Just noticed that it's the Ides of March. Maybe that's why I sucked so badly in my acting class today. Doing a scene from King Lear. Ironic, much? I mean, I sucked like I have never sucked before. Couldn't remember ANY of my lines. Couldn't remember them even when I stood there and thought really hard. In fact, that made it worse, since somehow I immediately went to a tropical island in my mind. Which is not where the lines were. Surprise!
I am tired and distracted. I have a little bit of a good reason, but I'm not one to chalk bad behavior up to reasons. But check it out: my niece was born Sunday evening. Her name is Lilah Grace and she was 6 lbs, 10 oz. (exactly what I was!) Her tiny pink head was swathed in curly, black hair and she immediately wriggled her giant hand out of her swaddle, stuffed it in her mouth, and started making sucking sounds that would do a five-year-old thumb-sucking lifer proud. (More with the sucking theme. Only it was freakin' adorable when she did it.)
I was supposed to be in the delivery room, and made it there on time, but it was not to be. My sister ended up having a C-section, and I won't share the harrowing details since that's not my story. But I was just a couple doors down for the whole thing, so I'm calling that being there.
It made me very happy to hold brand-new Lilah, all solid and pink. Dopey, lopsided-smile happy. I hadn't expected to feel so crazy about her so quickly. Later, I watched her sleeping in her little plastic box next to her exhausted, passed-out mama and felt a lot of twinges. Twinges of "where the heck did this person, this hungry, sleepy, sucky determined PERSON, come from?" I mean, I've read a few books, so I know for reals where she came from, but still! It just seemed demented that she was suddenly here, in all her glory, and so very obviously a PERSON, not just a baby. A small version, ramping up for the big stuff, but very much her own distinct girl nonetheless.
And then the twinges were a little sad, too. Trying to picture Jarrah that size, and failing. She was 27 lbs when I met her, and man, there was no gray area about her distinct personage. She didn't just have needs; she had DESIRES, and by gum, she was going to attain them. Sometimes we clashed because we were both so determined, and not always in the same direction.
And I tried to imagine being instrumental in bringing Jarrah into this world. Oh, I'm not talking about the pregnancy thing; I've lamented that one to death. And in a weird way, I've always thought about pregnancy abstractly, as if it were a condition or state without outcome, and more about walking around with your hands on your belly-shelf and getting people to offer you seats.
What I felt looking at Lilah was more specific to MY child, and the twinges were about not having been there when she was a this-sized person. Not being able to feed her with my body, or hold her against my skin and say "that was a little rough there for a minute--glad you're out here now with room to stretch your legs." Not even being on the same continent. Not knowing about her at all, or what she went through for a freakin' YEAR before I met her. Considering how tenderly (mostly) I try to meet her needs now, it seemed suddenly absurd that she had all these urgent needs for which I was nowhere to be found. How could I love her and yet that be true?
At some point during the outrageous and wondrous development of the day, my sister said "But I didn't plan for this!" I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. Isn't that a great description of parenthood? I didn't plan for this. I can't control anything. I don't know what's going on, but whatever it is, I have to do it anyway.
When I think about how I came to motherhood, I have the same cry. I didn't build my baby with my body, carry her for the better part of a year, feel her kick me, brave the pain of bringing her into the air. I didn't hear her first cry and hold her in the minute she was born. I didn't plan for this. I didn't plan for this. I didn't plan for this!
But that's how it happened. And the way it happened was how the plan had to be, even if it took me a long time to know that.