That Longing for a Holy Completeness

Last night, I had a really intense dream telling me that my (future) baby had begun his descent to the earth: I saw that it had been given a soul or had chosen a soul and was still very high up and far away, and that this process had begun seven months ago—I mean that seven months ago it had connected to my heart, as if a baby is born first, far in advance, in the mother’s heart. The vision was about to end when I desperately rushed to whatever oracle was making it clear, and asked if it was not too late to choose the path along which having this baby was possible. I was reassured that it was not.

You didn’t make a choice to go in that direction. Life—nature—pulled your strings.

The following is an excerpt from Motherhood, by Sheila Heti, out today from Henry Holt and Company.

There is a part of me that isn’t taking any of this writing seriously because there’s a man in the next room, sleeping. Something about him being there suspends me above all this writing. Because I’m getting something from him, I don’t feel like searching for answers. Did my words protect me before, whereas I have no need of their protection now? Were they how I comforted myself before, while I have less need of their comfort now? Do I no longer need to structure the chaos, for love not only structures it, but gives meaning to everything?

Since returning home, I have been feeling that urge—that longing for a holy completeness in the form of a child. Do some women feel this way all the time, carrying a conviction so deep that nothing and no man can shake it? Is that how it is for these women whose bodies strive towards babies—that in their maneuverings with men, they feel they are following the highest bidding; the men not useful in themselves, but mainly as a route to something else?

Sometimes I feel it would be so easy to have Miles’s baby—his flesh inside mine, his skin so nicely scented, so clean, so smooth; that brain, that heart, mixed with mine. When I described this to Erica, she said, You’re not describing wanting his child in you. You’re describing wanting his cock.

I saw it was true: when I imagine being pregnant, it’s more like the feeling of something lodged inside me—so big, so deep, and feeling so good. I suppose it wouldn’t be like that. Then do I really want a child, or do I just want more of him? A child is not more of him. A child is not your boyfriend. When the child grows up and has sex with other people, they are especially not yours then.


Last night, I had a really intense dream telling me that my (future) baby had begun his descent to the earth: I saw that it had been given a soul or had chosen a soul and was still very high up and far away, and that this process had begun seven months ago—I mean that seven months ago it had connected to my heart, as if a baby is born first, far in advance, in the mother’s heart. The vision was about to end when I desperately rushed to whatever oracle was making it clear, and asked if it was not too late to choose the path along which having this baby was possible. I was reassured that it was not.


I think I do want a child with Miles. My heart kind of leaps at the thought in a happy way, and it makes me feel light to think about it. I always want it most strongly as I lie in bed beside him. Then perhaps I should talk to him about it. But what would I say? Part of me feels I’m not a real enough woman to pull it off—the making of a child. Other women can pull it off, but I could not. I don’t have the energy for all that talking. I would feel like a virgin who doesn’t know how to place her hands, or how to place her words. Maybe it’s because I don’t really feel the desire. Or maybe just because.

I think I don’t want to seem ordinary in Miles’s eyes; I would rather not have a child than appear that way. Or maybe I can’t say it because I don’t want to lose face, not after saying so often that it’s what I don’t want. Do I not want to be seen as having changed my mind, or for him to think I’m ridiculous, which he certainly would if I suddenly brought it up? Maybe I would rather leave him than say it.


Whenever we have sex lately, I fantasize about Miles coming in me, as though he wants to make a baby, and I’m turned on by the idea that he wants to—more turned on by that than any other fantasy. I used to want to be sexually dominated by him, but lately I don’t. If I had a baby, I’d be dominated by the needs of the baby. I don’t fantasize about being dominated by the needs of a baby. Yet I still imagine him coming in me.

Perhaps my body is demanding a child of me, and my rational mind is trying to make sense of it. It seems to be amping up its demands, not only on me, but on all the women I know, who are in some crazy heat, wanting to fuck whichever man. Three women I know have left their partners, each in a sudden way, and each for a new man, who they are now either married to or are trying to get pregnant by, as if some part of their bodies suddenly switched on, and pointed at a more real and compelling future.

Does the lizard brain trick the body into singing its ancient song? Of course, you are more than the parts you recognize as you. Perhaps those other parts were quieter in the past, or did their work without being noticed, while now you can see their elbows, their toes sticking out, pulling on the strings of your life. But those same creatures were always there, pulling on the strings of your life. Will you one day feel about the mothering instinct the same way you now feel about the sex instinct, which also suddenly turned on? Like that other passage, you’ll resist it, but in retrospect, it took you. You didn’t make a choice to go in that direction. Life—nature—pulled your strings. That is why you have no regrets about those years. And where did it land you? In a more interesting place. It resulted in a more interesting time. Is your body now pulling you towards motherhood, in the same way?

Discussing all this with Teresa, she said she had to tie herself to her bedposts in her late thirties in order not to go down into the street and grab the first decent-looking fellow she saw, and impregnate herself there. She did everything she could to resist her body’s urgings, and now she is glad she did.


When I think about what I really want, it is a girlfriend for me and Miles. I want a girlfriend around to balance out the masculine he brings, with something more feminine, so our home is more balanced, and my life is, too; so I don’t ask him for things he cannot give—the kind of companionship I can only have with a woman. I want a girlfriend and a boyfriend both. I want a woman for us more than I want a baby. I think it would make everything easier, sweeter, more truthful, and more right.

The one time Miles and I had a threesome with a female friend, I felt, This is heaven, this is everything I have ever wanted in my life. This satisfies every last part of me.


I had a dream last night that Miles was kissing another woman on a park bench. He seemed to think there was nothing wrong with the way he was kissing this woman’s hair, or how they touched tongues. It was clear how much she wanted him. Angrily, I walked away—as if to throw out some garbage— then I walked back. I told him that if he was going to carry on like this, I didn’t want him at all.

I woke up crying. When Miles saw me, he got upset and said I shouldn’t be crying on account of my dreams. He said he would be ashamed if his nightmares led him to wake up crying. But the dreams play on real feelings in me!—feelings of being abandoned. Then I get sad and cry, which makes him in fact abandon me.

I am a blight on my own life. How can I stop being a blight on my life? It is not right to be a blight on the bounty of life. It’s not right to always be sitting here, crying. Outrun your tears—that’s all you can do. Outrun your tears like an athlete every day. Outrun your tears like someone with faith. Okay, I will outrun my tears and win.


I smoked some pot to get rid of the tears. It’s a week before my period begins. Days ten and six and five and one before my period comes are the worst. The rest of the days aren’t so good, either.

When I am high, terror replaces the tears. Is that what the tears are masking? Terror that a month has passed without me getting pregnant? Is that what PMS is—some primal fear, maybe of death, or of not having reproduced? Or anger at Miles for not getting me pregnant, just wanting to push him out of the house and out of my life and find a man who will? I felt happier before I was high, although I wanted to cry. Now I’m paranoid, but not as teary. Which is better? It was better before.


What to make of God’s two faces, the all-accepting and loving New Testament Ovulating God, and the vindictive and rageful Old Testament PMS God? How to reconcile these two within my own body?

To try and understand my moods: my two weeks of unhappiness—PMS, the luteal phase. Then a few days of bleeding. Then a week of mild newness—the follicular phase—when my body is preparing for new life, and ideas come to me easily. Then a few days of ovulating—those days of sparkling joy, when my body most wants to fuck, and nothing in my life feels off.

Maybe if I can predict this cycle, I won’t have to take my moods as personally, or do such elaborate contortions to escape them, but can see them for what they are: part of nature, like clouds are part of the sky. Maybe my moods are evidence of how a human is part of time, or is bound to time, or is time. The female body, in particular, expresses time and is close to time. When the blood comes out, another month has passed. Erica said, Actually, I think “the soul of time” is a pretty accurate way of describing PMS. It’s not just a metaphor. It IS the soul of time. That’s why it’s so unpleasant.

Excerpted from Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Published by Henry Holt and Company, May 1st 2018. Copyright © 2018 by Sheila Heti. All rights reserved.

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