The Agony and the Ecstasy

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That doppelganger was me. Externally I was exactly the same but inside I was immeasurably changed. I had been hollowed out overnight and rebuilt with one singular purpose…to keep my child safe and happy. The things that occupied me in the past were cast off with the ease of a shawl falling to the ground. I didn’t care about the mess in my household, baby throw up on my linen sofas, the stench of poo in my nostrils first thing in the morning or mashed up food turning up in my pockets as I searched for my house keys. I was consumed by my baby and although the passage of time has loosened the intensity of my gaze and allowed some of my former life to come creeping back in I am forever changed.

Somewhere in the recesses of memory I can recall some passage in the French philosopher Jean Paul Satre’s existential tome ‘Being and Nothingness’ in which he talks about the paradoxical nature of love. The lover brings forth an imagined state of affairs in which he seeks to believe that their love could never have been any other way…that their love is true love, both predestined and immutable. He also demands unconditional love…a state in which he can never be unloved. Most important of all he also demands that this be done freely. Of course this is impossible. Love between two people is conditional and it requires constant reaffirmation to sustain it. Inherent in any relationship is the possibility it could be otherwise, such is the nature of free choice. And yet if there were any state which could satisfy such a paradox it would be motherhood. From the moment my daughter was born I knew fate had conspired in all its majesty to deliver that little girl and no other to my door. I loved her as I continue to love her with every atom of my being. I am a willing prisoner of my emotions. I am both compelled to love her and yet I do so with the absolute freedom of a bird standing upon a mountain peak. This might sound like hyperbole, like some embellishment to cover up the grim urbanity of human existence, but as any mother out there holding her new born in her arms for the first time knows these words do it no justice at all. In philosophy there is the term ‘qualia’ which is used to describe a quality of experience that cannot be rendered in mere words. It was termed for such moments as these. Some of the more empirically minded would no doubt introduce talk of natural bonding hormones, oxytocin and so forth released at the moment of birth, but if that is the precipitating cause of those feelings, then inside us small gods there be.

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