The Underbelly of Love
Today my daughter turns 12.
I used to have feelings about having never made her a baby book, or created deep and meaningful rituals to remember the morning she was born.
At 45, I’m done with that — the things I know for sure, Oprah? There was never going to be a baby book. It’s a low-level craft and I don’t craft. As for rituals? Every day I fight to get my kids to bed at night and fight them again to wake up in the morning. That’s my ritual, birthday or no birthday.
But this morning I woke up with a previously tucked away memory of the day Lucy came into the world.
Lucy was my parents’ eighth grandchild.
My mom, in particular, found the whole labor drill excruciating…she prayed for hours on end, in complete terror, until the baby arrived safely. She’d had six kids. She was entitled to unhinge.
We had more than one conversation that included her declaration that she wished she could just be told after the fact.
About a week before Lucy was born I asked her.
“Okay lady, so I’m not going to tell you when I go into labor, right? I’m going to call you when the baby is here. That’s what you want?”
“Oh, Meg! Yes, please. That’s so much better!”
I went into labor the morning of Jan 5th (my maternal grandfather’s birthday) — 10 days early. I labored at home and at the hospital until 4:23 am when Lucy was born by c-section. I waited until 6 am when I knew my mother was awake to call.
“Good morning..(she always answered the phone like that, she knew it was one of her kids calling).”
“Hey, doll (my nicknames for her came from old gangster movies…doll, toots, lady…don’t ask me why).”
“What are you doing up so early?”
“Well, I’m just sitting here holding my daughter.”
I heard my mother sob. Deep, heavy sobs.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She could barely whisper it.
Crap. We’d gotten it completely wrong.
I thought by protecting her from the worry, she’d only experience the joy. I didn’t get it then, because I was only just becoming a parent — worry and fear are the underbelly of love.
Your kids scare the crap out of you, but there is no opting out. The terror IS the love.
We agreed months later we were idiots. I don’t exactly regret the choice, and I don’t exactly feel guilty. The memory is lightly salted with pain, and it probably only stings today because I don’t get to make more memories.
All my love to my baby who made me a mom, and to my mom whom I will miss for the rest of my life.