Motherhood has skinned me alive, left me ripe wide open, hollow and fragile. I am larger than before, and I don’t just mean my hips or pooch and lord knows my boobs are smaller if anything. Yet I am too big to fit into my body, my thoughts and emotion, my feelings pink and raw. It is all too too much and I find that most days I don’t know what to do with it all.
When Zoey was just a few months old there was an earthquake. It wasn’t that big, maybe a 4.5. This was at our old house in the city. Zoey was asleep on our bed and Bryan and I were in the kitchen. I have lived in California all my life. I have felt tiny tremors that I blamed on passing trucks. I have tingled with the endorphins of larger quakes when the floor swayed like a hammock beneath my feet. Earthquakes shock me with the thrill of someone who has never truly been touched by natural disaster. They are stories to be shared with the cashier at the supermarket, light and fun, a watercooler of where were you when? So I was surprised when that smallish 4.5 quake shook me with a magnitude I had never before felt. The kitchen tiles retro pink and burgundy, a jarring tilt-a-world, vertigo, a split moment when Bryan and I look at each other and my mouth fills with the sharp metallic tang of fear. The earth moves but it is no longer just me that it is moving. I picture Zoey on my bed, the plate glass window above her head cracking and falling, raining sheets of sharp. I picture the worst. Bryan is away for a few days, sailing down the coast of California with my dad. A subject worthy of its own post, worlds colliding, but what’s important here is that Zoey and I are alone. Last night Nacho slept with me, curled into the indentation of Bryan’s body in the fluffy feather-top mattress. At 2am I felt him jolt awake, then a deep guttural growl the likes of which I have never heard from a cat this side of the Serengeti. Then the crunch of something stepping on crinkly tissue paper. A crash. I turned on the light and bolted out of bed, naked. Nacho wouldn’t even get off the bed and there I was with bare feet and bare body gripping a 5” mag-flashlight as if it were a glock and I was sheathed in a bullet-proof body stocking. Was it a rat? A mouse? Another snake? A possum? Did a raccoon crawl through the open window? A midget? I never did find anything, and I never went back to sleep, either. After searching the entire house I lay back in bed with the cold metal flashlight resting lightly on my sternum. Ready. For sunrise. So many things go bump in the night when you are floating precariously on a sheet, a plate, bone porcelain thin, when you are on this earth with a crust so flaky. So many things rupture the sense of solidity. Motherhood has skinned me alive, left me ripe wide open, hollow and fragile. But at the same time it has filled me up, liquid steel poured molten hot into holes I never even knew were there. I am hollow, I am whole, both larger and smaller. I am afraid and brave all at the same time, the sudden release of the energy that is Zoey having ruptured something in me irreversibly. I am made stronger by quaking.