As I write, there is a child heavily breathing, lost in sleep next to me. Her brother is sprawled across the couch in the living room.
It is nearly midnight.
Tomorrow, we will host a joint birthday party for these two children who emerged on almost the same day, two years apart, in late June, six and eight years ago.
It seems like a lifetime ago. It seems like last week, this hurricane that upended my life.
Your story shifts the second you find out that you are going to be a parent. Then it shifts again the moment they emerge, yowling and slightly gross from your womb, separate from but now an even bigger part of you still.
You were once joined nearly completely, only now you discover that it isn’t just flesh and blood that can join you with a person for a lifetime.
It’s a million yet unspoken words.
A promise, now realized. A thousand more, waiting to be fulfilled.
Your daily life together becomes a series of shifting plots. You think you have learned one thing about parenting, found solid footing, and then the next day, the game changes.
Sleep regression. Colic. Diaper rash. Reflux. Teething. Your internet not working. Misery!
I remember how unreasonable parenting seemed at first.
The thought that I had to carry a person, who practiced Cirque Du Soleil inside of me every time I tried to close my eyes, who burned my innards with the fire of indigestion (equal to the flames of a thousand suns), who I was then expected to spend hours birthing, urging them into the world with cracking pelvic bones and willpower, and then feed them from the battered front of my body, was without a doubt the most presumptuous thing I had ever heard.
Not only was I responsible for birthing this tiny person, for bathing them and noting the number of diapers they soiled each day, I was also charged with making sure they turned into a good person eventually.
And sometimes, I also needed to take them into the grocery store even as they squirmed and cried from their car seat while I lactated through my shirt with enough milk to supply ten dairy farms.
And for all of my work, where did it actually get me? The laundry was never clean. The house was always dirty and neglected. The smallest of tasks increased in difficulty ten fold. I felt like I spent my days flailing. I didn’t see where any of my efforts were gaining any ground.
It turns out, that when you become a parent, you give birth nearly every day. Right there, in the mundane.
The broken body, shriveled breasts, stretch marks, and post-partum raging hormones that whisper that you aren’t enough are some of the “easiest” parts.
You’re then met with the crushing reality of mommy culture. You start to doubt every decision you make for them. You wonder if each one is actually best. You wonder if you need to be making your own laundry soap and baby food. You wonder how anybody ever thought you could do this in this GMO laced world. Heck, you wonder why you’re so selfish to just want four hours of sleep in a row so badly you can cut your teeth on it.
Once you were insecure about the clothes you wore, the acne on your skin, that you didn’t share the same lunch table with popular kids.
Now, you’re worried about when the new loose pouch of skin across the front of you will recede, giving you back an appearance of maidenhood. You feel guilty because deep down, you already miss your old life and its simplicity. When your mind was quieter than it has been since the moment they arrived. You realize startlingly that the noise may never leave you.
Now, you’re worried about how to feed your baby. How to dress your baby. And bathe your baby. You wonder why your baby doesn’t sleep. You wonder why you never seem to be enjoying any of this like all of the other parents around you. Or why your heart hurts so much when they cry as you frantically pace back and forth to help them find their way to sleep.
Your heart hurts because it’s growing three times in size. Outward, forward. Like an expanding wave of an unfolding and mysterious universe.
You’re so distraught because now life comes with a new set of insecurities, the least of which is that your body will never look like it used to. Some of worst thoughts haunt your mind as you’re trying to sleep, like the fear that this new life will never seem to fit you just right.
The greatest of which is that you’ll somehow mess this all up, mess them up. That you will ruin everything good in them.
I thought I became a mother the day they draped that first baby across my chest. And I did. It was the big bang, a new solar system of life bursting forth. A galaxy now set to spinning outward. Unstoppable. A thousand stars dotting an endless ocean. Here there are no skies. There is only forward.
The life I thought I knew so well was gone. The way things were supposed to be irrevocably changed.
I have spent every day becoming since then. Becoming a mother, and finding with each new phase that I must go further still.
It’s been eight years. Eight years of leaked diapers. Cancelled plans. Sick children on family vacations. Crying behind closed bathroom doors, or over a dirty kitchen sink. I waited, for someone to tell me that I can do this.
But it isn’t enough to believe that I am good at this. That I can do this.
Now I see. I see what I will be. And what I will be, I already am.
Now it is enough, the belief that I am becoming.
And yet the sun still shines. The galaxy still spins and unfolds. We move in an ellipsis, dancing around one another, as we move forward. Together. We already are.
And yet we are still becoming.