I had this moment the other night: Holding Clara in our hallway, right outside her bedroom door: Sam was out of town: I’d been alone with the baby since class ended that afternoon, and evening sunlight threw slanted shadows across the wood floors, across my bare feet.
My baby’s arms wrapped tight around my neck, her head slack on my shoulder, both of her hands twirling lazily through my hair. We stood together in content silence, and I began to cry.
This isn’t unusual: Especially lately: Because when things settle down around here, I cannot help but remember that Jimmy is still gone, and Cassidy has cried every day for 8 weeks, and the world is still turning, and this is reason enough to weep, always.
But that night, I cried as much for myself as I did for Cass: As I did for Jimmy.
I cried because, in that quiet moment, the vulnerability of my love for Clara was frighteningly close to the surface. She turned 8 months old last week, and I have to wonder, perhaps in the collective wondering tradition of all mothers and fathers in all of time and space:
Whether or not this is worth it:
Whether or not being a parent is worth the risk.
The apostle John tells us that perfect love casts out fear. This points sharply to the fact that my love is far from perfect. Because I find, more and more, that my love and my fear are two knots in the same strand. I am SO AFRAID to lose Clara. I am afraid to lose anyone I love, of course, but I can’t tiptoe around each day, hands clasped in desperate prayer that I will never have to experience any more death, ever. So I tuck those other fears away, unless some extraordinary circumstances call them up again.
The idea of her death gives pause to my heartbeat- tingles down my legs and back up to my throat, a debilitating stroke of numbing fear.
I’ve never felt this before.
I fear Sam’s death,
and I imagine I would fall far, far apart should he leave before I do, but also,
I could marry again. I could love another man, maybe, someday, if I had to.
But I could never have another first child. Another Clara.
I struggle with this fear:
I wrestle it down each time I read terrible news about bombs and guns and mothers losing their children:
I leave it forcefully behind my garage door when I pull out of my neighborhood and onto busy roadways full of bad drivers:
I nod curtly to my fear every night, backing quietly out of Clara’s room after I’ve stared through the slats of her crib, my searching eyes rising and falling with her delicate rib cage in the dark of her nursery.
Fear is a truth in my life that I must confess again and again, leaving the life of my child in the hands of my God.
And I wonder: In the long tradition of mothers before me: I wonder with Eve: I wonder with Hannah: I wonder with Mary: And I wonder, achingly, about Jimmy’s mother Roseanna:
Whether or not this risk of loss is worth the abiding love. Could my heart manage what my womb has already healed from: Could I let Clara go again: Could I lose my baby and live another day: Can I surrender my fear in order to love more freely?