Heart. One word. An organ expanding and contracting beneath 24 ribs. Muscle, fiber, flesh. The feeling place.
i carry your heart with me
When my daughter was born, that organ tasked with the vital role of maintaining life exploded into a thousand pieces. And yet, I did not die. Or perhaps I did, because every mother knows that you die a little when your first child is born. You must. You slough off the excrement and waste, the falsities and assumptions, all the negative spaces, and make room for something so much larger than yourself. You are reborn to a place of faith and hope and love, and you cling to that with every fiber of your being. My heart exploded the day she was born and it was a magnificence of being. She was a magnificent being.
(i carry it in my heart)
I did not sleep the first week of her existence. She was so good, so real, and I felt so much love for her that I thought at any moment she might simply cease to exist. Perhaps that makes sense only to those who have previously known the sudden disappearance of a person who was deeply loved, where forever after, you hold your breath waiting for every good thing to vanish. But she did not. Each morning I woke to find her huge, blue eyes staring up at me. Each morning, I would lay her in my bed, rest my forehead against her own and watch as, nose to nose, she fell back to sleep, her tiny breaths assuring me that she was, indeed, very much alive.
i am never without it
At the hospital, they sent me home with less instruction than I received the first time I adopted a dog. “Don’t shake her,” they said. I nodded, bewildered. I tucked her tiny body into the car seat. They wheeled me to the door. The world seemed terribly violent then. The bright sun pressed against her fragile body, a cacophony of sirens and cars and planes engulfing the insular bubble we had just departed. I placed her in the backseat of the car and climbed in beside her. It seemed then like a horribly illogical thing to do, to place my baby inside a tiny tin can and drive into a world that neither knew or loved her. How would we survive?
(anywhere i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I spent those first few weeks desperately learning to interpret her cries. Each one felt like a direct indictment of my ability to love her. Was she hurting and I did not know? Was she hungry and I had not fed her enough? Was her little body stressed, cold, itchy, hot, sleepy, aching? What was it that she needed? By six months, her cheeks were plump. So convinced was I that I wasn’t giving enough, perhaps I inadvertently gave too much. And that could stand as a metaphor for the entire rest of my parenting career.
i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)
She was five when she broke her arm and had to have surgery. I stood under the probing fluorescent lights of the hospital, tasked with deciding which anesthesia would be best and wholly unequipped to make life and death choices for the being I loved most. I had never felt so alone in my life. They had to re-break her arm before setting it. The pain of it penetrated her sedation and she screamed as I had never heard her scream before. “Mama,” she wailed, her voice echoing down the hall to the room where I waited. “Mama!” Something urgent and primal welled up within me then, and I knew I would face any beast alive to protect her. I rushed down the corridor sobbing, only to be stopped by a nurse at the door. Protecting her meant calming myself, trusting with patience, and allowing for what needed to be done. And so I breathed and waited and prayed that she would never remember the pain.
i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
The darkest moments of my life are all the ones where I became convinced I had failed her, that I was not giving her the life she deserved or able to love her as perfectly as I hoped. How to love perfectly? We are tasked with so much in raising a small being. That they should know love. That they should know joy and contentment. That they should have a life worth building dreams from. That they should have the confidence to spread their wings and fly. That they should be tethered always to a place of belonging.
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
Yesterday, my daughter met her father for the first time. I realize that sentence isn’t as casual as its method of delivery might suggest, but it is an intimate and vulnerable thing to share so publicly. I do so now, with her permission, because I want to normalize this thing as rapidly as possible. Because I hope to mitigate the need for her to have to explain what simply now is. And because, it is all a part of this journey.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
In the past few weeks, my heart has had to stretch and grow in unimaginable ways. To share this sacred place, to trust another… it is all so precarious. I cannot help but wonder if I ever truly trusted Elohim before now. Here, hope blooms.
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
I know you have questions. I know you want to know more. But this story does not belong to just me. It is unfolding and it is shared. Each time that I sit down here to write, it seems that another piece of me has been stripped away, another bit of winnowing. I do not say this with regret. We are getting to the very essence of being now. And in the same breath that something is lost, something even greater is restored. A rebuilding has begun. New stories are being written. I feel gratitude as perhaps I never have before.
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
This isn’t going to go perfectly. We are human after all. But that is the real lesson for my daughter We are are fallible and imperfect, but it is in the grace of these broken places that the truth of our love is made known.
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
poem by e.e. cummings