write, but that I have been afraid of writing. A messy post.

The post that I have wanted to write is this: a reflection on the physical beauty of my child, and my fascination with and attraction to that beauty.

I do not want to write about the beauty that pleases superficially – the roundness of eye, the curve of eyelashes, the sheen of her pale blond hair. This would not be an analysis of her physical assets, nor a reflection upon the possibility that she might escape the burden of physical quirkiness only to acquire the burden of beauty. What I want to write, rather, is an ode, of sorts, of whatever sort I can manage, to the real, the pure, the heartwrenching and heartlifting beauty of her form. To the impossible harmony of strength and fragility and softness in every curve of her limbs, every tilt of her downy head, every grasp of her fierce little hand.

And I want to write about this, too: how my love for her is physical, desperately physical. How my love for her wants to cleave to her, always, to feel her pressed against me, her breath on my cheek, her tiny hands tangled in my hair, her wee proud belly warm against my chest. How there is something of the erotic – the Platonic erotic, Socrates’ eros as a yearning for beauty, for the Form of beauty, of the Good – in that love.

But here is where I stop short. We cannot, must not, speak or write of our children in these terms. And even if poetry – the natural (perhaps forced?) lyricism of motherhood – affords me the right and the space to sing hymns to Eros extolling the beauty of my child, the muck and the filth of our culture, and of this virtual world, calls into question that right, and sullies that space.

I have dared to use the word erotic here, in writing about my child, and that I speak in terms of daring says it all: I am, I think, taking a risk. One aspect of that risk is not so frightening: that some puritanical parent, or non-parent, will find these words offensive, and take me to task for sexualizing my child. I am not sexualizing my child: I am trying to find language to express a non-sexual love that is nevertheless deeply physical. Our culture confuses the physical with the sexual, and so I expect that many would perceive even this effort to write the physicaly beauty of my child as troubling. But I can live with that.

What is more difficult to live with, even for a second: that in using the language of the physical and of the erotic – even in a pointedly Socratic sense – I am opening the gates of Google pervdom and waving in the creeps, the monsters, the card-carrying N*MBLA members. Here! Physical love mother and child! Translate to filth.

And this is what stops me. And it pains me. My mind swirls, my fingers twitch: I have words. I have sentences, phrases, similes, metaphors, paragraphs, stanzas. I have poetry. I am aching to spill it. I am aching to shout out to the world the sharp joy, the stinging bliss of this physical love, this love that will, I know, lose its sharpness, its edge, become blurry as she grows into her own self and I back into my separate self. I want to capture it. I want to tell the truth about it.

Will you help me? Would you – could you – tell me how you would write this? Show me? What I am asking is: would you write an ode to your child, to your children, that is both forceful and safe? And if you do not think it possible (in the context of safety, or any any other context) would you tell me why? Is this – really, frankly, writing about our love for our children, about the physicalness of our connection to them in that love – unbloggable? Is this even more true – as I suspect it is – for fathers? Am I overthinking this?

I’m going to labour through this post over the coming weeks. My objective will be to give it birth by the end of this ninth month (August). Between now and then, if you write a post about your love for your child, or about writing about your love for child, or about why it might be imprudent to write such love, please leave the link for me here, in these comments. If you prefer to not write such a post, leave a response (if you have one) here. I’ll look to these for inspiration and insight, and when I post my own, I’ll give all due credit and, hopefully, situate my words within a broader discussion about love for our children and writing that love.

*Apologies to e.e. cummings…


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