The bitter and the sweet

The Write-Away Contest hosted by ScribbitThe stereotypical image of the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden is an apple. I must respectfully dissent from popular opinion here—if I had to choose a modern fruit to grow on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, I’d have to go with the plum.

It’s nothing personal against the fruit; I love plums. I love them so much that I buy them and eat them and enjoy them despite what I’ve long viewed as the fruit’s inherent flaw: the skin. Aubergine or carmine or ultramarine, smooth and cool, the skin of the plum holds the promise of its sweet flesh—but with a price.

When I eat a plum, the first bite follows a silent crescendo of anxious anticipation. As my teeth break that skin, I know that I will soon be enjoying the sweet buff- or burgundy-colored flesh of the plum, one of my favorite fruits. But as that sweet juice hits my tongue, it is immediately mingled with the tart tang of the plum’s skin.

Sometimes, I think of motherhood like a plum. I look at where I am in life, and I know that motherhood is my calling—and I couldn’t imagine giving up my sweet children. But at the same time, I have won that love for my children with a price that at the time felt bitter.

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I recently visited a friend, a first-time mom with a seven-week-old. I try to be cautious when talking to new moms; I can never tell if they’re one of the breed of mothers alien to me—they take to that newborn stage with glee, seeming to revel in the sleepless nights, the endless cycle of feedings, the near-loss of self.

My friend was more like me. “How could someone say they love being a mother?” my friend wondered aloud. “How could someone ever find this fulfilling?”

I knew how she felt all too well. When I first became a mother, the initial overwhelming surge of needs, lack of response and feelings of both boredom and inadequacy floored me—motherhood floored me. For weeks, it seemed, the first taste of motherhood, like the first taste of a plum, brought me gall.

I’ve often contemplated peeling a plum before eating it, just to avoid its bitter flavor. But I just know that no matter how sharp my knife, I’ll end up losing a lot of the already-limited sweet flesh if I try to take off that tart outer covering.

It was months before I finally began to taste the sweet of motherhood. It started small—very small—with the first grins. The way his eyes lit up when he saw my face. His laughter. Motherhood was still demanding, and it still is, but the smiles, the giggles, and the spontaneous “I love yous” give glimpses of the sweet dividends I anticipate.

In life, there will always be the bitter. Though I don’t dwell on it as much anymore, adjusting to motherhood will probably always be one of those experiences for me whenever I do look back on it. But, like the plum, there is so much more sweet than the bitter in motherhood—and without that bitter skin, I don’t know if I’d ever really come to value the sweet.

If I had to pick a fruit to make one wise, to know good and evil, it would be the plum. It’s only in seeing the contrast that we really come to know the good and the evil, the bitter and the sweet.

References: Genesis 2 and 3

Part of the March Write-Away Contest at Scribbit

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20 thoughts on “The bitter and the sweet

  1. great essay. I love thinking of the plum as the sweet/bitter fruit. Just today I ran into a friend with a 6 week old who feels ashamed to acknowledge how little she is enjoying motherhood. Sadly, it appears that she feels alienated from her husband too who keeps insinuating that there is something wrong with her for not wanting to continuously hold her son when “she wanted this baby so bad”. I’m grateful for supportive people around me who help to make the transition to motherhood more smooth.

  2. And the only way I’ll eat a plum is if it’s dried. Love prunes, hate plums–how weird is that?

    And of course totally off the subject.

    If the forbidden fruit had been a plum though? I would never have been tempted :)

  3. Terrific post – and a great take on the contest topic… I know exactly what you mean about that bitter first taste of motherhood – something you don’t want to openly state, but it’s there nonetheless – the boredom and inadequacy intertwined. The rewards are sweet, but there are definitely moments of both.

  4. Elisa—Thanks! I can see why it’s so hard for people who aren’t experiencing this to understand. It was hard to understand from the inside, too!

    Michelle—Well, I guess it’s a good thing it was Mother Eve in the garden then ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

    Thanks, Mom! You were a big help!

    MEM—I feel like a lot of mothers are afraid to admit they feel/felt this way. But when we don’t admit it, other mothers going through the same thing feel like they’re the only ones—and so do we. Thanks!

    Wow, Traci, thanks so much! I was just about to comment on your post!

  5. Congrats on winning the Write-Away contest!

    (I’ve never been able to wholeheartedly enjoy plums bec. of that skin — with fruit that is not sweet enough, to me, to make up for it. I hope there’s not a deep metaphor for my motherhood there!).

  6. Hey! congrats on the winning entry for Scribbit. I got your comment on mine about the 3:00 chocolate and yes, I did indeed wait! It was rough, but I did it.

  7. Congrats on winning the Scribbit Write Away Contest! This was a great essay! It’s so true, how could we really appreciate the sweetness of motherhood without any of the bitterness? I can totally relate!

  8. Wonderful analogy. Loved the way you brought it all together – the pain/pleasure of motherhood, the sweet-sour of the fruit and of course, the Biblical bits (because all these emotions are as old as man/woman). Really, really brilliant.

  9. @Alicia—sometimes I feel like this is the “dirty little secret” of motherhood—very few seem to speak openly of it (though I know it’s certainly not universal).

    Thanks once again, all!

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