I realized today, with a start, that I wrote a book earlier this year.
“How do you forget something like THAT?”, a friend asked, when I remarked upon it.
“It’s just that it feels like it was 10 years ago,” I replied.
I wrote that book when I was a virgin; I hadn’t yet popped the motherhood cherry. Now, as my baby girl turns 19 months old, I can’t remember what it felt like to be on the other side.
That’s not completely true. I remember the anxious anticipation of motherhood, but I remember it like a faraway dream. I feel such tenderness toward the Me who wondered what this would all be like, who wrote a book’s worth of plans and questions and ideas, trying so hard to pin the experience down, like catching a butterfly.
It’s so much more lovely just to let it fly.
Today when I dropped Alison off at daycare (later than usual, for a variety of reasons), a dewy new mother and jolly new dad were there picking up their son, who had just done his first 2-hour stint (our daycare has you bring your child for 2 hours a day the first week, then a half day the second week, before jumping in full-time in week 3). They were nervous, and their relief and gratitude were palpable when I said, “My daughter has been here since she was 3 months old. It’s wonderful. They are so warm and loving. We always say it’s the best thing we’ve done for her, as parents, bringing her here.”
Their little baby slept angelically in his carseat, 9 weeks old. Was Ali that little? I can’t remember. I mean, I know she was, but I can’t FEEL it anymore. I can’t feel what it’s like to be a brand new mom anymore. I can only remember.
“I was stunned until she was, like, one,” I told the other mom. “I just couldn’t believe I had given birth. I couldn’t believe I made her.”
“I feel that way,” she said.
“It’s amazing, what our bodies do,” I said.
“Yes,” she said, nodding, snowflakes dotting her knotty olive green sweater.
I almost started to cry.
At some point, it just switches. It feels normal, and no less marvelous — no less amazing. But less shocking. She is part of our family, a person, with a personality, and emotions, and a life, and not just this baby we take care of, not just a new creature representing a new plunge into life.
“Will you write a sequel to your book?”, people have been asking me. Or, as my dad suggested, what about capturing a snapshot every few years — the motherhood version of the Up series, a documentary project that revisits the same group of people every 7 years over the course of their lives. Yes, what about that? But before, I stumbled my way into the documentation. I don’t think I could do it again, as authentically, with the explicit intention of capturing a moment in time.
Maybe motherhood is like a butterfly, transforming and taking flight. It’s better to let it fly free.
I am Mommy now. I am also Amanda, of course, but Mommy is here to stay. She isn’t separate. She’s a precious part of me. She’s the person Ali loves.
And choosing her daycare is no longer the best thing we’ve ever done for her. It may have been, for a while — but that line is stale. The best thing we’ve done for her is that we’re present and loving every single day.
Right after she was born, I wrote that I felt like I was underwater, looking up at the world through mottled glass. I have the same feeling these days, only I’m on the other side, now, looking back. I grieve for the unmatchable moment of being a brand new mom, and I fall deeper in love with this new person in my family every single day.
Every single day.
Photo by Wayne Silver.