Softly, I walk into his nursery. Sheep nightlight, white noise, kicked-off sheets and comforter. Teddy-bear blankie always flopped under one arm.
I sit on the bed, and do the thing moms beholding sleeping three-year-olds do instinctively: the brushing back of the hair, the kiss on the forehead, the sigh of love/regret/relief. I stand up when the thought comes, the thought that makes me quietly bolt from the room. The thought that feels like fear and has taken up a disturbing residence: This joy is not yours.
You’re not like life-plan moms. The ones filling Facebook with their firstborns because they’ve turned 30 and are at just that perfect place where they’ve traveled, remodeled, and established their careers.
Not like the country-song moms. The ones who married high school sweethearts and returned to hometowns. Now with a baby or two, seamlessly embraced into the secure warmth of a dream life.
Not like the mom-moms. These ones who somehow seem to know how to do this thing: they order clothes in time for season changes, they schedule AND frame family photos. They’ve got big green yards and garages full of kid-things; they’re the ones you text when there’s a fever or a nursing question. They’re the women who take care of you, too.
Not like the creative moms. Who seem to neutralize life’s chaos into calm and decorate their houses with thrifted treasures. Taking time with the things they touch, moving slow enough to actually see the art growing before them…living art becoming heavier in laps, always needing a size bigger. This joy is not yours.
I realize that I romanticize these women, blot out the parts of their lives that don’t fit my desired narrative. In a mixture of self-pity and what seems to be solid reason (they didn’t find their daughter dead, and I did, and their babies very likely won’t die) I choose to hold onto my bits of evidence, like so many photos. Soul crouched over as it builds this mean mosaic: Proof, substantiating the fear that I am cursed.
I leave Tobin’s room, my heart unable to take in the tender sight of him sleeping. I know it’s the same reason I sometimes have trouble looking him in the eye when he’s awake. I’ve run hard. Not one to surrender, I’ve pushed away: every stubborn ounce of me denying my story, the stunning disappointment I feel towards my life. There’s no sadder cliche than a heart hardening to love and happiness, but damn, it’s so much easier than staying soft.
And this is why I write. To name the lie, to give it words so I have words to fight back with. To next time linger on the edge of the bed and open to it all, to my boy and my story. Maybe that’s healing, that gradual opening back up, even if only for a few seconds. Lean over and smell. Let my heart be a mom’s heart, whatever kind of mom I am, because even though I’m battered I’m not left out.
It feels like the lie, but it’s not: This joy is still mine.
Photo | Molly Lo