Sunday, August 22, 2010

Perhaps Me

I became a first-time mom at the ripe old age of 38. I was not a young mother, nor naive in the larger sense of the word. I had traveled the world solo, lived with both rags and riches, sought out adventures large and small. But as actor Richard Dreyfus once said, these were all "part of the known world." What was not part of the known world at all was what motherhood would be to me, would do to me.

The truest statement I have yet heard about motherhood, or parenthood in general, is that it opens up chambers in your heart that you never knew existed. There are layers to this statement that you can't get at with prose alone. And in my flailing attempts to integrate this experience, to find a language for it, I found that most guidebooks on motherhood were inadequate, to say the least. The trouble with motherhood is that it is messy. It is variable and contextual. Not everyone else's experience will speak to you. But some will, profoundly. Narratives, poetry, words that reverberate on so many levels that it makes your head spin--those are the words that got me through the tough times, the alone times. And being a mother should not be about being alone. Unfortunately for me, prose and poetry were often my sole support, and I'll explain that later. These things helped, but they were not enough.

If you know a single, or even married but overwhelmed, mother out there, go to her and sit with her, talk to her, encourage her to share her experience. Offer to hold the baby, do the dishes, vacuum or dust. Actually, don't offer. Just do it.