i. At a wedding I attended recently, the pastor declared marriage between two people as “the most intimate relationship between two people.” But mothers know differently. As my wise friend Kellie recently wrote me, “The greatest love affairs of our lives are with our children.”
ii. My mom has always told me the story of how when I was born, she sat down and wrote a letter to her mom. She never told me exactly what it was she wrote, but I always understood it was a letter of deep appreciation. I understand now it was a love letter.
This is my letter to my mom.
I have been meaning to write you this letter for some time now.
When Leia was born, I was so scared. I was overwhelmed by feelings of love, fear, and gratitude as I looked at my little baby behind plexiglass. I was so scared of all the things that might go bad. I was so excited about all the things that might go right. I spent all my time with her watching each breath, watching her sleep, noting each improvement, savoring the days I was allowed to hold her. And when I got to press her against my chest, it was like a warm piece of myself, of love, of family, of you. She was a source of wonder to me, of magic. I couldn’t believe she was real. I was afraid to take my eyes off of her in case she might disappear.
I feel that way still. I hover over her constantly in her sleep, a loving shadow monitoring her dreams. I worry about different things now, less darker things. But those things are always there, the fear that Something might happen. I thought perhaps I worry too much, but now I realize it’s something that comes with the territory of motherhood. Our sense of survival is extended through to our children. My child is my most tender, most vulnerable piece of me, my soft underbelly, my Achilles heel. And I understand that I will always protect her to the death.
I recognize myself in her, flesh and blood. It’s something I understand more these days than I ever did. It’s a sense, a feeling, more than a concept. It’s why other babies fascinate me, their different details like hands and feet. They’re unfamiliar, unfamilial.
I love her little hands. I love imagining what they may do one day; shape clay, save lives, brush back the hair of her own little one. I love reveling in her potential. I’m here with her at her beginning. The future is a glowing horizon of potential, and I want to make sure I’m there to hold her hand to meet it, to help her and guide her, and to eventually let go.
At night, she sleeps in our bed, between my husband and me. We’re curved around her like protective parentheses. But she’s curled always towards me, head tucked into my chest. I love it. My dreams are vivid and colorful, constantly breathing her in, tasting the air she breathes out, sleeping belly to belly.
She’s holding her head steady these days, pushing herself up on chubby, tense arms. I walk her around the block every day, sometimes two or three times. She always looks so serious. I love watching her blue eyes taking it all in, watching the ground pass beneath our feet, gazing at the wide expanse of sky. Already she is growing up. Already she fits differently in my arms.
But I’m not sad. Because I know that one day soon, her fists will relax, and she will wrap her arms around my neck in baby hugs. I know that one day not far from now, she will wrap her arms around my legs in little kid hugs. And I know one day distant from now, she will wrap her arms around me with arms as long as my own, more robust than my own.
Yesterday, I sat out in the backyard with pen and paper, and the lyrics to a song came unbidden to me as I sat thinking about my baby, my mom, writing this letter. This is what I wrote:
You’re the love that I taste in my honey,
You’re the blue that I see in my sky,
You’re the life that I breathe in my air,
You’re the flesh that I feel in my skin,
You’re the blood that pounds in my ears,
You’re the salt that runs in my veins.
Mom, although this seems like a letter to my own little girl, I’m writing this because I now understand this must be how you felt when I was born. I’m getting an inkling of just how much you’ve loved me throughout my life. I’m tasting water from a stream that trickles into a wide, deep river that runs into a vast, endless ocean. And for that, I am deeply humbled and grateful that I was lucky enough to have you for my mom.
So you see, this is really a letter to you.
I love you. Happy Mother’s Day. And thank you.