A poem about becoming a mother, written earlier this year when my daughter would have been about 20 months old.
Which one is better?
Which one is true?
I sometimes wish I could do the maths, but
I don’t think it’s a conundrum,
a puzzle to be solved.
It’s a paradox.
Becoming a mum splits you up into bits,
Builds you up new from the ground.
On day one, you’re occupied with simply surviving –
Protecting the life of the tiny one
(while perhaps taking care of your totally battered body so you don’t die
It’s all so horrifyingly huge
The possibility for disaster
Who in the world thought it was sensible
to make babies so fragile?
And put mothers
through a birth experience
that leaves them so drained,
for so long?
It’s a wonder it doesn’t go wrong
more often. Truly
The multiple and nefarious ways in which it can
are staggering. Thinking about them
can swallow you whole
(if you gaze long into an abyss,
the abyss also gazes into you).
So that’s day one, and day two,
and the days become weeks
And the weeks become months
And then time starts to speed up again
and you find yourself wondering,
Where am I? What just happened?
Where am I?
The one that was before?
I am something else now, a big strong baggy mess
of mothering and holding shit together
in whatever way I can – I’ve tapped
capacities I never knew I had,
never knew existed.
But among the nappies and the feeding and the bottles and the milk and the vomit and the choosing clothes and the trying to fit it all into one bag to leave the fucking house just for five minutes
And the love and the smiles and the cuddles and amazement and milestones that leave me gasping for breath, body blown by her achievements, winded by the wonder of it all –
Between and beneath all those things
I still carry the bits I was before
The writer, the artist, the dancer, the musician
The wacky friend
The solemn student
The professional who didn’t drop the ball
I find myself wondering if I will ever feel complete, again.
If I will ever know that person I was before.
If I will ever feel as in control as I did before I had a child to look after – to feed clothe bathe nappify potty train put to sleep wake up teach educate keep from harm love – for who knows HOW many years. The magnitude of that
Is staggering. It’s petrifying.
Even when I am not with her
(especially when I’m not with her)
I’m wondering if she’s ok.
I can’t imagine myself being fully focussed on
There will always be a part of me thinking of her, fretting
or sighing with love
An invisible elastic cord that stretches from my heart to hers.
And she has no idea,
and I suspect she will have no idea,
until and if she has a child of her own.
I certainly never gave my parents the credit they deserve.
And now I am getting a taste
of what it means
to serve – willingly – nonstop
to cater to the needs of another
No matter what
For as long as it takes
They were not perfect
(but fuck, who is?)
But they fed clothed bathed nappified potty trained put to sleep woke up taught educated kept from harm and loved me – and they still do.
36 years later,
they still do.