It happens the first time in complete darkness. The cell quivers, stretches, and divides itself in two. That’s all, but it’s everything–the hint of beginning life, deep in the secret shelter of your belly.
The second time it happens is under bright lights, expectant faces all around. Your cells waver, strain, hesitate like water droplets on the tip of a leaf. Then, in a rolling burst of released tension, you find yourself divided eternally in two.
I believe there are few aches in this world as profound as having a baby, and none as glorious. I’ve always felt that ache to a small extent at the symphony or the museum, feeling my heart lift out of my body, simultaneously wanting to call it back and wanting to relinquish it to that more-beautiful realm. That’s what the instant after giving birth is like, magnified to an unfathomable degree.
You gaze at her cotton-candy cheeks, her precious blip of a nose, her watery eyes. You can’t stop gazing, trying to find that part of yourself that separated with her. It’s there, of course, but only for an instant. Your features and her dad’s pass in and out of hers like a mirage, but in the end, the only face you see is her own. You nuzzle that warm crease where her neck will one day be, and you relinquish your heart to this more-beautiful place. Eagerly.
Of course, real life has a way of diluting wonder, or maybe just coating it in a layer of explosive baby poop. Your little miracles track ketchup across the newly-mopped floor and throw up all over your favorite sweater and WON’T GO POTTY!!! and scream because a milk-dispensing device is not in their mouth at that exact instant. They dump out a box of marbles behind the sofa and wake up before you’re ready and horrifically mistreat their diapers. You find yourself experiencing mother-pattern baldness.
The precious ache, though? It’s never gone–not really, not in those quiet moments when your mind runs wild with What Ifs. What if she never wakes up? What if she gets hurt by a friend? What if she drifts away from me one day? And oh, what if she had ended up with some other family? What if she had never been mine, my little princess? That’s motherlove, the real, painful, cosmically-magnified ache. That’s how you know your heart has settled in the more-beautiful realm for good.