Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me

Motherhood is complicated.
It’s hard to stand back and appreciate what I’ve become because I am it.
My life was tossed up in the air and came down differently.

First-time motherhood was easy for me,
like coasting downhill on a bike, laughing and legs outstretched.
I stayed home happily,
took to nursing like I had found religion,
devoted entire weeks to falling in love.

With my third pregnancy,
I became engulfed in hopelessness and crushing fatigue.

Later, I sat weeping, rocking back and forth with a newborn in the cold stillness of the early morning,
at a loss as to how to make it through the day until my husband returned;
terrified I would drop my baby over the edge of the parking garage,
or that a butcher knife would fly out of my hands and impale her.

Then the hormones adjusted and the darkness lifted.
But I had been tossed up in the air and had come down differently.

When your kids are little, you are a hostage.
You can never make a run for it,
you will never be the first one out of a burning building,
you won’t have the luxury of finding a pocket of air while your car is sinking to the murky depths;
most likely you will die while struggling to unbuckle children from their carseats and push them up to the surface, frantic with prayer.

There were times when I was desperate,

when the day that began in yellows and golds,
somewhere in mid-afternoon
lost its gloss
and collapsed like a souffle out of the oven,
and the hands on the clock moved
like a corpse developing rigor mortis.

My faults as a mother are numerous.
I am often disappointed in myself.
I am shocked that I am somebody’s mother, that I loom large in their lives and always will.

I apologize often and sincerely,
try to say yes whenever I can,
and let myself, every day, enjoy being a mother.

Not the chores and obligations that attend mothering and are mind numbing in their tedium and repetition,
and wear you down so much that you can miss the good parts,
but the essence of being a mother:

Sitting in quiet contentment and reading books aloud on a fading summer’s night –
Black Beauty, the Secret Garden, A Wrinkle in Time –
the words washing over the girls and taking root somewhere deep within while they lie in silence in the gathering darkness;

Offering my lap, where secrets are shared and the Big Questions are asked,
and we discuss the events of the day that could have gone better and the things that were just right;

Spending holidays showered with poems,
vases made from Coke bottles and flowers fashioned from pipe cleaners,
and drawings filled with crooked hearts and misspellings and where I am always beautiful and smiling.

My life was tossed up in the air and came down differently.
And I am thankful.

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