I am tired.
No. Tired is inadequate; exhausted is overused.
Perhaps spent is more appropriate.
Those who know us know our lives are rather… erhm, full. Some seasons, full is oppressive; others, it’s beautiful – satisfying, even.
Last year we lived the first; this year we’ve seen glimpses of the second.
The difference? What we’ve chosen as our… fillers.
Seven years ago this month, I was counting down the weeks till Noelle’s birth, anxious to be delivered of the extra weight, anxious to get my body back.
I was tired of sharing my heart, my blood, my kidneys, my uterus. I was tired of being host to an ever-growing parasite. I wanted my parts back. I wanted to support my own life functions, and not anyone else’s.
I know. The naivete is crushingly hilarious.
These past twelve months, several of our accomplished, do-it-all-with-a-smile-and-grace friends have welcomed new lives or announced expectations of new life. The most common thing these varied and talented families of two say as they look ahead to what it means to be three, is
I just don’t want my life to change.
Some have gone one step further, saying, I won’t let it change.
I watch them blossom into the amazing parents I knew they would be. I see them grasp the wonderful impossibility of their previous sentiments. I remember the day I transitioned from woman to mom.
Here’s the thing – it wasn’t the day my oldest was born.
It started two weeks later. I had just taken her to her doctor’s check-up. He’d paled when he saw my tiny, shriveled, shrinking Noelle. I don’t know how much she’s feeding, but she needs more.
I’d done everything the books said to do. I’d fed her, changed her, rocked her, and put her to sleep. I’d kept her to a schedule. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t indulge her; I wouldn’t let the cries manipulate me. She’d not slept in our bed; she’d not been held at whim. I’d kept my boundaries.
I’d kept my life.
She fit my life; I didn’t bend to hers.
That day in the doctor’s office, I realized I was depriving her of the thing she needed most.
I see it clearer now. I see that moment a baby first comes into the world. I see their grimace. I see them fold in on themselves. Some even pout.
They aren’t usually thrilled to be here.
To go from warm, cozy, womb, to frigid, too-bright, expanse induces a sense of agoraphobia. Fear. Grief.
Most, I believe, just want to go back.
But, as we mothers know, there is no going back.
Instead, we try to move forward. Our new tiny humans use their twelve inches of sight and keen sense of smell to reach for the one they know, the one whose smell they remember, the voice that lulled them to sleep for nine months. They ache for her to tell them it’s all going to be okay.
It is going to be okay, after all.
But there is no going back.
Those of you who know me know that I wasn’t half the woman I am now before I had children. I’m nowhere near to where I should be, but these little people, they keep pushing me on. They force me, every day, to go further, be better, kinder, sharper, funnier, newer.
And shockingly, happier.
The lines etching themselves on my face are merely evidence of a fuller life – more smiles, more laughs, more heartache, more tears.
So. Much. More.
And I think now, if I’d gotten my wish, if these little ones hadn’t changed me, if these little Merediths hadn’t coerced me into youth, newness, and joy; if my life had continued exactly as it was before,
I wouldn’t love my job.
I wouldn’t write.
I wouldn’t know the community I do now.
I wouldn’t laugh as much.
I wouldn’t have learned to be okay with myself.
I wouldn’t respect my mother half as much as I do.
I wouldn’t understand how full life could be.
I wouldn’t understand the power of one – one tiny little person, one small, seemingly insignificant life.
We go into new motherhood thinking, they’re babies. They poop, eat, and sleep. And if they’re good, they don’t cry or mess up my life too much.
But if that were really true, what would that say about us?
What would that say about them?
Do we really wish our children not change the world or touch those in their sphere of influence? Do we hope, when their time is up, that no one misses them, or notices they’re gone? Do we want to raise persons who only blend into surroundings and never stand out?
Do we really like ourselves enough to think, I hope this kid doesn’t change my life too much. I’m good as I am.
That sounds crushingly sad, if you ask me.
These little sausages we bring home from the hospital are really miniature people. They do so much more than consume and eliminate.
They learn. They remember. They grow.
I read a study that said newborns have to sleep as much as they do because they learn at such an alarming rate. Only in REM-sleep will they be able to catelogue their new memories into meaningful information.
These little ones are smart. They’re strong. They’re unique. They’re working hard through all that playing and giggling and crying.
And yes, they’ll make you go insane some days. But those might be the very days for which they were sent to you.
Parents, let’s admit it. We’ve done a horrible job of marketing this amazing thing we do. We see a new parent or a parent-to-be and devour them with claims of you’ll never sleep again and your life is over. We satisfy our own sacrifices by telling them all the things we’ve had to learn or managed to become in the name of parenthood and family and survival. We hope to vindicate our own change this way, but really, all we do is make these deer-caught-in-headlights, can’t-go-back-now novices either dread every coming second, or defy any notion that what we’ve said is true.
They say denial is a river in Egypt. I say its a hangout for pregnant super-women and their uber-accomplished partners who’ve been ambushed by well-meaning so-called reality checks.
It’s just, what we’ve bragged to them about is not the full reality.
Today, on top of regular mom-and-wife duty, I spent hours dedicated to my children’s education, hours I could have spent writing, reading, doing other chores, painting, renovating, relaxing, or just being.
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be homeschooling my kids, I would have laughed at you.
I still want a life, I’d have said. Or, that would make me hate my kids.
The thing is, my life is so much better, and I have much more compassion for my kids than I ever did before.
These two little beings totally derailed and rerouted my life, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Parents-to-be, I promise you, your life will change.
It will be harder, better, happier, freer than you can imagine. You will look into your own soul and realize what you’re made of and what needs to be given the boot. You will find abilities and strength you never knew. Your respect for the person you raise this kid with – if you’ve been blessed enough to do this in tandem – will explode exponentially.
Your heart will be fuller than you ever thought possible.
That is, if you let it.
It is possible to tune ourselves out from our child’s needs and even our baby’s cries. And while its important to do this occasionally – always for the purpose of finding the strength to dive back in – if we’re not careful, we might miss out on the best thing that ever happened to us.
Never underestimate the power of one life.
Because, really, why would we want to?