Motherhood ~ Grimm magic

mother and child

Visiting the Motherstate

By Mo Conlan

I have just returned from a trip to Motherhood. Primal, courageous, the font of it all. But dark and scary as a Grimm Fairy Tale, too.

I don’t see how one could be a poet and a mother at the same time. The mother always feeding the hungry babies, waking to their cries, a constant responder to their needs.

The poet must be selfish, seizing time to listen, to hear the inner voice, to organize and write down thoughts. Hers is a life of thought and reflection – and a certain quiet.

After a night with a newborn at the breast and an older child returned to it for comfort, and sleep only in snatches, a mother’s head is loggy. Her thoughts are half-formed. She is pure instinct and response. Pure body - leaky breast milk, newborn spitup, mountain of soiled diapers and occasional projective pee or poop in her face.

How could a mother be a poet - her poetstuff is going into her children.


I remember reading a short story in school. A young mother, fragile and delicate, is a patient at a sanitarium. Each day, her strapping baby son is brought to nurse. And as the child grows fatter and rounder of cheek, the mother grows ever wispier. Finally, there is nothing left of her. The child has sucked her dry.

When I see the fatigue on my daughter’s face, her sleepless nights of feeding and comforting her infant son and her 3-year-old who becomes ever more demanding in the night – I think of that story.

I long to protect my daughter from this terrible motherhood.


I try taking the 3-year-old under wing. She is a 28-pound field marshal amassing all her forces to retain her primacy in the face of the infant interloper. She is relentless in her campaigns – starting with charm, then pleas, tears, tantrums.

She locks us out of the house, paints her face with her mother’s red lipstick, scribbles over the picture her grandmother has drawn of the family, throws her dolls and toys around, refuses meals, throws herself on the ground and demands to be carried --- her mother’s arms now filled with the newborn brother.

She uses her entire arsenal. We must use restraint.

I have a talk with her --- looking down at this beautiful little face, the enormous black-fringed blue eyes and the golden curls.

“I want to ask you something.”


“I need you to do something for me. I need you to do what your mother says. Can you do that?”

“No, I cannowt.”

“Don’t you want to be a good girl for Mommy?”

She looks up at me all defiance and says in her baby voice,“I want to be a bad girl.”

She is fierce, this one. Stubborn. And honest.

In the mind and heart of this child, I know, is raging a drama worthy of Shakespeare. The heart has its own true love and all is paradise. Then another enters the garden and steals the true love. Tranquility is shattered. Dark forces are released.


I lie on the couch with the newborn sleeping atop me, his head crooked into my neck. Feeling the rise and fall of his breath. The gurgling sounds of his colicky digestion. The little coos he makes as he sleeps. His heart so close to mine.

I am filled with the communion of our souls. An image flashes through my mind of long-ago ancestors in animal skins sleeping clumped together. I know I am mostly the better for not being yoked to a domestic partner, but as I feel the rise and fall of his small chest, I know I am the worse for sleeping alone.


Little Brudder,
Little Fella
Groovy Girl.
These are the dolls she lives with.

Sara goes everywhere with her. Sara, she loves with passion, though when she was younger, she bit off part of the doll’s rubber fingers.

These are her boon companions now as she starts on this treacherous path into the larger world.

I wonder sometimes if the dolls might be a small Greek chorus—though I cannot hear them --- knowing her deepest thoughts and feelings and singing in the night of her storms and travails.

Kids can turn out to be fun. By Patty.

Sometimes you need a little Serenity. By Kathy.

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