Today Waylon told me, “I want you to have 3 more babies, so you can have 3 more soft bellies, and then you’ll have 4 soft bellies and I can touch all of them.”
He explained to me that each baby I had would produce a subsequent belly on my back and each side. 5-year-olds are experts when it comes to mixing desires with logic. My belly has always been his safe place, his grounding, his comfort. When we snuggle, he tells me, “I love your belly, oh I love your belly! It’s so soft!”
Before I was pregnant, I prized strength. I did ab workouts each day. I felt quietly proud when my midwife would declare “you’re so strong!” as she felt for my baby’s position. It’s not until that baby stretched my stomach out did I discover the strength in softness.
Like seeds, babies teach us that strength comes as much from muscle as it does from gentleness.
We need that outer coat to protect the embryo within, we need our abs to lift and push and propel us forward. And then we plant the seed, and we need it to soften its coat. To give way to gentleness in order to set roots down and send up a shoot.
The body of a mother is simultaneously the strongest and the softest.
What I’m getting at is this: it’s okay to be soft. To be gentle.
It’s okay to feel your body and heart shift with the seasons, to grow closer to the soil, to tend to yourself as you would a seed. Motherhood and farming changes us in ways we could never imagine. They change the shapes of our bodies and the size of our emotions and widen our sense of connection.
Because sometimes, the only thing that will keep us sane in the season of young motherhood and young farms is the understanding that everything’s connected—even when it feels as if we’re alone in our doubts and failures.
Under our feet mycelium is running, sending signals to the kale and chard, invisibly carrying us from the garden to the forest, whispering messages to trees. Let yourself be carried.
You don’t have to build up muscle all the time.
Your body will change, as will the fields. Your children’s bodies will grow, and through it all your gentleness will be the nourishment that growth depends on.
So take a deep breath. Honor the soft parts of your own body. It’s where all the strength comes from.
Sink into soil. Sit among crops. Witness how easily the trees drop their leaves in the fall, and remember that new ones will grow come spring. You can do this, too.