Lately I have been noticing something pervasive in the mommy community. It is something no one ever talks about, and something no one tells you before you have children. I suspect that is partially because it is so hard to put into words, but hang in there with me while I try.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I meditate twice a day (whenever and wherever I have to). Part of that process, for me, is letting my emotions (good and bad) come to the surface so that I may welcome them in with compassion. I have the theory that, if you lock anything up long enough it goes mad, so I make it a point to try to befriend my emotions; to recognize them as a part of who I am, and in doing so, treat them with tenderness. (But meditation is a blog unto itself. Back to the business at hand.) I have noticed, since I started this process roughly a year ago, that one emotion always present at my table is grief. Initially that seemed odd to me, but the more I learned to have a dialog with my grief, and the more that I listened to my mommy friends’ worries, joys, and even (sometimes especially) the million things that they leave unspoken, the more I began to realize that I was not alone, and more importantly, why I was not alone.
I think that perpetual grief is a state peculiar to mothers. I use the term “grief,” because I think it is a sadness specific to loss, and I say peculiar to mothers, not because I think that no one else feels grief, but because I think that mothers, perhaps, feel it more keenly and more consistently than most. That may seem a grand statement to some people, but I have a feeling that most (though not all) of the mother’s reading this are nodding their heads. As the gender with the super helping of estrogen we tend to be more in touch with our feelings in a general sense, more introspective, and more consciously aware of the passing away of things. It begins at the very beginning.
You become pregnant. You are happy, hopefully, but also faced with the fact that your life will never be the same again. You must grieve, to an extent for who you were, while you learn to embrace who you are becoming. Your body is no longer yours, and just about the time that you get used to that and feel really at one with the being you are nurturing, you give birth (for many this brings it’s own grief and disappointment, and that, too, will be another blog). Suddenly that being you have cared for with your very life is separated from you. Yes, you have a baby in your arms, and that is love and joy and all things beautiful, but there is also a literal hole left inside you…and now, you have to learn how to be someone new all over again. Hard as it is to say, you will probably have no idea who that someone is for quite sometime. You will feel out of sorts. You will have a million people telling you in a million different ways why what you are choosing to do is wrong. It sucks. And then…
They grow out of their newborn clothes, take their first step, say their first word. There is the first time they don’t want to hold your hand. The first time they get hurt. The first time you realize that you cannot protect them from the world. The first time they realize that you cannot protect them from the world. When they wean. That look of pure joy and excitement on their face the first time you take them to a movie. The first day of school. The first time you drop them off and they cry like their heart will break. The first time you drop them off, and they don’t. Santa. When they start asking big kid questions. When they come home from school wearing some other kid’s attitude. When you discover that they like like someone. The first time they refuse to wear an outfit you picked out. When they get bullied. When they discover something at which they cannot excel no matter how much they try. When they stop dancing with you in the supermarket isles. When they leave…because you know from the moment that amazing, perfect, miracle of a being is separated from your body, that they will. Leave. One day.
I do not think for one moment that this makes martyrs of us all, nor do I think that the grief is insurmountable (unless you allow it to be). Quite the contrary, I think that we are lucky to have it. If we are able to see it for what it is, to welcome it, as it were, to invite it in, it can be such a blessing. Knowing that, “this too shall pass,” makes each new experience all the sweeter, or all that much easier to bear. I have sat on my daughter’s floor, holding a tiny onesie she has outgrown, and crying. I have mourned for the babies that they will never be again, but I am also aware now of each moment, each precious, bittersweet interaction. I hold it to my heart, and cherish it. I sing (loudly) with them in the aisles at the market, because one day I’ll start to sing, and they will look at me in horror. It will hurt. It will bring it’s own sense of loss, but with it will surface the memories of all the songs we sang together. The memories that I lovingly stored away because I knew that I would need them one day.