A beautiful lesson in learning to put your own oxygen mask on first. Take a little of what you love from life mamas – it will make you and your kids so much happier.
We arrived in Savannah on a late night flight.
I spend the night flip-flopping in my bed, nursing my baby through an all night buffet. Left side, right side, left side, right side. I wake intermittently; he just suckles and suckles and sleeps on. Morning breaks and I open my eyes to find him staring up at me. I can’t hold a grudge. I give him soft kisses on his tiny baby hands. Downstairs, my toddler greets me, “I miss you mama!”
So begins another day of giving. I flit from one to the other, filling them up. More milk. Spilled cereal. Kisses. It’s a labour of love, this life. It’s holy work. It’s the work of a mother.
The trails here are a runner’s dream. The woods stir and ache under a curtain of heavy humidity. The path is winding and rough, cutting across bogs and under Spanish moss, hung like lace. The cicadas chirp a song that sounds like summer. I look for crocodiles in the still water on either side of me. It’s been awhile since I’ve been knee-deep in nature.
Running has nursed my broken hearts. It’s been my dear companion on days of triumph. It’s been my confidante when my mind needs a little wandering. It’s one of the only ways I know how to digest grief, joy, and exhaustion. I strap my shoes on and find a new route or a familiar one. Either way, I run.
I write beautiful poetry here, on the trails. The words come quick and easy. Ideas take shape. I tell myself I should stop and write them down, but I know if I do, the words will evaporate at my touch; I’ll only grasp at straws of drivel. They’re best uncaptured. But the real truth is, I much prefer to run with the wind of my words in my hair: clear, beautiful, and full of possibility.
“In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” It’s a hard lesson to learn. For nine months your body is not your own, not entirely. You share your oxygen and blood with that tiny tadpole, that flicker of light. And that flicker of light grows and begins to stretch its fingers and arms, toes and legs. For 40 weeks, 270 days, it grows. Your body stretches, too, to reach out and hold that baby close, to protect it at all costs. Mind the bumps, step softly.
And you do. It is the holiest mission you’ve ever been on. Never was there a task so grand and so important. Indeed, this tango, this tug and pull between mother and baby, it is the only thing that has propelled our species forward, generation after generation.
So you step softly, fingertips on your belly, for nine months, 40 weeks, 270 days.
The cicadas chirp on. I run too long. I imagine my baby waking up from his afternoon nap. My husband will pick him up and struggle under the weight of his milky appetite. “Mamamama,” he’ll cry. Guilt licks its chops, slobbers and pants. I reach out to catch my beams of light, my straws of drivel instead.
A little bit longer, sweet baby.
We share our oxygen for 270 days then have to learn how to take it first. 10,000 feet in the air or down here, on the trails, we fumble with our oxygen masks. There’s no helping anyone without it. But 10,000 feet in the air or down here, on earth, it’s lifesaving.
Get away. Feel the words or joys or sorrows stream past you, on either side. These are your wings.
It is a remarkable process, motherhood. But don’t lose yourself to it. Who is the girl underneath the mother, who is underneath the wife? She will never look the same; she will wear her body slightly differently now. But don’t disregard her strength.
There are countless days of giving ahead. Collect your strength, for that girl.
I return and my baby is hungry. He clutches at my shirt, covered in sweat. He doesn’t mind. Mama is back. And she brought a little bit more of herself back with her.
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