Shadow and Light

When we lived in the mountains, I used to marvel at how the angle and quality of light exert their magic on the color and shape of the mountains, making them appear close enough to reach out and touch, or far and flat, as if painted on the horizon.  Hubby and I chose a location with a view of the mountains when we got married, hoping that, by the time of the ceremony, they would take on their usual sunset blush.  Instead, because it was monsoon season, we got rain.  Lots of it.  For a time, the mountains disappeared all together behind a veil of cloud.  But when the downpour passed, we were left with a view of steely blue mountains against a gray sky.  Dark and beautiful in a way we hadn’t expected.

*  *  *

My mother used to tell me that when I was a child, the color of my eyes depended on the weather.  On sunny days, they were blue.  On cloudy days, gray.  Two reflecting pools under a big sky.

 *  *  *

I’m sort of obsessed with what my baby looks like.  Not so much what she looks like now (which, according to random strangers everywhere is a BOY), but what she will look like.  Of course, I’ll think she’s beautiful no matter what, but there’s something appealing about the possibility of contrast.  The combination of my light hair or eyes and Hubby’s dark features.

When she was born, I was utterly amazed at her appearance.  She didn’t look like anyone.  She was a totally new and unique being, not the spitting image of any near or distant relative.  There were certain features I could lay claim to, like the faint vertical line between her nose and mouth, or the tiny dimples in her laugh lines.  There were her feet, exact replicas, in miniature, of her father’s.  But as a whole, she only looked like baby girl.

Her eyes are still the color they were when she was born: slate, with a ring of taupe around the pupil.  Some days they seem darker, and I wonder if they’ll be closer to Hubby’s brown eyes.  On sunny days, they almost look blue.  And on cloudy days, a matte gray.

And I think of my mother, looking into her daughter’s eyes to predict the weather.

*  *  *

The first weeks and months of baby girl’s life have been filled with shadow and light.  High highs and low lows in complex variations I couldn’t have anticipated prior to her birth.  Entire days filled with darkness, when I couldn’t stop crying out of pain and frustration every time I attempted to feed my child.  Days I wished my mother–or anyone–was around to offer help and support.  Days when it felt like baby girl and I were battling each other over something as simple as a nap.  Days I was overcome with worry about her nutrition and weight gain, or trying to decipher from her cries whether or not she was in pain.  Moments I knew she was in pain because I’d just witnessed a doctor cutting the delicate tissues of her mouth, or “popping” the tissue that had reattached, which was so much worse.  Feelings of failure and inadequacy, clouded by guilt, like I didn’t appreciate her or Motherhood enough.

And there have been sunny days, too.  Happy times, like seeing her with my dad, sister, and niece.  Her first fleeting smiles.  Her cooing “conversations” and increasingly social interactions.  Watching Hubby interact with her, witnessing the bond they have established and the love he shows for his daughter.  Hearing the joy in his family’s voices when they see and sing to her via Skype.  The intimacy only she and I share, prolonged eye contact during breastfeeding or the enjoyment of a favorite song.  Moments of pride when she’d gained plenty of weight on my milk alone, or when strangers comment on her large, curious eyes.

She is a miracle, created at the intersection of love and science.  Even on the darkest days, the mere fact of her existence is a ray of sunshine.  Lighting the way out of the gloom to brighter days ahead.

11 thoughts on “Shadow and Light

  1. This is such a beautiful post. I love that you can acknowledge how hard things can be while still appreciating the amazing miracle that’s happened. Not hard to tell you’re a poet. 🙂

  2. Beautiful… I have struggled with those extremes also, and especially with the guilt during the lows. Struggling with infertility sometimes makes me feel extra guilt that I shouldn’t let the difficult times bother me as much because I should appreciate it more. But that’s not realistic. I always love and appreciate the girls and finally being a mother, but the truth is, regardless of how long it took to get here, I am a mother. And it’s not easy. I am grateful for it – beyond words – but I don’t have to pretend that every minute is sunshine and rainbows. My journey to motherhood wasn’t “normal,” but I get to be a normal mother. And so do you.

  3. Perfectly beautiful capture of motherhood. I can so relate to it all so much, but haven’t the grace with words enough to say it like this. Thank you for putting it all out there.

  4. Beautifully said. The highs and lows in those first months are intense. It’s amazing and wonderful, but also so, so incredibly hard. I can’t believe how much I cried. Then felt guilty because I worked so hard to get there that I thought I would/should be happy all the time. I finally had to cut myself some slack and allow myself to be like any other mother with good days and bad.
    Also, people always think at least one of my girls is a boy. Especially if they aren’t wearing pink. Apparently, pink=girl and any other color=boy.

  5. What a beautiful post. I’m not sure how I missed it before, my reader is all messed up sometimes. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I loved this. Those first days and weeks and months are so… complex. It is hard to understand it until you’ve lived it. I’m glad it’s getting lighter…

  6. Not sure how I missed this post originally, it’s beautiful. I think there will always be light and dark days, but thankfully, I have found there are many more light than dark. 🙂

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