09/30/2014 07:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Umbilical Thread, His Gut to Mine

Sukey Forbes

I know tomorrow, my abs will be sore. Not from yoga. Not from crunches. I know that by attending my son's kart race in Sonoma, I will be terribly sore the next day. This has become my familiar routine. I perch trackside on the grandstand watching Cabot hurling and winding his way around the course at 120 mph with his bottom half an inch above the ground in a steel-framed open kart. With each turn, I move right along with him. I feel the g-force. The grooved pavement rattles my spine from sacrum to occiput at the apex of each turn. I am conscious of my breath. My toes curl inside my shoes and my hands open and close as he flicks the paddles on the steering wheel, shifting the gears every second or two. Though I don't know how frequently he should shift, I often notice as he whizzes past me on the track that our hands are moving in unison. It isn't that I worry about him getting hurt (although that fear is always just beneath the surface); it is more that in the intensity of his focus on the course I, too, am able to tune in and in that moment comes an awareness of my continued attachment to him.


I'm not talking about mama love here and I'm not talking about helicopter parenting. I'm talking about basic neurochemical biology. As if an imperceptible spider-thread extension of the long since severed umbilical chord winds its way through the curves of the course along with him. It tangles and twists as he makes his way around the track. It tugs from my core to him. Lean right, lean left, hunch forward on the straightaway. Like it or not, I'm right there with him.

Though the umbilical cord connecting child to mother is cut within moments of our children's births, I'm not sure we ever fully sever the flow of life force between the two. We carry some essence of our children inside of us through their entire lives. It is my belief that our children carry bits of us inside of them as well. This does not end with the transfer of DNA and the exchange of chromosomes.


At a recent race, my son was ahead in his final and most important event of the day. I was elated, yet sat still despite a racing heart and adrenaline coursing through my veins. When he was taken out by another driver in turn three I felt his frustration, disappointment, self recrimination and anxiety as he tried in vain to start his kart, then struggled to pull it off to the side to safety with only milliseconds to spare another collision. Other times when he crosses the finish line to the checker flag my chest swells, I feel his elation, I feel his pride at a job well done. Win or lose, I can sense his measured breathing through the passes, the ups and downs and twists and turns. He is trained to do this. Unwittingly, I follow along and unless I'm quiet I often don't notice that it's happening. These are all a part of his experience and yet, I feel them to my marrow as if they were my own. Physical and emotional. We take it all on. To say it is vicarious seems a disservice and muddies his journey. I am not living through my son. It is more than that. It is his life yet as his mother much of what he experiences transmits straight back to me. I feel his life whether I like it or not. It travels along that twisted and imperceptible cord right from his gut to mine. And there it settles, occupying the space that 18 years ago he filled. Who knows if he wants it to? Who asked me if I wanted to take that on? But it's there.


I wouldn't have it any other way.