The other day I came face to face with a Hummingbird. As in nose to beak. And even after I let out my scream of fear (it was the nature of the surprise encounter that startled me) the bird didn’t flinch. She stood her ground and looked me right in the eye. This wasn’t a bird acting out of curiosity or playfulness; this was a tiny bird acting out of fierceness. I recognized it immediately and knew this could only be the behavior of mama bird protecting her nest.
With one quick scan around the area, I discovered it; a round, tightly packed nest wedged in the branches of our magnolia tree, smaller than the size of my daughter’s fist. It was right at eye level and I was unknowingly about 3 feet from it when the mama gave me a warning. It’s been less than a week since the discovery and I’ve become a hummingbird expert. Photos, stories, websites, and other found resources have paved the way for this mama to get educated, empowered and most certainly protective. As I recently shared on my personal blog, “It’s our nest now. It’s in our yard. It’s our responsibility.”
As I stood quietly at my tripod, watching the nest from a distance through my newly rented 400mm lens, I could see the two baby birds fidgeting inside; bobbing up and down, beaks to the sky. I watched as one stretched up and lifted itself higher, reaching up with its neck and then falling toward the other side of the nest. My heart almost stopped. I know what was going on. I know the babies are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They’re growing. And practicing. Beaks, wings, feet, muscles, feathers…all developing at a rapid pace, just as every other baby hummingbird does. Just as every other baby does too. Even still I could feel my mama heart flutter with fear. What if something terrible happened to these babies as I watched? What if one fell from the nest? What if a predator swooped in? What if the mama bird never came back? All of these possibilities raced through my mind. I just didn’t think I could handle watching something horrible happen.
I was reminded of that feeling I had when I became a mother. That feeling that I couldn’t bare it if anything happened to my child. I felt it almost immediately once I became a mother and I’m pretty sure I have felt it in one way or another every single day since then. It’s agonizing when it gets the best of you; heartbreaking, tormenting, excruciating. Some days—when all goes as planned and you’re busy with life and your kids appear happy and healthy—it doesn’t rise all the way to the surface. But other days it does rise up, bubbling with intensity, that feeling again. When your child takes a tumble or has a fever or is out late with friends or gets their driver’s license. That’s the feeling.
I remember after my second daughter was born reading Guarding the Moon by Francesca Lia Block and feeling so understood. I realized that the feelings of fear and dread and heartbreak and desperation that all live side by side with all the other huge emotions of motherhood were Universal. That somehow every mother experienced all of them just as I had. And as I watch these baby birds I realize that motherhood goes beyond just being a mother to my own children. In fact, it extends and expands to any and all babies, no matter their species. I am a mother and I have been intrinsically changed. It’s part of the deal and I know I will always carry this with me. I will always be concerned, protective, and fierce when it comes to babies and children and those that need protection. Its part of what we as mothers have been called to do. This line from the book, still moving me to tears, “I feel as if I have been called on to guard the moon herself.”
Every single day. I so know that feeling.
For more about Tracey and how she elevates the everyday, visit her at traceyclark.com.
For the story about how she and her teen got here, take a peek at their first post at Reframed.
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