The first seasons of motherhood

Seasons of Motherhood

For the first time in weeks, the windows are open and a cool-ish breeze sways the wind chime over our kitchen sink. The apples and pears are beginning to ripen on the trees. School is back in session. The familiar nostalgia of this time of year is particularly strong today.

It’s not autumn by the calendar, but all signs are pointing toward the end of summer. My first summer as a mother. My third season as a mother.

The Baby will be eight months old this week. I look back at photos of him from just a half a year ago and he is so transformed from the wrinkly skinned, thin-legged newborn that it’s almost unbelievable. While the same spirit of exuberance and indomitability has shone through him every day of his existence, he is so, so different now than he was last week, last month.

The same goes for me. I am by many measures the same person I was on Christmas Eve, dogged by nerves and striving to do my best; craving reassurance and order and also inexplicably willing to jump with both feet into the unknown. But by so many other measures, I am unrecognizable to myself eight months ago.

Because each second of parenthood feels so ethereal as it passes, I want to document the road this far before the fog thickens any further.

Winter

You are so fragile. You are so insistent. Your size is almost unbelievable. You are like a fingerprint under magnification–impossibly complex for the space you occupy. You are like a bird, a butterfly, fragile and fluttering. And you are mighty, howling.

I am tentative, battered. My heart is a raw beating thing that feels both fiercer and more uncertain than it has before, than I knew it could. I learn finally what instinct means, and I go by it. Some days, it is all I go by.

I am bleeding, lactating, hesitating, rocking, singing, gasping, crying for joy and crying from pain and crying for reasons too complicated to dwell on.

I am tired. I am soaring.

This is the first winter I don’t mind the long hours of darkness. We three huddle together against the world and learn how to be a family.

Spring

Our life is is a tumult of boxes, decisions.

You are enjoying the world. You are still small, but with each stretch and kick you are gaining strength. You laugh, marveling.

Motherhood starts to feel less like stumbling and more like dancing.

You lead.

I am stretching out, daring a little further. We take walks as the leaves unfurl. I pack up my old life in more ways than one. I am stepping into a new vocation.

Our days are a series of experiments in nonverbal communication. I am talking to you in public, feeling sometimes as though I am talking to myself. I am still learning. Misunderstanding your cues. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Hot, cold, bored? The signals grow clearer or I get more adept.

You light up the faces of the people who held your parents as infants. Some of those people die. You give us joy in our grief.

The water in the pond warms and we feed the fish. Their fins glimmer in the sunlight. You reach for bread crusts.

Summer

Our new home begins to take shape around your days.

We sweat. It is hot, hard work to make our house a safe place for you.

The cicadas wake up from a long, long sleep and the soundtrack to your first summer is a cacophony of humming–a frenzy of life. After they retreat, it is crickets and tree frogs. A nest of hungry wrens¬†peeping for grubs.

I feel maternal in every direction, feed the fledglings smashed ants with tweezers while I carry you on my back. Find that during your nap they have flown the nest.

Your hometown celebrates its first victory in my lifetime (and, of course, in yours). This does not interest you. You have your own pursuits.

The work you’ve been doing your whole life to set yourself into motion begins to accelerate. Your back straightens, and you are sitting upright. You reach for everything you want. My hair twines around your fingers. My dinner ends up in your mouth. Your curiosity is bottomless as your bottom teeth grow in. Then the top. Then more.

From sitting, you crawl, from crawling, you stand. You are a tightrope walker. I am the net, and also the anxious onlooker, astonished by your daring and amazed by your skill.

You babble, you guffaw, you play peekaboo and you impel us to chase you.

I noticed today your knees are getting rough from crawling. Your impossibly soft skin will continue to accumulate calluses and bruises and cuts and scrapes as you amble on into your place in this world.

My heart will carry, too, each bruise and cut and scrape. But not the calluses.

 

The first seasons of motherhood

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