Does the full weight of the responsibility of being a mom ever hit you out of nowhere and take your breath away?
It’s those little, insignificant moments when it comes, unbidden, out of thin air, and leaves me breathless.
Driving down a back country road, heavy rain melting my windshield into the rippling surface of a Memorial Day lake, glancing in the rearview mirror, catching a glimpse of my sleeping toddler’s peacefully bobbing head, I feel it. My knuckles cracking and white as I grip the steering wheel, her complete obliviousness to the million different nightmare scenarios- a disabling flat tire leaving us stranded in the middle of a low visibility rain shower, a slick curve taken just a mile too quickly and a careening trip down a ravine, an overeager deer mistaking the dark skies for early twilight darting into the lane- remind me all at once how completely she trusts and depends on me to keep her safe. The weight of that trust forces the breath from my lungs like an Acme anvil, and I can’t tell if it’s the 33-week old fetus squishing my organs or the full impact of what that really means that reduces me to a gasping caricature of a largemouth bass.
It’s still dark outside and stumbling around trying to get ready for work without waking her. I look in on her, splayed across the bed, listen to her soft snoring and push the hair off her forehead. I haven’t even left yet and I miss her already, knowing it will be nearing dinnertime before I see her awake, feel her wrap her thinning arms around my neck, hear her tinny little voice yell, “Mommy!” I think of all the moments that I trade away, the sweet sleepy snuggles and the slow morning hairstyling sessions punctuated with silly little girl giggles that I miss when I’m already at the front of a classroom, teaching someone else’s children something they don’t particularly want to learn. I pull the front door closed behind me, and I feel it.
When I pick her up from daycare and another girl just a touch younger than mine bursts into tears when she realizes the woman approaching the front door isn’t the one she was hoping for, and even as my own daughter gleefully bounds into my lap, someone else’s little girl’s chubby hands are reaching for me, and then she is melting into my shoulder, hungry for the reassurance from someone else’s mommy that hers will be there soon…I feel it. It’s that crippling realization that even when I’m not around, my role in her life looms large over everything.
When, sick and tired and swollen with yet another baby, all I want to do is lay my head on the warm pillow of my own mother’s chest, have her stroke my head and run her fingernails softly across my back, the way she has since I was born…I feel it. The monumental responsibility that never ends, will never go away, be outgrown.
I don’t feel it every moment of every day; the enormity of it would overwhelm me, consume me whole. It is too tremendous a realization to be conscious of on a regular basis. But in quiet snatches of time, in those sweet sun-soaked moments that you can already envision replaying in your head, gold-tinged, years from now, it’s impossible sometimes not to gasp at the sheer muchness of it all. Some days it feels too heavy, like surely it must be a mistake that the universe could put such a responsibility on my shoulders, could entrust me with something, with someone, so significant. Others, it feels not quite like an obligation, but like an uncontainable abundance of which I’m certainly not worthy, a cornucopia spilling over across my life, washing everything in beautiful colors with abandon. Overflowing plenty. Abundant muchness.
…I feel it.