Heart lifting

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Baby Abby and baby Guion, engaging in favorite activities. (Photo from a sweet baby shower.)

The joys of spring are so apparent that they’re almost not worth naming. I part the curtains with anticipation every morning, noting the growth of my long-nurtured perennials and the return of familiar weeds. We continue to walk every day, observing how quickly the trees shed their blossoms and mature, how insane the songbirds have become in courtship and competition. I walk slowly now, but I am still walking. This seems to be what counts.

I have always tended toward loving home and domesticity, but this instinct seems to have kicked into high gear, now that I’m nearly nine months pregnant. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. My first instinct at any invitation is to say no, definitely not (much to my extroverted lover’s chagrin). I am staying put. I am waiting here, where I have been planted for the time being.

. . .

Perhaps one of the strangest sensations I’ve encountered, poised on the brink of motherhood, is the fact that even though I am reading copiously about babies and parenthood, I don’t know anything more than I did before. All of this knowledge hasn’t transformed into preparation or prediction. I still have no idea what it will be like. In almost every other realm, I can read dozens of books and walk away with at least some increased knowledge. This does not seem to be the case concerning child-rearing. It’s all still a grand mystery. Maybe it always will be.

These days, most people ask us, “Are you ready?” And I always say no, of course not. Who is ever really ready for this?

I skimmed an interview with a designer, a mother of two, who used this metaphor for the voyage from childlessness to parenthood: You lived on Earth, very happily, for many years. Then you’re packed onto a spaceship and sent to another planet. You can always see Earth from your new planet, and you know you can never return. Sometimes this stabs you in the heart. This other planet is very different and strange at first, but you come to love it. It has its own joys and pains and secrets and pleasures. You accept it as your new home, remembering Earth as a distant, fond memory.

. . .

To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.

When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world.

The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched.

But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one’s head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding — which is also the understanding of the novelist — to take this in.

— Susan Sontag, lecturing on Nadine Gordimer, quoted in Brain Pickings

50 thoughts on “Heart lifting

  1. I’m not pregnant and my first instinct is to still say no to any invitation. lol I hope the pregnancy goes well though!

    Also! I loved the metaphor with the planets and never going back to the Earth you knew. I have felt that way many times throughout my life.

    1. So good! It is a different planet! You will never never be the same but you will be a much more real version of you. (Think: Velveteen Rabbit).
      Also parenting books never make you smarter. Listen to your mom instinct, and sometimes to older, experienced mothers. I have 3 kids and 3 stepkids and I still don’t know what I’m doing! 🙃
      Good luck! You’ll do great!
      -Lauren

  2. This is so touching. I can identify with the metaphor that motherhood is like being sent to another planet. Even though you get comfortable and love the new planet you realize that everyday there is something new to learn.
    You will do great as a mum!

  3. I can relate. No amount of reading or YouTube videos really prepared me. Just have to take it one day at a time. You’ll be alright! Beautiful writing.

  4. I am a soon to be mom too, due in exactly 3 months. I’m trying to read as much as I can but nothing really prepares you 100%. I’m trying to prepare myself but then I say “who am I kidding I’m clueless.” I guess it’s one of those things you figure out as go along.

    1. Hi Lisa!
      I’m currently cruising WordPress as my 28-day old baby sleeps in a bassinet beside me because I am on a mission to inform women of the things you ‘cannot’ prepare for. It IS true- a best-laid plans, type A, over achiever such as myself tried as best I could to ‘get ready’ for baby- and I still got absolutely Smashed by a tidal wave of things and feelings and phenomenons I couldn’t possibly have prepared for-
      But I launched my blog a few days ago because I Honestly believe that hearing firsthand details of other women’s post-delivery experiences is the best way one can ‘prepare’.
      My blog has some great tips on what you can expect out of postpartum, and I don’t hold back on details. Congrats on your upcoming birth- and know that as someone 28 days on the other side of it- your heart will Never feel more full or more wonderful than those first few days of meeting your child.
      – Em from EmPowered Mama 🙂

  5. What struck me was how you seem to understand what you need – to stay close, to pay attention to the burgeoning Spring – you are right about how no reading will prepare you – and each child will develop you differently to help you steer through . good luck on your fabulous adventure together.

  6. You are nesting. You’re listening to your body. The primitive part of your brain is saying ‘stay where you are, stay where it’s safe, you may give birth soon and you need to protect your young’. When I had my babies I felt the same. Also – you’re right – you can read all the books and still feel like you know nothing. Because you don’t know your baby yet and you are yet to meet yourself as a mother. But I can tell you from experience that everything you’ve read will most definitely benefit you. Moments will arise where you will be reminded of something you read and it will help inform your decisions. And you will gently build a relationship with your baby and you will get to know yourself as a mother – these things have to happen authentically with no possibility for preparation. Good luck for the welcoming of your baby and go easy on yourself. It is the biggest transition you will ever experience. 💕

  7. Hello 🙂 I’m cruising WordPress as my 28-day old baby sleeps in a bassinet beside me because I am on a mission to inform women of the things you ‘cannot’ prepare for. It IS true- a best-laid plans, type A, over achiever such as myself tried as best I could to ‘get ready’ for baby- and I still got absolutely Smashed by a tidal wave of things and feelings and phenomenons I couldn’t possibly have prepared for-
    But I launched my blog a few days ago because I Honestly believe that hearing firsthand details of other women’s post-delivery experiences is the best way one can ‘prepare’. I do hope you’ll read my blog- I don’t write as beautifully as you- but I do have some great tips on what you can expect out of postpartum, and I don’t hold back on details. Congrats on your upcoming birth- and know that as someone 28 days on the other side of it- your heart will Never feel more full or more wonderful than those first few days of meeting your child.
    – Em from EmPowered Mama 🙂

  8. Being a man, I’ll never understand how it would feel for a woman to be one front foot in the world of motherhood and the other in the world of childlessness. Your post just gives me a beautiful picture regarding it.

  9. Happy mother’s day for a mom-to-be… You actually had been a mom since day1 of your pregnancy 😄

  10. In what time you have left before the birth of your child, read birthing stories. Know what to expect from this most animal experience of giving birth to another human being. What one does with babies, children, teens, and young adults is learned along the way. What you thought before children and what is with children is not the same. Each child needs something different. Enjoy.

  11. Like the other lovely bloggers who posted a comment, I loved the planet analogy, it is indeed fitting.

    Motherhood is terrifying, and what is scarier is the moment you realise that so many people around you are doing it wrong, so many older parents have done it wrong and unowingly hurt their beloved children.

    We, too, will make out own mistakes, but the most important steps you can take is to connect with your insticts and bond with your baby . This way you will learn what you two need, and that is all you have to know.

    Good luck, you’ll be a wonderful mama!

  12. Like the other lovely people who left a comment, I loved the planet analogy. It is fitting, indeed.

    Parenting is terrifying. What is even scarier is the moment you realize that so many people around you are doing it wrong, so many older parents have done it wrong, unknowingly hurting their beloved children. Reading the right books, doing critical research, forming opinions; they’re all very important. Not, they will not prepare us enough, but it will count.

    We, too, will make our own mistakes. But the most important thing you can do is to connect with your instincts and bond with you baby, this way you will hear YOU first, what you two need and that is the basis of everything else.

    Good luck, you will be a wonderful mother.

  13. Wneh my first child was born, my mom came to visit and removed all the child rearing books from my house. She said each child is different and I would learn from the child herself what was needed when. She didn’t think the books were a good idea, and would mold my thoughts in ways that did not fit my baby.

    A lot of what you need to learn will be OJT On the job training.- enjoy every minute!
    C

  14. The lovely part about motherhood is that now that I’ve been a mom for 30 years I’m finally figuring it all out
    The planets keep changing through each stage of development our children go through … which leads me to believe in my own sense of development

  15. Motherhood beautifully written. I enjoyed reading this. Being a new mama is definitely like being on another planet, but that planet is even more beautiful. Babies are a true gift. When you see that baby for the first time, see the smile for the first, the baby say mama! All those things are treasures. Congrats

  16. Very true! Everyday you definitely learn something new! It’s mostly about yourself. I’ve learned as a parent how in tune children are with themselves already. They have a natural inclination. As I continue to see that my job is not to hoard them, but to nurture them in their natural gifts, and help them develop the skills they already have. Every now and then, introduce new things that enhance those skills, the days grow fuller. In the teaching of them, you are also taught.

  17. Lovely post. And the idea that you are leaving earth for a new planet is totally correct. And as you find your way, make new friends and long for earth, you are creating a new homestead. Best of luck to you!

  18. What a picture!

    I like the comparison to movement between planets of which the transport is irreversible. Feels eerily surreal. Especially at the beginning until you adjust into the new planet.

  19. Nicely said. I suppose like every other mother, the instinct to feel useful and relevant in the sense of the world you leave behind after you become a mother, is what drives most of us to do what we do. Blogging in its little way helps. I am a homeschooling mother of 3

  20. My husband left home at the crack of dawn this morning to give his grandchildren their piano lessons. The parenting journey is a never ending one. Just as one phase ends another begins. That’s the only given because parenting is a personal experience and the many and varied books only confirm it.

  21. Loved reading this..
    I just blogged for the first time as I’ve always had a fear of expressing myself.,
    Could you please read and give me some insight 😭

  22. The worst thing about parenting books is that they fool you into thinking you can learn about parenting from books. Especially since most of the self-styled experts advocate mid-20th century behaviourist nonsense that has been debunked since the 70s. Traditional child rearing across the world and across history says keep baby close, respond to their needs and rest. Congratulate yourself for doing the most amazing thing in the world – creating a life – and properly take the credit and let people pamper you.

  23. These words perfectly describe the state of being on the doorstep of motherhood. Having experienced it once 5 years ago, I can say that what you read pacifies your heart to some extent. It kind of give you a satisfaction of saying “I read it”. However, in reality, things follow a different stream. When you embark on a ship, you know your destination but you cannot contemplate your journey. For me, it is same. After 5 years, I am still sailing into “unknown” waters. I am still clueless of things my child thinks or perceives. Sometimes I see things so simple that I take it for granted that my kid would understand the way I do, but then a different meaning comes from him.
    I think that as a mother, I am only confident that I am his mother and that I have the responsibility to give him the most conducive environment for a better growth. And to do that, sometimes I have to forget my own prelearnt thoughts and ideas to embrace different perspectives. It is wonderful to feel that through you a being is entering the world. You feel great when you hold the baby for the first time and when you admire it sleeping even if you are exhausted. It’s a feeling that brings a smile on your face and that, is worth all you go through for this miracle. Best of luck and wish you courage to tackle this new world peacefully.

  24. Hopefully, you are married and not starting out on the wrong foot. Your instincts will kick in on how to raise your child and what he or she needs are. Every child is different and their needs are, also. Good luck!

  25. My experience tells me no matter how many books you read to prepare yourself, remember the first child gets a trainee mom, you grow as a parent with your firstborn!! So enjoy your time..it’s going to be a beautiful journey with its highs and lows!!

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