June 3, 2020

The Soft, Tender, Lonely, Vulnerable Journey to Motherhood.

These last few months have held the most achingly beautiful moments of my life, bubbling over with joy and newness.

They have also been hard.

I was never one of those women who knew she wanted children, who felt that sure and steady beckoning to motherhood. No, I thought, mine is a life too heavy with ambition and too big, with hairy flaws, and chalk full of dreams and “things to figure out.”

As it turns out, it still is—but here I am anyway, showing up for a journey that has already been fragrant with surprise. It wasn’t so much that I changed my mind about motherhood, but rather that the universe seems more certain than I am that this is part of my rich and surprising path.

I was 9,000 miles from home, alone in an Airbnb, when I took a pregnancy test on a disbelieving whim. (I just knew my sore breasts were the result of all that rockclimbing.) When I saw the faint second line appear, I did the only thing that seemed to make sense at the time: I walked to the nearest bakery for a chocolate-glazed donut.

If I could sift out a measure of courage, I would tell you that beneath my honest contentment is a thin layer of loneliness.

I would tell you this is not what I imagined. I would be one of those adorably pregnant women, I thought. Traveling, and working, and glowing all over the place in my chic maternity clothes. There would be a baby shower stuffed to the brim with the fond smiles of my friends, coos over my growing belly, and perhaps a cheesy game or two.

Instead, I spent the final days of pregnancy in lockdown, half a world away from my family and oldest friends, rocking the same pair of green sweatpants for days on end. (Those adorable maternity dresses are still hanging in the closet. Maybe next time.)

I would tell you that every day brings a new worry about how we will shepherd a tiny soul with grace and kindness in this mad, mad world.

I would tell you about friendship, about the people one street over, and across the world who remind me how precious it is to be cared for, how simple and lovely.

I would tell you that for all of those cherished tethers, the ties that are strung with vulnerability and meaning, this is still a solitary journey. It is just us two.

I would tell you that when I look in the mirror at the sweet and weighty rounding of my belly, I have never loved myself more.

I would tell you about the curious, unbidden wellspring of connection I feel to life itself—to my mother and grandmothers and the women before them; to towering trees and the ocean’s roar and the night-soaked moon; to the thrum of my own heartbeat.

I would tell you that I’m already mourning the loss of my solitude.

I would tell you about the gentle, easy devotion of a man who loves this wee speck of stardust with a mightiness that leaves me breathless. I would tell you about the tenderness of soft hugs, and nightly belly rubs, and the warmest hope-sparked eyes. Surely, I think, such a fierce father’s love bears a sacredness all its own.

I would tell you that I ate three slices of chocolate cake in one day.

I would tell you how the sight of a final, lonesome leaf clinging to a winter-ready branch makes me weep. (Not to worry; this is precisely the kind of thing that makes me weep on an average day.)

I would tell you that for all my mantras and meditations, sometimes I am still scared. I am scared of the pain and the unknowingness—that my farm-girl grit may dissipate when I need it the most. I am scared of the lumbering questions that creep in during the long string of muddled, sleepless nights. For all my belief in magic and stardust and meant-to-be, what if this perfect little creature chose the wrong woman for motherhood?

I hold my grief and gratitude in the same hand. For every tender shoot of awe at the kicks and flutters and tiny hiccups, there is a cracked seed of sadness rooted next to it.

But then I remember that this—this is our deep, primordial task as human beings: to grapple clumsily with the soft edges of uncertainty—not to emerge victorious or whole, but to be a little more gracious with our own doubt and wondering.

I have always prized listening as a high calling. In these final days of watchful waiting, it feels like a hallowed duty to listen with a fervency I never have before; to listen to birdsong, and silence, and my own emboldening voice.

And soon enough, to baby cries.


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