little body rolls over beside me, little sigh escaping. little hands crawl up around my neck, hooking under my chin. it is here that i realize that i am this little man's whole world and he is ensuring even in sleep that i know to whom i belong. i pretend to be a grown-up at times, stealing moments away to have coffee with a girlfriend, or putting on a dvd to get some quiet alone time with my husband in another room. but i still have to sneak out of the house because there does not exist in time a moment when it is reasonable for mama to leave and every single intimate encouter is repeatedly and unfailingly interrupted. i am after all, a mother. my life does not belong to me. i am the caretaker for another's existence. i live that he might live. i breathe that he might breathe. i eat that he might eat. and it is true also that i sleep only that he might sleep. so the rising and falling of breath beside me is my reason to exist. and this is only true for me, no other. papa can walk out the door and be called after, "go to school!" i on the other hand must be phoned by cell to sing "old macdonald" while sitting on the floor of linens-n-things examining 400 thread count indian cotton king-sized bedsheets. old macdonald had some jersey knit, ee i ee i o. it is a demanding position, to be sure. but how often are we told and shown so assuredly our place in life? i know this absolutely to be true - that i am here so that my children are here. it is not told to me just by little hands hooked around my chin, or little arms in a death grip around my leg. it is told to me by the joints and muscles in my hips and pelvis, aching as they are under the weight of the fruit of my womb. it is told to me by my leaking breasts, waiting to nourish. it is told to me by the linea negra, arching it's way up my belly, however faint this go around. it is told to me by feet in my ribs both inside and out. it is being kicked and screamed into me, forced into me by a willful, currently with cold and horribly stinky sick-breath toddler who has now climbed from our 250 thread count nest into my arms where he picks his nose and waits to be fully awake that he might continue to make it clear to me how much i am the necessary component in his continued existence.
experience has led to my self-doubt. while pregnant for the first time with aleksander in 2002, i was confident in my ability to mother. i was, in fact, quite relaxed about the possibilities that lay ahead of me. i knew that mothering was difficult, but that you survive and your kids turn out fine. i knew that you were going to screw up somehow, but that being mindful could aid in not screwing up too terribly. it has taken two-and-a-half years of actual mothering to turn that confidence into an aching apprehension that runs quite deep and colors my every move, it seems. there is now forever the question in my head of, "am i doing this right?" resulting of course in the ultimate, "is my son normal?" it's not that i've failed so miserably thus far that has led to all this doubt, either. it is in fact the difficulty of it having led to the reaching out for similar stories from similar voices - for a place to belong. now i've heard every horror story imaginable and i've witnessed mothers grieving behaviors of their own that i've been guilty of more times than i can count. i've now had incredible self-righteousness about how it's supposed to be done (whatever that is) drive stakes of fear into me, deep enough to leave me with the question about the future of how will i possibly cope with two children and left me forever wondering how it is you mother a newborn exactly because suddenly i am struck dumb by my self-doubt and cannot fathom what it is that you do, how it works, when once i seemed so sure. will i regain confidence enough to mother a newborn? i'm certain it will come and we will survive, but the mother guilt will always be there, coming at me from within and without since parenting is so deeply personal and yet so incredibly social. everyone has an opinion on the matter, and they are never enough to reassure me that everything will be all right and that my children are in fact normal, yet a little bit wild, a little bit difficult. it would be nice to have pity taken on me for once rather than an accusatory eye aimed my way, a pointing finger telling me that i'm doing it all wrong but giving only impratical solutions at best. i am in a constant battle with external notions of parenting advice, poised against the internal knowledge that following my son's lead is enough. will i ever rest? can the guilt ever be assuaged? my self-doubt eased? more importantly, will all the authors of advice ever learn to shut the fuck up?