Before she was born, she needed me completely — I was the very space in which she existed, essential for every element she required to sustain her life — and yet I knew her not at all, not even whether to call her “he” or “she”. Indeed, I wondered if she were even real, and not some figment of my hopeful imagination combined with a strangely bloated intestine.
On the day she was born, she needed me for nourishment, and warmth, for safety, and to bring her gas up, and even to regulate her moods for her. I knew her a bit better — I knew she was a she — but I looked at this alien creature, who screeched and frowned and made no sense to me at all, and I wondered if I loved her.
A month after she was born — or two months or three — she needed me still, but with each day she developed a bit more autonomy: she wanted burping a little less urgently, and she had some sense of day from night. She looked into my eyes and knew us to be separate beings. But for me those same months had been a transformation — she had become precious to me. All the pain, all the struggle of those nights of ceaseless feedings, the crying jags that lasted for hours, the the sheer exhaustion of seeing to her every physical need — all done night after night, day after day to ensure this child’s survival — it had cemented her in my soul as essential to my existence, and seared into my heart the lengths that I would go for her.
And every day there is a new development: one unsteady step, and then another, then she walks, and then she runs — sometimes she comes towards me, sometimes shre goes away. Every day she grows more independent. And though I am as thrilled by every achievement as if it were my own — each little victory tugging at my maternal pride and drawing me into her all the more — I know that every one means she needs me that bit less.
It will continue this way all our lives — a dance we will perform together slowly, until eventually we have changed places entirely. She was conceived needing me completely, while I needed her not at all. Someday, she will be grown and independent, busy with her life and remembering me occasionally. By then I will have been bewitched by her for so many years that I will be hopelessly lost in love, needing her to want me the way I have grown to want her. But she never will: it is nature’s design — and a lesson in humility — that mothers need their children that way more than children need their mothers.
And then, when I am very old and near my end, I will depend on her as completely as she depended on me that first day. We will have come full circle.