There is something tranquil about being able to watch your child fall asleep as they finally lose the battle to keep their eyes open. Their eyelashes flutter closed. Their forehead smooths out, and a sense of peace flows over the whole scene. Given the inherent nature of this sight, I therefore find it deeply and utterly mesmerising to watch my son sleep while travelling in a car at night. His face, barely visible in the darkness, takes on an ethereal glow as the light from passing street lights flows over his face briefly, illuminating the peaceful expression before fleeing as quickly as it came, casting both of you in darkness once more. The rhythm of the wheels on the road surface, the hum of the engine, even the faint sound of the car radio from the front seat become a steady, comforting background noise that turns the interior of the car into a sort of timeless bubble. I can never keep my own eyes awake for very long in such circumstances as a passenger. I find myself nodding off in cars quite easily if I have nothing with which to occupy myself. But for the time that I am awake, I watch him sleep and I cannot help but be pulled into a meditative sort of state where the passing minutes become meaningless and thoughts flow in and out of your mind unbidden and unhurried. There is no time, there is no rush, there is no pressure. There is just the hum of the engine, and the wheels, the rocking of the vehicle, and the alternating flow of light and darkness over the face of your child. In a world of chaos, stress, and madness. Of constant rushing around and frustration and impatience, it is one of those few things that brings me back to the centre of stillness. A well of silence inside me where the outside world doesn’t matter. Where my parental shortcomings fall away. My impatience and my stubbornness vanish. I remember why I became a mother. Why I find this this small person’s existence so wonderful. Why I sacrifice my own freedom and selfishness for his needs and wants. Why I submit myself to the frustration of the trials and errors of raising a human being.
I have never been particularly enamoured with the idea of that instant mother-child bond that some people report feeling the instant your newborn baby is put in your arms. It was not an experience I shared. Sure, I was amazed and elated and excited and scared and in love and all those other big emotions you get after labour. But I didn’t feel that instant surrender of all my pain and resentment and bewildered confusion at the entry of this squalling red-faced thing into my life. I didn’t gaze upon the scrunched up face and instantly declare that I would suffer that experience ten times over just to be able to hold him in my arms like I’ve heard other women say. And sometimes in the deeper recesses of my mind the worry nags me that this makes me somehow less good of a mother, as irrational as that thought may sound.
But it is the moments like these, where all other cares fall away and I gaze on his face in the semi darkness that I am closest to that mythical unshakeable bond of motherhood and love. I know the feeling is fleeting. I can’t seem to grasp and hold it firmly close to the surface of my consciousness all the time to remind me when I am at my least patient why I chose to be a parent. I struggle and I resent him sometimes for making my life no longer my own and I crave solitude to recover my equilibrium because I find this ephermal feeling difficult to grasp. But no matter how fleeting, moments like these remind me that it is there, and that I am really happy with my choices. And I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
(…Jury is still out whether I’d ever attempt the whole labour experience once again though…)