Maternal Instincts

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to you guys about this here before, but I am a care-giver. That is to say, a babysitter. My boo bear’s name is Ryan, and she is about 20 months old. I have been watching her since she was teeny tiny, 5 months old, and last spring I was with her every single day for about 4 hours. This year I’m down to 2 days a week because her mom is pregnant with a baby brother, and so she’s only coaching a few days. I have watched Ryan grow an unbelievable amount in this year. She walks, runs, climbs, eats, counts, sings, and dances. She talks up a storm, tells me what she wants and what she is doing. She says my name and ‘I love you’ and sometimes she says them together. She is unbelievably adorable, and ornery, and so so smart. I love her like she is mine, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by the things I want for her. She astounds me, regularly, so often it’s hard to comprehend. She is the highlight of my weeks, my favorite obligation, the light at the end of my tunnels.

Wanting kids is something that women are ‘supposed’ to do. Maternal instinct is supposedly hardwired in us. But of course this is ridiculous. I know men who are naturally great with kids (my father, for starters) and women who feel awkward around babies and little ones, so this skill is clearly just about different personalities. I have always been in awe of parent/child relationships, and lately, I have been feeling the pull.

Here is another quote from Appetites, this time from the epilogue. It articulates very clearly my awe and amazement for women’s bodies and their power and their strength. Author Caroline Knapp describes watching her sister give birth:

“The next split seconds, though, are the ones I want to remember, for a birth really is the most extraordinary feat of nature, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such profound respect for the female body or such awe in its presence. A body creating a body; a woman’s body, equipped with this exquisite knowledge and stunning capacity to create life, and then to house it and protect it and nurture it thought its own web of cord and fluid, and then to bring it into the world, producing human life itself… this is quite truly the stuff of miracles, and it begins in the body of a woman, and it springs from the body of a woman, and it takes your breath away.”

I am always saying that women’s bodies are amazing because they are built to sustain two lives. This is such an extraordinary capability, one men can’t even touch. And while motherhood has been given saintly status, women’s bodies have been continually demeaned, demoted, other-ed. Our bodies are continually controlled, judged, limited, even hated. Our ability to give birth isn’t seen as amazing, it’s seen as weird. Furthermore, the very strengths we posses, things like flexibility, bodies that have enough strength and fat to create another body, emotionality and desire for connection, all of these things are cast as weaknesses. As wrong.

But they are strengths. Women have a higher pain tolerance than men, emotional and physical. We get tossed around, used and abused, we are playing against a stacked deck. And all the while, we have within us, what our culture values so much, this incredible strength and power. I have been yearning lately, yearning to feel my body accomplish this feat. I want to hold a tiny little person, a replica that I incubated and nurtured, that I gave birth to, I want to rock that little nugget to sleep. Now, I am not delusional, and I am well aware that my life right now cannot be about this. I have no money, no time, no place for this child. My three room apartment in alphabet city is not child proof, no room for a crib, and the crabs would not agree to diaper duty. I have no partner. It is impossible.

And so for now I just wait. I wait for the day when this miracle becomes possible for me, and until then I get to play with Ry, marvel at how she learns and grows. I can watch other women experience their own journey to motherhood, and I can keep saying (loudly) how awesome and strong and mind-blowing women are. Even those who don’t want to have kids have strength within them, the very capacity itself a statement. When the time is right and I get my own boo bear, I can already feel how amped I’ll be to practice yoga pregnant and dance pregnant and feel my body grow to accommodate this developing life  and experience that moment where my body takes over and expels the very potential of the human race, a tiny new person. This capability is an awe inspiring gift, it is not a burden. Our bodies are not rogue or out of control or needing. Our bodies are incredible.

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