Finding grace in the madness of mothering

Finding grace in the madness of mothering

There’s grace somewhere in the octaves between high-pitched and emergency, where I could hear the timbre of my voice and know I was one step away from madness.

This chaos lies in the line of crooked bangs cut with dull hair scissors, no longer able to brush them away from the brown eyes of a child you love with such fierceness and agony. She would look at me, taunting, hugging me before she ran from me to do the things that would make my throat quiver. She would get up from her bed 29 times in an evening, her Aladdin nightgown swinging as she descended from the stairs, and nothing I did would make her stay.

There’s grace allowed somewhere in that madness.

I remember rocking my baby in a rocker that several of our family had bought us for our wedding. The curves of it embraced us, and the nursery was warm with forced air from the furnace. I sat with my eyes closed, and she was crying, just crying, newborn and wrinkled and unsure of why she was thrust into a world where people existed that couldn’t comfort her immediately. Yet I was there, and she was cradled in my arms, and all I wanted to do was sleep yet knew my sleeping days were over.

The lilting tune that flowed from my lips to soothe her was called “Ghost in This House,” and when I hear it now, it never fails to make me cry. It hearkens another time when feet were tiny and I couldn’t see past the wriggling baby in my arms and know what I could do to comfort her.

I remember this moment and that my mom came to my house right at this moment to check in and see if she could help. She walked into the nursery as I struggled for composure, and she took the baby from my arms and I just cried, overwhelmed with hormones and cesarean section scars and no sleep. Moms are the absorbers of tears and snot, the re-assurers that the circle continues whether we believe we can continue it or not.

Two more times I would pour forth life, dark-haired babies who looked to me for their sustenance — tiny lips pursed with need. And when they grew and the house descended into a chaotic mix of Barbies and Legos and empty sippy cups that held chocolate milk, I would sit on the porch and find a silent moment to read and remember who I was.

Enjoy this time, the older ladies would tell me, because it’s gone too soon. I would smile and nod my head and know I would never not be wading through anarchy and that I would be overthrown soon and sent to the gallows because the minions will have won.

And those moments when all is calm, and a sea of soft blankets is thrown on the floor with a movie playing and they are held in silent wonder, I would sit with them and they would lay their heads on me, and I would brush their jet-black hair from their eyes and feel like the queen I should all along have known I was to them — the cycle of motherhood and its wonder laid out on a blanket and reminding you who you are.

I find myself older now, my kingdom reduced to only the king and me, and I embrace this phase as a fresh breeze on my face in summertime. My own mom is now gone, having walked through the twilight phase of her cycle, resisting and fighting a big battle. I saw this and was humbled as I sometimes arrived at her house, hasty and breathless in whatever my day had held, in a moment like my own, when I couldn’t handle the baby crying one more minute and was able to help her do something she no longer could.

I am now a grandmother myself, the sweet smell of baby still lingering in my nostrils as I watched them drive away this morning after a week of wedding festivities, 1,000 miles to home and away from me. The perpetual cycle of mothering tumbles over and over into infinity, whether we believe we can handle it or not. I raged in defiance for the so-wanted responsibility I shouldered, a choice made and tucked under my belt to fulfill. In wonderment I brushed the hair of my children and watched as it fell in soft waves, the sweet scent of it filling my nostrils.

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