In these long summer days I am given to thinking about the child developing in my womb and the profound ways in which she will alter my life. I am an introvert, a solitary person. I wonder what my days will be like when the silence I have always sought and prized will be interrupted, canceled by the constant presence of an other whose every cry must be answered and whose every need must be met. Will it be the end of my selfhood, or just my selfishness? I feel myself growing more withdrawn with each day that passes, determined to guard my remaining quiet time jealously, resentful of any minute that I must spend with anyone other than my husband. I know that when the time comes, I will be ready to give of myself completely, sacrificing even the solitude that I have loved above all other other things, and that I will be joyful to have traded such a prized possession for a reward greater than any other. But while I have my time, I indulge the old way of thinking and immerse myself in contemplation.
My thoughts turn to my mother and I wonder what she thought about as she awaited the birth of my brother, her first child. She died when I was just a girl and I barely remember her. I cannot say that I ever really knew her. I hear that she was gregarious, perhaps she spent her last months before becoming a mother anxiously awaiting the cries and babbling and laughing that would finally bring an end to the silence of the days she spent at home, alone. I wonder what kind of mother she was. From the few memories I have of her, all I can say was that she was good. I cannot imagine what our relationship would be like now that I am an adult. I am nearly as old as she was when she died, and as I approach her now eternal age, she seems every day less a parent to me. She is instead a women with whom I have some things in common, who might be a friend if the circumstances were right, with whom I might talk about cooking or books or being pregnant. And in this way I relate to her more now than I have in nearly three decades. She becomes more present to me now than in all the years that have passed since she died.
When I was a child the tragedy of her death was that I was motherless. The weight of her absence dominated my life until adulthood. My thoughts of her revolved around the pain of my longing for her. She was more an unfulfilled desire than a person. I hadn’t the time to grow out of this childish and self-involved view of her before she died and without her it was impossible to move beyond it. Now, as I realize that it won’t be long before I’ll be older than she ever was, and as I prepare to be a mother myself, the full scope of the tragedy of her dying twenty-eight years ago becomes apparent. Now capable of viewing it from her perspective, I think about how frightened and angry she must have been to die so young, after having lived only a half a life. My heart breaks at the thought of the fear and sadness she felt as she realized that she was leaving her children behind, without knowing what would happen to them.
When my child is born, when I hold her in my arms, when I look into her eyes or see her smile, when I hear her laugh, I will experience the joy that my mother felt at living all these things. And having these experiences in common with her, I will come to know her through them, and I will have found her again.