“I do not think we know our own Strength until we have seen how strong Love makes us.” ~Curlygirldesign

 

This is my daughter, Marlie. I’m the maman. We’re the dynamic duo I’ve dubbed Mars et maman or M2, proof of the synergism of love between a mother and daughter. She’s four in this photograph and still eager to wrap her arms tightly around me while erupting into giggles as I snap away trying to capture the moment and immortalize it. I do this with the hopes that later when she’s a teen too cool for her maman, or a High School grad only looking forward, eager to spread her own wings, or when she’s ready to become a maman of her own, something this almost 5-year-old obsesses about, we can return to this moment, our smiling visages just nary a few thousand moments in on this journey together.

 

Smilin' Mars and Maman

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. “
-Kahlil Gibran

 

Ours is not a fairy tale in the polished Disney view, there is no Prince Charming, no horse carrying us off into the sunset as we live happily ever after. We’re only beginning our happily ever after now and we’re doing the galloping with our own two feet, the wind in our curly golden manes as we bid adieu to the past and forge on as Mars et maman.

 

Those smiles are real; mine and hers.

 

She’s getting to the point where if I raise my camera to take a photo she immediately flashes a megawatt smile. A smile that would show any onlooker that she’s happy, but I know that often it’s a smile on command for once she’s heard the click and seen my nod of approval, her face changes into goofball inspiration or settles into quiet wonder, transfixed with whatever she was doing before the interruption.

 

Ours is a story that began with my absolute fear that she’d be taken away akin to the miscarriage I experienced a year prior; the first time I dared to dream of being a maman. This time around, I was afraid to be happy. I was afraid to let myself smile and attach to the incubating bundle of joy within. Nothing in life is guaranteed. I’m aware miscarriages abound, but I don’t care about statistics, those well meaning words shared then were like a cold slap to my face compared to what I was feeling. The ground was taken out from under me and I was floating in space sans gravity. I was so lost and scared and my husband (now ex) tried to reach me, but I felt so alone, trying to understand the “why?”

 

At the end of my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with Pregnancy Induced Hypertenstion and as a result was carefully monitored the last month and a half. Twice a week I’d waddle into the OB/Gyn non-stress test room and have my blossoming belly wrapped with monitors, listening to the soothing rhythm of her lub dub as the nurses measured pockets of amniotic fluid. At 39 weeks I was induced and thankful to have made it that far.

 

That month and a half made her real to me, not a fantasy or fairy tale of guaranteed happy endings. I connected, deeply and endlessly in my finally acknowledging the maman she birthed in me. I felt her kicks, her hiccups, or her nightly shifts in position that only a baby the size of a spaghetti squash could in the space of a watermelon. She heard my heart from the inside, and she’s the only one who has ever gotten that close to the pulse of this life force defined as me.

 

She was 6 pounds 10 ounces of wailing joy. Born at 10:50 p.m. after beginning induction at 7:00 a.m., I was exhausted and starving. Fortunately the hospital cafeteria didn’t close until 11:00 p.m. so I had a few minutes to whittle my voracious appetite down to what was within reach. My nurse held the menu as the doc sutured me. I ordered a french dip, fries, strawberry milkshake and cup of fruit. I really wanted a New York steak medium-well with chive whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus, however, that’s not hospital food, that’s your-sweetie-is-taking-you-out-for-a-romantic-dinner food.

 

I can now look at her birth pictures and realize that the epidural and oxytocin were still coursing through my veins. One word-euphoria. I was finally the maman I dreamed of being. Swaddled in the nursery supplied receiving blanket with large animal silhouettes, her little head swathed in a blue and pink knitted cap, I cradled her smiling like a fool, beyond happy to see this little kicker that kept me up all those nights.

 

Later in my postpartum room while she lay slumbering in her clear plexiglass crib I realized, with sudden clarity, that I didn’t know how to be her maman.

 

I thought, in absolute horror, “What next?” “What do I DO with her???” She’s no longer inside where my evolutionary destiny of being a mother carried itself out like a well-orchestrated symphony of bodily bliss. Now she’s on the outside of that womb, the embrace that just knew what to do, how to feed her, how to keep her warm and safe, how to love…

 

Fast-forward 4 years and it turns out you do the same things. You feed your baby; you keep her warm and safe and above all, love her. Bathe her in all the love you felt when she was laid upon your chest, the little one that felt you from the inside, all the ooey gooey parts of yourself that you keep hidden from others’ view.

 

Mars et maman, part choose your own adventure, part epic drama, part fairy tale with a dash of goofball inspiration akin to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

 

I’m divorced now; at the tender age of 2 she felt sadness, deep life changing sadness as her world split into two. Our emotions worked in tandem as we navigated the changing inner landscapes of our life together with love guiding us through. I know this as I felt it through her. It’s true, from birth our bodies and brains seek an intimate connection forged by empathy- the ability to understand and share the feelings of others; we’re born for love.

 

The Truth of this picture is that we’re right outside our local Fred Meyer grocery store. We were buying rainbow hued ice cream cones as we both share the love of the frosty treat. I asked to take our pic, so she grabbed onto me tight while I maneuvered between holding onto my gangly 4-year-old perched on my left hip while reaching out my right arm to snap a photo of us. I was aiming for the perfect shot but perfection can take too long. She began to giggle falling forward, I began to wobble as we slowly settled into us. Not a perfect picture, but a reflection of Mars et Maman, echoing a feeling sprouting from within as we navigate this endless wake of today together able to lean into our happiness and smile from our connected hearts. 

signaturesmall

 

 

 

 

 

This is my response for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction