9. Heart

Heart. One word. An organ expanding and contracting beneath 24 ribs. Muscle, fiber, flesh. The feeling place.  

i carry your heart with me

When my daughter was born, that organ tasked with the vital role of maintaining life exploded into a thousand pieces. And yet, I did not die. Or perhaps I did, because every mother knows that you die a little when your first child is born. You must. You slough off the excrement and waste, the falsities and assumptions, all the negative spaces, and make room for something so much larger than yourself. You are reborn to a place of faith and hope and love, and you cling to that with every fiber of your being. My heart exploded the day she was born and it was a magnificence of being. She was a magnificent being.  

(i carry it in my heart)

I did not sleep the first week of her existence. She was so good, so real, and I felt so much love for her that I thought at any moment she might simply cease to exist. Perhaps that makes sense only to those who have previously known the sudden disappearance of a person who was deeply loved, where forever after, you hold your breath waiting for every good thing to vanish. But she did not. Each morning I woke to find her huge, blue eyes staring up at me. Each morning, I would lay her in my bed, rest my forehead against her own and watch as, nose to nose, she fell back to sleep, her tiny breaths assuring me that she was, indeed, very much alive.

i am never without it

At the hospital, they sent me home with less instruction than I received the first time I adopted a dog. “Don’t shake her,” they said. I nodded, bewildered. I tucked her tiny body into the car seat. They wheeled me to the door. The world seemed terribly violent then. The bright sun pressed against her fragile body, a cacophony of sirens and cars and planes engulfing the insular bubble we had just departed. I placed her in the backseat of the car and climbed in beside her. It seemed then like a horribly illogical thing to do, to place my baby inside a tiny tin can and drive into a world that neither knew or loved her. How would we survive? 

(anywhere i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)

I spent those first few weeks desperately learning to interpret her cries. Each one felt like a direct indictment of my ability to love her. Was she hurting and I did not know? Was she hungry and I had not fed her enough? Was her little body stressed, cold, itchy, hot, sleepy, aching? What was it that she needed? By six months, her cheeks were plump. So convinced was I that I wasn’t giving enough, perhaps I inadvertently gave too much. And that could stand as a metaphor for the entire rest of my parenting career. 

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)

She was five when she broke her arm and had to have surgery. I stood under the probing fluorescent lights of the hospital, tasked with deciding which anesthesia would be best and wholly unequipped to make life and death choices for the being I loved most. I had never felt so alone in my life. They had to re-break her arm before setting it. The pain of it penetrated her sedation and she screamed as I had never heard her scream before. “Mama,” she wailed, her voice echoing down the hall to the room where I waited. “Mama!” Something urgent and primal welled up within me then, and I knew I would face any beast alive to protect her. I rushed down the corridor sobbing, only to be stopped by a nurse at the door. Protecting her meant calming myself, trusting with patience, and allowing for what needed to be done. And so I breathed and waited and prayed that she would never remember the pain. 

i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

The darkest moments of my life are all the ones where I became convinced I had failed her, that I was not giving her the life she deserved or able to love her as perfectly as I hoped. How to love perfectly? We are tasked with so much in raising a small being. That they should know love. That they should know joy and contentment. That they should have a life worth building dreams from. That they should have the confidence to spread their wings and fly. That they should be tethered always to a place of belonging. 

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

Yesterday, my daughter met her father for the first time. I realize that sentence isn’t as casual as its method of delivery might suggest, but it is an intimate and vulnerable thing to share so publicly. I do so now, with her permission, because I want to normalize this thing as rapidly as possible. Because I hope to mitigate the need for her to have to explain what simply now is. And because, it is all a part of this journey. 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

In the past few weeks, realities have shifted, narratives have been re-written, and a new love has formed. My heart has had to stretch and grow in unimaginable ways. To share this sacred place, to trust another… it is all so precarious. And yet, it is so perfectly right. So much that I can’t help but wonder if I ever truly trusted Elohim before now. Here, in this place of surrender, this place of letting go, I have been met. Grace has appeared. Hope blooms.   

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

I know you have questions. I know you want to know more. But this story does not belong to just me. It is unfolding and it is shared.  Each time that I sit down here to write, it seems that another piece of me has been stripped away, another bit of winnowing. I do not say this with regret. We are getting to the very essence of being now. And in the same breath that something is lost, something even greater is restored. A rebuilding has begun. New stories are being written. I feel gratitude as perhaps I never have before. 

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

This isn’t going to go perfectly. We are human after all. But that is the real lesson for my daughter We are are fallible and imperfect, but it is in the grace of these broken places that the truth of our love is made known. 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

poem by e.e. cummings

Published by dainsworth

The tether. That thing that binds us to our families of origin, not by any desire of our own, but through the mere act of existence. We spend our lives exploring the roots of this connection, be it to an unending wellspring of love or the heavy, unshakeable burden of pain. We create new ones. We watch as old ones fray. And sometimes, in life's most painful moments, we witness those tethers break. (un)tethered traces the paths of old and new connections through family, love, the modern church, and fourteen-years of single-parenting. I begin this blog in a time of deep uncertainty, having recently left my position at the boarding school where I lived and taught for the past five years. Technically, I still live in Charlottesville, VA, but the next steps in life could take us anywhere! There are many unknowns ahead, but I know I am not alone in this. I hope this will be a place of solace for all who are wandering/wondering through this time.

2 thoughts on “9. Heart

  1. Wow! I’m so thankful to be a recipient of your blog. Your sharing of a mother’s thoughts on the bearing of your first child moves me, and the way you wove those thoughts into this beautiful poem by Cummings are something only you could perform. I’ll be reading and re-reading this blog many times over, I’m sure, and will keep a Kleenex handy!

    Now for my part of our conversation. First, a line from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Traveler, that my mother turned me onto: “Wherever I roam, whatever realms to see, my heart, untraveled, fondly turns to thee.” Now, thanks to your blog, I can add to this line that “my heart” carries another heart within it. Thank you for that insight.

    And on the thought of meeting the father for the first time, it’s my hope that every soul will meet their Elohim Father in their search to know their own selves, to understand their true beginnings, so that they can return to the Father’s house from the shameful state they “find themselves” to be in, eating husks of corn fed to the swine (referring to the parable of the prodigal son/daughter).

    You’re absolutely correct to say that it won’t go perfectly; that we are “fallible and imperfect”. Such is this life that you’ve brought this precious pearl that your daughter is into – she’ll experience the friction that happens in life that will form the pearl she can be. Elohim began the life of a pearl in your body, and gestation brought human form to being. Now the friction of life in this world will carry on the process of development. You as mother will always know that you had the privilege of bringing this “bloom of life” into being. An excerpt from an Edgar Cayce reading speaks about this process:

    “A pearl is an adornment, a thing of beauty, created through the irritation of that which manifests itself in a lowly way to those that consider themselves of high estate; but by the very act of irritation to its own vibration is the higher vibration created, or brings about the pearl of great price. Yet it does not look well in the sow’s ear.

    In the use then to which, through which, the soul of the body would pass to seek that as may be sought by the varied creations of man’s activity in a material life, to what depths must such a soul oft descend to bring back that that may even lend an air of help to a hungry soul?

    Through such irritation, though, oft does the soul grow, even as the pearl. So long as that manifested, then, by the life in a manifested form, keeps pure, little harm may come. But once lost can never be regained; even as that given into the heart of every mother to carry to her chosen one the bloom of life itself – only once!” EC Reading 254-68

  2. How beautifully brave you are, Dana! Wow. So much happening right now for you! So grateful this had gone as well as it probably could have, and at a crazy but perhaps the best possible time?!

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