I gaze downward, into her sweet, soft and finally peaceful face.
Her cheeks are flushed with fever. Her nose is pink and still running, even in sleep. I carefully wipe away the sticky streams of fluid, trying not to disturb her slumber, all while singing “Frere Jacques” in a near whisper. On good days, Ave would join me for the refrain. “Ding, dong, ding.” This is not a good day.
With each inconsolable cry, each howl hurled from her lips, I feel something crack inside of me. A chasm opens, and I ache for what I cannot fix.
When she hurts, I hurt.
Every so often, a wet cough struggles forth from her chest, causing her small limp limbs to spasm. I absorb each shock wave; her body is curled into mine on the rocking chair, head tucked into the nook of my left elbow, mouth on my breast, suckling even while she sleeps. I am all too happy to share myself.
Motherhood is more than this moment though.
It’s soaking in a steam shower with your child on your lap, urging them to blow their nose into your open hand, hoping to draw out the sickness that holds her whole being in its sinuous grasp.
It’s stepping out of the shower and letting water drip from your cold naked body, ignoring the mess and the warping of the wood floor, while you focus all your attention on your child.
It’s wrapping your arms around them and rubbing their back, mumbling words of comfort you both desperately need, while they cry and cling to your torso like a barnacle on the bottom of a weathered boat.
Quite simply, it’s making sure their needs are met, without a care for your own.
Motherhood is surrendering your entire being, knowing it will eat you alive and offering yourself anyway.