Where does Mommy end?

This is a question that has floated into my mind sporadically over the last year.

In moments when all I want to do is sit down and read a long-awaited book, but my house has recently been ransacked by a small monster with a strange affinity for collecting laundry and flinging it around like confetti—and I’m weighing which is going to win out, cracking that book open or sadly burying it under the pile and beginning another load.

When my husband and I are out on date night and I’m trying so hard to talk about interesting topics, worldly things—things not affiliated with the little appendage I seem to be missing–but by the end of the night I still find the most ridiculous smug smile smeared on my face when I lean into my husband and ask how it’s even possible that the two of us made this insanely perfect little human.

In moments that I’m wandering the aisle of the grocery store and I overhear a conversation between two grandmothers, discussing how their grandchildren have been abandoned by their mothers for the second time. I do not know these women. I do not know these children, and yet my heart drops to my stomach, and I find myself half walking, half running from the aisle, eyes on my feet blinking blinking blinking, ordering myself not to start blubbering in Wal-Mart right now, because how is that even possible?

In the moments when my husband and I are collapsed on the couch, and he leans over to kiss me, and somewhere inside the old me feels happy and loved. But then the mommy in me pecks him a dozen times on the face, realizing somewhere in the middle of it that the usual squeal that comes from my child’s mouth wide with laughter, will not be coming out of the thin line of confusion draped on my husband’s face.

Oops. Sorry, babe.

In the moments when I force myself to read dozens of terrifying articles with titles like “What Every Mom Should Know in Case of…” and “The Quick Thinking that Saved My Child’s Life,” because despite my constant attempts to push it down, there is this incessant nagging feeling that I need to be prepared for absolutely EVERYTHING from the Heimlich maneuver to the apocalypse, because what if?

When I have a sitter and I’m running errands, feeling like my old self again. The self with two accessible hands and a fairly firm grasp on the task at hand—but then I hear a noise similar to my little one’s an aisle over and it’s like this potent, insane love potion takes hold of all of my senses, and I want to race through those precious hours of “me-time,” just so that I can hear her sweet version of the little whimper or giggle for the 10,000th time.

In the moments when I quickly try to recover after accidentally calling my husband a strange pet name for my child or giving him a response in a sickeningly sweet coo created specifically for the only person who doesn’t know better than to endure them.

When I’m perusing the paper or watching the news, and I see an article that is heartbreaking, that is sickening, and I have to put it down or walk away, because I just can no longer stomach it. Because no matter how distant it may seem, it is somehow closer, more intimately acquainted with me now that I have somebody who I have to send out into this world.

Moments where my sweet friends push a glass of wine towards me at dinner and try and tell me a story of their day, but I am too busy wiping, feeding and juggling the little person and her gear at the end of the table to notice.

It is in these moments, and in so many others, that this question seems to be on a loop in my head.

Where does Mommy end?

I guess I always thought that when you were a mother, you were only a mother in certain designated areas of your life. When you’re at home. When you’re cleaning. When you’re grocery shopping. When you’re around your kids (maybe other kids). But I thought that there must be some spaces in your life that are reserved just for you, the person who liked sleeping in and watching Gilmore Girls and meandering antique stores (or something like that).

Instead, this Mommy figure comes unbidden into so many aspects of my life that I think that maybe she is the only one here. That the other version of me, the one that existed before my daughter–the one that inhabited this body before stretch marks and nursing bras–on most days, seems to have gone. Vanished. Things that once only skimmed the surface of my emotions, now can leave me completely gutted. Things that used to relax me, now leave me stressed and uptight. Things that used to be second nature, now seem completely foreign.

I find myself thinking that there must be some sacred ground out there that, on occasion, I can retreat into. A place where Mommy cannot bombard me. A place where she is at the end of her rope. Just a place that I can set down the weight and intensity of the emotions attached to motherhood. Just for a moment. To rub my shoulders and put up my feet.

Somewhere that my heart can be carefully placed back into my chest and hidden away like it used to be, instead of out in the open, running and giggling and terrifyingly vulnerable.

Please tell me it exists.

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Well, I have only been a mother for what seems to have been the shortest year EVER, so I do not claim to be anything close to an expert, but as of now, no one has given me the coordinates to this serene setting, and obviously I have come nowhere close to stumbling upon it on my own.

Which leads me to the conclusion that it most likely does not exist, and that in turn Mommy, indeed, has no end.

And while a lot of the time I feel like she is ruling my life. Telling me that the sink is dirty. That there is laundry to be done. That little hands just picked up something weird off the floor or that the house is eerily quiet and she doesn’t care what I’m doing, I need to stop and go tiptoe around to investigate.

She has also given me a glimpse into a world otherwise unknown to me. She has introduced me to a level of love that cannot be deterred by horrendous smells, fluids, or angry screams. She has shown me the world anew through the eyes of sleep deprivation and true innocence.

She has told me that I have to grow, and given me most of the strength to do it. She has pushed my relationships, and given me the clarity of knowing that those that cannot grow with you are better left behind, while giving me new parameters to love and cherish those that remain.

She does not know boundaries. She does not often accept excuses. And a lot of the time, I kind of want to punch her, but I also know that she has no end.

And because of that, because of the limitless expanse of her attention and insanity, her patience and her drive, I find that I am able to love another human with an intensity that otherwise I would not have possessed.

Mommy has no end. She is both the peppy cheerleader and the cruel slave-driver of my life. She keeps me pushing on, sometimes too hard. And while I know she will weasel her way into just about every crevice of my life with no qualms, I also have found that good, uninterrupted (ahem, childless) conversation, loud belly laughs, and car drives with the windows down and the music up (WAY UP) can drown her out pretty well when need be.

So, while it’s frightening to know that she will not leave my side (presumably) for the rest of my life, and that sometimes I will feel like the host to a woman who will do awkward and sometimes nearly inconceivable things that the “real me” would have never done,  all in the name of fierce and unconditional love. I can also say that most days, I take great comfort in the fact that the woman from before–that knew so little of what it would take to be a mom–will never be alone.

So, here’s to learning to accept the new and wonderful, while also slightly terrifying sides to ourselves that have evolved, all in the name of motherhood.