Me and My House Archives
- Cassie Premo Steele
It never ceases to amaze me how women — mothers — tell their birth stories. The mamas of the toddler gymnastics class are virtual strangers to me. I don’t know any of their names, yet I’ve heard their stories, stories about one of the most intimate and private events of their lives, and they’ve heard mine.
This time, as my pregnancy has progressed and I’ve watched my daughter and son together, I didn’t expect to feel these feelings again. I know beyond all possible doubt that what we have gained is more than what we lost, if indeed we lost anything at all.
I’ve always felt like a bad feminist for being afraid of bugs and other assorted pests — I can drive a car, I can vote, I can go to college, I really should be able to deal with all things Insecta and Arachnid. Even Rodentia, if needed.
I understand things when I dance. I spend so much time living in my head, but there’s a kinetic understanding in movement I don’t have otherwise, particularly around subjects related to my faith. Asked to explain concepts like worship, or salvation, and I stumble — bogged down in words, in the layers of gray matter in my head. But when I dance, I feel like I understand. I can’t explain worship, but I can worship when I dance.
I’d rather my children be who God created them to be, encompassing not only their unique gifts and talents and personhoods, but where and when they were born, and yes, who their parents are. And when this mother’s back is against the wall, I know my Renaissance philosophers better than I know my Dr. Spock, or T. Berry Brazelton, or even Dr. Sears.
Fall brings a sudden cluster of milestones: my daughter weans, my son turns one. The colder weather hits my family hard. I am sick, then the children are sick, then my husband is sick. I am sick again. I have pneumonia, on Thanksgiving. We celebrate with our very own Charlie Brown spread: buttered toast, popcorn, jellybeans.
I can’t answer. It is too real, too urgent: my child being baptized, being brought into the family of Christ, while another one of God’s children lies on the floor only feet away from me, separated only by a thin wall, by the short span of a human lifetime. I hold my son and cry.
“I can’t do this,” I tell my husband. And I sob. I want to go to church this morning, I’ve been looking forward to bringing my son to church since the day he was born, if not before. But I can’t handle the requisite level of preparation.
I want my daughter’s afternoon walk-turned-run to be perfect, her green galoshes bolstering her up into a world where everything is beautiful, everything is perfect, everything is Crayola-colored and hers for the taking.
I’ve been pondering the names we assign to things lately, and the relationship between the two: the name and the object, the sound and the signified, their arbitrary and sometimes contradictory natures. The baby inside me stretches a leg into my ribcage, and I think about this tiny person, as yet unnamed, and the lifelong relationship with a name we will bestow at birth.
I sometimes feel I can’t turn around without stubbing my toe on the God-as-parent metaphor, hand in hand with its twin, you-are-your-child’s-first-image-of-God.I love the idea of being God’s image for her, being his hands and feet on this earth, and I want more than anything to show that kind of love to my daughter. But it’s hard, at 3:07 a.m.