The last time we were walking here the water was frozen, the landscape still. On this day, the water was flowing. Moving slowly as if it were still waking up after a long deep sleep. In a flash, I saw my life as it was and as it is now.
Becoming a mother reshaped me. My left side sways more to the right now. A notch exsists on my left hip that I never had until I placed my babies there. My shoulders curve forward from holding, nursing, shushing, cooing, protecting. My feet are wider, planted more firmly on the ground. I move faster, and, at the same time, I’m steadier than I’ve ever been.
Four springs ago, that notch on my hip began to form. During the day I carried Theo most of the time. In the middle of the night, after nursing when he couldn’t fall back asleep, I’d move him to my hip and walk throughout the dark house, moonlight seeping in through the windows, until he’d drift back into his dreams. Last spring, it was Sullivan carving out the notch that had been whittled away before him. Unlike Theo who rode a little toward the center, Sullivan perched higher, leaned more to the left, reshaping me even more.
On me almost always, even though seasons apart, we were doing all the same things: cooking and cleaning, taking a phone call, wandering a different moonlit house now in the deep night. My mother would say, “You need to put that baby down. How are you supposed to do anything holding him all the time?” Books I’d read about sleep training said to put them down, too. Experts said to walk away when they cry and keep in mind that it’s really only five minutes or so, even though it feels like an eternity in your soul. I’m no expert, so I didn’t put my babies down. I did what felt right. Now they are well adjusted sleepers and fine cuddlers, my form is reshaped and better because of it, and if I could palpate my heart, I’m sure I’d feel a new notch there too.
These days, that hip doesn’t get put to nearly as much use. We’re more like a family of ducks now, Mama foraging ahead, the two Little’s pitter-pattering behind. It’s become more about keeping mama-eyes on them, about accepting and marveling at how they’ve grown to need each other in ways they used to need me.
The frozen waters have thawed and so has my time as a mama who has little babies. I will take the cues from around me right now to soften the obvious: the pillowy sweetness of a dogwood bud blossoming, the stillness of a grey branch transforming to brown, delicate green leaves flapping in the breeze like a string of prayer flags, water; flowing downstream, gaining momentum. Like the stream, we are picking up speed and setting a new pace.
I look back to make sure my little ones aren’t too close to that cold spring stream and I rest my hand over my heart. Be still, I tell it.