I sit at the kitchen table. It is 3:31 am. I eat a “panesito” - otherwise known in my household as half a bagel with a slice of melted cheese (my father taught me well.) The cheese is stringy and stretchy, grease slipping onto my open, dirty robe. My hair is in a tired ponytail and I haven’t been outside in 48 hours. I continue the tug of war with the cheese, ignoring how pathetic I must look, determined to win because I’m refueling. My baby will need to feed again soon.
I am so tired my knees hurt. (Who knew being tired could hurt your knees?) Today I sobbed in the shower because life cracked me open. Lastima has taken over, and it’s coming from every angle, and I’m too vulnerable to ward off the attack. I realized I’ve unintentionally spent a lifetime protecting myself from this kind of ordinary love. Not “ordinary” as in plain or unspecial because motherhood is an avalanche of special. “Ordinary” as in millions of people do it all the time and I used to wonder what the big deal was. “Ordinary” as in now I have an answer. Now I am one of many. Now I too have tasted this love and don’t want to live a moment without it. Now I am changed. There is new darkness, new light. Every shift scary.
In a state of half-shock, I mourn my old desire to stand out, to be remarkable, to earn my right to be on this planet. None of that matters anymore. My story is no longer the most important one. With bagel in hand, I stop fighting against the responsibility, the terror, and the transcendental joy of being a mom. Yes, it is huge and all consuming and disorganized. How do I wrap my arms around it? Where does the lasso go? Yes, time is pulling me along, without mercy, dragging me by the ears, its grip fierce, and yes, I am overwhelmed. But I am also liberated. I drop to my knees and finally admit that I am connected to everybody and that I have no control. First my chest explodes, then it tingles, and then it releases.
I ask Nobody: “Who wants this hanging over their head? Who wants the stakes SO HIGH? Who wants to welcome this kind of uncertainty and intensity?” Once upon a time I thought I didn’t, but I’ve never been more wrong. And I’ve never been so glad to be wrong. Nobody laughs at me. I laugh with him.
I can still get 1.7 hours of sleep so I zombie-walk to bed, grateful to know myself in a different way. Realer. Truer. Maybe I didn’t know myself before. Because there is a thrill in getting to comfort my baby like only I know how to do. There is a pride in learning how to write while shhhhing and rocking a bassinet at the same time. There is allowing my husband to be my anchor, and the quiet acceptance of how much I need him. There is caring more now about everything I’ve ever loved and everyone I’ve ever loved, and wishing I could make amends for every mistake, and praying for anybody I can think of. There are new depths I feel ready to go to if I follow my child’s lead. Because the world is spinning RIGHT NOW and she is in it and I don’t want to miss out. I just might need to find energy and courage sometimes in the last bites of a panesito.
p.s. Crispy edges are essential, but keep it tender in the middle. Perfect food-life metaphor or am I just an exhausted new mama?!?