I'm thinking of two of my very special friends, two of my Saying friends, who became mothers last week. One of them traveled halfway around the world to meet her two sons. Another welcomed her daughter in the very city where we met and became friends eleven years ago.
I'm thinking of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," a poem that Husband chose as a reading at our wedding. At the time, I found it an unusual, but fitting pick - being wed in a time of war, it felt important to acknowledge the ways in which love insulates us from the cold uncertainty of the world. Now, as I revisit the poem as a mother, I recognize a new dimension - one not just of romantic love, but of parental love as well. An acknowledgment of the risks of bringing a child into an imperfect world. A promise of tireless protection.
Ah, love, let us be trueI'm thinking of Ann Hood and her remarkable piece in the New York Times Modern Love column, "To Nurture Again, With Courage." Hood, her husband, and their son adopted a daughter from China after losing a child to a sudden illness. She beautifully details the small acts of bravery it takes to be a parent - the learning how to let in and the learning how to let go. She writes:
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
What I do know is this: there is no safe route through parenthood, or through life. When we offer our heart to others, we do not know what will happen to it. It may break. It may grow. It may take us places we never imagined. But isn’t that the risk of love? To be willing to stand on the stern on a beautiful summer day and, not knowing the outcome, to leap?I've written before about the impossibility of preparing for the shift between our preparenthood and postparenthood selves. I'm thinking again now about the leap of faith we all make when we choose to open our hearts to our children.
I'm thinking of my beloved friends, these incredible women, these powerful educators, these new parents. I'm thinking of the ways in which their hearts will now explode with motherhood - borders expanding infinitely to try to contain the impossible boundaries of love and rupturing again and again with every scraped knee and every disappointment.
I'm thinking this morning about love. The hazards of love. The audacity of parenthood.
What advice can you offer these new parents - simple or profound or perhaps even both?