I can’t feel my arm—it’s bent around the headrest behind me to hold your hand as you fall asleep. Your tiny fingers use mine to rub your eyes and fight for comfort. But I see your hairline flicker in the mirror with the streetlights passing us, and I think, it’s my joy to be uncomfortable for you.
You and I have a fight. I say let me brush your hair and we both fall to the floor crying because it was the end of the rope for both of us that day. But I see you twirl, I see you making adventures and creating worlds, and I think, it’s been my joy to cry for you.
My back and shoulder blades ache—I struggle under your weight as I bounce you for the 900th time. Your eyes are giving you away, you’re almost there. I said I wouldn’t be here, I said I wouldn’t be bouncing you this long, I said I’d have a plan, but your body relaxes on mine and your stubborn breath falls on my ear and I think, it’s been a joy to break my expectations for you.
There are 21 pairs of jeans in my closet, each has served a different season of my body—preparing for you, growing you, and recovering from you. I don’t have a favorite pair—I didn’t get to wear them long enough before the change. I see the way somehow still nothing fits right. Be patient with yourself, I say, you grew a human. Two of them. But the way you each cling to me when you’re shy, comforted by my curves I think, it’s been a joy to lose “a favorite pair” for you.
I see the scars you left me.
I hyperventilated under the white lights the second time they came around. I saw the knives they used and the straps on my arms. I was moved by eight pairs of arms onto a cold table as they talked about the weather. Your dad had to be outside for the needle. But I see the scar in the mornings that provided a way out for you and I think, I’d do it again tomorrow, every day.
I’m not sure who I am right now. Your dad isn’t sure who I am either some days, he reaches desperately for me toward a closed door. And I’m not sure if joy is still out there somewhere. “Today is dark, how do I get past this?” I say.
I try to feed you, and you throw hours of work on the ground and ask for noodles. My hair falls out and anxiety closes the windows I had left open to breathe. Where am I, who loves me?
But tonight I saw you smile about a song you knew. I held you and your wet boots up to see, the light shaped your joy. And I knew. You need me. You are because of me. You are me. I am your home, and I am mom.
I see joy again and realize it’s been a joy to be broken for you.
Previously published on the author’s Facebook page