Forsake

I cultivated a quiet disdain for motherhood. After we were married and the possibility was distressingly immediate I would be consumed with panic. No, I did not want this.

It began while I was young. I did not especially like children, and as I grew older and was expected to beam a motherly glow when holding newborns, I balked and felt awkward and unsure. I would always say that I wanted to be a wife and mother, but what interested me were intellectual things. Men were having better conversations, and they didn’t hug you all the time like women did, and they managed to avoid the bulk of the things I also wanted to avoid – dishes, laundry, emotions. Sometimes men would still gossip which I appreciated because I was very nosy. Men would occasionally smoke, drink dark beer, had the preeminent “final say,” got to have jobs and hobbies.

I said I wanted motherhood because all girls want motherhood, but I wanted it clean. I wanted the children to really adore me and also not need me. I wanted motherhood but I didn’t want to be a mother. Mothers were always worrying, always concerned with boring things like meal plans and chore charts and holiday crafts. I was no good at holiday crafts.

My mother was not like this, but I thought other mothers must have been. There was a subtle narrative that mothers were weak, a bit simple, indispensable yet forgettable. My mother was strong, no-nonsense, honest. She did not love snuggling, but she did love reading and would read aloud to us. She did not get on the floor and play with us but she cultivated a freedom of play. She did not cry often, though when she did it was a little scary, and even if she had cried behind closed doors her face would disclose it. My dad would tell us, as if it was a secret, that she’d written poetry, that she wanted to learn photography. Underneath all her mom there was a mystery.

I am thinking a lot about my mom these days, about other mothers, and trying to shed the still lingering impression about who it is I’m becoming – hollow and spent. I was surprised at how soon after I knew I was pregnant there was less trepidation. At times I have felt as if I’m betraying a former self by my openness, my curiosity and awe.

Liminal

20 weeks.jpg

Another day, another smudged mirror photo. 20 weeks – roughly halfway through.

I turned 30 this week and felt very nonchalant about it in the days before and on my birthday, until about 10:45pm when we were about to go to bed and Jeff asked me if I felt sad.

I had felt things that I would not have described as sad, but as soon as he asked the question I began to cry. “A little,” I responded.

I had not thought very long and hard about thirty. Pregnancy has not made me emotional, birthdays don’t generally make me emotional, and I had felt expectant and calm until that moment. I didn’t quite have words for it but threshold was the one I clung to. This birthday feels like an important one and it comes right in the center of this ambiguous space, steps away from another threshold. This time feels sacred, bewildered. Soon there will be birth and rebirth and reintegration – the world is the same but my place in it is forever altered.

Not now. For now, I am thirty and I am halfway through my pregnancy. I cannot do and be who I was twenty weeks ago, but ahead is more preparation, more shaping. This process even now forces me to stop and be aware, to make friends with my body and mind and fears and strength in order to bring another human being into the world.

I always feel as if my attempts to bind these thoughts to my faith are feeble at best. I did think of Christ when I was reading about Janus, the Roman god of time, gates, transitions. Janus is often depicted with two faces – one facing the past and one the future. I like the idea of a god to guide us through liminal times, through beginnings. Christ is more: behind, before and beside, holding all things together. One who has a reverence for motherhood even when I cannot, when I can only see motherhood as loud and messy and lonely.

I don’t know when I first first felt it. I probably discarded it the first time, the second.

I believed it on the beach, sun on my belly and a gentle but distinct movement, not like a kick or flutter, but as if a little bird just stretched its wings once and settled back in. Unfolding.

Hello, hello.

I have known other times by the water, other moments of crossing from one place to another in the space of a breath, caught on the shore. They all involve him in one way or another, my deep blue love. And now this little one, moved by the sound of the waves perhaps.