One of the judges wrote this about Kate's essay: " I don’t even know what to say about this one. The writing is sublime, raw and accessible. The way she defines her transformation from that young woman on the couch to the 5 a.m. feeding mother blew me away. I’m not sure if the description of the transformation or the nature of the transformation itself won me over—I suppose it was a combination of the two—but I enjoyed feeling like I was taken by the hand and shown a movie of her life in just a handful of paragraphs."
Kate wins her choice of one of these prizes:
~ handknit wool soaker (up to $35 value) from Monkey Muffin Creations
~ $25 worth of handmade play food from Hooked in Harmony
More about Kate:
Kate is an academic at a large Midwestern university and is a proud attachment parent, with her husband, to a beautiful 9 month old daughter.
I still remember a warm autumn night spent with a new boyfriend in my college apartment. He showed up at my door stressed about a history paper, and in a calm voice, I encouraged him to meditate with me. We finished a glass of red wine and sat cross-legged on my worn leather sofa, faced one another, pressed our palms together and chanted om. He would tell me years later that, in that moment, he found me so amazingly cool, so calm, so sophisticated, and so deeply interesting. He fell in love with me there, hair drizzling out of my messy bun, seated cross-legged on the couch next to my battered copy of Villette and my half-completed application for the Ph.D. in English Literature. I was already smitten, and we married shortly afterward, moving halfway across the country together to pursue advanced degrees in the musty and mighty Midwest.
The truth is that I was so very far from being the woman he thought I was that night. Or, as I told him later, maybe he saw in me, as I tucked myself into the couch, the woman I would become just six years later. Barely twenty-two, I had already lived too many lives: I had a substantial drinking problem, had narrowly survived a brutal sexual assault, was a heavy chain smoker, attached myself fiercely to horrible, self-centered men (the present boyfriend excluded), and was deeply, irreversibly depressed. In hindsight, there were barely-perceptible symptoms of strength – after all, I was a competitive candidate in a brutal graduate school market, and I had apparently picked up something valuable from the inherited MTV Power Yoga DVD – but I was in most ways an exhaustively broken human being. I have always known how lucky I am that he just didn’t see that, that night on the couch.
It is six years later, and my steady and beautiful partner has seen me through therapy, through the unexpected and heart-exploding loss of close friends, through most of graduate school, through medicated stupors and sleepless nights of empty tears, through quitting smoking and drinking and through a heart-wrenching miscarriage and a traumatizing c-section. And we are now sitting cross-legged on the couch again cradling our newborn daughter. There are just no words for how ravished we are by her, how stunningly in love. He expresses fear: am I up to the task of motherhood? Will she inherit my anxiety, my sleepless nights, all my broken pieces that have taken six years and arduous emotional labor to “fix”? For the first time in my life, I am not worried. I tell him: when you realize that you are the woman – you are the woman she is going to hold up against all other women, you are what she will know when she becomes her own woman – you want to be some woman. I mean, you want to be the most amazing woman in the universe. He smiles a weary, wary smile. I have made these promises before: a better wife, a better student, a better person. He believes but does not trust that I will be a better mother.
I begin my time at home with her: four months before returning to school. We struggle and cry a lot at first. I hold her close every time. I find myself outside in the autumn air, walking her briskly, breathing slowly. She hates to sleep alone. I understand intuitively her fears and move her into the bed with me. We sleep, sweaty and jubilant, pressed up nose-to-nose. We breastfeed timidly at first, then boldly, defiantly, in the park and at the café over morning breakfast. She begins to smile – this crazy grin, this insanely radiant grin – and I lose whole mornings in the ready pink of her gums. I buy slings, carriers, anything to keep her heart close. I devour blogs and books on attachment parenting. She blows raspberries at me as I begin a daily yoga routine, sometimes bringing myself nose-to-nose with her in downward facing dog. She gives me that gummy, toothless grin as I chop veggies and pore over vegan cookbooks. My body becomes healthier and stronger than when I was a teenager. We nap together every day at 2:00, falling asleep just as Wayne Brady makes his first deal. It occurs to me that I am becoming a woman.
And then I have to go back to work. She starts full-time at a wonderful daycare. We cry together every single morning. She refuses the bottle and I insist on going over every three hours to feed her rather than start her on formula or solids. My pediatrician congratulates me on four months and says she can try other things. I quietly but vehemently disagree. My husband and I have long discussions about how important my dissertation is (very) and how much I can get done with her in the house (not much). We pull her out of full-time daycare anyway. She goes part-time now, and her gummy grin has returned.
I get up at five a.m. on Saturday and work, fiercely and determinedly. I want her to know me as fulfilled professionally as well as personally. In down moments, I passionately research natural childbirth and vaginal birth after cesarean. I want another of these reasons to live, these wonderful, life-changing beings. I want the next child to come into this world at peace and awestruck, into my partner’s waiting arms.
Last night, we were lying in bed, the three of us, my daughter taking deep, contented, heaving breaths. I say to him: I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy. He says to me: I think you have become the woman I fell in love with all those years ago on the couch. I smile: Welcome home, Kate, I think. This is the life you have always dreamed of. This time the om is real.