The Hazards of Motherhood

I have found the past few days challenging. Claire, I think, is teething (I know, it’s ongoing). She has a third tooth breaking through on top, and I think a feel a fourth just under the gum. She’s quickly tired and more fussy, and exceptionally clingy with me. Part of the challenge is the emotional drain, especially since her ego and will are strengthening; as I’ve said before, I can see the toddler in her. I can see how the clash of wills will arise. The other part of the challenge is that she’s getting physically bigger, stronger, and heavier. My arms have been getting stronger, but they do feel the strain. So does my back.

Then there’s the other hazard of motherhood: the chink in the armor that exposes the heart. On NPR this morning I heard a snippet from Story Corps. It was a mother recalling the time when her 10-year old son, who went to watch a sunset from a street corner, was killed by a reckless driver. As she described what she did and felt as she became aware that her son was the focus of the accident scene, and as she described how surprised she was that she survived the loss (because she felt the grief so terribly), and as she described the kind of kid he was, my heart broke and tears poured out. I was sitting on the floor with Claire playing and there was no guard, no warning. I scooped her up and hugged her.

Forget the concept of the “chink in the armor”; there is no armor at all. I just manage, most of the time, to ignore this fact by redirecting my thoughts whenever I’m tempted to think about what it would feel like if something bad happened to Claire or if I lost her. Motherhood is a practice of denial — denial of the ego, of the temptation to torture oneself with terrible fantasies. But first you must be in the vulnerable place of exposure. I wasn’t able to conceive this until I arrived at motherhood.

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3 Comments on “The Hazards of Motherhood”

  1. lkd Says:

    Honey, I almost drove right off the road the other night coming home from work. I was listening to NPR’s excellent coverage of the earthquake in China. The piece I was listening to was about the recovery effort as a young couple searched for their young son in the wreckage of their apartment building. The young mother kept repeating that she should’ve taken him to work with her instead of leaving him at home with her parents. 9 hours after the search effort, after finding many other bodies, the son was found cradled in his grandfather’s arms (I’m getting choked up just writing about it) with the grandmother holding on to the grandfather from behind. When the mother heard that her son, her precious baby was dead, she began wailing. It was the most awful sound I’ve ever heard (other than when my mother called me to tell me she’d found my father on the kitchen floor 6, almost 7 long years ago now).

    I lost it. I couldn’t see or think. I opened up all the windows in my car and tried to keep control of the car.

    They said that’s how alot of the recovery effort has been. All these little Pompeiian-like scenes of people clinging to each other beneath the wreckage.

    Ah, gee.

    As you already said, there is no armor.

  2. Liora Says:

    Kathryn, you’ve changed so much, and yet you are so much the same. It’s just like a new facet was carved in you when you became a mother. And you are such a wonderful mother. I’ve witnessed the stress and helplessness you feel sometimes over Claire’s crying, but you’ve done so well. No, there are no guarantees; another wonderful mother told me that once when I was sad about not having children of my own. She said that motherhood is giving up control. Your child can be anything and do anything, and it might not be what you want, but it’s all part of being a mother. There is no armor, but you feel without armor. You grabbed up your child and cherished her upon hearing that sad story. You are love in action. You are a mindful mother. That is quite an accomplishment.

  3. Kathryn Says:

    Laurel, I think I’m glad I missed that NPR report. Sometimes I wonder how any of us survive our hearts.

    Liora, it’s so good to hear from you. And thank you for the affirmation. I got your other emails and I’ll respond shortly.