from First Pregnancy
by Julianna Baggott
I could not believe a child.
Instead, I envisioned a landscape,
an ocean turning in on itself,
a moving mountain, a field
that could fold and unfold,
my body overtaken by a living map.
Even once when her hand appeared
from the other side--
a five-fingered handprint...
I could not accept the benediction.
--In This Country of Mothers, 2001--
My daughters' hands curve over mine against the page of a favorite book of ours. The pattern of ocean clouds, five-point stars, their fingers pressing down--a love like gravity...sometimes, my words are too small to hold all of this, what it means to sculpt women out of laughing little girls. Sometimes, I think about what it is to be that archetypal mother--never a role I felt suited for, but one I have lived every day since my twentieth year, when the first girl came to me. She is halfway to that age--when I became her mother. Too young, I tell her. Wait until you are older, more established, so you don't have to struggle as we did. In photos, I look at the stunned new mother I was and want to mother her from here...to soothe, it gets so much easier--you will find your center again. Raising girls means giving them roots and wings--oh, and backbones...strong, upright backbones--so they can hold up the sky.