Last week at Gymboree there was a parachute catastrophe. Well, maybe not a catastrophe, per se . . . maybe more like a debacle. It was a big class — 20 or more kids (including Charlotte), plus their ‘accompanying adult’ (including Niki). It was such a big class that the big parachute* was taken out. The parachute is supposed to be the highlight of every class. It is supposed to be the most fun. And we, as accompanying adults, are supposed to think it’s the cutest thing. Ever.
So there we are: 20 kids and at least 20 adults, all abuzz with big parachute excitement. We get to the part where the kids are supposed to sit in the middle of the chute while we, the accompanying adults, lift up the edges, walk in a circle, and sing a song about a monkey. But this time, there were so many kids, that they were scattered all over the parachute. So when we lifted up the edges a bunch of kids (Zoey among them) went tumbling into the center. The highly trained Gymboree teacher assured us this was OK. Although it seemed less OK to me as the kids continued to tumble over each other. It was a giant pile of babies — which might have been cute if many of the babies hadn’t been screaming. Zoey among them.
Zoey looked up at me from the center of the melee, tears streaming down her face, and wailed, “Na-na!” ** My vision tunneled, and there was only Zoey, scared and needing me. At that moment if anyone has gotten in my way they would have been leveled. Leveled. Her little butterfly of a hand closed around my index finger and that invisable, silver thread that always connects us, always pulls her back to me — touching or not, became steel. Just as I was about to do a slow motion, layout jump into the parachute screaming, “GET AWAY FROM MY BABY”, Niki grabbed Zoey’s other hand and we pulled her out. *** We will be getting a bronze statue of Niki installed in our front yard later in the week.
This 9 seconds was one of the most intense and best experiences of my Reign as Mom so far. I can say ‘best’ because a) no one was hurt and b) Niki prevented me from making a fool of myself. Another reason I can say ‘best’ is because there was a time I didn’t know if I had the capacity to do what I did — the tunnel vision, mama bear thing.
Did I love Zoey the first moment we met her? Yes. Did I feel connected to her? Not so much . . . I felt overwhelmed and scared and like I had to hold part of myself back in case the adoption didn’t work out. Even after she was legally ours, I felt ‘other’ and wrong and like I wasn’t the good enough mother. Post-partum/post-adoption depression is real. Hormonal, situational, whatever. It’s a dark and lonely place to be. And it’s one hell of a hole to climb out of.
But deep in that muddy, messy hole is where I started to weave that silver thread. I often fumbled it, had to tie knots, had to start over. It’s hard to weave when you can’t see. But I got better at it — learned to go by touch, by heart. The thread got longer and stronger and I climbed up to the light. I climbed out of the hole and was ready to kick ass at Gymboree for that same little baby I used to hold at night, numb, thinking You don’t know me.
Zoey’s little butterfly hand is getting bigger and bigger. Already, sometimes instead of reaching for me, she swats me away. Even though that silver thread will have to get longer and longer — maybe even stretch across continents — that thread is forever. And we both know it.
* For those of you not familiar with Gymboree, the appropriate response to the big parachute is ‘Oooooh! Ahhhhhh! Ohhhhh!’.
** The fact that she can’t yet say Mama is the subject for another (bitter) post.
*** Charlotte was unharmed and remained very serene during the parachute madness