I don’t know who I am anymore; Or
I do but the dissonance between myself now and a few years ago makes me feel a sense of not-knowing myself, and knowing myself is what I do. My journals, art, daydreams, meditation, and prayer all are archaeological digs into a familiar center. I go in again and again to confirm that, yes, I am still here: strong, singular, and creative. Finding myself new and different is a strange sensation.
I don’t know who I am without her physical closeness. When she’s away my cells panic and my entire body is an empty vessel. The milk I give is a metaphor so thoroughly that it isn’t. My whole self aches like my breasts did before they learned not to express milk when she isn’t hungry. I’m terrified if I’m away from her some unspeakable unwritable unlivable tragedy will happen. My brain overrides, knowing she’s in safe loving arms and a house with laughter and warm good food and care. But my nervous core rebels and won’t be still again until she is firmly attached to my breast. The baby girl, needing me, me nourishing her, that is the only purpose that is real. It’s a deep biological rightness that is like the moon’s path around the earth, the gravitational centrifugal spin. The order of the universe pulls me to her little needingness.
I tell myself, swallowing tears right now, willing them back down, that this is my mother-self as a baby’s mother. I trust and want desperately for it to be true, that as she grows away and outward from me I will relax and allow that to flow. I’ll be the easy and open mother I had. All this worrying and tension will melt as it needs to. I feel it’s primal quality so it must be universal to feel a little unsettled and un-tethered when the baby’s away.
I look ahead in my mind, painting composites of other children as they grew, babysitting charges and cousins and friend’s children, and I form a timeline of how she might change soon. I see her independence happening like a rocketship in the next years, and it makes me smile. She’ll push my hands away to do something her clumsy discovering way and I’ll watch then as a witness more than anything. Glad to be so blessed to be like a guide, but knowing she’s the real force, the direction, the will. So I see that, see me celebrating her changes and expansion and know I’ll be so good at the preschool years- fingerpainting and naming new things and stories and pretend. But I’m good at now. Some pressure or disapproval sits in my head labeling me
the protective one
like that word is a word like hysterical, all wrapped up in why women’s emotions are the most untrustworthy irrational force on Earth, and I think that I’m fine.
That I’m not worried so much about the baby being away, as I am worrying that I shouldn’t worry a little. Probably there are moms who would, upon sending the baby to the grandparents, feel only pure relief. But don’t most of us feel a little twinge of sadness? When the baby’s still a small one?
I hate when I start writing questions like that. It makes me feel self-conscious and I hear Carrie Bradshaw’s character and her inner monologue of insightful and yet still completely insipid questions.
But, then… I defend my own right to feel anxious to myself, because I have to be the most neurotic human being on the planet, but I feel guilty for every single minute I’m doing anything besides paid work when the baby’s at the grandies’. Because I think: it’s OK to send her away because she was needing constant attention and I couldn’t work, but it’s not OK to read a novel or make silly blog posts or god forbid do something really decadent like masturbate. Horrors!
So this was my favorite sentence: I defend my own right to feel anxious to myself. I’m so over it now, having written it. I’m allowed to miss my daughter, for the love of God. I’m allowed to feel, and express, whateverthehell I feel. Fuck. I shouldn’t have to come to that realization; it is just a human thing. How did I get so turned inside out?
I do not have the disposition to be a working mom. Economic and political ideals aside, I’m deliriously happy to bake bread and play with my toddler all day. It was sublime. I love nesting, I’m good at mother-hen-ing. If I didn’t feel the weight of the hours I’m away at work, I’d be enjoying the turned off baby monitors and my (entirely picture-free) book so much more right now.