I fly away inside my head to a place that sits on the border of reality.
I drive through winding country roads and observe the slightly-too-crisp edges of trees and leaves, the kind of hazy clarity that appears when something inside of us is dormant or grieving.
I look over at my daughter’s “big-girl” ponytail and remind myself to not be fooled into thinking that she is anything other than my adorable little girl.
I think of how, for the last few years, she alone has been used to the attention of my husband and myself and how, in a matter of a few short weeks, all of this will change forever.
I’m emotionally obsessed with making my children feel equally special in my heart, even if they are horribly unequal for different reasons (since no two people are alike and no love is exactly alike either).
I fight the temptation to give into a pregnant mother’s mourning for the loss of her only-child experience when I know completely that, of all in our tiny family, she has the biggest heart to find more room for another.
In the shower. Placing my head on the pillow at night. Nuzzling her soft, soft cheek.
I find myself holding my husband’s hand and squeezing it too tightly. I find myself saying the words “I love you” too often. I find myself noticing, accepting, and honoring life’s fragility and the unexpected strength that lies there, within vulnerability.
I have had such an emotional pregnancy.
I give into my bitchiness while fighting the urge to be grumpy more days than not. (After all, I don’t want my daughter’s last several months as the only child to be miserable, and I want to go into this birth being adored by my husband and, frankly, by myself.)
But it’s not been easy, if I’m being honest.
Life has thrown me more punches than during my non-expectant days and my quiet, stoic heart has been roaring and raging and quaking with feeling.
I want to feel it all—she roars it; cries it; declares it.
I want to feel the angsty teenage urge to crank up the car stereo louder than I reasonably should. I want to feel the wild-woman need to have hair blowing in the wind as I drive towards the horizon and away from myself.
And then I turn the volume back down and keep the windows lowered and the breeze begins to touch my skin more honestly as I recognize the sensations of deep pain.
My first birth experience was not an easy one. On a subconscious level that I recently accessed, I am terrified of having this new child. Of the actual process. Of the new-mother emotions that are too unguarded, raw and fragile to be intermeshed with violent heart-pain.
I feel the way that my side hurts almost excruciatingly from coughing too much this past week (a pulled muscle perhaps?) I feel the way that my inhalations are difficult to achieve. I feel it.
I want to feel it all.
And I rub my lips on the soft top of her head, where the curls have come together in a ponytail. And I acknowledge that she might be a bigger girl than I credit her for and that I might be a smaller.
Silent tears glide down my own soft cheek as I look over at my little family; my pregnant belly resting on my lap as I type.
I pause. I inhale and feel a slight twinge of pain.
I exhale and my heart, though still weighty, feels less jagged and sharp.
Because, sometimes, when our hearts have stories too dramatic for our minds to hear and our shoulders have heavier burdens than our bones want to bear, we have no choice but to listen; we have no choice but to carry—we have no choice but to labor on and grieve as we must, smiling at the unwanted, nostalgic tears that surface in the achy process.
My husband helps our daughter pedal her tricycle around the room as football—the fall television show of choice in our household—plays in the backdrop. I can equally imagine this scene with a newborn sleepily snoozing in a swing off to the side.
And life changes.
It evolves and morphs into new shapes with each moment that passes, but it’s often these larger transformations that catch our attention, whereas the rest simply skates by unnoticed until, months or years later, we look back as though the ponytail was yesterday, and not carefully shaped underneath a graduation cap.
So as I inhale, I own that my soft, sensitive mommy-heart already witnesses my life going by too rapidly. I admit that my pointy, weighted breaths are attached to air that I don’t fully want to take in.
And I promise myself to never be afraid to feel this—to embrace this unwillingness and to taste the salt that comes with bittersweet tears.
And I declare within my tender breast, I want to feel it all.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Eric Klein