Reaching

Monday, May 6, 2019

Over the years I’ve been so many things, occupied so many different roles and identities, relationships and interests. All have involved a kind of reaching. Reaching outward, upward, inward. Reaching away. Reaching toward. I developed myself through reaching.

At best, reaching is a form of stretching that engenders growth. But reaching can also be distortion, taking shapes that aren’t true. I’ve done my share of both kinds of reaching.

So it is with terrified awe that I get out of bed tonight and pad downstairs to contemplate the upcoming birth of my first and probably only child, who at this moment moves in my belly like a sharp-finned fish poking my ribs.

Fishboy Rowan James is scheduled to arrive in approximately seven weeks. Whenever he arrives, I know that my relationship to reaching will change forever. For almost 40 years, I have done the reaching. Now, Rowan will reach for me.

He will reach for the heart, the breast, and the spoon. His reaching won’t stop there, of course; it will go on and on. I will, I trust, want to reach back, want to meet his needs. I hope my capacity to reach back is as natural and instinctive as the good moms I know are promising it will be.

But even so, I will no longer be organized primarily around my own needs, desires, or whims. I suspect this is what led a counseling colleague, himself a father, to recently pop into my office, congratulate me, and cheerily call parenthood an “ego death.”

***

Already things are changing. Pregnancy has slowed me down in new ways. I haven’t painted much in the past seven months. I take naps on my lunch breaks at work. I get winded walking up small, gradual inclines. I think, I should paint or write a blog entry, and instead, I just sort of lay there on the couch, watching the leaves move in the wind. It’s okay, I am making a human, I remind myself. But then I think, Gosh, if I’m this slow and the baby isn’t here yet, what’s going to happen to my creative drive after he arrives?

What indeed. I do know that when I transition into motherhood, I will have to temporarily suspend my notions of space, boundaries, and clear lines, all of which are the very essence of how I have learned to navigate in the world. Already, right now, my body is Rowan’s body. My attempt at sleep is his swimming pool. And he hasn’t even emerged yet.

I can think about this, but I can’t wrap myself around it, not in the quiet of my newly minted art studio, fresh flowers in a vase and a soft candle burning on my desk. In here I still have a reassuring sense of my space. Of me and mine.

***

Another colleague–a mom–recently told me, “Before I had my baby, I thought it would be my life with baby. After baby, I realized that the baby was my life.”

***

Well anyway.

I can say, at least from here, that I intend to keep counseling, writing, and painting. After all, Carl Jung said that nothing has a greater impact on a child’s psychological development than the unlived life of the parents.

However, when baby comes, I concede I probably won’t reach for the brushes for awhile. Paint brushes, that is. Bottle brushes, those are a different story.

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