My sweet Olivia is six months old today. Life is nothing--nothing at all--like I pictured it would be, on those rare occasions when I let myself imagine anything at all.
I have this baby, this dazzling girl. She's full of energy and gravity, the central star in her own spiral galaxy. But that's the thing: she's there, at the center, alone. There can only be one center. Instead of some merged triumverate, Jeff and I are satellites, with lesser asteroids whizzing by.
I still do not feel like her mother.
It makes me cry to say it that way, but it's true. I think of her constantly, love her overpoweringly, worry obsessively, would turn to stone if something dreadful happened to her. But, while she is the star, I feel like a passing player in her life, surprised every day to still find myself pulled along in her wake. Part of it is, no doubt, the fact that I am away from her so much. How could she really know me, how could I expect her to turn to me over all others when she's distressed? Part of it is that I do not know what it should feel like, this business of being a mother. The joys--the blinding smiles and unblinking, heart-filling stares; the way her head nestles into my neck when I hold her to my shoulder--feel like little off-hand presents, bestowed without thought and lapped up overeagerly, a puppy begging for illicit table scraps from a lenient owner. In some way, I don't feel like I've earned them: they are a part of her general largesse, not a reward specific to me.
If you've been with me for a while, you may remember that I have a mother who is...not. She abdicated about 25 years or so ago, and was never particularly interested in the title to begin with. I don't remember her being all that important to me. I missed out on something--I know that--but I'm not quite sure what. I want it to be so different with my daughter. I want, so badly, to be central to her.