Nine years ago my first Mother’s Day seemed like a game. The word itself, “mom,” as it applied to me, was still new enough to sound strange on my tongue. Like all new mothers, I carried my baby everywhere, proud to be the mother of such a perfect little creature.
Exhausting though it was, this mom gig was a lot of fun. Talk to the baby, change the baby, take the baby out, watch the baby grow into a healthy, productive, appreciative adult – what could be simpler?
You feel this, as you gaze at your babies. This happiness you have – so perfect, so undeserved, so easy to lose – this terrible love is bounded by a fear of all that could go wrong. Being a mother means a lifetime of worry. It means making deals with your personal God: Protect her, please. Take me, instead. Let me carry that load for him. Please never let them know this hate, this sorrow, this pain, this loss. Being a mother means never letting go, even when they’ve long ago let go of you. In China, we all worry: Would things be better if we hadn’t moved here – or worse? Will the air they breathe hurt them? Will the Chinese they learn help them? Is this world of ours safe enough to hold them? The questions we mothers have can’t be easily answered. We learn the hard way, through miscarriages and moves, through tangled chromosomes, through tears and tragedies, that nothing is guaranteed us, that no one promised us this exquisite happiness that we feel each night as we gaze at those small sleeping faces. All of us moms, in China and across the globe, want the same things for our kids. We wish on stars, we knock on wood, we blow out candles. In whatever language we speak, we all pray the same prayer. If I can ask for just one thing in this world, we say, this is it: for them to grow up healthy, happy and strong. That’s all I want, we say. And then, we whisper just one wish more: Please let me be here to watch it all unfold for them. I’ll smooth the road ahead with my own bare hands and heart. Donna Scaramastra Gorman Donna Scaramastra Gorman is a freelance writer and mother of four who has lived in Beijing for one year. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor.