You know how in certain seasons of life it seems like everyone is getting engaged (except you)? And then getting married? and then having their first kid? their second? their third?
Dale often told me when I was beginning to want a wee one that most his friends were on their third baby. We tried to relate with our three corgis. Didn’t work very well.
The last few years it seems that while all Dale’s friends have established family lives, my friends were all getting pregnant. This month alone I know of four good friends who are about to give birth (Shout out to my friend, Becca, who managed to have her baby Carter on 10.10.10!).
For my peer group, it’s baby time. It’s sort of cozy, like a warm coverlet, a common experience to snuggle down into because it seems I’m doing something other people are doing, too.
So for this golden moment, I want to zoom in on motherhood, to note what motherhood has done to change me (Shout out to Melissa Welch for asking me to think on this!). I’m going to add several things motherhood has not changed about me, too, as a hip-hip-hooray for personal identity THROUGH childbearing years (if you’re curious about this and want to read a wonderful God-fearing book on the subject check out Caryn Rivandeniera’s Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. I highly recommend!). I hope this will put some shiny smiles on those of you who do not or cannot or will not have children. There is more to us than the children we bear.
Motherhood has Changed Me, no doubt about it.
- I know why “juggle” is so commonly used by parents. I leave the house amazed that my little arms can hold that many loops of that many bags, AND a 25 lb baby in car seat for the lovely, but meandering (why did we make it so meandering?)
path from the cabin to the car. Juggling would be my life if not for . . .
- I’m slower, I’m learning how to be willing to wait. I pause at store’s doors and look around hopefully for someone, anyone to help me open them. I’ve let Finn check my frenetic, furious pace. I don’t mind people writing checks in Walmart’s checkout stand half as much as I used to.
- I don’t wear perfume and make-up or heels as much. Kissing Finn with lipstick is sad for him, rum raisin isn’t really his color. The perfume makes him sneeze and the heels, well, seriously now, you try balancing with extra weight and still walking straight as an arrow. I will NOT be one of those people who stumble around in her heels. Heels and make-up come out for speaking (sometimes only the latter), girl’s nights out and dates.
The one date Dale and I took, I was so pleased with the heel- affect I actually took a picture of myself in the ladies’ restroom.
- I see my body in more accurate terms. I think of it as my trusty companion for this life, it’s splendidly strong and surprisingly weak, too. I’m not convinced I’m such a knock-out, but I’m also quite pleased with how I can smile into people’s eyes, laugh so that my face isn’t the model of serenity. You know what I mean? My vein pops out of my forehead and my laugh “dents” show in my cheeks, my eyes crinkle and when I cackle you can see the fillings in my teeth. Do you want to see a picture? Next time, I’ll see if I can get Dale to stop making me laugh long enough to snap it.
- I don’t rush at God in my prayers with my wants as much. I weigh my requests, I stop and ask myself or him first, “What does God want me to be and do?” Late at night my prayers changed, somewhere at about Finn’s 2 month mark. I no longer prayed, “God, make him sleep, please, please, please, make him fall asleep, relax him, soothe him. Let him go back to sleep,” from my warm bed. Slowly, I began to pray differently. As I heard Finn ramping up to belt out, “God, give me the strength to leave this bed, to not be angry with myself, or Finn, give me energy to feed him.”
- I’m less judgmental toward “moms” in general. Like the woman who looked, well, matronly, but who was quick as lightening to summon cold water, cloths and kind words when I let Finn pull my hot tea down on his leg in Starbucks. These women are vessels of stored, tried and tested wisdom. My favorite kind of matronly types? The kind who don’t just insert their opinions, but ask how they can help. I love them, love that I can admire them better, now.
- I’ve become out of touch with what my body naturally needs to eat. I eat the amounts I used to and find I’m hungry in two hours and feel royally annoyed that the food couldn’t sustain me longer because LIKE I HAVE TIME to make another meal!! hmm, so maybe I’m not really all that patient! =) So I eat more and then feel too full and then more annoyed. Nursing means I’m not totally sure how much food I need. I’ve become a better cook and more reliant on trailmix, powerbars for those surprising hunger grumbles when in town or on a plane. But then I’m bugged because if I’m hungry I want to make something really yummy and enjoy it. Meal times, for me, feel cheated if they’re eaten either on-the-go or standing up? How can you enjoy food while standing?
- Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep has become a beautiful luxury, the silver lining, but one I can function, even speak and write, without. I have found that lack of sleep is not really a good excuse to be unkind. I used to think it was.
- I’m less scared about being home alone at night without Dale.
Okay, having training to shoot handguns helped a lot, too (read more). But, I also feel that a little guy is relying on me to keep my wits about me. I don’t have that Anne-of-Green-Gables luxury to get all deliciously scared and freak myself out.
- I’m less surprised when things don’t get done. For instance, right now, Dale is hunting so the entry way is a muddy mess. As I tip-toed across it in my pjs this morning I had a weak memory flash that this would have exasperated me in pre-Finn days (e.g. “How can you expect me to let the dogs out when my feet get all dirty? Now I have to wash my pjs!”). This morning I filed the dirt into the “observed but less important than writing” file. I had this blog to write this morning and besides, the elk that I hope Dale tracks, must be paid for in some inconvenience. I’ve opened myself to inconvenience in exchange for the sake of something good, for a goal. I can live with more “chaos” (for me this means unvacuumed floors, undusted counters, dirty windows, unstocked pantry, mice in the basement, clothes and 1/2 of my kitchen in storage) but two or maybe three things I really wanted to do are–not done–but begun.
- I’ve let all those “tried and true” methods slip through my fingers if Dale and I believe Finn needs something.
- Getting accustomed to people telling me the best way to do things and not saying a word. I’ve gotten good at holding my peace.
- I’m starting to want comfier, lovelier pjs.
- This one surprises me. I’ve gotten better at throwing things away. All of Finn’s clothes, once he outgrows go to his buddy, Sawyer. (unless, of course, they’ve been hand-made)
- I wrote less at first, but now, with co-parenting, I can write nearly as much. However, I’ve cut back on my verbose emails.. I’m trying to get to the point more swiftly. Sometimes I turn it into a game to see how poignantly and briefly I can write well.
- I’m less worried my dogs are an inconvenience to others with their excitement and more easily put them “away” when we have guests around. They’re not the only show in town, now.
- I’m not as willing to let Finn “cry it out” or to let him be babysat as I imagined I’d be.
- I’m less delighted by the prospect of lots of traveling and speaking, though by the end of every event feel it’s still necessary work in this time.
- Sex is unappealing when VERY sleep deprived. But so is everything else I like to do: eat, read, hike, cook, organize. I remember afternoons when I could feel SOMETHING was wrong with me. I’d eat something because it sort of felt like a sugar imbalance, a slight dizziness and ache inside. It wasn’t until a few days went by that I realized what I was hungry for . . . sleep.
- I now know why women would not want to have children. I get that. Yes, even with my hungry hippo, laid-back, prince of a baby, I get that.
I see why a child means change and I see why some women (and men) don’t want that change. I can respect, honor and even encourage that for many friends.
- I know that God was good when he gave me Finn.
- I feel more content (not less) with having one child, like Finn is sufficient for me to feel filled up.
Being a mother hasn’t changed many things, these are, to my mind, the essentials of what I love in life.
- I still garden.
- I still read. See “Books I’m Reading” at right.
- I still knit and organize, cook and hike. Just with Finn on my back.
- I still travel and speak and write.
- I still stay in my pjs when I have writing to do in the morning.
- I still want to write a book on women’s friendships.
- I still love being with my husband. A lot. A lot.
- I haven’t felt “over touched” by Finn so that I don’t want to be cuddled or touched by my spouse.
- I still feel glad to be living in Colorado, even though far from family.
- I have never thought, “I was so selfish before I had Finn.” I don’t think wanting to do the things that I’m good, to use my gifts is selfish, not then, not now.
Home on Earth
Last night as the days sighed its last breaths, I climbed upstairs where Finn was sleeping in our bed. He lied resting on his back. I slide my hands under his little shoulders and leaned his weight up, onto my shoulder. I felt his chest rising and falling in sweet, sustained rhythms. He heaved a big sigh and shrugged down into the crook of my neck.
I couldn’t just lay him down again. I held him for a few seconds longer, thinking how good it feels to be home to someone on earth.
I’m glad my nearness feels like safety to my son. This motherhood time is sweet, not the best thing I’ve ever done, not the only thing I will ever contribute, but good, so good.
How about you? How has motherhood (or fatherhood) changed you?
For those women and men who live, as Dale likes to put it, “child-free”, how have you been able to do and give more?