I feel the soft sweet warmth of my daughters’ breath, the slow swell of her breathing, her thumb slipping out of her tiny mouth as she soothes herself to sleep. I feel her tiny perfect fingers with mine – they are warm and long and tapered, like mine. I kiss her clammy brow and her hair and cuddle her small, hot body against my cooler, heavier one and I breathe. I breathe her in.
I ask myself to really be here – to be fully present to this moment, resting in the big family bed with my sleeping daughter curled in tightly to me. I ask myself – no thinking – what do you feel? And at once I feel both a staggering passionate love for my child and a huge sadness. I feel a terrifying fear of loss. And a realisation comes to me. Could I fear bringing another child into this world because I fear I would not survive the loss of them?
And from a deep, dark well inside of me, a small, frantic voice says ‘Yes!’ And I weep.
I weep for the child within me that was abandoned – is still abandoned and alone, down there in the deep dark. I weep that my anger is caused by a fear so sharp that I refuse to be present in case it is realised. A fear that my love for my child is so fierce, so all consuming that I would not survive if I were to lose her. I weep because that very fear prevents me from fully feeling the immensity of that love I have for her. And it is a colossal, fiery, passionate, angry, joyful, heart-breaking love that, when fully held within me, threatens to split me open like a ripe bruised fruit and spill the seeds of my very soul onto the ground. I am only present for a moment and I am undone.
I know that with great love comes the possibility of great loss and if we are not willing to lose it all, we are not able to love it all. We do not really hold love as much as we are held by it – love as much as love loves through us. I do not know if I can surrender myself to such a possibility but I know that I will stop trying to create safety in this primal love I have for my child because there is none. She is a gift to me for as long as she chooses to stay and I am not the one in control of that. She is.
I realise, strangely, that I am afraid of love more than I am afraid of being alone. I have been sitting with little fears that I will lose my husband to another woman, or death. I fear serious illness in my child and whisper, ‘Please don’t take her away from me. Take me but not her. Never her.” And mean it. I bargain for the healthy baby I have so that I may never have to experience the excruciating pain of losing her. Yet I use my fear as a shield to prevent that love from ever overwhelming me, which prevents me from fully feeling it, which prevents me from loving her the way I long to. Loving my husband the way I long to. With passion and ardour and complete submission to the Divine Mystery of each other and that breathes through us into one another when we open the doorway of love even a little. Instead, I prefer to live down in the deep dark well of sadness that exists inside of me, where loss cannot touch me because I am not near enough to be seen by it. Or love.
She moves heavily in her sleep – little dreaming grunts and tiny snores – an arm flung above her head, which ducks in towards her mother’s warm lap. She nestles and sighs, snoring into the safety she finds there. I am present again, for a few seconds at least.
There is no mother I know that does not understand that fierce, primal love for her children. That certain knowledge that you would lay down your life for them. That they are precious in a way that nothing else on earth is precious. I wonder if there are any who, like me, fear to love because they live in fear of a greater pain and loss than they could possibly bear. Where does that fear come from? Is it born in us before we are ever mothers? Does it arrive with the ovum when we are mere cells being knitted together by our own mother’s love? Or is the result of the fear DNA felt by my mother when I was a little bunch of cells marking the very surprise arrival of an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. A pregnancy in a marriage that was volatile and violent and a pregnancy that did not belong to that marriage or to the man that made that marriage such a living hell.
When I look back, fear is there from the very beginning. I see it land in me and I see it play out in my life in a million different ways. Even in my pregnancy with Beanie and then the huge, uncontrollable fear based pain of my labour and birth. Followed by the utter fear that this tiny child, who was now my responsibility – for the rest of my life, would wake up and need something I was completely sure I did not know how to give. And so, this wild, animal love I have for my child and which overwhelms me with it’s ferocity and strength – is stuffed down, at no small cost to my emotional wellbeing ironically, by the fear that if I let it take over, if I surrender to it entirely, it will be the end of me. The ‘me’ that I am entirely in control of at least. The ‘me’ that I know and feel safe being.
Then I am here, in this moment, and the love rises again like a tidal wave and threatens to drown me and so mind kicks in reducing the impact, increasing the distance, keeping me ‘safe’. Safe from love? Safe in fear? Safe in the deep, deep dark? No. I am not safe there. Have never been safe there. There is only one safety and that is in unconditional surrender. To stop this fighting with myself that causes my own mind to drown within me. I cannot mother her well if I am not letting myself feel all of what this mothering journey brings. I am not being true to myself if I do not let this sweet fire of love spread through me and come bursting out of me like a bushfire. I will not be renewed and made whole until I have let it consume me and am reborn from the smouldering ashes. I need to let go and that is the one thing I have not, until now, been truly willing or able to do.
And so. I surrender to you, my precious Lily-Bean and all that love that you bring. May the Divine Mystery burn the fear right out of me until I am only love and can see and hear and give only that. Split me open and let the seeds fall where they may. I am not afraid any more.
(And to think, I was going to write about trees. I took pictures and everything.
Maybe next time).