Friday, May 9, 2014

Motherhood: Lessons from the first time around

My first few minutes as a mom: November 7, 2004
This fall my husband I will welcome our third baby into our family. My daughters will be celebrating their 8th and 10th birthdays with a very new little sibling. When I was their age I was sure I would have at least four kids, maybe more. Shortly after they were born I was quite sure two was plenty. Things change. Last summer we felt that our family needed to grow, that we have room in our house and hearts for another and maybe more. As winter turned to spring we learned that we were expecting; the familiar but long-dormant feelings of pregnancy set in.
With two pregnancies under my belt, the sensations and aches are often familiar but the accompanying feelings and thoughts are very different this time around. What I would have misunderstood as apathy ten years ago, I now understand is surrender.
This time I have surrendered the past. Before I had even left the hospital with my first daughter I remember sobbing at the realization that my whole life had changed. Never again would I be able to plan an impromptu roadtrip, sleep-in, or make any decision ever without giving thought to her needs. In all honesty, I sobbed “my life is over.” I had wanted a baby to dress up and bring out for play times but I had not understood that to become a mother meant that the past must become a closed chapter. Now I know. I know that life will not look the same when this baby arrives. I know that our life as it is right-this-minute seems pretty darn great and to change it will feel a bit absurd at first, but this baby deserves to be born free of that burden, free of the need to maintain a reality that cannot be maintained. This baby will have needs that will demand changes in our schedules and commitments, but it’s going to be a new beautiful life.

This time I have surrendered my body. It really would not be sufficient to express the feelings I had about my new body after baby without incorporating a number of expletives. The places the nurses put ice packs was unheard of, the way they rammed their hands around my gelatinous belly was agonizing, the fact that my lactation consultant was an undercover torture agent that left my tender mommy-bits severely bleeding was the last straw. Around day three I stood under a hot shower as my milk came in, doubled-over in pain, certain I would never feel normal again. Now I know, I will. I know the discomfort won’t last, the odd shapes won’t last, and let’s be real the bladder control has been gone for quite some time. I know that my body is strong and I am fortunate to have it.
This time I have surrendered my baby. With my first I wanted a girl, a beautiful healthy little girl which is exactly what I got. For the second I absolutely wanted a girl and breathed a deep sigh when she emerged a ‘she’ so my first could have a best friend for life. I then went on to want them to be smart and congenial and ambitious. But as I’ve leaned into motherhood I have realized that what I want more than anything is for them to be who they were made to be, not by me but by God. Whatever it is they are going to become I pray they pursue it passionately, and that I am there to encourage rather than strong-arm. I know this baby could be a girl or a boy, could be brilliant or slow, could be healthy or maybe not. I know that he or she will be perfectly made as God has planned for him or her to be, and that’s what I want.
This time I have surrendered the future. When my first daughter was only a week old she was re-admitted to the hospital for a few days under the lights for her jaundice. When my husband and I were not sitting beside our sunbathing baby, we would take walks around the hospital halls. One afternoon a very elderly woman was wheeled by us and I began to cry, “Someday Carolyn will be very old. I cannot stand the thought that she will be on a cold hospital bed without anyone to care for her.” And thus I not only fretted about how her liver would become strong in the next few hours, or where she would attend Preschool in the coming years, but I worried about eight decades into her future and who would hold her hand on a cold hospital bed. Now I know. And all I really know now is that whatever the future looks like, for both our family and this baby, it is going to be just as it should. I know that this baby will be loved and cared for by me, but even more so I know that this baby, and our family, is loved and cared for by God. This does not mean a divine force-field from cancer or car accidents or loneliness in a far off hospital bed. It does mean that our future has divine hope that can fill all of the hurts that a broken world brings.


Angela said...

Beautiful! I'm so happy for your growing family. And feeling a little jealous too. It's such a blessing to grow by two feet :)

Missy said...

I love this post. It really is about accepting things as they are and finding beauty in it. Motherhood has changed me profoundly. Congratulations and good luck weathering the pregnancy!