The bonded leather was cold on my back as I lifted my sweater over my full belly. It was a late October evening and the heat from the crackling logs in the basement hadn’t yet made its way upstairs. The single lamp at the end of the couch filled the room with warm yellow light. Over my head family members from all ends of the spectrum peeked out of their frames on the large wooden shelf. My mother knelt on the floor buzzing with excitement, the movements of the baby in my belly were finally perceptible to the outside world.
She had just finished washing the dishes from the baby shower she’d thrown for me. The gifts scattered across the living room were a statement of caring for me, but more a testament of love for my mother as cousins and friends came more so because she had asked, and she doesn’t ask for much. I poked and prodded at my belly trying to wake the sleeping child so her grandmother could feel her strength. We discussed if it would be a boy or a girl. My mother praying for a healthy baby, and busting for a baby girl.
She stopped breathing from anticipation, her right hand hovering over my belly, her long fingers pressed together as if to support one another. I got a hard kick to my side, she put her hand on my belly. Her touch was as cool and as soft as it had been when I was a child.
Instantly I was six telling her about my headache and those hands rubbed my forehead. I was nine holding her hand in a parking lot skipping in my canvas sneakers and blubbering on and on about my first dance lesson. I was ten and just in from sliding; she held my face in her hands pressing her warm cheek to my cold “cheekers” to determine if I’d had enough fun. I was twenty eight and she shakily wrapped me in my wedding dress. Her touch so familiar, loving, and comforting; one that sets the world right side up.
She got this motherhood thing right. She found a formula that worked. I know not because of the person I turned out to be. This is not the sum of her equation. I know she got it right because the sum of it is that all I want and need from this woman is her time. Time on Saturday afternoon to natter about everything and nothing while I know she rests her elbows on her kitchen counter, one leg straight, one leg bent with her bum stuck out; it’s the same way I stand at my kitchen counter. I want her time at four in the morning to get to the airport to come see me. I want her time on a sunny vacation morning to sit in my dark kitchen with our pajamas on until the teapot is empty. I wanted her time when my babies were born to help me navigate this new role. I ask her not to buy those babies anything for birthdays or Christmas because we’d all just rather have her time.
As her hand glided over my belly, finger tips pointed to the sky fearing that the weight of their pads would be too much for the unborn babe, I remembered that I was hers. I am hers. Hers to protect to her last breath, hers to cheer for at every possible opportunity. When I cannot be proud of myself, she will carry my pride with definitive radiance. The baby kicked her in the middle of her palm, her hand flew away and clasped the other over her heart and she giggled the most excited laugh to know that the baby felt her presence. I have always known by her actions and words what it is to be a mother. What I hadn’t realized was how powerful her touch was; how it had imprinted itself on me, how much of her, as a mother, was defined by that touch. In that moment I realized that this was the kind of mother I wanted to be, the kind just like her.