"Mortal Terrors and Motherhood" By Amy Herrick
My little one sits in his bath splashing around contentedly. I am not prepared, my breath is taken away, when suddenly he looks up and asks me point-blank if it's true we all must die.
The answer I give him, of course, is not good news. I wait for him to say something, to rise up angrily and punch me in the nose at this, the greatest betrayal. But he just looks away and busies himself with his rubber frog.
I'm washing his face when he says, "And then after you die, you get to be a baby again?"
"Well, I don't know. Some people think after you die, you get to come back and be another person or animal."
"Do you think that?"
"No. I think after you die, you go back to nature. You become part of the trees and the grass and the sky."
"When are we going to die?"
" I dont' know. I hope not for a long time. I dope I don't die until you're grown up and have your own family and children"
"What about me?"
"Oh, I don't think you're going to die till you're very old and have your own grandchildren."
"Maybe it won't happen."
I hold my breath and think about it. Who knows? Then I laugh and see how I've been duped, duped by the cunning and perfect beauty of nature's system, which used babies as a way of securing allegiance to life, of commanding us to go forward and grow better, even though we are burdened with the certainty that in the end we must all return to dust. It is no use to ask the question would we have had them if we had known? There is no going back. We are all driven headlong by a force that has only one thing on its mind, which is to make something of nothing, pattern out of chaos, babies out of the dust motes dancing in the void.
It is the most darling of paradoxes that as fast as the universe makes itself, it is falling apart.
One picks oneself a baby out of the pot and in an instant the world is transformed into a gigantic booby trap. You are forced to see, not only how heartrendingly fragile a child is, but also that your own childhood is over, that there is an inevitable time limit to all things. Yet, faced with this, do you throw your hands up in despair and sink down into lassitude and indifference?
Certainly not, because here before you is that which you jump into a burning building, or out of a speeding locomotive, for. Here before you, by a trick of light upon the bathwater, is the little stroke of genius--the face, the sign, the map-- to show you your next move, to lead you through the doors of your own mortal confines to where you will outlast yourself.