I’m sitting alone in my living room, face hungover from crying. Overly tired, but also not wanting to give into sleep. I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood lately. This afternoon my mom took Jack down to Portland with her to watch him for a few days so I could have some free time. I was busy all day, but as soon as I laid down in bed I started feeling my chin quiver and the warm tears dripping down my face. I missed him. I’d never been so far from him, for so long. The very thing I’d been craving I now had, but I missed him intensely. And I was annoyed because I knew this was a thing that happens to most moms when they get that craved-for alone time, and here I was, basic as could be. Unable to sleep, not because there was a baby crying upstairs, but because there wasn’t.
I remember feeling a similar, though less intense, thing when we would take Dusty to a boarder before going on a trip. Coming home and opening the door to nothing— no barks, no wet nose brushing your legs, no joyful greeting — felt so empty. Empty, something missing — it means there was something there and now it’s not, and you still feel it, but what you’re feeling is the vacant space where something once was. And it feels different and uncomfortable because you’re used to that thing being there, filling that space.
That’s the interesting thing about being a human. We are so expandable. We can make room for so much in our hearts and lives. One of my favorite children’s books is The Mitten, the Ukranian folk tale about a boy who loses a mitten which then becomes home to an ever-growing group of animals wanting to enjoy it’s coziness. In the end, the mitten has expanded to several times it’s original size and the grandmother who knit them looks at the two side by side, wondering what happened to stretch her mitten out so much. We’re all that new mitten, and we bring things into our hearts, expanding, making room. And when the thing you made room for is suddenly not there, the room doesn’t shrink back. The room you made is still there.
And holy cow, as a mom, you make so much room for your new baby. You make so much room, sometimes it feels like you disappear and all you are is room for that baby. Even physically during pregnancy, your own body has to shrink and shove all it’s organs into the margins in order to make space for this new person.
So I am sad, because right now I am an empty mitten. And I won’t be sad the whole time Jack is gone because I will enjoy the luxury of being able to do things I can’t when I’m momming, but I will miss him because I can’t not feel the room that I’ve made for him when he’s not here to occupy it.