As a pregnant woman I was treated like something special, coddled; strangers carried my groceries to the car, old ladies let me have their seat on the bus. I was the sacred vessel bringing a child into this world. Then I had the baby, and everyone was there for this special time; someone cooked for me and did the laundry and even splashed bleach in my toilet and scrubbed the tub.
But slowly people drifted back to their lives and suddenly I noticed I was alone, parenting. As a single mom, really alone, literally alone, with a baby who depended on me solely… I had to decide EVERYTHING, and instead of all that specialness there was fear and uncertainty—should I take her to the doctor, she feels warm but not too warm; should she sleep in my bed or in the bassinette beside me, and then there’s the crib, but what about SIDS? Decision after decision.
Yet the other side of this singleness, this alone-together-ness, was the possession I felt: I made this baby. I take care of this baby. This baby is mine.
One year went by, then two, then three, and my baby and I moved fully into our life together. It was hard to remember I’d had another kind of life, another life when my world wasn’t totally and completely entwined with my child’s.
Then at 4 ½ my baby goes to school, pre-K, and the little the cocoon we inhabited together is opened up to the light and the air and the heat and the cold.
She says to me, “Did you know your heart is a muscle?” and “Did you know Mommy, that chicks have an egg tooth they use to get out of their egg?”
An egg tooth? Really? And I look it up and there it is in Wikipedia: An egg tooth.
I sit very still in front of the computer and think, wait a minute. My child knows something about the world that I don’t know. And I realize, of course, that she is out there without me now and I see ahead of me the ever-expanding world we two will occupy. How she will move further and further away, each year, until she is at college, married, raising kids of her own.
And then I understand—leaning back in my chair, my hands crossed over the belly where her life started—this is what she was born for. Not for me. But for the world. She was made to be a citizen of the world, not just this little apartment.
It takes the breath from me.
Then she climbs onto my lap and rests her head on my shoulder and with my hand I push the hair from her face.
I have a little time still, I think, feeling relieved. A little time together, still.