Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ego and sufficiency

For the last 16 months, my body was telling me, “you’re doing all you can, my dear. You’re perfectly efficient, sufficient; you’re perfect.” It didn’t expect anything more from me than what I was already doing—creating a new little body, feeding a little body.

But this week, my body resumed its monthly invitation to create additional life. Suddenly, what I’m doing isn’t enough, biologically speaking. My body doesn’t seem to realize that, unless something drastically changes in my life, there isn’t going to be a little sibling for my daughter. Or that if I had one more responsibility thrust upon me right now, I honestly think I'd break.

I used to hate anything that separated me from the baby I had carried inside me. It took me a long time to get her a bed of her own, to start her on cereal and baby food. But now my own body is doing it to me. I know I need my own life so my little one can develop her autonomy as well. It’s only the beginning of a long good-bye that started the day she was born.

Lucille Clifton had something to say about this kind of thing:

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is G-d
i agree with the leaves

Nature abhors a vacuum. Those leaves in the Clifton poem are making way for new buds.

Writers as diverse as Simone Weil and Joseph Soloveitchik remark that it is human nature for the ego to want to fill all the space it has. Soloveitchik says that G-d willfully withdraws from the world so that humans can have space for autonomous action. A well-known DC rabbi says, in essence, that parents have to act like G-d; they have to create a space (what Weil calls a vacuum in the ego), so that children can learn autonomy.

It’s what my body is preparing me for. But it also requires a loving detachment for me not to use my baby to make up for insufficiencies in myself. I imagine, as a parent, this will be a repeated temptation for me.

3 comments:

mother in israel said...

The steps toward independence, like sleeping in his own bed and gradual weaning through solid foods, let your body know that your baby needs you less and another pregnancy is possible. You can read more about it on my blog--look for the breastfeeding label. I hope that this transmission goes smoothly for you.

prof said...

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Maya said...

Thanks, Mother in Israel! I had no idea that letting the baby sleep in her own bed would have this effect. Your breastfeeding posts are extremely helpful, and I wish I had read them earlier.