parenthood, Sam

I Feel Like The Mother Of The World

Lots of things make me (Erin, but I understand why you might think it’s Ben) cry lately. This weekend, Ben and I finally made it back to CSM, the youth ministry at Crossroads. My girls — they’re freshman and after three and a half months away from them they seem so much older — asked about Sam and what it’s like to be a mother. Before I could get out the first word I started tearing up. Holding Sam while listening and dancing to the “Baby Love” video makes my mascara run every time; thankfully Sam doesn’t care when mommy looks like a raccoon. During his last feeding of the evening before he goes to bed, I sit and rock my fifteen pound blonde bundle of pudge and can’t help but be overwhelmed by the magnitude of my love for Sam. These are all tears of joy.

This morning on my way to work I heard a story on NPR that made me cry a different type of tears. The story profiled a young Haitian mother named Ridlan Duvalier.

Ridlan Duvalier and her 4-month-old son sit in her tent at Camp Corail

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Ridlan’s boyfriend died in the earthquake in January. She lives in a camp with her four-month-old son. Because she can’t leave her baby to find work, she stays in her tent. She and her baby sleep on plywood and have only two blankets to keep them from the elements. She relies on her neighbors for food; when she doesn’t eat enough, her baby’s belly swells up too.

As I listened to this story, I thought about the differences between me and this woman, my Sam and her baby. I am incredibly fortunate not to live in those circumstances, and to have a baby who does not go hungry. Yet even though we are literally worlds apart, Ridlan and I share something profoundly similar: We’re moms. We have babies.

Something I’ve already learned about motherhood is this: Once you become a mom, every baby could be your baby.

This is why I can’t watch “Law & Order: SVU” any more. Or “Weeds.” Or listen to NPR without crying.

My heart bursts with love toward Sam, and it bursts with sadness toward Ridlan. How did I end up here and she there? I’m only in the beginning stages of sorting these feelings out. What I know is that motherhood has delivered me deeper into the world. This can be an exhausting thing, but I’m glad for it.

The question remains: How many Haitian brothers and sisters would Sam tolerate? I want to adopt hundreds. But I’m also content right now just to be a mother of one.

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(Yes, the title is a Smog reference. Yes, the video showcases Chloe Sevigny wearing an eyepatch.)

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[photo: Jason Beaubien, npr.org]

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One thought on “I Feel Like The Mother Of The World

  1. I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a while.

    This is going to sound unrelated at first, but I’m the kind of person who gets stuck on an album or an artist. I listen to them almost constantly for a while, and it drives my wife nuts. She’d rather have variety. Still, there have been times where we’ve been in sync this way, where we’ve had a particular song or album that just spoke to a time in our lives and became the soundtrack.

    Since Thea was born, that song was “Oh Adeline” by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. One of the first lines is “I’m gonna need a second heart for all this love,” and I think that pretty much summed up how we felt about Thea. That’s immediately followed by “I’m gonna need a better answer to the problems of the world,” and that brings me right into your post. I think that, as adults, we’ve reached a certain equilibrium in our stance toward the world, a stance that’s almost beyond words. It lets us get through our days, but we can’t quite explain it. But now we’ve got this little person who will soon be asking us “why?” about everything, and we’re going to have to answer.

    Anyway, the whole song seems to me to be a meditation on a new baby. You can find live performances on YouTube, though I don’t quite like any of them I’ve found as much as the studio version.

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