The morning is sunny and warm. Outside my window tiny buds have formed at the tips of the tree branches. The magnolia tree across the street is in bloom. My desk sits in a large bay window and the sun streams in, not yet filtered by the leaves that will soon shade and hinder my view. On the sidewalk far below I can see parents walking their children to school; the lawns have turned green, and yellow daffodils dot their edges.
The birds woke me this morning. I think they are building nests in the eaves. Spring has a way of bringing life right in the front door without knocking. It feels like a long-awaited visitor, and so too does this baby growing inside my belly. I’m now 12 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound this week showed our tiny baby – six centimetres long – scratching its head. I am still a little dazzled by it all. After trying to get pregnant for over a year, after giving up on months of fertility drugs, suddenly finding that a new life is forming inside me seems a little miraculous. It’s as if nature didn’t want us to tamper with her, but it also reminds me of how large a role circumstance plays in life.
I can see why some people believe that life is predetermined, that we all have a destiny we are bound to live out. With such randomness, the mind needs some form of stability. But the more I think on it, the more I find it hard to believe that the future is etched in stone. There are too many circumstantial events, too many random acts colliding, for any explanation, religious or otherwise, to apply. But believing in an explanation can, in a big way, ease our mind about life’s precariousness.
A friend I work with has breast cancer. Over the last few weeks she has learned that she will have to have surgery; she is scheduled for her operation in a few weeks. We work together. Over the months, I’ve grown to respect her work and her outlook on life, but most of all she reminds me to value every moment and the people that bring happiness to my life. I have slowed down enough to notice the changing sounds that the rain makes, the birds singing at dawn and the happiness that stirs me when I wake to see my husband sleeping soundly next to me.
I try not to worry about her, but not worrying is an impossible task. Worry has a way of settling over you – it’s a weight that pulls on your emotions and tugs at your mind. Another friend told me that with children, the weight of worry never goes away. It is a weight I must learn to carry.
How will I teach our child to navigate such an unpredictable world? I want it to cherish life and the world we live in, to try to make the world more beautiful, to give something back for all it receives, and to treasure each moment they are alive. But how do you teach this? How do I become a good mother?
I can look to the two mothers I have in my life to guide me. My own mother, whom I admire most for her strength and grace, and my husband’s mother, who is filled with gentleness and love.
When I look at my own mother I remember my childhood and the times spent with her. I remember summer days at the lake where my twin brother and I learned to swim. I remember singing with her in the car and the way she would speed the car up as we approached a small hill on a country road in order to make our stomachs rise along with our giggles of glee. I remember the way she would read bedtime stories to us as we snuggled in under each of her arms. The more I think about her, the more I realize that she taught us to value life and contribute to it by the way she lives her life. My mother always seems to notice the colour in the sky and the sound the wind makes in the trees. She directs our gaze from the room we are in to the world outside us in the way she looks beyond herself and treats others in her life.
When I look at my mother-in-law I see a woman who can see beauty in everything around her. She cherishes the time she spends with her family and can love so easily it seems to spill out of her. She cares about the people in her life so much that at times I think the worry weighs her down. But with so much compassion inside her, I think she draws strength from her ability to love them. When I think of her, I think of the way she can laugh at herself, of her smile and the joy she takes in the little things life brings her way.
Will I be as good a mother? I know I will read to our child as my mother did. I will cuddle and keep it safe. I will love it without question, but will I be able to teach it how to cope in this world that seems more perilous now than ever before?
When I remember the freedom of my childhood, disappearing for most summer days in the woods, playing without supervision in the park, or exploring the city until the street lights came on, I realise that our child will grow up in a very different world.
If I can pass on what the two mothers in my life have given to me, if I can teach this child to find strength in love, to embrace the world and everything that’s in it, then I think this baby growing inside me will have a good chance to flourish no matter how precarious this world becomes.