Monday, July 13, 2009

A Mother Heart

I know somebody who is enduring a lot of difficulty right now. One of these many difficulties is an unexpected pregnancy that has put her in the hospital on three months' bedrest. As hard as that sounds, it is really the tip of the iceberg. She is excited for the baby, but overwhelmed about how all the rest of everything will be managed.

Another problem at which all I can do is throw a casserole.

Or not. The baby coming is a boy; my friend's other children are girls. My own baby is two, and about a month ago I felt very compelled to give her my stuff. All of it. Now, you might say that it sounds like I'm making some sort of decision here. I'm not. I still can't get the right inspiration about my BIG question, but I do know I'm supposed to give away my stuff.

As it turns out, she doesn't need the furniture, but she does need nearly everything else. Tonight, for family home evening, I went through three huge bins full of gorgeous boy baby clothes aged o-18 months. I culled them yet again for Goodwill-worthy items, pulled out the wee things with the most sentimental value, and boxed the rest of lovingly used baby things for my friend. I packed away my like-new Boppy for when she nurses her little man; the one with the cover that matches the nursery I never got to have for the Youngling. I packed up my bouncy chair too; maybe they will finally put some batteries in it, a thing I never did.

I've told myself for two weeks I was going to do this. Tonight I hoped to feel some sense of relief or closure as I de-cluttered my life and found a happier home for all of these things. Instead I found myself saying, several times, "I have to keep THAT! All three boys wore it, and the next one will need to also!" or "I couldn't stand it if there was another baby and I'd given THIS away." And I cried. Not a lot, but some. My three little boys helped Plantboy pull out the old peas, spread compost and put in the fall crop of carrots and beets. So grown up. So energetic. So not babies.

My heart is so full tonight with emotions I cannot explain or understand, at least not entirely. I feel an odd mixture of nostalgia, confusion, wistfulness and sorrow for just how short their tiny years are. And yet, when you are in the middle of that babyhood it is so hard--at least for me it is. I was never all that naive about the difficulty of having kids: even with number one the decision to go forward was scary beyond all reason. In a lot of ways, I feel like I don't want to have a baby. I don't want the sleepless nights, aches, pains, gear and worries that come in those first couple of years. I don't really want to give my body over to somebody else so wholly again.

But I don't want to regret either.

So I'll just send these thoughts out into the void tonight, trying to understand the tears streaming down my face even as I write. Trying to understand how this mothering thing can be so fulfilling and draining at the same time. Trying to remember how sweet and perfect their little bodies were in those impossibly tiny clothes. Trying to decide if my sacrifice is enough.

Trying to find a place where I can exist simultaneously with this mother-creature that lives in me too. Trying to decide if the love that I have for my three little men will be enough to fill the hole that threatens to tear me open sometimes . . . .

15 comments:

Z. Marie said...

My life to a T. Well, except for keeping stuff. But I've found myself wishing Owen would hurry and get bigger. Kind of odd when all you've wanted for years is to have a BABY.

TheDooleys4 said...

I too feel your anguish. My choice was made for me by a doctor on an operating table trying to save my life. I feel so blessed to have the two I have when I was told by many I might never have even one. Yet, sometimes I feel that tug at my heartsrings. Aching for the days of midnight lullabies and rocking. The days of tiny baby things. Thoughts of adoption often enter my mind but then I find myself thinking No, it's done. You like your sleep. You like the chapter you are now in. Mixed feelings are part of the territory I think, my friend. Thanks for posting this Nan. I was deeply touched by it.:)

Jenny said...

VERY poignant. LOVED this post.
Let me offer one thing to you.
Without hesitation, I can tell you about your comment:
"I don't want the sleepless nights, aches, pains, gear and worries that come in those first couple of years."
Those aches, pains and worries don't go away. The gear changes. Things actually intensify, the older your younglings get. Your mother heart grows right along with them, and it's a good thing the heart is a muscle... because you're going to need to keep it strong and work it. Because a lot of moms get tired by the time their young reach young adulthood. You MUST stay strong, because the days and nights get longer. You'll be able to do a few more things for yourself, but your love for them will be all-encompassing. Your fear for what's around them will be crippling. Your hope for their future will be a beacon.
You are tender. You must look up the trailer for the new movie, based on a very favorite book of mine, Where the Wild Thigns Are. It says "Inside all of us there is hope, fear, adventure and a little 'wild thing.' Life is one wild ride! You're a sweet, sweet mom.

Jenny said...

PS. I meant "Where the Wild Things Are."
:)

FoxyJ said...

A few years ago I thought I was completely done--for a number of reasons. And I also felt prompted to give most of my stuff away to a family that really needed it. Now that I'm pregnant again I do miss some of those things, and I really miss my maternity clothes, but I still remember their gratitude. I think no matter what choices we make as mothers we will always feel both the bitter and the sweet. Before I had children I really didn't understand what that meant, but I'm learning more about it every day.

chicagosapps said...

I have run the gauntlet of emotions in the past few months: finally having the courage to try for another baby, being so excited/nervous/happy/scared when I found out I was pregnant, then the sense of loss when I miscarried, to wondering if I'm too old for a baby, to the hope for trying again soon. It's difficult to put into words the feelings Mommies have. I think you wrote it beautifully. Good luck with your decisions, and just keep enjoying the present moments with your terrific boys.

Karin said...

Thank you for such a well-written treatise on the ambiguity of motherhood.

Desmama said...

I think this post and its sentiments resonates with a lot of people, and I can certainly say it does with me. Even though I just had one, I'm still deliberating with the are-we-done-or-are-we-not? Part of me wants to cry when I think about not having a wee one ever again. The other part of me wants to cry when I think about being pregnant again and the toll--physically on me and emotionally on everyone--it takes.

Slyck and Slim said...

Uh, I wouldn't count out baby #4 just yet. :) You and I could have a late night conversation on the sofa about this one. I know EXACTLY what you are feeling. A part of me can't wait to give away all the baby stuff -- and prego clothes -- and yet...

emandtrev said...

This is such a poignant and sincere post! I agree with previous posters on how it resonates with a lot of us. I know it does with me. At this point, I don't feel we are "complete" yet, but will I ever have that feeling for sure? I just don't know!

chosha said...

I think it's impossible not to feel a pang of loss for the end of babyhood. And how could you not cry with those tiny clothes bringing back every nurturing instinct? Just make sure if the question of another does come up that you don't make the decision surrounded by tiny clothes, because you so won't be in your right mind. :)

And hey, if you decide the baby thing is over, it's really okay. Because they might be taller and able to plant carrots and beets, but they still need you so much.

chris w said...

Ditto to what so many others have said in their comments. You put a lot of the feelings that we all have very beautifully.

I have had some very amazing experiences in the give stuff away/receive stuff department. If you do decide to have #4 you will be amazed at how what you gave away comes back to you tenfold. (including a load of girly stuff from me if you end up having a little princess/tomboy/science geek). :)

Christie said...

I hear you. I had many of your same emotions when I gave away my baby stuff. Holding their tiny little clothes is no substitute for holding their tiny little selves. Babies are so precious, but as you say, so much work. And when we handle those clothes and items that we washed bazillions of times, we suddenly long to re-live those precious baby moments. From a religious standpoint, now that I'm done having children, I'm much more appreciative of the blessing of eternal increase, of fulfilling that Abrahamic covenant of posterity as numberless as the stars. Did our heavenly parents cherish our spiritual babyhood as as we cherish our time with our own babies? Did they hold us and sing to us? I think so. Imagine what letting go feels like from their perspective.

Thanks for helping me think these new thoughts. Bless you!

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I love you all so much. Thank you for each sweet comment. Thank you for your solidarity. Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone.

mstanger said...

Great poignant post. I could hear Billy Dean's "Let Them Be Little" playing in the background.

We were so blessed as first time parents by those who consecrated their old stuff to us. It is a blessing to be able to do the same in later years. I have loved seeing some of the kids from the ward in my girls' dresses on Sunday, and knowing that they are being used and appreciated.

I have to throw in an adoption pitch here. While it may bring its own set of "sleepless nights, aches, pains, gear and worries," it is another option that is every bit as selfless and rewarding as conventional parenthood.

Christie, thanks for the image of our Heavenly Parents cherishing our spiritual babyhood. I really like that.

On a less serious note, the casserole throwing theme conjured some fun images of a potential new Relief Society track and field event, with the sister entering the discus circle wearing oven mitts and bearing a 9X13 Pyrex which she hurls out into the field. No need for spotters because the tuna noodle remains make the landing spot very obvious. Might be a bit cathartic?