20 January 2012

Strong Enough.

I read an amazing article this morning.  My friend Ginny found it and posted it on facebook.  I just sat in my seat and cried and cried.

Mrs. Fisher has a way with words and a wisdom that comes from birthing, nursing and raising nine young ones.  And her picture doesn't even look tired.

I was simply going to post it and move on, but there were two points I wanted to record here, so I'll remember.

The essay is written by a mother with nine children, but it is written to mothers of one - to mothers of a little one who think, and truly recognize, that life is hard.  It seems that 9 is harder than 1 (or that my three is harder than someone's one), and in many ways, it's true.  More laundry, more food, more fights.  When they're little at least, three makes it harder to escape, and it's harder to find someone who wants to steal three for a few hours than it is to find someone who wants to escape with one.

My baby, at six weeks, almost as tired as her mother was:  With one, the exhaustion is from loneliness and a lack of surety about anything. 

But, really, one is hard.  It is so hard.  It is lonely and you have existential crises about every fifteen minutes.  You are dealing with being responsible for another person's well being, and you constantly worry that you are responsible for his or her soul - which you aren't, of course - but also, of course, you are responsible to be a tool for that soul along the way.  Simcha Fisher talks about worrying that her baby's knees might break or head fall off or some other grotesque physical disaster; I can remember lying awake at night, trying to nurse, worrying about not the physical, but the emotional.  What if she cries all the time?  What if, as a teenager, she's depressed and struggles with any myriad of psycho/emotional disorders?  What if I fail?

With one child, you're covered in milk and spit up and there isn't even an older child to do cute things to make you remember why you love children.

My babies now.  With three, the exhaustion comes from craziness and insanity and never having a quiet moment.  But there is an underlying peace that many new mothers do not yet know.  It will come.  With insanity comes inner calm. 
With one child, there isn't anyone to talk to or grab the wipes when you've already put the baby on the changing table, taken the diaper off, only to discover its actually dirty, not just wet, so you need wipes, but if you walk away to grab them from three feet over on the bed, the little one is for sure going to roll over for the first time while you are doing this and he will die.

One child is hard, and I needed to be convicted of my "Oh, get a life - it's only one" attitude that creeps in sometimes.

The other thing she said that needed recording was one of the hardest truths of motherhood, of womanhood, of life:

"You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone.  For what?  Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left."

Strong enough to be left.  That's what we're trying to become, ladies.  In one very large sense, we are never left - our identities are in ourselves, not in our children.  And many of us are blessed with spouse-best-friends who will, Lord-willing, grow old with us.  But in a very real sense, they are all going to leave.  They will fly the coop, just like I did, just like Paul did, just like any healthy person does.  We leave.  So will the children.  We pray it every day.  

Even for women who are superduper self-actuated and individuated and blah blah blah, the babies still leave, and it is still hard.  The goal of it all is to send them on their way.  If they're still in my house at whatever age, it won't be a sign that they love me the most and I'm just so awesome; no, no, it will be a sign that I failed.

Strong enough to be left?  Not yet, but I'm thankful for those years with one child to beat me up and then build me emotionally and now the years with a bigger, busier, less-emotional-crisis-producing brood that's strengthening my day-to-day physical and logistical resolve.

Strong enough to be left.
I'm writing it in my bathroom, right under "Put your big girl panties on and deal with it."

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