Katherine Center is the bestselling author of How to Walk Away, the upcoming Things You Save in a Fire (August 2019) in the New York Times, and five other bittersweet comics. Her fourth novel, The Lost Husband, is currently being adapted by Six Foot Pictures into a feature film featuring Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, and Nora Dunn. Katherine has been compared with both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories "satis... fying in the most soul-nourishing way." Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk about how stories teach us empathy and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives with her fun husband, two sweet children and a fluffy-but-fierce dog in her hometown of Houston, Texas.READ MORE
There on the sofa, as I nursed Maxie and her eyes slid closed, I said to the girls, ‘I think nursing is where kisses come from.’ I had been thinking about it. Nursing had to be the place where nurturing and sweet milk and soft skin and mouths and warmth all came together and started to mean something about love. I had always assumed kissing was a learned thing, like waving bye-bye or speaking a language. But since Maxie, I’d decided that it was innate, the adult version of something we know to do from the moment we’re born. All of it tied together in the cycle of life.
And the way I loved her was like nothing else. This, I decided, was the love all other loves were measured against. They say girls look to marry their fathers, but I decided after having Maxie that we all, every one of us, were looking to marry our mothers. Sitting on the sofa with her wrapped in a soft blanket in my arms, I’d think, ‘This baby has it so good.’ It just seemed that the love I’d been searching and hoping for all my life was what Maxie already had right now: two big arms and a lap, a warm blanket, the background music of a heartbeat and a pair of lungs, food at a moment’s notice, sleep at every urge, and a person totally obsessed with her, whose every moment—waking or otherwise—was totally devoted to her comfort and care. Was that so much to ask for?
That was the tricky part. You poured inordinate amounts of time and attention and affection into your kids, but the result was indirect. You didn't point out a cat to your one-year-old and then watch him, minutes later, say 'Cat.' Instead, you pointed out a hundred cats to your one-year-old and then, one day, watched him point to a cat and say 'Mama.
It had not occured to me to mourn losing those things until now. I had done each of those things, somewhere along the way, for a last time - without realizing it was the last time. And even after I knew that I was no longer a child, somehow I'd assumed those things could have come back to me. Or that I could have gone back to them. But watching the movies on this day, I became aware of infinite losses.
Because the truth was, there was a dark underbelly of terror to motherhood. You loved your children with such an overwhelming fierceness that you were absolutely vulnerable at every moment of every day: They could be taken from you. Somehow, you could lose them. You could stop at the corner to buy a newspaper when a drunk driver veered onto the sidewalk. You could feed your child an E. coli-tainted hamburger. You could turn your head for a second while one darted out into the street. The threats to your child were infinite. And the thing was, if any of your children's lives were ruined, even a little bit, yours wold be, too.
Really, when I look back on it, I did exactly what I had set out to do. I changed my life. I woke myself up. I rediscovered passions of every variety. I forced myself to take a little time. I found a way to bring some of who I used to be into who I was.