my best of london

2

the calendar // panic! at the disco

Birth of a Mother

I was at a birth on Friday. It was a smooth yet intense unmedicated birth and after the baby was born and resting on his mother’s chest, she said to her midwife, “I can’t believe I did that. I thought I was going to die.” And the midwife looked right at her and said, “You sort of did die. The old you is dead now, and a mother has been born.” 

My best friend who lives in London is expecting her first baby, due in early April, and I’ve been thinking about this transformation a lot, trying to figure out how to explain it to her. I want her to know how everything is about to change, but I feel like I will never be able to find the words to make it real to her yet, while she is still on the other side of the divide.

After your first baby is born, you are never not a mother again. You never were one before, and even if you bonded with your baby before birth and felt maternal yearnings, it isn’t the same as the moment you first hold that little wet, wailing creature, and you think to yourself, “I will do anything to keep this child safe. Anything. Death for me is nothing as long as this heart continues to beat.” Psychologically you are removed from the center of your own life, the space you occupied since consciousness first arose in your mind when you were a child yourself. Your last thought every night will be of this child, and your first thought every morning. Its needs, its comforts, its development, its happiness will supplant every other consideration in your life. Unless they are sleeping, and it will feel like they sleep so little, you are tending, tending, always tending. You never used to tend for anything other than yourself before.

Your mind is reconfigured, and your physical life a well. Breasts for nursing, arms for holding, back for carrying, voice for sing-songing, sleep sacrificed. Knees become used to kneeling at the side of a bathtub, fingers adept at working through the shampoo and then shielding the eyes from the rinse water. For years you do these daily activities, the basics of care-giving, and you think about how every bath your three year old has had has been given by you, kneeling at the side of that tub, every single one. Every laced shoe, you did that. Every packed kindergarten lunch, you did that. Every breakfast, every afternoon snack, it was you. You have no autonomy, because they have no autonomy.

That part doesn’t last forever of course. Your first grader will start to shower by herself, and your four year old will figure out the button on his jeans. But the other part, the superseding of the center of your life and the knowledge that your heartbeat is worth nothing compared to the preciousness of theirs, that is forever. When that child takes its first breath, the old you and your old life die, your way of thinking and being fade away. Nothing is ever quite the same. A baby is born, a mother is born. 

Monday 8:27am
I woke up with you on my mind.
You called me babe last night —
my heart is still pounding.

Tuesday 10:53pm
Today I realized we won’t work.
What we are is hurting her.
And I think she matters more to me than you do.

Wednesday 11:52pm
I broke things off with you today.
She barely said a word.
I’ve never regretted anything more than this.

Thursday 4:03pm
I shouldn’t have sent that message.
You shouldn’t have been so okay with receiving it.

Friday 9:57pm
I almost messaged you today.
I didn’t.

Saturday 8:49pm
I’m walking around town in search of alcohol.
They say that liquor numbs the pain of having a broken heart.
I want to put that to the test.

Sunday 2:32am
I heard you texted a girl you’ve never spoken to before.
I wonder if it’s because you’re trying to replace me.
I can’t help but wish you weren’t.
I thought I was irreplaceable.

—  a week with you on my mind, c.j.n.
Move on, leave, run away, escape this place… but don’t forget about me, about us, about this town. Always remember where you come from so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.
—  c.j.n.