What had I heard would happen exactly? Loss of sleep, a lot of diapers, warmth, deciphering cries, learning to soothe, learning to dress and bathe and feed someone small, and love--letting a new kind of love in. And each of these things has occurred, over and over. Yet they are not what has happened, not really.
What has happened is I wake in the deep of the night, less now, as Elliot is three months old, but still at least once, and I hear him next to me, stirring. Sometimes he is dreaming, or working with all his might to free his fists from his sleep sack, or raising his legs straight up just because he can. I touch his hand then, now fully free, and he clutches my finger in a way that is familiar to both of us, and often, seconds later, he slips back to sleep. When he is hungry, I scoop him up and I smell his hair, and if I think about it, amazement floods me. That I have entered us into the circle. That he exists in the way that I exist in the way that the earth is finally, beautifully green.
What has happened is that around 3:00 every afternoon exhaustion settles on my shoulders like twelve pounds multiplied by three months and I look at my son and I say, I love you, child, but is it fine if I don't sing? if I don't read you another book? if I don't lift you to your feet and let you stand between my hands, which is something you adore, but which in this moment would be too much? What happens is I lay him on his blanket and I reach out my hand, and he takes my finger, and I close my eyes for just a little while. And when I open them, he's still all right, still beside me, soaking up my face with a curiosity that is all his own.
What has happened is there's a third person living in the home my husband and I have made. This person is happiest when peering over our shoulders, like a bird. He stares and stares at the ceiling fan. He talks and talks to Panda. We say Good Morning, and with his tongue and his saliva and his throat he trills back through a smile as wide as the slats of sun coming through the blinds. What has happened is that I hold a piece of orange up to his nose, and his eyes get rounder. The ukelele or guitar comes out, and he is entranced. The breeze on the deck touches his face, ruffles his hair, and it is a wonder for me to see it: the moment of meeting some part of the world for the first time.
What has happened is that my wrists ache in a way I never anticipated, but as Eva Cassidy's voice sweeps us into another dusk, I hold my boy anyway, and we twirl and we spin and we sway, and I hold him and hold him and hold him.
I'm not sure what I imagined would happen exactly after I became a mom. The truth is, my husband talks about Mother's Day, and I think about my mother and his mother and our grandmas, and not myself, not right away. Maybe this will change when Elliot starts to speak, claiming me. Maybe it will happen next week: some feeling that I am not who I once was, that everything is different. Or maybe not. Maybe I am the same. Maybe I have always been the Emily who holds Elliot, who shares the smell of oranges, who tires in the afternoon, who wakes in the night deep from a dream. Sometimes I forget that he is a boy, by which I mean, sometimes I forget that he is not me.
What has happened is three months ago George and I said hello to a child and he is a part of our lives now. And whether we change or just become a wider version of who we've always been really doesn't matter. What matters is him and him and me, and the delicate and definite moments of our days.
Whether you're a caretaker of children, animals, or the earth,
Happy Mother's Day, all! May you feel blessed.