How Far We Have Not Come
Last night, I cried. Big, fat wet tears.
I almost never do this. I tear up from time to time, at the occasional post, moved by its language or its imagery or its story, but I almost never get to the point where my heart presses hard against my chest and my eyes burn and the tears spill hot and wet no matter how hard I blink to hold them back.
They spilled last night.
Last night, I read and re-read the beautiful comments to my post of the other day, the post in which I expressed my concerns about my ability to write about - and my comfort in writing about - my physical love for my daughter and in which I asked that somebody, anybody, join me in trying to overcome fears of inadequacy and fear of being misunderstood in order to express this love. So that I might be inspired and encouraged. So that I might understand my own hesitancy better. So that I wouldn't feel alone.
I followed the links that some of you had left, links to the posts that my post had inspired, or to posts that you had already written but which nonetheless answered my call, posts that I promised to (and will) pull together with my own thoughts in a post that will celebrate this amazing, complicated love. I read these posts, and I felt overwhelmed, in a way that I've never felt in the short time that I've been part of this community (more overwhelmed than when visiting the hundred some-odd Mommy Blogger Love-In posts. Yes.)
I felt overwhelmed because the full force of what it means to be in community, to speak with and listen to and have conversations within a community, struck me while reading these beautiful posts. Other women were writing my words, speaking my feelings. These complicated feelings, feelings that I expected other parents to share, but that I did not, I suppose, expect to see shared in the same language, with the same depth of complexity, with the same unabashed and unrestrained amazement.
You know how I feel. You have these feelings, too. You are not afraid to speak these feelings. I knew all of this, of course. But last night I saw it living and breathing on the page. And I thought, how silly to have been afraid. How silly to have thought these feelings, these ideas, unbloggable, unwriteable. How silly to have felt fear in such a community.
And then I received this in my inbox:
As the "Other Mommy" in a two mommy household I have to say that I could NEVER write such a post. I would be too damned afraid of the authorities coming and taking my child from me. Ever since he came into this world the one thing that has terrified me the most is that someone might come and take him from me - because of my sexual orientation, because I'm not the "real" mommy. I lay awake nights thinking about it even though I am on his birth certificate and have adopted him... I am constantly censoring myself to make sure no one can say I'm not a fit mother. Am I touching him for too long? When I change his diaper am I wiping for too long? Don't linger with that kiss on his cheek, etc. Every scratch or bruise he gets because he is an extremely active young one, I obsess over because someone might call Child Services to report the "evil lesbians".
I love my son more than I can adequately express but frankly I would be afraid to even try. Losing him would kill me and I just won't risk it.
And tears came.
I cried because I was right to be afraid, and because I couldn't see beyond my own privilege far enough to imagine that the most serious implications of those fears might not apply to me. Because I was cocky in stating that I didn't care if some self-righteous puritan thought that I was bad mother for talking about sensuality in relation to my child, because I have the luxury of knowing that as a white, married, heterosexual mother I can stand up to anyone who questions my mothering. Because although I need to worry about the pervs out there, I will probably never confront, in any serious way, the soul-wrenching possibility of being seen as a perv myself.
Because we live in a world where that's a real fear for some women, and for many men.
Because I prattle on about the amazing, empowering possibilities of this virtual space, where women and men speak their truth to power and empower and inspire one another, and I forget that that inspiration and that empowerment does not come easily to all of us.
Because I speak with the voice of privilege, and I take that voice for granted.
Because one woman out there can't speak her love for her child in all of its force and complexity, for fear of the unimaginable, and because while I want to say that that's one woman too many, I know that she is just one of many women. And men.
Because I lack the words to express my frustration and my rage and my shame, at this.
Okay, so maybe I'm overwrought with the whole white/hetero/liberal guilt thing. But still. Words fail, and I feel terribly that words fail me here.
All that I can think of, as a response, is to ask that you respond. And that you keep shouting out your love for children in all of its messy glory, so that we make one small stab at demonstrating how ordinary, how natural, how good is that extraordinary love. (And if you'd prefer to do it in the Basement, anonymously, I'd be honoured to host.) I am more determined to pull this all together, with my own thoughts, into a post about this love.
I don't care what it looks like, how you speak it. Just speak.