“You are going to feel some pressure,” they say.
They try to warn me.
They try to be gentle.
They don’t tell me that it will feel as if the weight of the entire world is inside of my body, a raging globe.
They don’t tell me that I will lose all control: writhing in white sheets, on cold floors, in hot water — that this will be the first of a million surrenders, as my world narrows into moments, and then breaths, and then gasps.
It is too much,
it is too heavy.
I cannot bear it.
And yet somehow, in a single, searing, impossible push, the weight will relent with a sudden drop.
For a small moment, there is only air and fluorescents and blood.
A murky, squirming babe is placed on my chest — she is heavy and holy and mine. I am unmade and remade in a single day.
I am a mother.
At first, I only notice the weight of her on my body—the warmth of it, the relief. I don’t even feel it as motherhood buries herself deep, wrapping roots around my ribs, plunging a new and permanent anchor there.
I don’t yet understand that I will carry this weight forever.
I gently wrap her ripe, soft body to my aching one, I carry it looped on my elbow, anchored on my cushy hip.
I hold her canteen, his scooter, their collected rocks, three new stick swords.
I carry their safety, their health, their desires.
They said I would feel some pressure, but they didn’t tell me about the crush that would weave its way into my mind, that sometimes I would collapse under it in the early afternoon, no matter how sturdy I felt that morning while stirring hazelnut into my french roast, while cutting berries for their yogurt.
They don’t tell me that my desire for perfection will be an impossible match for motherhood, that I will have to strip down my soul and look my pride, my selfishness, my humanity in the snarling face. That I will have to say sorry, and I was wrong, and will you forgive me.
That, worst of all, I will have to forgive myself too.
There are days that I wonder how mothers have done this very thing for thousands of years, how they have survived motherhood without being swallowed by its ferocity, fears, desire, dangers.
How do you even measure the impossible, gigantic weight of a mother’s love? There are no words or numbers or scales that could withstand it.
There is only this, as proof: our own mothers.
They carried this too, the unrelenting weight of having humans in the world.
They still do.
This is how I know: remember that moment after the final push — that gulp of silent, bright air? I feel that moment still, each time I walk through the door of my parents home, each time I set my keys on their counter.
The unconscious stepping out of my motherly self, the unzipping, invisibly allowing my mom to carry it for me, for now, because I know: she already is.
And for a moment, I again become a child in the world.
I allow my twisty, tired roots to sink into the nourished soil of home.
And now, this Mother’s Day, we carry one of heaviest weights of our lives: walking the unpaved road of a worldwide pandemic. Facing this fear with young children means constantly grasping at and catching the doom, hiding in our sweaty hands, shoving it in our pockets, quickly, making sure that only small, soft pieces float down to them.
For the first time, we are doing this hard and heavy work while keeping distance from the very ones who carry us. Now, in some ways, it is our turn to carry the world for our children and our parents, now they are vulnerable and we are the ones to bear the weight of it.
And while these are days are hard, heavy, stretched — they are an honor and I do pray that we bear them well.
I think, after all, what I have learned is that the weight of motherhood does not relent, we simply become stronger beneath the magic and mercy of it.