If there’s anything I’ve learned about mothering in the six short (eternal) years that I have been involved in the endeavour, it’s that mothering is so huge, so baffling, so beyond the ability of words or descriptions to come close to its reality, that it’s very hard to even talk about the experience. We can talk around it, describe the fatigue, the oatmeal on the floor, the sound of giggles or sobs. We can even share tears or laughter or silence in the face of it, but there’s no way of knowing if my experience as a mother is in any way like your experience as a mother. Like grief or sex or headaches or labour, it may share some external characteristics, but who’s to know if it feels for me like it feels for you, or if my struggles, fears, joys, desperations will be the same ones you will feel. Chances are that some of them won’t be, or at least we won’t find the right words to make the connection that they are. But it is exactly this possible uniqueness- the terrifying thought that maybe we’re all alone in this, that every other mother is united in some universal experience while we sit alone and isolated, paralyzed with fear or drowning in despair- that swamps us by a weight that we just may not be able to bear.
And so we need to try, to sit near one another in that swamp and reassure one another over and over with the brave and saving words, “me too.” Me too, me too, me too. Again and again. You’re so tired that your bones ache and your lungs have forgotten how to expand and you stumbled against the wall of the shower? Yes, me too. The sound of your baby’s crying is so piercing and infuriating that if it doesn’t stop soon you’re afraid you might squeeze him too hard or drive away. Or both? Me too. And also…when you watch her sleep and her eyes move beneath her eyelids, thin and transparent like a baby bird, your breath stops and your heart breaks and you know you were never made to withstand this much beauty? Me too. And after one good nap you forget all the weeks of despair and even the shaky feeling in your skull just this morning and you smile at your coffee, thinking you may have found enlightenment? Me too.
This really is how it feels. This scary, exhausting, gorgeous, despairing, hopeful fluttering in the soul they call mothering. Why did no one ever tell us?