In the selfishness of childhood, I never considered what happened to my mother when she became a mother. I never considered her youth as much more than a prequel to her life with me. In her stories of our births and babyhood, her children always played the starring role.
I didn’t yet know the length of nine months. But I know now.
I know now what it’s like to learn I would become a mother, and I’ve watched my husband’s eyes widen as I broke the news. I know what it’s like to notice that first swimming inside, to lie on a cool slab at the doctor’s office and watch two impossibly tiny feet on a television screen. I’ve felt my own life and my own belly inch farther and farther to the end of my reach. And I’ve waited through those final quiet days, hopeful and fearful for my time to come.
I know other things now, too.
I know that my body is no longer my own. I know this because now I’ve held my baby to my breast. I’ve cried with her when she couldn’t eat, and I’ve felt the whole world fall into place when she could. I’ve felt her scream as though the sound came from my lungs. I’ve looked into her eyes, and I’ve seen my eyes.
There was a time when I kept my heart neatly in my chest. When I didn’t say certain things because I worried they might sound cheesy or cliche. When I didn’t write things down for fear they would look too used on the page. But moms don’t have that luxury. They’re better off silly than stoic. They babytalk in ridiculous voices. They sometimes need pants with elastic waistbands. They’ve been caught drawing hearts in peanut-butter sandwiches. They talk about how great it is to be a mother.
And that’s the thing I know now most of all.
It really is great to be a mom.