The size of a peanut, yet so grandly present, I wondered how you would look.
My mind would search for you when I caught sight of toy store billboards brimming with baby and toddler images. I'd stop to consider the faces on television diaper commercials…
“How will you be? Is that you? Is that you?”
But you were never there.
Peanut to pumpkin passed pretty quickly. There were so many practical and emotional matters to tend to before the big day. Life evolved into a whirling spiral of firsts and lasts. My first encounter with mind-blowingly miniature clothing and edible nipple cream. Our last 4th of July party as just a couple. Countless exciting as well as paralyzing unknowns ahead. And all the while I searched, reaching for an explicit visual clue, an anchor of photographic familiarity within the alien waters of impending motherhood.
But not until the moment came for you and I to meet face to face did I know, “Oh, yes. You're my child. Of course. It was you all along.”
And the issue was settled.
That issue was settled…
Making way for the incomprehensibly brutal battlefield of uncertainty ahead; the frustrations of cloth vs. Huggies and breast vs. bottle were amateur street fighters compared to the robust, finely tuned gladiators I was about to face. I was so naive.
In these new battles of sheer force and will, fear mercilessly pummeled my tenuous faith. Behemoth vulnerability shot crimson holes into any sense of agency I once had. Helplessness, armed with the knowledge that my colossal, infinite love for this precious being could never guarantee her protection in this perilous world, violently slayed my blood-stained confidence that life could be manageably lived.
Suddenly, the once innocuous anecdotes about who's sick or who died or who got hurt that were hastily peppered into dinner conversation between inbound vroom vroom spoonfuls of mashed organic carrots became ridiculously salient to me. Headlines read like a doomsday prophecy into the future of my little girl. And the pictures – Oh, the pictures – were unforgiving. Persuasive media images of premature death, disease, random and organized violence relentlessly vied for my agreement.
“It's all too much to bare,” they beckoned. “Give up now.”
How could God have ever thought it a good idea to put so much love for another living creature, so much consuming, expansive love, into such a frail human shell? How could my finite heart share in the enormous responsibility of creation, the bliss of such connection, the pain of separateness, in this ever-more threatening world – a civilization of drones, Al Qaida, school shootings, genetically modified chicken and pink ribbons – without self-combusting?
But not baring it was not an option. All of the reasons it seemed like too much were the very reasons I had to carry on.
I believe all mothers reach that point, that crossroads where you consciously decide you will never throw in the towel. That moment when you risk implosion and forge ahead anyway because you will forever happily give your guts for the preservation of that life entrusted to you.
And so we wage war.
We might not think of it that way, but that's what it is. We war against the type of worry that could cripple us and our kids if we let it. We teach our children how to navigate life, knowing full well that the waters ahead are likely to be turbulent. We encourage independence, effective coping strategies and self-assertion because the agonizing truth is that we can't always be their shock-absorber.
And we pray.
I prayed for hope and assurance and would beg for her peace. I'd plead with the Almighty that she'd beat the odds and be exempt from the misery. But words often felt impotently desperate. They failed to rise to this visceral challenge. And I've learned, over time, that it's because this battle is to be fought on another plain.
In a culture of video marketing, product-placement, and viral youtube clips of singing kittens, where verbiage (if it's to have any impact) must be compressed into soulless 140 character tweets and 24-hour cable news channels fix our eyes on looped crisis coverage, word has been rendered inferior to image.
So I search for you again. This time, not on billboards or tv ads. I remember that you weren't there before and I begin to trust you aren't there now. This time, I don't want to count on the world to show me who you are or where you're headed. I hate what I see. I won't accept what it wants me to believe.
And I fight.
An intrepid warrior emerges to face Goliath. Not with pebble and sling. Not with a string of letters as defenseless as the timid spirit from which they were birthed. But with relentless, merciless 3D fullscreen mental projections of you. You now, you later, you.
I shoot to kill.
In an impenetrable coat of HD color and light I surround you. A thousand reasons why this world is too dangerous to live in fall at your feet, ten thousand at your right hand, but they do not come near you. I pray in pictures of your luminescent victory, mighty woman that you are, sidestepping the darkness when need be, but mostly illuminating and changing it into a light almost as brilliant as your own.
And then I know, “Oh, yes. You're my child. Of course. It was you all along.”
And the issue is settled.