On the day I learned I was pregnant I walked the dirt road to the beach in our little Mexican town.
It was a warm and cloudless January day. The waves were big and churning, shooting tendrils of foam towards the sky. Inside of me there was a secret. Outside of me the world had taken on a different hue. The sun had brightened into a vibrant glow. The trees had grown a deeper shade of green. The sand, I swear, was warmer underfoot.
I walked north along the coastline. The breeze off of the water was as strong and thick as honey. I lay my hand on my stomach, atop the cotton of my shirt. My body was doing the work of building a new life.
I passed a man. He smiled at me. “Hello,” he gestured towards the water. “Beautiful day,” his voice was carried off by the wind. I looked at him, old enough to be my father. I thought you are someone’s child. I smiled back. I thought it is a miracle that you are here.
For weeks afterwards I could not pass another living thing- person, pony or goat- without thinking the astounding thought that they, just like all of us, had once been a mere cluster of cells, splitting and sprouting, taking the shape that would one day sustain them.
Today, Brian and I perch over our daughter with the same sense of wonder. We talk of the infinite string of events that had to go right in order for her to be here. Life is such a gift when you think of it like that. One day earlier or one day later, one mutation, one mismatched chromosome. That’s all that stood between any of our lives and nothing at all.
When my daughter was born I was struck with a deep animal instinct to protect her and an acute understanding that she is not really mine. It was my job to bring her into the world. For the moment it is my job to feed her and bathe her, to keep her warm and safe and to lay the indestructible foundation of love that she will build the beams of her life on.
But it is also my job to one day release her. Because she is not just my daughter. She will also be someone’s friend, someone’s classmate, someone’s lover, someone’s mentor. Perhaps she will one day be someone’s mother. She belongs to the world. So do I and so do you. We belong to each other.
Becoming a mother is like going to sleep as a house cat and waking up as a tiger. There is fierceness in me that wasn’t there before. But there is new softness too. Because when I look at my daughter I am reminded that we all started out like this, naked and needy and good.
My child has not yet been scared or hurt or disappointed. She has never been betrayed. She does not know about violence or anger or hate. I wish I could protect her from those things forever. But I can’t because those things exist in the world that I have brought her in to. The only thing I know to do is to show her the other side of each coin: security, comfort and joy, honesty and peacefulness, compassion and love.
It feels like an overwhelming job. Because it means I need to be better than I am. I need to be brave when I am afraid. I need to show compassion when I am angry. She is watching.
It seems like these are scary times to be a mother. Maybe every mother at every time throughout history has had that thought? I want my child to know a world fueled by love and acceptance and peace. I want my child to go to school without the fear of getting shot. I want her to travel the world without the worry of violence or terror.
I do not think this is an impossible dream. I know the love I have for my child and I know that every child has a mother. We are everywhere. There is no amount of hate that can drown our kind of love.