The Beautiful Vortex

By: Emily Weitz
May 09, 2021

Everyday people will stop you on the street to tell you how beautiful you are, multiple times. You will look up at them, your eyes straining through the fog of sleep deprivation and an upturned world.

“Thank you,” you’ll say, and you’ll smile sweetly, mimicking the Virgin Mary, hoping that will be enough to appease them.

Are you beautiful? You’re not sure. You were once, in your unique way. But that’s when you were just you. Just two long legs, and two empty arms, and a face with eyes that focused without a second thought.

playing on the beach

Now, you are a heap of many arms and legs and exposed nipples. You are caked in bits of food and spit-up, and you haven’t looked at yourself in the mirror in weeks. But this is beautiful. People stop you on the street to tell you so.

And you feel it too, in unexpected moments: tiny fingers grasping your thumb, sunshine filtering through a muslin blanket, or the most beautiful of all, the sweet sleep when you’ve both given in, past the tears and the milk, so only the holding remains.

holding hands

You fell into this vortex a young woman, with two hips that pointed the same way. You had a job, you had goals, you had successes and people listened to you when you spoke. You studied things and processed things, and those things came out of your mouth with an air of distinction. That was before you fell into this vortex.

It will hold you. It will drink you in with your babe in arms, and it will soak through you. There will be days, so many days, when you don’t get out of pajamas, or you never get into them in the first place. When the bigger questions become, what’s the point of pajamas, and what’s the difference between day and night?

The answer, of course, is coffee and wine. That’s the difference between day and night, and you must try not to get those two things confused.

You’ll make friends in the vortex. They’re held there too, and you paint scenes together of swingsets and beaches and forests and parks. At first it’s as though you’ve only landed together by chance, but then you’ll come to count on them. You’ll know how to make mac and cheese on their stove, and they’ll know how to find Band-Aids in your cabinet. You love the people from outside the vortex, from before, but it becomes harder to reach them, or for them to reach you. Suddenly you are raising your baby with other women, without whom you couldn’t survive.

laying in the sand

You might have more babies. You might be so close to the light, so close to emerging from the vortex, only to be sucked back in. People stop you again, to say how beautiful you are, and you want to punch them because they forgot to mention how beautiful your first baby is, and she’s holding your leg as you juggle an infant and her thousand requirements.

The weight of things is stifling. The car seat you have to heave up and down the hill, the pack and play that needs to be set up every time you sleep away. The stroller, and its wonky wheel. The plastic that seems to flood into your yard and your joke of a “writing studio”. You never wanted the plastic. You never asked for it. But now if you tried to get rid of it, the screams would pierce painfully through the fog of your exhaustion.

You fell into this vortex knowingly, but knowing nothing at all. You were always on the outside before. You were those people on the street, stopping women to tell them how beautiful they are. You wanted that beauty. You didn’t know that what you interpreted as a graceful, satisfied smile, was just an inability to form coherent words.

It’s hard, at first, to understand why people are so obsessed with you, with your newborn. With the beauty of it all. But, as that second newborn grows, and you look up and your firstborn baby is practically tweening, you start to get it.

You’re not a young woman anymore. The vortex stole that and processed it – long strolls to nowhere and 50 lullabies in a row. It claimed that young woman and gave her deep smile lines, and a few gray hairs that hadn’t been there before. Aches where there had been none. Patience where there was none.

You then start to realize, as you walk down Main Street and a woman struggles to secure her baby onto her chest, and the diaper bag is on the pavement and there’s avocado in her hair. And you’ve never seen anything so beautiful - because she’s in it. She’s in the beautiful vortex.

a mom with her baby

You look to the side and your first baby has her nose buried in a book. Your second is playing with a puppy on the street. You see light, you have goals and plans, and you can easily construct a sentence. You’ll never be in that vortex again, but when you look at her, you’ll remember the love of your life being born.

Emily Weitz is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vice, and Longreads, among other publications. From her airstream trailer in Sag Harbor, NY, she attempts to stay connected to the big, big world by teaching yoga, playing music, and helping to run a small non-profit in Uganda. She is currently working on a collection of essays. Follow her on Twitter @emilyjweitz.

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