The Weight of a Soul

Something happened today that hasn’t in a while. Aeryn willingly, happily even, rode on my back in our favorite carrier. We took an impromptu trip to Boston – Aeryn’s second time in the city. After an extra long ride in the car seat, she wasn’t too keen on being constrained again. That is until she saw strangers everywhere. No one had to teach this kid stranger danger. She considers anyone she hasn’t had 132 positive interactions with a stranger. In other words, she wanted to be held. When we got to the T station, I finally asked her if she wanted to get on Mommy’s back and she gave enthusiastic consent.

That’s how I found myself walking through Chinatown, my girl snuggled down on my back under her fleece cover, the cold December air making my ears tingle, when I felt the slow weight of her head rest against my back. I live for that moment – perfect peace, when all is right in my world. We were there to celebrate my birthday, and there could be no better gift than that.

Wearing my daughter is one of my favorite things ever. When so much of our relationship was difficult, that came relatively easily and saved both of us when she needed to be held constantly that first year of life. Now, she wants to be held constantly but also to be put down seconds later, then repeat all day. Don’t restrain her, but don’t get too far away either. She fights being strapped into her carrier the way she often does her car seat. Just let her run. So the space between snuggle episodes grows every month.

Today reminded me of a grocery shopping trip we took this summer. Rain poured down as it did so many days this year, and Aeryn’s nap was long overdue. I had groceries to get, and I knew she would get restless in the cart. For everyone’s sake, I decided to put her on my back. I started ticking items off my list; she people watched. I still remember the aisle I was strolling down when I felt her settle against me. For some reason, in the middle of the most mundane of tasks, I realized why I love wearing my girl so much. It’s the only time the weight of my body matches the weight of my soul.

Elizabeth Stone wrote, “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”  She is right. Yet, it is more than that. It’s to have the weight of that person forever rest on your soul. There will never again be a moment when you aren’t a mother, when the happiness, well-being, and safety of your child won’t be your greatest concern, when your love for them won’t anchor you fast to this earth. You can’t remove it for a breather or set it aside to focus on other things. Even if we never speak of it, every mother knows this weight.

When my daughter finally relaxes into sleep wrapped securely against my body, held not by my arms but bound by our relationship, I find equilibrium. My soul and my body feel momentarily balanced. All the weight of who she is and what she means to me is concretely bundled into 20 lbs. There is something profound about actually feeling the heaviness you constantly carry, as if it reminds you that there is truth to your reality. And for that moment, it is no longer invisible; the whole world sees it too.

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