She had developed a habit of flopping herself backwards with
all her might. She was 10 months old
and her head was in the 80th percentile, so when she flopped, she flopped
hard. I’d become an expert at dodging
her noggin, but one night my reflexes were too slow. Boom! Her head collided with my nose, and I almost
blacked out from the searing pain.
I instantly burst into tears. Perhaps I was extra tired from working all
day and still nursing most of the night. I don’t recall the particulars of the day, except that blunt trauma to
my nose. I remember that.
My husband rushed into the room to find me sobbing into my
hands and my daughter staring at me with a quizzical look on her face. After examining me, my husband declared that
I would live and we both expected me to stop crying. Right about the time I expected the tears to
taper off, they escalated.
I couldn’t stop crying.
Having an intimate relationship with my daughter was likely to bring both great joy and immense pain to my life.
In that moment, as my nose was throbbing and my daughter was
snuggling with her father, I suddenly understood with great clarity that she
had the power to shatter me. It wasn’t
the nose thing—I knew I would get over that, even though it hurt pretty
bad. It was the startling reality that
this little girl who I loved with everything I had inside my imperfect mother’s
heart could hurt me more than almost anyone in the world. My daughter with the penchant for
head-butting would one day learn to talk and at some later date she would learn
how to sass me. From those little lips,
I would one day hear, Mom, I hate you. Those little hands would one day slam doors
in my face and those feet would stomp away from me in fury.
She’s going to break
my heart a million times.
I cried with the realization that there would be stormy days
in the years ahead—days when I would give anything for something as minor as a
nose ache in our relationship. I would
have to steel myself for the challenging days of her toddlerhood, then those of
her tween and teen years. Through it
all, I knew we would love each other, but the days were undoubtedly coming when
we didn’t particularly like each other that much.
The night my daughter knocked my nose was the end of my
innocence, and my baptism into the very real truth: that having an intimate
relationship with my daughter was likely to bring both great joy and immense
pain to my life. When I finally stopped crying that night, my daughter
crawled into my arms, her sweet warmth filling me up again.
Today, when we have our troubling times and our only mode of
interaction is a power struggle, I remember that night. I remember the softness that comes after the
pain and the truth of our relationship: We are more than our hard times and
bigger than the pain, annoyance, and frustration that we cause each other. Yes, we both have the power to hurt one
another, and sometimes we do, but we can always get back to the love, which makes
the entire struggle worthwhile.