Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Tenth Time Around

When I was pregnant with my first, I swore up and down that I intended to work after he was born.  After all, I'd pressed hard to get my master's and these students needed me.  The daycare was just adjacent to my school which was catty corner from our apartment and next to the gym and the bank.  What could be more perfect?  I'd teach from 7:30 to 3 and pick him up by 4 and spend the afternoon with him and everything would be fine.  

Then I went to visit the daycare.  It was run out of a Church, like a little school for babies.  I was taken to see each of the rooms. They were clean and quiet.  I watched as two women with buttery soft hands picked up two of the crying 1 year old children, changed them and rocked them into peaceful sleep.  The director showed me the toddler room with happy kiddos finger painting and giggling and the fours room where they were listening to a story.  There was a fenced in playground with newfangled cork instead of mulch for a floor and a pet bunny in a hutch near the 0-6 months room.  It seemed perfect. Then we walked into the room where my son would spend his first few months.

There was a four month old baby boy.  I don't know the kid's name but he was dressed in baby blue and in a bouncer.  When he saw me, his bright blue eyes lit up and he smiled and squirmed and kicked with pleasure as if nothing would ever please him more than for me to have walked into that room.  Those smiles burned into my brain.  I didn't want someone else seeing my kid's smiles, they were my smiles to see.  I felt like a thief capturing this kid's smiles that belonged to some other mommy not seeing them. 

I know it was the hormones but I immediately found a payphone.  (It was 1993, no cells.)   Sobbing hysterically to my very perplexed husband on the phone I announced, "I sob...don't care..sob sob sob...if we can't..sob sob sob sob....afford it....sob sob sob....I'm staying home!"  To which my beloved could only respond, "Okay honey. Okay...calm down....that's fine. You can do that.  I love you."

I'd love to tell you I made my peace with being a SAHM right then and there but it wouldn't be true.  The dreams of ambitious alternatives crept back into my head almost as soon as I was six weeks post-partum.  It wasn't that I didn't love my son; but that sitting at home felt like standing still when the rest of the world was spinning forward at breakneck speed. 

Walking the neighborhood pushing a stroller, desperate for company, I became friends with the dry cleaner, the pharmacist, the receptionist at our apartment complex and the woman who worked the 1 hour photo place.  Unable to manage the long hours that felt like nothing was happening, I threw myself into a project and spent the second half of my son's first year trying to get into graduate school.  After six months of pure madness in a PhD program, we moved to Maryland because of work and I had to start over.

The isolation I'd felt when I first came home with a baby returned as I now was a stranger in a strange state with no family, no friends and no idea of where anyone or anything was.  I tried graduate school again but it faltered even as I started.  I became pregnant with my first daughter.  I pressed on trying to weld my new home, my new role and my dreamed life and ambitions together.  It was doomed. My graduate program was a fight in every class.  I pressed on but tried switching advisors and then programs and got stuck with an advisor that really didn't get me or I him. 

When I got pregnant with my third child, he asked if I was serious about my doctorate.   The feminist in me flared a bit.  "If I want to have ten children and a Ph.D. what does it matter?"   He asked me if I was going to have ten children.  I said "I don't know."  and we sort of agreed not to bring it up again but it was a break in my drive because he and I knew I meant that if it happened, it happened.    

That Christmas, after struggling to finish two papers, things came to a critical mass.  While waiting for an epidural, I struggled to provide a critique over the phone to a member of a team assessment for a class. It was too much and I threw in the towel.  But I told myself, it will happen one day, even if I have to go across using a walker, when that happens, I'll have one heck of a cheering section.   Don't quote me the a dream deferred bit because I look at the life I have and it is a greater dream than I'd imagined; and I haven't despaired that God doesn't have still more for me to do than I can imagine.

With three, I sort of settled into the role but I've had flare ups of ambition and ego and desire and drive as we faced more and more and more.  It's resulted in taking on more than I can chew on more than one occasion, it started me once upon a time working from home for the school, it started me writing, it started me doing grants and working on a book and running the carnival at the school.

Part of me sometimes chafed at year12, 15, 17 of still changing diapers and asked when do I get a crack at things or has that already passed?  When the laundry and the dishes and the beds and the toys seem to cascade out of every pore of the house and I've done shoes and haircuts and dinner at the fast food restaurant of choice and still the first thing when we get home is, "You didn't....."  I've felt like bleah.  Why am I pushing this rock up the hill yet again? The world ran by and I didn't catch it and once upon a time, I could have. It isn't often, but it isn't absent.  We always long to be more, and some of that longing is for being closer to God, and some of it isn't.  We always long to be loved; we don't always long to be loving.

But God knows that even those little dark spots are just my stubbornness and He's very very good at wearing away any stony attempts by my heart to say yes to something other than Him.  Every child has been different, they all demand different more of me; some of them know more than me; some of them love more easily than me; some of them have natural reverence and others have natural gifts of simple obedience or humility, and still others, natural understanding of how to limit one's appetites without limiting drive or desire to do well; and others, default set themselves to joyful.  They all have these virtues that reflect back at me how I'm supposed to be and they all require constant study, constant review and constant love.   So I'm facing year 18 and a newborn. 

Cleaning out the library --one of the pits of stacks of stuff included old journals.  My words with one and with three and with four and with five and seven all echoed each other.  I knew I had the same thoughts with the other ones too, I just didn't always write it down or in the same journal.  With every one of these children, my first response has been to be fearful; how can I manage?  How will I manage?  The I of course was part of the problem, also the idea that I had to manage when what I was called to do was love.  

But now we are expecting our tenth, and the sublime experience of this tenth, is what I suspect less stubborn (more wise) other mothers experience much sooner; it is perhaps why I needed this tenth child.

I know I will have one in diapers and one in college.  It's a reality.  But for the first time, my first response was not fear or how will I manage or there goes three more years I have to wait for me, it was Okay.  This is good.  This little girl (my guts say a girl and thus far, they are 9 for 9 right on the money), she's awesome.   I really can't wait.  I'm impatient for Christmas and this pregnancy is one long Advent.

I hope I can hold onto this wisdom the whole pregnancy, so many times I'll get a snatch from the mass or the readings of the day or from reading or listening to friends and family and then some part of reality, the news, errands, unexpected chores or fight or extra pounds or telemarketers irritate and I lose hold of it.  The wisdom just floats out of my brain with respect to application as I chatter and flail and bluster and worry.    That's why I'm writing it down and sharing it, so others will remind me when I feel overwhelmed or overtired or overtaxed that the long journey across the desert to the stable began long before the night Christ was born, and to stay staring at that star and be as constant as the kings. 

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

did I read that right???!!!

are you pregnant??!!!!


oh how much FUN!

happy dance for YOOUUUUU happy dance for YOOOOUUUUU!!!

hooray for another snot-gobbler.

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