9/15/08

Motherhood

People tried to tell me, during the long wait for motherhood, how the love affair with a child is the greatest love affair of all. I heard what they were saying, and I tried to imagine it. I imagined it as best I could, but you really have no idea until you experience it what it really is.

I was very fortunate, in that my love affair with my husband has been very intense, very joyful and, yes, enduring. But I didn't understand how I would feel with my daughter. You just can't know until it happens - until it blossoms and comes into being.

It took some time for me to feel real love for her. I knew I was her mother, I knew what to do. I had read all the books and all the studies. I went through the motions. And then the love happened. Or rather, she happened. She smiled and reached out for me, and the love shot through me.

When I was a child of nine or ten, and my parents and I were spending our long, lovely, rich summers in a cabin on a ranch in Southern Colorado, we used to love the lightening storms. They were scary and wonderful. The thunder would rattle the rippled glass panes of the windows, where the grout had shrunk over the decades. Dust would rise from inside the walls which had been insulated with dirt by the pioneers. We, the three of us, mother, father and daughter, would go out onto the screened-in porch to watch the lightening, as the rain rattled on the roof tiles. My mother would hold onto my narrow shoulders, protecting me, holding me safe. My father would venture further out, leaning against a window sill or against a rake or saw leaning agains the doorframe. As the storm closed in, the sky would turn a slate blue, and when the lightening struck closeby we could feel it, the elecricity rippling through the ground, catching the metal of the screen and the tools on the porch. We could feel the electricty buzz lightly into our resting elbows, up through our arms...

that's what it feels like when my daughter tips back her head and smiles that broad, dolphin smile at me. Like electricity channeled through the earth and lightly into my bones.

Does anyone else wake during the night with a start, and wander into their child's room to make sure she/ he is still breathing?

I do. And I do during her naps as well. Working in my studio, I listen for the light, intermittant hush of her breathing. If I can't hear it, if I can't quite make out the shape of her head on the blurry screen, I start up and rush across the house and quietly in through her door. Just to make sure...

...just to lay a hand on her tiny, narrow pigeon's breast and make sure I can still feel the gentle lift of her lungs, the tiny, oh-so-rapid beating of her heart.

She is always too hot. Her heart always beats a little too fast. If her hands are cold, I quake, wondering if I have estimated wrong. How I love this child. This tiny being who cannot express to me what she needs, if she hurts, if she wants more love, or less love, or more space, or more attention. I am still not sure of her. I'm certain she is still not sure of me.
How can I express just how much I love her, without smothering her with the intensity of my love?

15 comments:

Juliette said...

Maƫlle is 4 and half and there is not a single night I don't check on her...
I am so glad you are feeling all these rushes of emotions motherhood brings in your life. And you are so good at writing about them.
Beautiful pictures of the 2 of you.

Vivian M said...

Maia, you are not alone. I still check Kerri to make sure she is breathing at night. Her smiles fill me wth trmendous joy, her tears break my heart. Welcome to motherhood!

Beth said...

Welcome to motherhood. Seven years and counting I still wake at 3 am and listen. Sometimes I go and check sometimes I just "know" it is alright.

Lovely pictures.

Yoli said...

You can't ever smother her with enough love. She has some catching up to do in that department. You are a mother Maia. Her mother. You are now in the club of women that is as eternal as time. We look at other mothers now and we instinctively know. We recognize ourselves.

Those pictures are beautiful and so heart warming. Motherhood tests you but it also fills you with a love like no other.

Mamacita said...

That last one is an excellent question. I sometimes fear that I love her so much that I will either smother her and consequently push her away or I will not do what I know is best for her because my love is too great. I'm glad you're experiencing it too. Welcome to the club.

Oh, and it doesn't go away. I still check on Sugarlips to make sure she's breathing.

Beverly said...

beautifully said.

Amanda said...

I wonder the very same thing...we co-slept, and often I wondered if it was for me or her (or both...) because I could have my hand resting on her little back..just to be sure all was well.

My relationship with my daughter is the most intense thing...I am often taken aback by how large and wonderful it is. Loving that you are there, with Miss Flynn.

Gorgeous photos.

Doreen said...

you're doing exactly what is right.Just letting the love takes its course. You're a great Mom. After 2 kids, ages 7 & 4, I still do that. That's why we're called "MAMA".

Doreen in Montreal single Mom to Faith-Jiangxi & Mia-Sichuan

Margaret Miracle said...

I love how you described motherhood and the intensity of the feelings. It is the most amazing emotions I have ever experienced.

Laurie said...

Oh Maia...

That's an incredibly post. I am so happy for both you and Flynn. And I can't wait to experience all of it first-hand.

rubyiscoming said...

Maia, what a beautiful and poetic post!!! You are definitely in love.

Kim

kerri said...

I still check on my 6 and 3 yr old,they will never be too old, LOL.
I truly don't think you can ever smother a child with love, so glad these emotions are filling your heart and soul, I know you dreamt of this so long..

Mom-of-Bean said...

...I never check - somehow I have this trust that he breathes on - but my heart always - without fail - lifts when he calls for me after a nap...and it's like seeing him for the very first time over and over again...I know other people's kids are cute and smart...but I BELIEVE WITH MY WHOLE HEART that mine is the cutest, smartest...and that's what motherhood means...this unjudging love that fills you and makes you glow from the inside out...it's ours to keep, no one can take it away...and no, you cannot smother a child with your love...only your actions...and that will correct itself, I trust your common sense.
love, love, love on

Maia said...

When my son decided that he was done co-sleeping (sooner than I expected!) I had to wander into his room to check on him many times during the night. Now that he's eight, I trust that he'll keep breathing, but I sleep with my girl right next to me for the same reasons. I need to be able to feel her breath on my face to make it peacefully through the night.

And don't worry about loving her too much. You're doing beautifully.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Oh I adore that photo where you are laying on the bed and showing her the horse or whatever it is and Flynn is sitting there with those tiny legs stretched out and her little hands resting on her legs... to cute...