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May 9, 2013

Kimberly McCreight: Motherhood --- A Ghost Story

Posted by tom

Motherhood can be daunting for any woman, and Kimberly McCreight is no exception. The debut author of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA has found that being a mother is not something that can be mastered; rather, it’s a constantly evolving process of triumphs, mistakes and growth. And along the way, Kimberly has learned to stop battling her worries and embrace the mysterious and ever-unknowable landscape of motherhood.

Children have always frightened me. I could never really relate to them, even when I was one myself. Babies were even more terrifying with all their needing-to-be-cared-for just exactly right. The idea of motherhood was equally daunting. The notion of being that person to another person left me feeling queasy.  

I’d never had a traditional mother-daughter relationship with my own mother, so I had no firsthand experience to fall back on either. And I was intimately familiar with my own shortcomings. I feared my mothering might be equally flawed. Not to mention that it seemed unfair to saddle some as-yet-unborn child with me as their image of perfection. And then there were the practical questions. How was I going to learn how to do everything when I lacked any maternal instinct whatsoever?

These days, I still find myself asking that question, and I’ve been a mother for almost a decade. I’ve figured out so much along the way, learning by doing (changing diapers, running a bath) and by doing wrong (scolding a stressed-out second grader for bombing a math test). 

But so many of the “how will I’s” of motherhood remain. Because there are always new challenges on the parenting horizon, no matter how old your children. The sleepless nights of baby-hood give way so very quickly to the sleepless nights of the teenage years. 

Right now, my daughters and I live in that sweet respite in between. In the past are first steps and first meals, and in the distance are curfews and smartphones. We rest in the eye of the storm. But in the quiet, I worry still. And it’s my fears about the challenges that lie ahead that inspired so much of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA. 

I lay awake wondering: How will I keep their hearts from getting broken? How can I be sure they’ll find lives that make them happy? How do I guarantee they won’t get depressed or abuse drugs? Ensure that they won’t grow to hate me?

I can’t. That’s the bottom line. I’ve been a mother long enough to know that. I’ve also been a mother long enough to know that not being able to control the peaks and valleys of my children’s future won’t keep me from worrying about it. Instead, I’ve learned to accept that for me, motherhood will always be two parts warm and fuzzy bliss, one part chilling ghost story. 

The best I can hope for is to set loose the most terrifying parts onto the page. And hope that’s where they stay.