A recurring dream: I'm inside a massive chunk of ice. I cannot hear anyone. I cannot be touched.
Mothering came with a new level of intensity: so much rage in my daughter's little body. Being present has never been easy for me. It's not any easier now, trying to be present while your child screams and cries and kicks. Trying to hold space as they advise in the parenting articles I obsessively read. For me it's more about holding my own breath so I don't scream with her, holding my own hand so I don't do something I'll regret forever. I want to freeze her as she melts down, if only to stop her for one breath, to silence one scream.
Mothering came with a new level of guilt when I gave birth a second time: The guilt cascaded over the older child as I robbed her from the attention she has had, sat with the younger child in a realization that I'll never be able to give him the attention I gave the first. My heart grew bigger with each child I birthed but how will they know?
Mothering came with a new level of grief: 3 years later I'm still grieving the freedom I will never get back, the fear that will never leave my body, all the mistakes I'll make, this bedtime and in ten years.
My reality is muted by a thick slate of ice. I'm under that ice, falling in or being thrown, depending on the day, night, or hour; on the growth spurt, leap, or wonder week; on the nursing strike, stuffed noses, or 10th wake up at night; on whether I've already lowered my expectations or I'm still pretending I got it all. I hear myself say I want to get into the car and drive far away.
I'm under a thick slate of ice all while knowing this, too, shall pass, and I should just keep swimming, keep swimming, and soon enough I'll get out from under. But I'm stuck and instead, I just hold my breath and hit my head, over and over, knowing too well the ice won't break, and then, of course, it does, it does, it does, and she takes my hand and presses it against her cheek.
He seems unruffled when she screams, as if at just few months old, he already knows everything I don't, as if he is everything I'm not, as if he does everything I yearn to do: to just be and love, ever so patiently and gently.
I carry them both until they're finally asleep. Their bodies against mine, tears and silence braided in their sweaty hair. I crawl back to our bed and lay between those two little bodies - my own flesh and blood, my own making, my very own - taking in their breaths and whispering apologies into their hair, hoping that they won't remember the words I said but instead, will hold on to the love I still have no vocabulary for. The ice always melts.
Photographer: Irmina Walczak
Katarzyna Suchodolska is a writer and a mother of two. Born and raised in Poland, she unexpectedly found home in Houston, Texas.