May 11, 2013

Fields of Gold

I'm not sure what I thought would happen exactly after I did this thing called giving birth. I knew I would be called mother. I knew I would have a son or a daughter. I knew my husband and I would be parents. But as concrete as these words are, from the other side of now-knowing, I can say they feel like shells, shells full of light, but empty of the true weight that fills them when a baby that was hidden is brought into the visible world and placed in one's arms. I look at my son, and daily I think, pregnancy was work, birth was labor, but it was easy, so easy, far too easy for the fact of him, that he is real and really here.

What had I heard would happen exactly? Loss of sleep, a lot of diapers, warmth, deciphering cries, learning to soothe, learning to dress and bathe and feed someone small, and love--letting a new kind of love in. And each of these things has occurred, over and over. Yet they are not what has happened, not really.

What has happened is I wake in the deep of the night, less now, as Elliot is three months old, but still at least once, and I hear him next to me, stirring. Sometimes he is dreaming, or working with all his might to free his fists from his sleep sack, or raising his legs straight up just because he can. I touch his hand then, now fully free, and he clutches my finger in a way that is familiar to both of us, and often, seconds later, he slips back to sleep. When he is hungry, I scoop him up and I smell his hair, and if I think about it, amazement floods me. That I have entered us into the circle. That he exists in the way that I exist in the way that the earth is finally, beautifully green.

What has happened is that around 3:00 every afternoon exhaustion settles on my shoulders like twelve pounds multiplied by three months and I look at my son and I say, I love you, child, but is it fine if I don't sing? if I don't read you another book? if I don't lift you to your feet and let you stand between my hands, which is something you adore, but which in this moment would be too much? What happens is I lay him on his blanket and I reach out my hand, and he takes my finger, and I close my eyes for just a little while. And when I open them, he's still all right, still beside me, soaking up my face with a curiosity that is all his own.

What has happened is there's a third person living in the home my husband and I have made. This person is happiest when peering over our shoulders, like a bird. He stares and stares at the ceiling fan. He talks and talks to Panda. We say Good Morning, and with his tongue and his saliva and his throat he trills back through a smile as wide as the slats of sun coming through the blinds. What has happened is that I hold a piece of orange up to his nose, and his eyes get rounder. The ukelele or guitar comes out, and he is entranced. The breeze on the deck touches his face, ruffles his hair, and it is a wonder for me to see it: the moment of meeting some part of the world for the first time.

What has happened is that my wrists ache in a way I never anticipated, but as Eva Cassidy's voice sweeps us into another dusk, I hold my boy anyway, and we twirl and we spin and we sway, and I hold him and hold him and hold him.

I'm not sure what I imagined would happen exactly after I became a mom. The truth is, my husband talks about Mother's Day, and I think about my mother and his mother and our grandmas, and not myself, not right away. Maybe this will change when Elliot starts to speak, claiming me. Maybe it will happen next week: some feeling that I am not who I once was, that everything is different. Or maybe not. Maybe I am the same. Maybe I have always been the Emily who holds Elliot, who shares the smell of oranges, who tires in the afternoon, who wakes in the night deep from a dream. Sometimes I forget that he is a boy, by which I mean, sometimes I forget that he is not me.

What has happened is three months ago George and I said hello to a child and he is a part of our lives now. And whether we change or just become a wider version of who we've always been really doesn't matter. What matters is him and him and me, and the delicate and definite moments of our days.


Whether you're a caretaker of children, animals, or the earth, 
Happy Mother's Day, all! May you feel blessed.

18 comments:

  1. Phenomenal. Beautifully written as always, Emily. Happy happy Mother's day to YOU! Thank you for sharing your experience along with a beautiful version of a beautiful song to match. I love you all! - Lisa

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. Happy you're reading along!

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  2. Elegant words that you write here. Your thoughts brought back my earliest memories of being a parent. Everything brand new, an adventure, all with no confidence, but filled with hope that we'd get it right. And when we felt the instincts kick in, oozing out of our DNA from millions of years of parenting before us, all we had to do was listen. The message, like a steady and melodious drum beat, was to listen to the our hearts, listen to the rhythms of nature, and most of all listen to our baby breathing. And with that we knew all would be OK.

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    1. Bill, you are so right about instincts. Of all the jobs in the world, parenthood typically receives the least amount of training. I feel the truth of that when, like last night, Elliot mysteriously and uncharacteristically wouldn't fall asleep, how easy it is as parents to feel anxious. But then there are times when I know exactly what a particular sound of his means. I think a lot about how I am doing something--mothering--that has been done since the beginning of time, and it brings me more confidence than much else.

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  3. Emily, I've been away for awhile and now I see your little boy (he's gorgeous - those eyes!) is weaving himself into the days and nights of your life so there is no separation. That's how it is and how it will be forevermore, even when he's grown and has children of his own. A lovely essay, Emily, for Mothers Day. Hugs to you.

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    1. Thank you, Barb. And yes, it has caught me off guard how much I miss him when we're apart for even a few hours. This boy is very much a part of me. Hope you've had a good spring!

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  4. That every mother should think as you...

    Once again, a beautiful, beautiful post.

    Happy first Mother's Day!

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    1. Thank you, Audrey! Hope you have a lovely Mother's Day, as well. Kids are now graduated, yes? A bittersweet time, I'm sure.

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  5. Lovely post. Minnesota must have more nature writer/bloggers than any other state. Must be the water.

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    1. Ha! A likely guess. I think it might have something to do with our need to defend our choice to live here, as well -- especially after such a doozy of a winter. :) Thanks for stopping by, Allan!

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  6. Such a beautiful piece of writing about mothering. Happy Mother's Day. You are a mother, in every sense of the word.

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    1. Thank you, Lauren. I have strong memories of you sharing delightful stories about your kids, too, so I know you know what you're talking about. Hope you had a fabulous Mom's Day, too!

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  7. As soon as I read your title, I heard the song playing in my head. And as I listened to the song again, I saw you and Elliot, living out your adventure, hand in hand.

    How blessed he is to have a mother who will go beyond what must be done to include what should be done - walking through the years through fields of gold.

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    1. What a beautiful image. I must stay we never intended for this song to be a part of his regular bedtime rituals. I always thought it would be my husband playing the guitar or me singing a lullaby. But sometime in late February, this song came up on a playlist, and Elliot was enchanted. We've listened to it every night since.

      Picturing him as a little boy, walking next to me? My goodness. I suppose those days really aren't that far in the future.

      I remember you mentioning the special relationship you and your own mother had; hope the day was full of lovely remembrances of her.

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  8. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article. Thank you for supplying these details.


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  9. You are an amazing writer. To our lives with that wide eyed wonder and unconditional love and trust is a gift worth striving for and we find examples in babies.

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    1. I appreciate these words, Mary. Thank you. So glad to have you here.

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