When I was pregnant with Ophelia I kept a journal just for her. I wrote to her about my hopes and fears, the shortcomings I worried would spill from maidenhood into motherhood. On the cover of that journal I wrote a quote from one of my favorite poets, Rainier Maria Rilke: Think of the world you carry within you. Of course it seemed fitting. My baby, my child. She was the world I carried within me. I was casting a world of flesh and blood within my own body. When I look at that journal now I feel something entirely different about that quote and about the world I carry within me. This world, this Motherland, is so very different than I imagined it would be. It is a rougher terrain, yes; steeper inclines, more abrupt precipices. But it's an extremely isolated one as well. The world I carry within me is mine and mine alone, to enjoy but also to bear. My children don't even know it exists.
I have been walking around with a brick precariously balanced between my shoulders for days. I move slowly, speak softly so as not to let it fall and thud to the ground, so as not to let them know: mama is not all right. We walk through the plant nursery, past lavender and honeysuckle, through air so sweet it nearly chokes me. I give them all of the sweetness I can feign. "Put that down please" "Let's go this way, love. " But I wonder if they can feel the pain roil in my gut. Can they sense that solid, stubborn mass at the heart of me? Do they notice that I sit down to meals with them but don't eat? How much of that desolate Motherland, do I actually succeed in hiding from them.
Tears sting the backs of my eyes but they know their place, they know to stay hidden. And then a song, one long-shelved, almost forgotten, plays and I lose my balance. The brick falls. A crack runs through me and I am weeping, weeping, weeping. It's the kind of weeping that leaves me breathless and wrecked, the kind that leaves my face swollen and makes my eyes retreat.
A voice says, "Mama? You ok?" I choke on my own tears and snot and try to look her in the eye.
"No, baby," I say after a moment. "I'm not ok. I'm so very sad."
She looks at me worried, like a wall has crumbled around her. I won't explain to her the layers of my pain. I won't place this burden on her little heart.
"It's ok to not be ok," I tell her. "It's ok to be sad."
And I try my damnedest to believe my own words.