Suddenly, I am a mother.
I call the shots, make the grocery list, say “no” to Chicklets at the checkout counter. I am a mother.
For lunch I eat whole wheat bread crusts with the shape of a dinosaur missing. I peel mandarins and pull each section apart, even peel the pale fibers off so you’ll like it better. And then I find little orange segments in the toy baskets, squished under my feet before I sweep. I am a mother.
I pat your soft bottom 273 times as I stare at your eyelids, which swing open and closed and open and closed until you give up. I want to sleep, but do laundry instead. I am a mother.
I pray on Wednesday that the trash truck will come while we’re home the next day, because Thursday is trash day and you’ve waited for it all week long. When I hear the sound of bagged garbage hitting metal, I grab your hand and we run for the door. I am as excited as you are. We sit on the grass and watch until the flashing lights round the corner. I am a mother.
I practice animal sounds, leave dough on the spoon for you, make pizza because you finally figured out how to ask for it. And then I realize later you meant “pretzel.” (Oh well.) I am a mother.
I say, “What do you say?” and wait for your “thank you.” I can’t teach gratitude but I can teach you manners. I am a mother.
I brush little teeth, tie little shoes, make little beds, encourage big dreams. I clap when you push off the edge and go down the slide. I am a mother.
I write your name on the card even though you’ve never seen what’s inside (and I spent thirty minutes staring at tea sets and pet shops and little ponies trying to understand what a 3-year-old might be wishing for her birthday). I am a mother.
I bake 45 cupcakes, wipe baseboards, twist streamers, blow balloons, invite chaos. I tell myself I’ll do less next year, but I won’t. I might even do more. Because it’s me trying to write “I love you,” in the biggest font possible. I am a mother.
I cried when I saw that an entire human had emerged from my body. Not just a dream I had dreamed while resting my hand on the smooth arch of my own body. You were separate, terrifying. A crying baby. My crying baby. I said to my own mother, next to me, “I can’t do this!” Because I felt it already, as soon as I saw you. I knew you would wreck me. Had already wrecked me. I didn’t belong to myself anymore. I was a mother, your mother.