Beautiful Catastrophe: The Death and Rebirth of Becoming a Mother

Syndicated

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. NOT EVEN THE DAD.

It’s hard to put into words, but something becomes very apparent when a baby enters a relationship: There is something different between my relationship with this baby, and everybody else in the world.

I am the only one who is The Mother to this child twenty-four hours a day, and will be for the rest of my life.

I’m not trying to speak for everybody. Obviously. I’m speaking for myself, and for my friends, who I’ve seen living the same beautiful catastrophe.

My husband always goes back to work relatively soon after the baby is born. In some ways his life, though obviously irrevocably changed, goes on in more or less the same way it was before. My husband’s sleep patterns haven’t changed. My husband’s body isn’t suddenly owned by a 9-pound nursing machine. My husband’s vagina isn’t, well, let’s change the subject. My husband doesn’t have stretch marks. My husband didn’t give birth.

My husband doesn’t spend hours eye-locked with the newborn, cooing and talking with infinite fascination with a ball of chub. My husband doesn’t pick at the baby’s head and eyes and ears like an attentive monkey.

My husband didn’t become a mother, but I did.

And there are moments when I know it. There are moments when I look at that baby and myself and feel my body that isn’t my body and wonder if maybe I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life, because what have I given up? What have I done? Was I ready?

Why didn’t I appreciate my life more, when it was mine? What if I want to leave one day?

I’ll never be able to leave one day, ever.

I’ve been the same woman my whole life. What about her? Where is she? Is she just dead?

Yes, she is just dead.

Does that seem harsh? Well, it is. So is motherhood.

Perhaps we can soften this whole thing by saying our identities are “transformed,” or we are “forever changed,” but the fact of the matter is that the woman you once were is gone, and she will never come back.

Period.

You can pretend she’s not dead. You can even leave your family and act like a kid again and not a mother. But you will not be free, and you will die under the weight of your lies, because you know you’re something else, and there’s a little girl out there who misses her mama, and has replaced her with a box full of notes and cards and memories and yearning.

I’m speaking from experience.

I will never live a single day as an individual. Always, somewhere, my heart will be beating for that child. Always, somewhere, though I may not even know it, my mind has wrapped itself around her, wondering how she is, seeing a shirt or dog or book, “She would love that.” I miss her.

One thousand miles away, but tied.

And so she’s gone, that woman. Old friend who partied with you and spent hours absorbed in herself, her work. She’s gone, that girl that lived for herself, and maybe you for a moment, but always, in the end, for herself.

And yet, I’m still here. This is still me. I am untouched, unscathed. So maybe I have not died?

If I died, how am I here, nursing and changing and mothering this baby? Who’s doing this work now?

And who is she?

I don’t know her yet, but I will. I’ll know the woman who wraps her baby against her chest and storms the world. I’ll know the woman who goes back to work with one foot and her heart at home, always. I’ll meet the woman who races to preschool to get there on time and holds little hands and chases kids in restaurants.

I’ll meet the woman who disciplines. I’ll meet the woman who yells. I’ll meet the woman who works to be better, who holds a child as it grows and grows and grows and I’ll meet the woman who does it a couple more times, until she’s the one sitting by a friend and a newborn, telling her it’s alright, talking about death, and rebirth.

Of a mother.

Thinking my god, I guess I’ve known her all along.

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