A bird taught me my first lesson on motherhood.
I was pregnant on “bed rest.” The two babies burrowing inside me had confused the due date as coming two months too soon.
The days were long. I read. I planned. I knew, once they arrived, life before would be gone forever. From time to time, I leaned back in bed, pulled up my shirt to reveal my naked bowling ball belly and watch my babies dance. It was a real-time performance of tiny elbows, feet, and I’m not sure what poking into the walls of my womb. A choreographed dance born of undulations. I watched in awe until they calmed and moved off stage.
I lived on the fourth floor of a prewar apartment building in Brooklyn Heights. In the City, prewar means high ceilings, plaster walls covered with umpteen coats of white paint and uneven parquet wood floors.
Everyone wanted one.
The bird appeared in March and sat there, perched upon the sill outside the bedroom window. The window with the air conditioner. The window with a view down Pierrepont Street that ended in a vanishing point of brownstones and parked cars.
The bird was a mourning dove. Ashen brown, large breasted, poised. It stayed for a spell, fly off, then return to roost. Day in. Day out.
I was in a foul mood that day. I hadn’t slept. I felt cooped in. The bird was on its perch outside the window, glaring at me with its beady black side eye; its head jerking this way and that, trying to communicate something I had no intention of trying to understand.
I banged on the window glass between us. The bird didn’t move. I hit the glass again. Nothing. It was insolent. Didn’t budge.
I heard scuffling. It was from the other side of the window. The part I couldn’t see. I pushed a chair over, climbed up on it and peered down through the glass. There, in the space between the air conditioner and the sill were two baby birds in a makeshift nest, newly hatched, feathers matted and bright yellow beaks open and hoping and wide to the sky.
It was pure, aching vulnerability. Now I understood. Birds are built to fly but also to fly away. This bird didn’t fly away. Something stronger kept it there.
My first lesson on motherhood: stay.
Catherine Stratton is a filmmaker living in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is currently also pursuing her new found passion for writing lyrical pieces based on her experiences and the complexities of life.