Monday, April 23, 2007

Thin Skin

When my son was born I didn’t have an instant bonding moment with him like I’ve heard some people say they have. Waves of love didn’t wash over me and I didn’t cry and I didn’t think “oh my god I love this creature more than anything else on earth ever no matter what.” Which was ok. I was kind of prepared for that. I know myself and I know that sometimes I am slow to warm to these things that involve massive amounts of change all at once and when I didn’t have the overwhelming love wave crash I was fine with it. Plus I was so so so tired and out of it I really didn’t even think that much about it, you know. I knew I was happy, don't get me wrong, but there weren't fireworks in my hospital room or what have you. I'm not that girl.

And then we went home and the business of taking care of another human being took hold and right in the thick of it, covered with breastmilk and spit up and poop and being so incredibly tired and having your period for five weeks and all that, bonding is pretty far down on the list of things you worry about. You just don’t have time. You’re too busy changing diapers and dealing with visitors and endless feeding and baby poop charts and breastfeeding consults.

But we sent out birth announcements for Eli about two weeks after he was born and I was waiting in the car in the post office parking lot while Mr. E mailed one to my cousin who lives in Japan. Eli was in the back seat and despite my misgivings regarding of the moment hipster indie wailings, Sufjan Stevens was playing on my IPOD and the song John Wayne Gacy Jr. came on. And I will admit I’ve never paid super close attention to the words of any Sufjan song but I’ve always found the melody of this particular song really beautiful and haunting and yet when Sufjan started to sing about Mr. Gacy Jr and his predilection for young boys although I am sure I will be kicked out the hipster club forever for saying this, that was it for me and that song. No more for me.

And then when I read a few days later that little Iraqi kids – LITTLE KIDS – were being used as decoys and killed in car bombs in Iraq – I don’t know. Hearing that hurt me in a way it never had before. And then Mr. E’s mom told me about what it was like when her parents sent her brother off to Vietnam and all I could say was I couldn’t imagine and I really couldn’t. I could not imagine that. Eli going off to war. It makes my breath catch just to think of it.

And when Mr. E came home that day last week and told me about what had happened at Virginia Tech I felt the ground lurch under me and I had to grab the counter to keep from throwing up. People’s babies, older, yes, but still, just like mine, lined up and shot. Again, it’s hard for me to breathe when I think of that. It's hard for me to think that we live in a world where that happens. And then I tried to watch Blood Diamond and even that’s just a stupid fake movie and little boys were getting strafed with gunfire and I had to turn it off ten minutes after I started it and when I tried to explain why I couldn’t watch I couldn’t even really explain it but I think Mr. E understood anyway.

People often say that parenthood is like forever having your heart walking around outside your body. I don’t know that I would describe it that way. For me, it’s as if I’ve developed this incredibly thin skin I never had before. I think I’ve always been sensitive, but this is to a different degree.

This might not even make sense. But this is the best way I can think of to explain this thin skin of mine - and what feels like a constant heartache for the violence of our world. I heard that Sufjan song, thought of boys scared and hurt or worse; and on that same day I looked down at Eli’s hands and saw that on one of his fingers he has this tiny little ragged crooked fingernail. And it hit me, all at once, that somehow that tiny tiny fingernail, something so incredibly small - had just become my whole whole world.


Chris H said...

You hit the nail on the head with this post... motherhood is awesome and terrifying all at the same time and it never gets any different, that feeling of being scared for your kids every moment of every day.. I have 8 kids, aged 5 - 28 and I worry about them all the time.... it is exhausting sometimes. Enjoy your wee darling and what will be will be, be it good or not so good.... at the end of the day we can only do our best for them.

Ellen said...

Wow, what an amazing post. I feel the hurt and need for safety for my little sis (ok, she's 19, but she's still my baby sister), and our two little nieces. I know it is going to be even stronger when we have kids of our own. You voiced it so eloquently.

TB said...

And now I'm crying. This is a really beautiful post. And the picture is perfect.

PastaQueen said...

I'm 26 and when I called my mom this weekend and told her I'd gone bike riding on the trail, her first question was "Did you wear a helmet?" So yeah, I'm pretty sure this never goes away.

Cute baby!

bazu said...

What a touching post. I just discovered your blog, and like the nerd I am, went through and caught up with all the archives. You have such a compelling story, and great writing. I can't wait to read more. Baby Eli is so cute!